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.

 

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4 Key Strategies To Help Your Child With The 11 Plus


Is your child sitting the 11 plus this year? Are you feeling overwhelmed by your child’s forthcoming 11 plus exams? Here are key tips to help your child prepare.

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Helping Your Child With The 11 Plus

There is a growing trend in my town. Since starting my education centre 12 years ago, I have seen an exponential increase in children applying to get a place in grammar school. Grammar schools have grown in popularity since the last recession and parents are now more aware of school standards.

The thought is “if I can’t afford to send my child to a private school, I’ll send him to a grammar school even if it is 30 miles away”.

1.  Don’t Start Too Late

Cramming for exams doesn’t work and it’s a short-term solution. You should start preparation at least one year before the exam so ideally at the start of year 5. If you leave it too late it will build unnecessary pressure on you and your child. I find that children who start early also adopt a good work ethic. They get into the habit of regular daily study on top of their school work and these skills will be invaluable at grammar school.

2.  Build a Good Foundation

Grammar schools take the top 5% of students.  For a child to have a good chance of passing the 11 plus exam, I recommend that the child should be in the top set and the top table in both English and Maths.  This alone is not enough, children must be keen readers.  Reading improves vocabulary and general knowledge.  General knowledge cannot be learnt by reading an encyclopaedia, rather it is learnt through experience or through reading around the subject.

3. Involve Your Child In Every Step

A child who is included in decision-making will be more willing to put the work in. It reduces the burden for you too.

  • looking at the websites of all the grammar schools you want to see

  • going to school open days

  • choosing the grammar school

  • knowing what is going to come up the exams – is it just verbal reasoning or is it more?

  • taking charge of preparation; your child should be organised and know what to revise

  • teach your child to mark the practice questions and tests

  • teach your child to monitor and record scores

4. Use a Variety of Resources

Use books. The popular books are by Bond, CGP and  Letts.

Use worksheets. You can download practice questions by searching “practice 11 plus worksheets”. Worksheets are better in some ways because once you have downloaded them, you can print them as many times as you need.

Use online sites. Online sites like 11plus.co.uk provide online practice tests and exercises and also do mock tests.   Wordbuilder is an excellent site for vocabulary practice.

Use practice papers. When doing practice tests, first focus on ensuring that your child answers every question without a time limit. Work on accuracy and technique and let your child familiarise themselves with the different question types.  You don’t want your child reading the instructions on how to answer each question in an exam situation, they should just start working it out. After that you can start doing practice tests under timed conditions.

Play games and puzzles. This blog article talks about how you can still practice verbal reasoning skills to keep your child interested.

Experts say that you cannot prepare a child for grammar school because they either have it or they don’t. I’m not here to argue that point, I’m just here to help you help your child. Whether they get into grammar school or not, it’s the journey that matters more than the outcome.

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Why Kip McGrath Works?


e I have been helping children become better learners through the power of Kip McGrath and it’s philosophy. Every child is different and every child needs a unique approach to learning.  We encourage children to work things out for themselves but in a way which doesn’t overwhelm them.  In every lesson your child will learn something new, or re-learn it but with the guidance of the teacher.  We teach like they do in school so as not to confuse children, and we know why a child is struggling.

Here are some other reasons why Kip McGrath works and how it is different to other forms of tuition.

We Only Employ Qualified Teachers

You won’t see university or college students teaching your child here. Not only are our teachers qualified, but they are experienced too.  The average age of our current teaching staff is 36 years, but if I include one of our summer school staff then it goes up to 41.  We have 6 teachers at the moment and they all have other jobs as well teaching at Kip McGrath.  All of them can teach at Primary level and then we have specialist teachers in English, Maths and 11 plus.  The average years of teaching experience my staff have is 18 years.

Some Statistics About Our Reading Programme

We have many children who come to us for help with reading.  The Kip McGrath reading programme has over 40 levels and we use this with children who are falling behind with their reading.  To date the biggest improvement in reading age that we have seen is 2 years and 6 months in just 1 term.  The reading programme doesn’t just teach a child to read, it helps with reading fluency and comprehension too.

We Don’t Sit Down During A Lesson

A good teacher rarely sits down during a lesson. In an average lesson a teacher can take up to 3750 steps.  This is because they are moving from one student to the next, marking work, explaining things, giving out the next piece of work or simply just teaching.  They have to see the students work, talk to them, encourage them and make sure they are doing it properly.  Anybody can give out worksheets, or follow a lesson plan, but only a teacher can teach.

