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.


Easy Revision Strategies For Science

I learnt how to revise science the hard way, through failure, trial and error and pure determination.  I got through my GCSE exams by reading through my science books – once or twice!  I was lucky to have a good memory.  Then I did my A levels and discovered that I had to do a lot more reading, but just reading wasn’t enough.  I had to read, write, talk, test, draw, re-write, re-read, re-test and repeat. It still wasn’t enough and it wasn’t until I started my degree that I really understood how to learn properly.

Has this ever happened to you? When you think you’ve done enough revision and realise after the exam that you didn’t know anything?  Now that I have been teaching for 22 years, I have seen thousands struggle like I did, but if you follow my very simple guidelines, you will save so much time and avoid the stress.

Step 1: Make sure you have decent notes.

If you are lucky, your teacher may give you printed notes so you won’t have to write your own.  I ask my students to show me their science books and what I usually see is half-written experiment write ups, loose worksheets and maybe a few answers to questions from a text-book.  You cannot revise from these.

So get hold of a course syllabus.  What’s that?  It’s called a specification and you can download it from all the examining board websites.  Make sure you know the title of your course so that you download the correct one.  Sometimes teachers give out a summary sheet at the end of a topic which lists everything you need to know, and have notes on.  topic listGo through the list or the syllabus and start writing notes on the topic IN YOUR OWN WORDS.  If you are just copying, you are not thinking.notes

Be warned, this step takes the longest, and more so if you don’t have the right sources of information.  If the notes in your books are not enough, use textbooks as opposed to revision guides.  I find that revision guides don’t go into detail, so only use the revision guides as a quick reference point but they won’t explain anything. If you still need more notes then go onto BBC Bitesize like I have explained in this post and top them up.

One of my students had to do this for all of the topics she had studied since the beginning of year 10.  She gasped and said,

“Miss that’s long! It will take me ages.”

Yes it will, but you will only have to do this once.

Step 2: Transform your notes

I took inspiration form @study_motivation101 on Instagram. She posts pictures of student notes and revision techniques and they all make you want to do the same.

For this step you will need:

  • highlighters

Highlight the keywords and important bits in your notes. Make a key to colour code your notes so you could use one colour for all formulas, one colour for all definitions and one colour for all the tricky bits you keep forgetting. highlighter

  • plain paper

Draw mind maps.  Write the topic title in the centre of the page and then branch out.  The first time you do this, don’t look at your notes, just add on everything you can remember.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just a few words. Then look at your notes and fill in the gaps.  Use diagrams, charts and tables in your mind maps too.mind mapmind map

  • felt tips

Using colour will keep you awake while you revise. The more colourful the better.  Write in different colours, draw bubbles around important information and underline keywords.  You can even write questions in the margin in a different colour to test yourself as you read your notes.


  • index cards

Read your notes, and now only write down the most important information. Index cards shouldn’t have lots of words and should be used as a “quick look” guide.  Look at the way they have been used in the picture below. Use colour, diagrams, highlighters, and subtitles to break up the information into manageable chunks.index cards

  • post it notes

Use post it notes to remind you about important points. You can also cover some of your work with them and write a question on them.  The answer is revealed under the post it note. This student has used post it notes directly on a revision guide. post it

Step 3: Practice questions.

As you go through your notes, always think about how you will be tested. What questions could be asked?  Write questions for yourself as you go along, the simplest ones could be just recalling facts.  For example when revising a diagram on the digestib=ve system, you could write down the question “name 5 parts of the digestive system and put them in order”.

The second type of test questions could be end of topic tests you have done at school. Ask your teacher for these and go through the questions again.

The third type are usually found in text books at the end of each page or chapter.  They usually have answers too, so a good place to start.

BBC Bitesize also has end of topic test questions.

Step 4: Download past papers and their mark schemes.

Many students get to step 3, and then think they know it all. The game isn’t over until you have done some real exam questions. This will get you used to the wording of the questions and you will see that questions are repeated (although they are not exactly the same).  When you have revised a topic, answer and mark the exam questions just on that topic rather than answering a whole paper. Learn how to mark the questions so that you don’t have to wait for your teacher to mark them.

For my students I have created custom made exam packs focusing on just one topic at a time.  Once they have mastered every topic in that paper, I let them do the whole paper.  I have created exam question sets by topic.  Below are some of the ones I have done so far.  They do not have answers yet.

