skittles rainbow

Easy Home Science Experiments You Can Do With Your Kids


How do you get kids interested in science? Make it fun and hands on. These science experiments are guaranteed to get your kids excited and you don’t need any science knowledge to do them. Just a bit of common sense and a few household ingredients.

Cornflour Magic

You will need:  1 cup of cornflour (it can be any size), 1 cup of water (it has to be the same cup as the one you use to measure the cornflour), 1 large bowl, a spoon,  and food colour (optional)

Add cornflour into the bowl. Add the water and food colour. Mix and play around with the mixture.

  1.  Scrunch up the cornflour into your hands and see if you pick it all up and roll it into a ball. It will become a ball and look like a solid as long as you keep moving the ball between your hands.

  2. Now keep your hands still with the cornflour ball still in your hands. What happens?

  3. Dip your finger into the cornflour mixture, it should be a liquid. You can stir it gently and it look and feel wet.

  4. Stir it really fast. What happens?

  5. Punch the cornflour mixture with your fist. Did it splash?

You can do this on a large-scale, watch this video with the same mixture in a swimming pool.

Skittles Rainbow

You will need: 1 packet of Skittles, a large flat white plate, some water

Place the skittles in a large circle around the edge of the plate. Add water into the middle of the circle but don’t drown the skittles. Do this carefully so that the skittles do not move. Then keep still and watch what happens.

  1. Repeat the experiment with hot water. Do you see a difference?

  2. Repeat using M and M sweets.

  3. Repeat but make a square shape with the skittles.

skittles rainbow

Elephant’s Toothpaste

You will need: 1 sachet of instant dried yeast, 1 small plastic water bottle, 120 ml of hydrogen peroxide (6% strength), a large squirt of washing up liquid, 3 tablespoons of water, food colouring.

You should have most of the ingredients at home, except for the hydrogen peroxide. You can buy this from any chemist. Hydrogen peroxide has a shelf life and over time it changes to water. So don’t use an old bottle that’s been lying around your house for months.

If you do not have safety goggles, then an adult should do this part.  Hydrogen peroxide can irritate your eyes and skin and safety precautions are written on the bottle. Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the empty water bottle. Then add the washing up liquid and food colouring. You can stir the mixture gently. Now place the bottle in a large deep tray or in the sink as it can get messy.

Children can do this part of the experiment. In a separate container, mix the dried yeast and water. Then quickly pour this mixture into the bottle. Do this quickly if you want some drama.

  1.  Try different food colours.

  2. hydrogen peroxide is available in different strengths, try the same experiment with different strengths.

  3. Try different shapes containers, the longer and narrower the container the quicker the foam rises up and out.

Here’s a video of my experiment.

 

The 5 Tell-Tale Signs That Your Child Is Struggling At School


So many parents feel detached from what’s going on at school; and helpless as a result. They don’t really know how things are going, and if they do, there’s often very little can do to influence matters.child-school-struggle

The trouble is: this stuff is important. Really important. What your child is doing NOW is likely to have a massive effect on their future. Do you know how well they’re doing right now?

So here are the 5 tell-tale signs that your child is struggling at school:

1.  Hates Reading Aloud

If your child hates reading aloud it could indicate that they lack confidence in themselves or their reading ability. It might be that they don’t understand what they’re reading, it could be that they’ve had a bad experience when it comes to reading at school. Whatever the reasoning, a reticence to read aloud can definitely point towards a struggle. Look at your child’s body language when she reads, I notice children fidgeting, rocking, rubbing their eyes, clearing their throat needlessly and even whispering rather than reading aloud.

2.  Guesses At Words

If they ARE reading aloud, but they guess at words, it could be that they’re struggling to decode the word and understand what they are reading. Children will see the first letter and guess what it might be, and generally make wild guesses if the book is too hard. In younger children, they don’t even look at the first letter of the word and will choose a word they are familiar with. This can be a big problem at school when the onus is often the child to learn by self-discovery. If you find your child guessing at words there’s a chance that they’re behind and struggling to read material for their age group.

3.  Getting Heated

If your normally placid child suddenly starts becoming more aggressive or heated, there’s a very good chance that something is wrong. It’s almost unheard of for a child to just become aggressive for no reason (particularly a child at primary school age), so generally when it happens, something is bothering them – it could well be their studies at school.

4.  Works Hard, But Gets Mediocre Marks

One of the clearest signs that your child is struggling is when they seem to put a lot of effort in, but still struggle to get a good return on that work. This could indicate that the way they’re being taught at school doesn’t suit them, or that they’re behind the average for their age group.