How We Teach Maths

The way you and I learnt Maths at school is completely different to how it is taught now.  As a teacher, even I find it hard to keep up with all the new methods.  Also, every school has their own policy on how Maths should be taught.  So at Kip McGrath we make sure that your child is taught how they learn at school. The good news is that many schools host open evenings for parents to come in to the school and learn how to teach their child at home using the correct method. Take advantage of these classes if your child’s school offers them.

We have over 600 Maths worksheets to teach from, covering the topics outlined in the national curriculum.  Our Maths programme starts from very simple number recognition activities suitable for age 4 and goes all the way up to beyond GCSE.  We use worksheets in conjunction with our Maths computer programmes and Maths books.  Our Maths programme on it’s own is not enough.  In conjunction with this we always use past papers for pupils in year 6 and year 11 and we teach children how to revise maths.

The Times tables Competition!!!

Our most popular programme is the “Timed tables” programme.  It’s simple.  All you have to do is get as many correct in 30 seconds and our most competitive kids like to challenge each other.  Kip McGrath run a worldwide Times tables challenge too where children from centres all over the world compete with each other.

Who Comes To Kip McGrath?

Since we started in 2004 we have noticed an evolution in the profile of the students who attend.  We have more 4 year olds coming and our Get Ready For School and Little Learners programmes are ideal for meeting their needs.  There are growing numbers of children preparing for the 11 plus, a particularly specialised area that we have expertise in.  Student attendance is more long-term now with the average student attending for 2 years.  A typical student is average or above average in ability, and needs that extra push but we also have students who are having difficulties and need professional tuition to help them.

Successful Spellings

Does your child get full marks in weekly spelling tests but makes mistakes on simple words when writing?  Our spelling programme teaches spellings in a way which will help your child.  We have over 100 spelling worksheets which we use to help children learn spelling of new words, learn spelling rules and to learn how to use the words in their writing.  Our spelling programme covers phonics too, which ties in nicely with the national curriculum.

Mr Kip McGrath Lives Upstairs

When I started Kip McGrath, many parents and children thought that I was Kip and that I lived at the centre.  I used to tell the kids that Mr Kip McGrath looked like Father Christmas and he lived upstairs but only came downstairs when someone was naughty.  So many of them believed me.

Our Photocopier is Called Marley!!!

We ran out of space within 2 years of opening and luckily found a premises twice the size just next door.  Our centre has 4 teaching areas, a reception area, 2 toilets and a small kitchen.  We also have 3 photocopiers – all of them have nicknames and my favourite is called “Marley” because he’s always “Jamming” – get it?

Click here to see a short video of our centre.

Brain Active Summer School – Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2014


Are you looking for ideas for the summer holiday?

Are you worried about your child sitting the 11+ exam in September?

Does your child lack confidence/ need to catch up/ forget what they have learnt too easily?

WE CAN HELPsummer school

The Kip McGrath Luton South summer school has successfully helped students aged 4 – 16 to:

  • Bridge the gap when going into a new school year, moving from primary to secondary or nursery to reception

  • Help children catch up if they have fallen behind at school

  • Learn how to revise, study and prepare for GCSE exams effectively

  • Prepare for the Buckinghamshire (and other counties) 11+ exams in September

  • Build confidence and enjoy learning

  • Be one step ahead when they start the new school year

When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, teachers have to help them catch up on all the work they have forgotten. Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN”.   But this can be avoided by enrolling your child on our summer school.

The sessions are in the mornings from 10.00 am, so it still leaves the rest of the day to enjoy the summer.  There are only 20 places available, so book now.

Book Now

summer school 2014

Fast Track To Success – Kip McGrath Summer School 2013


When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, I have to spend at least a couple of lessons going over work they should know.  Sometimes I have to go down a level of work because the child has forgotten the basics.  Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN”.

Children have too much time on their hands during the summer and they forget some of what they learn during the school year.  Avoiding this can save time, and for children who have exams coming up, this can be the difference between a pass and a fail.  Academic summer schools can help, as long as the work is tailored to your child’s needs and they have a target to aim for.

How To Avoid the Summer Brain Drain

Past experience has taught us that parents want a more structured approach to their children’s summer learning.  They want to see proof of progress.  Parents want to take advantage of the free time available during summer and are looking for more than just a child care provider.

