When You Dread The Speaking and Listening Exam For GCSE English


Last week one of my students asked me to be an “audience” to help practice her speaking and listening exam.  All I had to do was to listen to her speech, but I couldn’t just sit there could I?  I had to intervene and give her some practical tips.

The Speaking and Listening Exam

So while it’s all fresh in my mind, I want to share some of the things that worked for her.  At the end of the article I have a link to my free speaking and listening cheat sheet to help you assess how good your presentation is.  I have adapted it so that it is user friendly and anybody can use it.  You don’t have to be a GCSE English student to use it either.

Know what you are going to say and in what order.  Have a clear logical order for your speech so that it all fits together and flows smoothly.  This means that you need to think carefully about linking your points – a bit like newsreaders do as they swap from newsreading – weather forecast – newsreading.  They have to think of ways of making the transition effortless.

Dont’ try to memorise your whole speech.  If you do this, you will sound like a robot and your speech won’t sound natural.  If you forget some of your speech you will be fiddling around with your notes to find the bits you forgot and this won’t look good to the examiner.  You will lose eye contact and end up panicking.  Why don’t you have have memory prompts to jog your memory or questions to get you talking.  Keep the prompts and questions simple.

Practice the speech in front of a person rather than in front of a mirror.  A mirror can’t talk back to you, and it won’t tell you if your speech is boring.  Look for signs of boredom from your audience (yawning and day-dreaming) and find ways of engaging the audience.  The mirror will make you aware of your body language and facial expressions but these could change if you are in front of an examiner.

Listen to a recording of your speech.  This will tell you how fast you talk, whether your speech is clear, whether you hesitate too much, whether you sound like a robot, whether you say “um” and “err” or “so” too much, whether your voice is shaky, whether you sound confident and if you know your speech well enough.  Record your speech, and use this cheat sheet to grade your speech.

Download the speaking and Listening cheat sheet.

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The Ultimate List Of Books For Children of All Ages – Teacher Recommended Books For Children By Age


My teenage son reads every day but given the choice, he would rather read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” over and over again.  It seems as if reading is work for him so he chooses easy books to read instead. Nothing wrong with that but this article got me thinking and worrying.  It highlights that teenagers are selecting “easier reads” when choosing books rather than more challenging classics.  As a consequence they are seriously struggling with English.

I’ve noticed a lack of quality reading in my students too.  Read more, read every day, read challenging books, read, read, read…This is a mantra I teach my students to help them become competent readers and writers.  You can tell if a child is a keen reader from their writing.  Reading helps with imagination and flare and children are more aware of literary devices.  Children who don’t read enough often have writing which is “wooden” and doesn’t flow.  There is a lack of vivid vocabulary, poor sentence structure and it fails to keep the reader interested.

So to encourage my students to read, I have introduced an extended reading programme at my centre for all pupils on our english programmes.  This is a list of recommended authors and their books which are literary classics.  All the authors on the list have won prizes for their books and are likely to be used by schools on their reading lists.  Children aim to read at least 6 books a year and after each book they have to do an extended writing task.  This could be something as simple as summarising the book or ceating an alternative book cover.  The idea is that it makes the student think deeply about the book.  The activities also tie in with the national curriculum and provide an oppportunity to do a longer piece of writing.

The reading lists are for year 1 to year 9 and roughly arranged according to the reading age.  Just let your child choose the book they want to read.

Click here to download our free guide to year 1 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 2 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 3 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 4 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 5 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 6 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 7 books.

Year 7 reading list

Click here to download our free guide to year 8 books.

year 8 reading list

Click here to download our free guide to year 9 books.

year 9 reading list

My 4 Tips To Get The Most From The Summer Reading Challenge


{65456BD4-7E1E-4B08-A849-0005CECAAC78}_summer-readingThe summer reading challenge is a scheme happening in libraries all over the country and is designed to encourage children to read over the long summer break.  It has been proven that children actually fall back academically during the 6 week break and one of the easiest ways of keeping on top of things is to get children reading.

Children taking part in it are encouragement to complete it by getting rewards and stickers.  They have to read 6 or more books to complete the challenge.  Parents love the scheme as a visit to the library is a free day out and it is educational.  I think that without the challenge, the libraries would be dead!

So every year on the first day of the summer holidays I take the kids to the library to take part in the summer reading challenge and I have been doing this not just with my own kids but nephews, nieces and friends’ children as well.  That’s the joys of being a teacher; everyone wants you to take their children to the library because you should know what you are doing.

I’ve picked up a few good ideas along the way, and you can use all or some of these as you wish.

1.  Have a List of Authors

I have a list of authors who are either recommended authors for texts used in schools or who have won prizes for their books.  This ensures that your children reading quality works and not just nonsense.

2.  Don’t Pick The First Book You See.

Take your time at the library and pick more books than you need.  Then go through each book and choose the best ones.  Teach your child how to choose a good book by reading the summary on the back cover or by reading the first page.  If they like the first page, they should like the rest.

3.  Read The Books Your Child Reads.

This is especially effective to get reluctant readers to talk about their books and take more interest.  They will begin to see that books can entertain just like movies.  When I was at the library there was little girl returning her books, and the librarian asked her about every book even though she had not read them herself.  When I asked the librarian why she had done that, she said that it made the children choose more books and come back and tell her all about them.

4.  Write About The Books.

After reading you could get your child to write a review or simply just to score it out of 10.  You can write online reviews and add it onto the book list on the summer reading challenge website too.

I will be posting some other written tasks you can do after reading a book on this blog.  I will also be posting the list of authors on this blog too.  So please join my mailing list if you would like to be notified.

Mother’s Day Poetry Competition.


Just For Mum – Write a Heartfelt Poem For Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day on the 30th March, Kip McGrath Luton South is launching it’s ‘Just For Mum’ poetry competition. Writing a poem for mum (or mother figure) not only encourages creativity and develops writing skills, it produces an original, heartfelt poem that Mum is sure to adore!

To take part, get your child to write a poem in celebration of their mother or mother figure, because a mum can come in many forms. It could be a step-mum, grandmother or female figure who has always supported your child. What would your child like to say to her? 

We will select one winner who will win a luxury bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates to be sent to a person of their choice.  The winning poem will also be published on this blog.  Simply email or post your child’s poem to us by the 27th March 2014.  Please remember to include your child’s name, age and postal address on their poem!

If you have any questions, please feel free to drop us an email or give us as call.

We look forward to reading your child’s work.

Mother's day poem