5.  Takes Ages To Finish Simple Homework Assignments

If your child is taking ages to finish a simple piece of homework – or the dreaded “learning log”, they may well be finding the work too hard or it might be that they are struggling to motivate themselves to complete the piece of work. Either way, there’s an issue there, so if you feel like the work should be completed much more quickly than it is getting done, it’s worth finding out why that’s the case.

Hopefully now you’re in a better position to work out whether your child is struggling at school. If you feel like they are, and you’d like a professional opinion to help you decide what to do, we’d love to talk – call us on 01582 402225 now.

Using Magnetix to Explain Quadrilaterals


Magnetix are construction toys, but they are also very useful for teaching about space and shape.  I get children to make different shapes with them, including 3D shapes.  But in this article I am focussing on quadrilaterals, because they can be the most confusing ones to learn about.

Here is how not to do it……..

Naming quadrilaterals

For each shape children need to know:

  1. number of sides

  2. length of sides – whether equal or not

  3. sides parallel or not

  4. interior angles

Square

  1. 4 sides

  2. all sides equal length

  3. opposite sides parallel

  4. all interior angles 90 degrees

Rectangle

  1. 4 sides

  2. 2 long sides, 2 short

  3. opposite sides equal length

  4. opposite sides parallel

  5. all angles 90 degrees

rectangle

Rhombus

To make a rhombus, just make a square and tilt the sides.

  1. 4 sides

  2. all sides equal length

  3. opposite sides parallel

  4. none of the angles are 90 degrees, 2 acute angles, 2 obtuse

rhombus

square to rhombus

Parallelogram

To Make a parallelogram, make a rectangle and tilt the sides.

  1. 4 sides

  2. 2 long sides, 2 short

  3. opposite sides parallel

  4. 2 acute angles, 2 obtuse, no right angles

parallelogram

rectangle to parallelogram

Trapezium

  1. 4 sides

  2. One pair of parallel sides

trapezium

Kite

  1. 4 sides

  2. 2 long sides, 2 short

  3. no parallel sides

  4. the 2 sides next to each other are equal length

kite

But if you haven’t got the time or struggle to explain things simply to your child, let us do the work for you.  Book your child for a free assessment and let us take care of things.

The Dos and Don’ts When Helping Your Child With Homework


It’s exam season and most children in school are doing tests or exams. Almost every parent knows what it feels like to know that their child has a test the following morning and their child is not prepared. Just this last week, I have taken double the amount of calls I usually take to put worried parents’ minds at ease. Homework is a common cause of arguments in homes and we’ve all fallen into that trap where parents nag about homework and children ignore……

Does your child expect you to help them with homework? Have you ever done your child’s homework for them because you thought it was too hard? And how do you tread that fine line between helping your child with homework and interfering/doing the homework for them?

Homework has many purposes; the main one I think is to re-enforce what has been learnt in school. It teaches children how to work independently and finally it teaches them to be responsible.

At my centre, we give homework for all of the above reasons and our policy is to allow the children to do their homework without ANY intervention from parents. Parents are encouraged to check that the homework is done and that it is done to a suitable standard, but not to sit with their child while the homework is being done. If a parent has to intervene, then we ask them to highlight or mark the questions they helped with so that we are aware of any areas of difficulty.

Sometimes parents don’t even realise that they are helping. Take the following scenario for example:

Child: Mum I can’t do this question.

Mum: I can’t help you, but I will read out the question for you. The question says “Katie has 5 apples and Tom has 6 apples, how many apples is that altogether?”. So Katie has 5 apples, can you picture that in your brain?

Child: Yes.

Mum: Good. And Tom has 6 apples, can you picture that?

Child: Good. Now work out how much that is altogether.

Without even realising the parent had broken down this question into simpler words and steps.

When parents do help, then it can cause many problems:

1. The parents try to teach the child their way.

The way that you and I learnt how to do simple arithmetic is totally different to the way it is taught now. For example, the traditional method of adding up is to add in columns, but many schools use the “partitioning” method to teach addition. If your child has been taught partitioning and you are trying to teach them the traditional “column” method (maybe because you think it’s simpler), then you could end up confusing your child. Confusion can lead to mistakes, which can lead to loss of confidence. So ask your child how they work things out at school. Use the method they use at school first and if your child is confident with it, then you can teach your method.

2. The parents have to learn all about the topic first.

This takes time and it is difficult to know what the expectations are. In such cases, the parent’s anxiety can spread to the child. If you don’t know about the topic, then don’t use search engines to gather information so that you can help your child. It’s better to help your brainstorm what they know about the topic and start from there. Teach them how to look up information and develop their research skills instead so that they are the ones looking things up on search engines and not you.