The Kip McGrath Luton Summer School will run every Tuesday and Wednesday in August from the 6th August 2012 to the 28th August 2012.  Classes are from 10.00 am with lesson durations of either 1 hour 20 minutes, 2 hours or 3 hours.

This year, the format of these classes will be the same format as normal term time Kip lessons, but with a little added extra to cater for your child’s needs.

We will be running specialist workshops in the following areas, so when booking your child’s place, please specify which workshop you would like to enrol your child on.

To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in our online form for a free assessment.

If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.

11+ and Common Entrance

The 11+ exams for Buckinghamshire will be brought forward to early September 2013.  Common entrance exams for private schools will be in either December 2013 or January 2014 depending on which school your child will be going to.

Kip McGrath Luton will be offering intensive summer workshops in 11+ and the common entrance exam. The workshops will familiarise the students with all the types of questions and teach them strategies and techniques to raise their chances for success. Children will be tested before and after the workshop to monitor progress.  It is recommended that children attend the Tuesday and Wednesday classes for this programme.  We will cover:

  • verbal reasoning

  • non-verbal reasoning

  • English

  • numerical reasoning/Maths

Example questions in the new 11 + tests can be found here.

GCSE Maths

Many schools enter all year 11 children for early entry GCSE English and Maths exams in the November before they leave school.  This means that when children start year 11 in September, they have just less than 2 months in which to prepare for the exam.  Children (and parents) panic when they realise this and often it is too late to get help. Please my blog post on this topic to get a more in-depth view.

The summer break is an ideal time to work on key skills needed to pass exams.  After the initial assessment on your child’s academic ability, we will design a unique programme for your child to follow.  This means that we will work on your child’s weaknesses and gradually tailor the programme so that they are working at a level above their expectations.

Students need to know what the best revision strategies are. Effective revision methods like using mind maps, flash cards, colour coding and using practice questions are taught hand in hand with subject knowledge so that your child can see which ones work the best for them.

All too often children lose valuable marks in exams because they have mis-read the question or not answered it fully. Students on this workshop will learn how to read exam questions properly, how to understand the language of exam questions, how to keep track of time, how to judge the difficulty of a question and how to tackle exam nerves.

Spoken English

The speaking and listening unit in English is often overlooked and teachers will focus more on the writing and reading units.  In this workshop every student will learn to improve their speaking and listening skills and apply them to their english lessons at school as well as their daily life.  Improving speaking and listening reinforces and extend children’s developing reading and writing skills.

  • Students will prepare and present a 10 minute presentation on a subject of their choice.

  • Students will learn how to recite a poem

  • Students will lead discussions and debates

  • Students will read with expression, a chapter from a book of their choice

We teach the students about:

  • maintaining a physical presence through effective body language and eye contact

  • having a clear voice with effective use of volume, pace, rhythm and intonation

  • using dramatic appropriateness for different activities

  • engaging the audience

Creative Writing and Essay Writing

This workshop will encourage students to tap into their natural creativity and imagination.  Students learn how to express themselves and tell engaging stories, while picking up good writing habits for a lifetime.

Essay writing is an essential skill for senior secondary and tertiary students.  Kip McGrath’s popular Essay Writing workshop covers all the essential essay writing skills from analysing the question to editing the final draft.

Our in depth and comprehensive essay writing workshop covers common areas of weakness in student essay writing including:

  • Not answering the question – learn how to analyse the question, plan a well structured answer and write a proper opening and concluding paragraph

  • Poor opening argument and essay structure – learn the features of a good thesis, develop skills in analytical reading, presenting a balanced argument, supporting that argument.

  • Editorial writing – learn how to advocate a specific point of view and write a convincing and clear argument

  • Exam essay writing – learn how to write a clear, concise and well structured answer within a time limit.

  • Speech writing – learn how to write an essay designed to be spoken, understand the key elements to successful speech writing, learn how to deliver and present a speech

Taught by qualified English teachers this Essay Writing workshop will give senior students the skills and confidence they need to approach the rigours of both assignments and exams with confidence.

Science

Our science classes always have a practical activity followed by activities to explain the science behind them.  Students will learn to use scientific terminology in their lives and apply the science they have learnt to their own experiences.  The classes are packed full of information covering the national curriculum, but with plenty of opportunity to have discussions and ask questions.

We also cover exam technique and revision methods in this workshop.  The new GCSE has “6 mark questions”, which require a good understanding of the topic but also the ability to understand what the examiner is looking for.  For students doing triple science at GCSE or the Higher paper, we teach them how to approach these type of questions effectively.

Get Ready For School and Little Learners

The transition from pre-school to more formal learning is a significant one for children. It can affect their interest, motivation at school and their future school success. Kip McGrath’s specialised Get Ready for School programme is a gentle introduction to learning which aids the smooth transition from pre-school to “big” school.

Our Get Ready for School programme is an essential for parents who want to ensure the initial school experience is a positive one for their child.

The programme includes activities that promote both learning concepts and school readiness skills.

  • Alphabet

  • Counting

  • Recognising letter sounds and names

  • Writing letter sounds and names

  • Shape Recognition

  • Number Recognition

  • Identifying colours

  • Visual Discrimination

  • Memory Skills

  • Learning behaviours

  • Fine motor skills

  • Hand & Eye Coordination

  • Writing one’s name

  • Pencil grip

Course Highlights

  • Fun and stress free learning

  • Carefully structured course introduces new concepts each lesson and revises previous concepts.

  • Build children’s confidence in their ability to learn and interact in a learning environment

  • Reduce the stress of the initial formal schooling experience

Little Learners

Little Learners education programme for nearly new school children.

Develop a love of learning in your child from the start of school years. Help your child transition from Kindergarten to Year 1 and improve the chances of school success.         Little Learners focuses on building the foundations of literacy and numeracy by engaging children in a variety of structured, yet fun learning activities.

How will your child benefit?

Develop, improve and reinforce learning in:

  • Basic reading including phonemic awareness

  • Comprehension

  • Alphabet and counting

  • Addition and subtraction

  • Number recognition

    Kip McGrath Luton Summer School
    Kip McGrath Luton Summer School

How To Prepare For the 2013 Year 6 SATs


Major changes have been made to the 2013 SATs exams for Key Stage 2 pupils in the UK.  This year is the first time that children will be doing the spelling, grammar and punctuation exam, and the first year in which there will be no writing paper.  Here are some basic facts you need to know:

1.  In all state primary schools in the UK, SATs exams are held in May.

2.  Children in year 6, will be assessed in Maths and English (spelling, grammar, punctuation and reading) externally.  Levels 3-5 of the national curriculum will be tested.  There is an additional level 6 paper for children working above level 5.

3.  English writing will be assessed by your child’s class teacher throughout year 6 based on the work your child completes in class.

4.  English speaking and listening will be assessed by your child’s class teacher.

5.  There are 3 Maths tests, mental maths, non-calculator paper A and calculator paper B.

The results are usually out in July and are often shared with parents in end of year reports.  SATs exam results are used by schools to measure performance and the average year 6 child is expected to get a level 4b in Maths and English.  The teacher assessments are passed onto high schools for them to put children into ability groups in year 7.

What are the implications of these changes when it comes to preparing your child for the exams?

How can you help your child to prepare for the exams?

Where do you start?

As a teacher and a parent, I would start by finding out what level my child is working at.  You can speak to your child’s class teacher about this.  I should warn you that some teachers may come up with comments like “your child is working at a level 4c”.  Unless you are a teacher or are familiar with the grading system used in schools, this doesn’t really tell you much.  Try to get more specific feedback which you can work on. For example, if you want to help your child with maths, then ask the teacher which topics you should be revising to improve the grade. If you can get the teacher to put this in an email to you or to  just jot down a few bullet points, then it’s easier to refer back to it to see if you are covering the right topics.  There’s no point in guessing what your child should be doing because if the works too easy then your child isn’t learning anything and if it’s too hard then you’ll end up getting frustrated and losing patience.  The key is to cover topics at the right level for your child.

Once you have determined what level of work you should be doing, then it’s time to practise the skills needed to improve.  Doing 20 minutes three times a week is better than doing an hour on one day.  As with revision, repetition is important and you should go over the same topic many times.  Sometimes your child will understand straight away, whereas at other times it may take weeks to conquer a subject.  I remember teaching a child about equivalent fractions, and thinking that the child would never understand.  He would turn up to lessons having forgotten what I had taught him the previous week.  It was frustrating but we persevered, and eventually, it clicked!