3. The children start to rely on help from parents.

Some children are reluctant to ask their teacher for help at school so they will ask mum or dad because it’s much easier. So a shy child may not have understood what she was doing in class earlier that day, she didn’t ask for help from the teacher and therefore waited until she got home to get mum to explain it better. Encourage your child to ask for help from the teacher first. Be firm and resist the urge to help, and that way, if they don’t get help from you, they are more likely to ask in school.

In contrast, I think that teachers should only set homework that they know the child will be able to do. It mustn’t be too easy either. I have often changed the planned homework at the last minute because I knew that the child was not confident enough to do it by themselves at home.

4. The children learn that at the first sign of trouble, mum or dad will bail them out.

Children need to take responsibility for their own learning. The homework belongs to the child and should be completed by the child. Some children need re-assurance and there’s no harm in explaining how to do the homework so that the child can get started. One parent told me that when her daughter was doing her maths homework, she asked for help. The homework was on long multiplication which involves many steps and so, the mother sat down with her daughter and wrote down all the steps involved. She then sat there until the daughter worked out the second problem correctly. Then she decided to leave the room and within seconds, her daughter said “mum this is too hard, I’m stuck”! The mother still left the room and the daughter completed the rest by herself – CORRECTLY.

5. Parents end up nagging and bullying their children into doing homework.

This can lead to resentment and sets homework in a negative light.

Back To School Toolkit


Back To School Toolkit

There are some things that I can’t do without, whether it’s at home or at work in the classroom.  These objects have either made my life much easier or have provided fun and inspirational ways of approaching learning.  All the items on my list have been tried and tested over the years.

A Decent Dictionary

For many years I used to have a tiny pocket dictionary in the house which was actually a free gift when I opened my first bank account.  It was well used and handy as it was small enough to carry around.  However, it was just a dictionary and not dictionary/thesaurus, the writing was too small and even after looking up the meaning of a word, I often found it difficult to comprehend.
Things have changed a bit since then.  I would definitely recommend getting a dictionary which is also a thesaurus.  The ones we use at our centre are by Collins and are available to buy here.

100 Square

We use these daily to help children who need help with number work. What I love about this one is that you can draw all over it with a dry wipe pen and wipe off again. Every home should have one if they have young children and every primary school should have one too.  There are hundreds of ways of using this as a teaching and learning tool.  Click here for ideas.

A World Atlas

With the development of “Google Earth”, atlases seem to be going into extinction.  But I think that nothing beats turning the pages in an atlas, and looking for places of interest.  At our centre, we have a map of the world on the wall, and both children and parents never tire of looking at it.  I have this one at home, and its simple and easy to use.

Pictionary Game

Pictionary is a board game where you have to draw a picture of a word shown on a card.  the other players have to guess what it is.  But I use it in a different way.  I use it to develop vocabulary and thinking skills.  Children have to tell me things about the object without saying what it is.  It’s not as easy as it sounds, but excellent for getting kids to think.  Try this word: engine.

Playing Cards

I use playing cards as a visual and kinesthetic stimulus for children doing maths.  Here are some great ideas on how to use playing cards to help your child with maths.

My Child Needs Help With Learning But Where Do I Start?


We are all familiar with the feeling of satisfaction that we get after spring cleaning our houses.  So how about doing that with our brains? Research on learning has shown that “clearing out the junk” that is filling our brains can help us to be better learners and this is more important for children.

As a parent, one of the hardest things to decide is where to start, especially if you only vaguely know that your child can’t do maths or can’t write good stories in english.  There will be some gaps in your child’s learning; they will naturally have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others.  It is these areas of weakness that can give children the feeling of their brain being “full”, so that they don’t have the mental processing powers to learn more.  So what should we do to help our children de-clutter their brains?

1.  Ensure that your child gets plenty of sleep. 

Children need a full night’s sleep to stay mentally alert throughout the school day. All too often, kids are too wired to sleep – they’ve been consuming E numbers, watching TV, playing video games right up to bedtime. There’s so much excitement in the house, that they want to be part of it.  So it’s important to establish a pattern or ritual in the evening that will help them quiet down and go to sleep. Have an established bedtime and stick to it, including during weekends.”  I love this infographic showing the importance of a good nights sleep in children.