English skills need drilling as well.  What I mean by drilling is practising.  With the introduction of the new spelling, punctuation and grammar exams, this is now even more essential.  The skills needed to improve in these areas need to be registered in a child’s long-term memory.  I’ve seen many children who get 10 out of 10 in their weekly spelling tests, but spell incorrectly when using those same words in a sentence.  One of the reasons is that the spellings have been crammed and learnt for the test, registered in the short-term memory and then forgotten.  Long term memory can be improved by repeated exposure.  So to help a child remember a spelling, I would get him/her to learn them, use the words in sentences, use the words in stories, put the words in alphabetical order, think of rhyming words, draw pictures to illustrate the words or write out the words in different colours.

Punctuation and grammar have to be learnt in such a way that they become a habit.  It should be learnt so that the child doesn’t have to be reminded to use capital letters and full stops and if they do forget, then there’s a niggling thought in the back of their mind that something is missing from the sentence.

I’ll leave you with links to sample papers and mark schemes for the new style SATs tests introduced for 2013.

Level 3-5 Paper 1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test Sample

Level 3-5 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test Paper 2 Spelling Script

Level 3-5 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test – Spelling Answer Booklet

Level 3-5 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test – Mark Scheme

Level 6 Paper 1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test Sample

Level 6 Paper 2, Short Answer Questions

Level 6, Paper 3, Spelling Script

Level 6, Paper 3, Spelling Answer Booklet

Level 6, Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Mark Scheme

The exams are just 5 months away, is your child ready?  Do you think you can help?  If not, then we are just a phone call away.

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.

Helping Reluctant Writers


For many children, writing can be a daunting task.  When presented with a blank piece of paper and a writing task like “write a recount about what you did today”, they manage to squeeze out only 3 or 4 lines in 30 minutes.  I usually get the questions “how do I start?” or “how long does it have to be”, and then a bit of time-wasting whilst pencils are sharpened and rubbers are found.  There is evidence of lots and lots of rubbing out, correction and re-phrasing.  It shows lack of confidence and writers block and children don’t really get why their writing is so bad; they can’t tell you how to improve it.

So how can you help a child with weak writing skills?  The easy answer is to get your child to keep a diary or sit down and write a story every day, but even professional writers find this difficult to do.  And for the reluctant writer, this is equivalent to climbing a mountain.  Below are some practical and easy methods which work.

The Slow and Untidy Writer

If you have a child who is a slow writer and focuses all his concentration and effort into the actual art of writing, then this is stopping the flow of ideas.  So in this case, you could act as a scribe for your child.  The child dictates and you write their story for them.  The point is that your child gets his ideas on paper in a logical order, that it makes sense and that it uses his imagination.  Ask lots of questions to extend ideas and prompt for better vocabulary.  Encourage your child to add more details like adjectives and adverbs, and encourage him to formulate the full sentence in his mind before dictating it.  You will find that your child will have written much more than 3 or 4 lines and this in itself is a very good motivator to write more.

The Child Who Doesn’t See The Point In Writing

If you have a child who says “who’s going to read this anyway” or “what’s the point in writing” it means that they don’t value the art of writing.  They find it easier to just say it, and writing it down is wasted time.

Talk to your child about the importance of writing and why we need to learn to write. I think the writing process involves three stages of evolution.  First we write to communicate. Most children understand this and it’s how children start to learn to write.  They start by making lists and writing messages, even annotating pictures they have drawn. You could start off this as a daily activity.  Ask your child to write a shopping list, a birthday wish list or even a list of things to do.  There are more ideas on lists here.Set a good example by writing things on post it notes and leaving them about the house for your child to find. Children follow by example.

The next stage is the “writing to entertain” stage.  Who are they entertaining? Well at first it’s themsleves so they have to write about something that interests them.  I have a collection of writing prompts on my Pinterest and you can pick and choose one which will be suitable for your child.  One of my teachers picks interesting topics for her students to write about.  She teaches older children and often her essay titles are about issues which affect them. So instead of asking them to write a speech persuading their school to give money to a charity of their choice, she will ask them to write a speech to persuade their school to allow students to manage the school Instagram account.

The final stage is the “writing to express” stage. Expression takes time to develop.  It can be in the form of poetry, or just by the words and the tone of the writing.  You should be able to hear the writers voice through the writing.  It uses emotion and can be quite honest writing.  I have had reluctant writers who love to write poetry.

The Child Who Doesn’t Know What To Write

A child who writes the bare minimum and finds it difficult to add detail and interest in his writing is suffering from writers block.  They need guidance on how to pad out their writing and they need to know specifically how to extend their writing. They start writing without thinking about content and stumble after just writing the first sentence.

  • Brainstorming ideas and plots before writing can help unravel a child’s writing brain and helps to visualise the direction the writing is going in.  Brainstorming can be mind maps, spider diagrams, flow charts or even lists.

  • Checklists are also useful to remind children about features of different writing types and what they should be including in their writing.  A simple internet search will yield checklists for “recount writing” for instance.  If the checklist reminds a child to “say or show how a character reacted to an event” then the child is more likely to do so at each stage of the story.

  • Another method I use is to get the child to write a sentence followed by a question word to help extend the writing. For example the child writes “I saw a boy playing football”.  This could be followed by “who, why, when, where or how” to add in some detail.  Ask specific questions about your child’s writing:

  • How did that happen?

  • Did you react to that event?

  • What did you do?

  • Can you tell me more about…?

  • What are some other words you could use to describe…?

  • Where were you?

  • Why did that happen?

Once your child has produced their masterpiece, then avoid the urge to criticise it.  Writing is a personal process, a form of expression, so any criticism on the writing can feel like you’re criticising the child.  Always make positive comments and acknowledge improvements first before you pick on the bad bits.  I will finish with a few websites I use to motivate writers and provide inspiration.

Storybird -Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print. Read them like books, play them like games, and send them like greeting cards. They’re curiously fun.  Storybird reverses the process of visual storytelling by starting with the image and “unlocking” the story inside. Choose an artist or a theme, get inspired, and start writing. Children can either write their own books using the pictures to inspire and create plots, or just as a prompt for a piece of writing.  In this case they choose a picture and just describe what they see in the picture.

21 Stunning Photographs With Meaning – stunning photos of a variety of subjects, including children, flowers, people, and more.  Each photo was selected not only for being stunning, but also for an underlying meaning that will be sure to brighten your day.  Hopefully, these beauties will inspire your child to create beautiful pieces of writing.

The Literacy Shed – this website has lots of cartoons and short films to inspire your child to write.  We use this as a starting point for writing, and one of the simplest tasks is to get the child to watch the video, and write a summary of the stroy line.  It’s a matter of simple recall, but don’t be surprised when your child says she can’t remember anything aprt from the first scene.  That’s because she’s not used to focusing on the storyline and just watching for entertainment.  As she practices more, she will remember more and more details.  Another  great feature of this website is that it has lesson ideas too, so if you wanted to do something more in line with the national curriculum, then theres plenty of material to work on.

But if you haven’t got the time or struggle to explain things simply to your child, get a professional to help.  Our fully qualified teachers can unlock the writing bug in any child!

At the initial assessment I can work out why your child is struggling with writing, then I can design a unique programme for him to follow.

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So book your child for a free assessment today.  Call Samina on 01582 402225

So You Didn’t get a “C” in English and Maths GCSE….


Exam results are out this week, and I’m hoping the 40 or so students I helped this year have achieved the grades they aimed for. I get a lot of calls from panicking parents and students who don’t know what to do when they fail their GCSE English and Maths exams.  It’s not the end of the world.  Here’s a guide to what you should do next if you get a “D” grade or below.

you didn't get a Grade

Most people think of a fail as NOT getting a grade “C” because this is the minimum grade expected of students if they want to go into further education.  In fact, getting that all important “C” in English and Maths is so important that universities can refuse to give you a place even if you’ve got A* s in all your other subjects.

So a lot of students have to re-take their GCSEs.  I have taught students taking their GCSE’s for the first time and those who are re-taking.  Students re-taking their exams face the following problems:

  • Students often have fewer lessons when retaking because they are at college and often have a busy timetable dedicating more time to the new subjects.

  • They are either over-confident and get complacent.  They think they will pass because they’ve done it all before. They have all their other subjects’ work to do as well and tend concentrate on those.

  • They can get too negative and start thinking that they will never pass.  Some get a mental block and continue to fail….

  • Students are very rusty – the last time they did maths or English was at least 3 months ago.

  • Students quite often GET THE SAME GRADE again!

To avoid all of the above, retake the exams as soon as possible and be prepared to do more work!

GCSE ENGLISH RE-SIT

If you do not achieve a “C” grade pass in English language, then you can re-sit the exam in January 2013.  The exam is on 10th January 2013.