2.  Review your child’s learning. 

Testing your child’s learning will help you to identify problem areas and most importantly – where to start.  It is better to concentrate on specific topics rather than teach everything with the hope that it will make some difference.  If there was a hole in a wall, would you rebuild the whole wall or just patch up the hole?   Just patching up the hole saves time, money and energy if done properly, so apply the same principle to your child’s learning.

download (1)

You can buy books with test papers in them specific to your child’s age or download resources off the internet.  Discuss the results with your child so that your child knows exactly what they can and cannot do.  Next write out some tragets for your child to aim for.  Once you’ve identified weaknesses, focus on those but only covering up to 3 topics at a time.  This repetition and re-inforcement will give your child confidence.

3.  Break down and classify the information your child needs to learn.

When we de-clutter our houses, we have to break down the task into smaller manageable chunks.  Like tackling one room at a time or sorting out the toys first.  The same goes for de-cluttering information in children’s brains.

  • tackle one subject at a time

  • if the subject is too big, then one topic at a time, for example just “writing” in english or just “arithmetic” in maths.

  • break down what your child needs to know into either “know really well”, “confused” and “don’t know”.

The topics that fall into the “don’t know” category are the ones that will need the most attention.  The aim is to review the list periodically so that topics move from this category into one of the others.

We use this strategy at work and focus on those weaknesses, we fill in those gaps and help the children to build firm foundations for their learning.

6 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary


Vocabulary building is a fundamental skill in english, as it improves reading comprehension, spoken english and written expression.  Learning vocabulary is not just a matter of looking up the meaning of a word in a dictionary, but a more complex skill that is learnt through seeing and using the word in a variety of ways.  Multiple exposure to the word in different situations and using different learning methods can help with vocabulary development.  A good vocabulary is also important in the 11+ exam and should therefore be started early.

The inspiration from this post came from a comprehension exercise that I was doing with one of my students.  The word “harmless” came up and I had to try more than one way of explaining it to her.  I learned that later she used the word “harmless” to describe herself and “harmful” to describe her little sister in a conversation with her mum.

It was ...

Here are 6 ways to improve vocabulary….

1.  Using Visual Props

  • Draw a picture to show the meaning of the word.

  • Make flash cards with the word on one side and the meaning on the other

  • Download and print pictures or photos of the word

  • Use WORDLE.NET to create word clouds.  Just type words with the same meaning and it generates a word cloud.  This example is all the words which mean “yummy”.

Wordle: Other words for delicious

2.  Acting Out

  • Write down 10 words on flash cards.  Get the child to pick a card and act out the meaning of the word without talking. You can print your own flashcards on Quizlet.

  • You can use props to help you.  I have a cuddly teddy in my classroom because the word “affection” is on our vocabulary list.  So to illustrate “affection”, I cuddle the toy.

3. Traditional Methods

  • Look up the word in a dictionary, or online at dictionary.com

  • find synonyms in a thesaurus, o r oline at thesaurus.com

  • use the word in a sentence

  • describe the word in a sentence

  • find the opposite of the word and explaining the meaning of the opposite word

  • Make the word longer by adding prefixes or suffixes

  • create vocabulary word lists for common words.  I have a collection on my Pinterest.

4.  Vocab Games

  • Matching game – make flash cards

type 1 – 10 vocab words to learn

type 2 – 10 definitions of each word

type 3 – 10 synonyms of each word

type 4 – 10 opposites to each word

Match type 1  to type 2, match type 1 to type 3 or type 1 to type 4.  There are a total of 12 different types of combinations you can try.  Once you’ve mastered 2 combinations, then try to match 3 sets of cards, and then all 4 sets of cards.

  • Online websites

this one called vocabulary.com is really good for older children (age 12 and above)

  • pictionary

parent draws a picture to represent a word, child tries to guess the word

child draws the picture and parent guesses

  • topic words

This game is useful for reinforcing key words  or technical language

Time your child for one minute and see how many words they can come up with related to a particular topic.  You can type the words in wordle.net and generate a word cloud. This one was created from the key words from “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. Wordle: of mice and men keywords

5.  Practice and Use

Provide opportunities for your child to use new words and to practice using them in games like crosswords.  Also, use the words in a conversation with your child and try variations of the word, like adding a prefix or suffix to it.

6. Visual Thesaurus

Finally I will leave you with a website recommendation called “Visual Thesaurus” which is an excellent resource for vocab building.

How to Teach Halving


HALVING SHAPES

Before teaching a child to halve a number, make sure that they can halve a shape.   Most children find it easy to halve a shape and don’t realise that halving means the same as splitting into 2 equal parts. So before teaching your child how to halve a number, please make sure that they have understood the following common misconceptions:

1.  When you half a shape, you must make sure that it is split in the middle.  This teaches the child that halving must be fair and that both halves must look the same.

2.  There is more than one way to half a shape.  Ask your child to halve a rectangle or square in as many ways as possible.  This should include diagonally as well.