As a general guideline, if you got a “D” overall then you can re-sit in January.  Anything lower than that means that you have to repeat the whole year and retake the exam in June next year.  You can re-submit your controlled assessments and speaking and listening assignments from year 11 if they are good.

If you want to re-sit in January then you’d better get your skates on!  I’ve calculated that there are only 18  teaching weeks left.  First you will have re-learn all of the course, then make sure that you know what you need to do to get a “C” grade and finally get in plenty of exam practice.  If you do mock tests and past papers, then these should be marked and graded so that you know where you are going wrong.  You can either mark them yourself or get them marked by a teacher.  If you are re-sitting in June next year then you have more time, but you also have more work to do.

GCSE MATHS RE-SIT

The GCSE Maths re-sits are in November.  There are 2 papers, paper 1 is on 6th November 2012, and paper 2 is on 8th November 2012.  The results will be published in January 2013. There are only 11 teaching weeks left, so don’t waste any time.

It is important that all the main exam topics are covered several times before the exam, but if you are short of time, then prioritise the topics you need to know to pass the exam.  A good way of doing this is by doing a mock test and looking at the results to see what you know and don’t know.  Then work on what you can’t do.

Don’t just revise ‘favourite’ topics – this won’t be enough, something must be changed this time around.

As with GCSE English, get in plenty of exam practice and get used to working under timed conditions.  Always mark the papers or get them marked and monitor how you are improving.

My blog article on understanding your examination results slip will help you to work out how close you were to a C grade.

Nobody wants to retake exams, but if you do find yourself in this situation,  let us help you pass.   Book a free assessment and we will show you the way.

Fast Track to Success – Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2012


Click here for the 2014 Summer School Programme.

When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, I have to spend at least a couple of lessons going over work they should know.  Sometimes I have to go down a level of work because the child has forgotten the basics.  Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN“.

Children have too much time on their hands during the summer and they forget some of what they learn during the school year.  Avoiding this can save time, and for children who have exams coming up, this can be the difference between a pass and a fail.  Academic summer schools can help, as long as the work is tailored to your child’s needs and they have a target to aim for.

How To Avoid the Summer Brain Drain

Past experience has taught us that parents want a more structured approach to their children’s summer learning.  They want to see proof of progress.  Parents want to take advantage of the free time available during summer and are looking for more than just a child care provider.

The Kip McGrath Luton Summer School will run every Tuesday and Wednesday in August from the 1st August 2012 to the 29th August 2012.  Classes are from 10.00 am.  This year, the format of these 2 hour classes will be the same format as normal term time Kip lessons, but with a little added extra to cater for your child’s specific needs.

The three programmes that will be running are the 11+ and Common Entrance Programme, the GCSE Maths and English Programme and the Kip Summer Booster Programme.

To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in the online form at the end of this article.

If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.

The 11+ and Common Entrance Programme

The 11+ exams will be in November 2012 and common entrance exams will be in either December 2012 or January 2013 depending on which school your child will be going to.

Kip McGrath Luton will be offering intensive summer courses in 11+. The courses will familiarise the students with all the types of questions and teach them strategies and techniques to raise their chances for success. Children will be tested before and after the course to monitor progress.  It is recommended that children attend the Tuesday and Wednesday classes for this programme.  We will cover:

  • verbal reasoning

  • non-verbal reasoning

  • English

  • maths

GCSE Maths and English Programme

This programme is open to all year 10 and 11 students and any year 9 students who are sitting their exams early.  Many schools enter all year 11 children for early entry GCSE English and Maths exams in the November before they leave school.  This means that when children start year 11 in September, they have just less than 2 months in which to prepare for the exam.  Children (and parents) panic when they realise this and often it is too late to get help. Please my blog post on this topic to get a more in-depth view.

The summer break is an ideal time to work on key skills needed to pass exams.  As well the academic content of the GCSE subjects, we will also teach your child how to answer exam questions and how to revise.  All too often children lose valuable marks in exams because they have mis-read the question or not answered it fully.  Some children need to be taught how to revise and we will teach them different ways in which they can remember what they have learnt.

Summer Booster Programme

This is our most popular programme designed to give your child that extra boost before going into the next academic year.  All children from age 5 to 16 can attend.  The added extra options are:

    • spoken English

    • science

    • essay writing

To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in the online form below.

If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.

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.