3.  Draw and inaccurately half some shapes so that some are split unequally, some are split into three or more pieces.  then ask your child to find out if they have been halved.

HALVING NUMBERS

There are many ways to explain the term of “half of”; sharing equally between 2 people, counting in 2’s, dividing by 2, opposite of doubling and splitting down the middle.

Different ways of working out half of a (2)

Therefore, there are a variety of ways of teaching halving.  Choose a method that your child finds easy, and stick to it.  Once they are confident with that method, try to teach a different way of halving.

I always start off teaching a child how to share equally.  I usually use counters and draw 2 smiley faces on a whiteboard or piece of paper representing me and the child.  The child has to share the counters between the smiley faces.  Sometimes you have to teach a child “one for you, one for me” and once they have learnt this they find it quite easy.  Make sure that once all the counters have been shared between the 2 smiley faces, that they have been shared equally.  the child needs to check every time. “How many do you have and how many do I have” seems to work well.  What if the counters have not been shared equally?  The child can repeat again or if they have caught on, they will be able to move some counters around to make the distribution fair.  I use this method for up to 24 counters.

For numbers larger than 24, using counters can be time-consuming and often ends up with the child miscounting.  By now the child should know half of 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 without working them out. So I break down larger numbers into manageable chunks, and then ask the child to share equally between 2 smiley faces.

Example 1:  Draw 2 smiley faces.  Half of 30 = 10+10+10 Draw three 10’s in circles at the side as in diagram below.

How To half 30
How to half 30

Then share as in the diagram below, the smiley faces will get 10 each and then, there will be 10 left which will have to be split into 5’s.  So each person gets 15.

Halving 30
How to halve 30

The same method can be used for bigger numbers and it’s easy and simple.

half of 34 = 10+10+10+4

half of 50 = 10+10+10+10+10

Do try this with your children and let me know if it works.

“Red Hot Marking” of Children’s Work


“Red hot marking” is the term I use to describe how I mark children’s work.  As a teacher, I believe that children’s work should be marked as soon as it’s done, when it’s “red-hot”.  The children get instant feedback and know that their efforts have not been ignored.  I used to hate it when my work was not marked at school, or when the teacher just used to put random ticks on my work without even reading through it.

You should also bear this in mind if you are a parent and working with your child at home.  Children love to be praised and respond well to encouraging ticks and words during their work.

Try the following strategies:

  1. Mark a child’s work as soon as they have done it.  If there is too much to mark, then at least mark part of it.  Alternatively ask the child to do the first 3 questions out of 10 and mark those before allowing them to continue.

  2. Mark the work in front of the child.  They like to see you put the ticks and comments on, and it also gives you the opportunity to verbally tell the child what they have done right.

  3. Beware of putting in too many crosses in RED INK all over the child’s work.  If when marking a piece of work you find that there are lots of mistakes, it’s better to mark a little bit and speak to the child about it.  Don’t put “SEE ME” at the end of the piece of work.  It put’s the child on edge.

  4. Discuss the good and bad points of the work with the child and set new targets.  Make sure that the child is aware of their targets before and after doing a piece of work.  Having a target, for example accuracy, neatness, creativity, or a specific grammatical point gives a focus to the child.

  5. Sometimes a child can mark their own work, if the task is multiple choice or if it’s maths.  However, this should not be done too often as it doesn’t give you the chance to go over the mistakes.

  6. Always mark homework as soon as it is handed in, and give back to the child during the same lesson or the next lesson.  If you leave too much of a gap between submission of homework and marking of homework, children will forget and the effort on homework almost seems wasted.

  7. If you don’t get time to mark straight away then tell the child why and make a promise that you will mark it as soon as possible.

These strategies accelerate learning and are easy to do.  Do you use any of them?  Which ones work best/are easiest to use?  Or do you have your own technique of marking?

Tens and Units: An Easy Game to Teach Place Value


This game is great for teaching young children to count in 10’s and units. I have used this game in teaching and the children love it. I have kept it simple by sticking to 10’s and 1’s, but you can use larger coins if you want and adapt according to the ability of the child.

Suitable for age 5 and above. You will need:

  • 2 players – 2 children, or one adult, one child

  • At least 10, 10p coins, real or plastic

  • At least 10, 1p coins

  • Pencil and paper

  • A small bag or container to place the coins

How To Play

Put all the coins in the bag and take turns to take out a random number of coins. Count the coins and write down the amount. Replace the coins in the bag. Let the other player have a go and compare the amounts. The player with the most money wins the round. Continue for as many rounds as you like, but I recommend 10 at least.