OCR 21st Century C1, C2, C3

OCR 21st Century C1.1 exam questions (which gases make up the air)

OCR 21st Century C2.1 exam questions (properties of materials)

OCR 21st Century C3.2 exam questions (where does salt come from)

OCR 21st Century P1, P2, P3

OCR 21st Century p1-1 exam questions (planets and solar systems)

OCR 21st Century p2-1 exam questions (radiation and photons)

OCR 21st Century p3-1 exam questions (how much energy do we use)

OCR Gateway P1

gateway p1 cooking and comm with waves exam questions

gateway p1 data transmission exam questions

gateway p1 heating and cooling exam questions

 To summarise

              how to revise 1how to revise 2


The Science of Teaching Science

My weekly science lessons are the highlight of my week.  Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching on the other days but Tuesdays science class combines my two favourite things – teaching and science.  Students who need science tuition don’t know how to learn science and remember it.  To learn science there are three steps:

  1.  first need to understand it

  2. then apply it to questions or even real life examples

  3. then remember it

When I was at school my Biology teacher would dictate pages and pages of notes for the whole lesson.  Occasionally we had a practical lesson, but the best lessons were the ones where she would ask us to put our books away and ask questions.  We would spend the whole lesson taking turns to ask her questions related to the topics we had been studying. This method of teaching helped us to understand, apply and remember the topic.

My science lessons are student led, I have a lesson planned, but most times I walk in not knowing what I will end up teaching.  I encourage students to use scientific words when asking questions and when talking about science.  New students rarely contribute to class discussions and don’t understand how science matters to their lives.

A new student will ask “Miss, is it true that mobile phones can kill you if you use them too much?”

Whereas a regular student will ask “Miss, is it true that the microwave radiation emitted from a mobile phone can cause mutations and lead to cancer?”

Do you see the difference? This was a question which came up in a physics topic on the electromagnetic spectrum.  The discussion continued onto cancer to treatment of cancer to Ebola to vaccination to drug discovery to forensic science and so on.

I find that teaching science in this way helps the students to remember more as it relates to their lives.  It makes science less abstract and more interesting.

teaching science

My science lessons are every Tuesday from 4.30 to 5.30.  Call 01582 402225 to book your child in.

My Typical Day – Who, What, Where, When and Why

“What do you think I do all day?” I asked one of my GCSE English students.

“Miss I bet you’re having coffee with friends and catching up on Eastenders,” she said.

Lol I wish it was like that.  Another student said that I must have a day job somewhere.


I teach in the evenings so people assume that I must have another job during the day.  WRONG!  My business is a full-time job, and as a centre owner I have many duties.

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

So first thing this morning, after the school run, I had a meeting at a local school with the inclusion co-ordinator.  A parent of one of the children I teach asked me to come along to the meeting as the child is struggling at school and the school would like my opinion.  The meeting was really productive because they were impressed by the report I had written and I gave them a detailed insight into how the child learns and the difficulties he faces.  They will be giving him extra support in school now and will monitor closely to see if it makes a difference.


Lesson Plans

Then comes the favourite part of my job, planning lessons.  However, this week I made exam revision packs for my GCSE students because they have mocks coming up.  At Kip McGrath we use our own resources but exam practice and exam technique are also essential.  We teach children simple things like working out how much time they should devote to each question depending on how many marks it’s worth, and we get them to learn to use mark schemes.  These skills they can take away and do at home too.  So I made up packs targeted at C/D grades C/B and A/A* grades in both english and maths.

Phone Calls

Chasing up missed calls takes up a lot of my time too, especially if I am talking to a parent who doesn’t know what we do and how we do it.  I’m on the ball when it comes to telling tales too! As soon as a child forgets homework or is not trying, I call the parents.  I always give the children a chance and a warning though, but they never believe me when I say I am going to call their parents – until it happens.  The calls I love to make are the ones where I have to tell a parent that their child has improved.  We test regularly at Kip McGrath and parents don’t always come in to get feedback so it is my job to make sure that the parent knows how well their child has done.

Business Stuff

About 20% of my day is spent on business activities.  I updated my Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts and then wrote an article to go in the Primary Times which is a magazine given to all primary school children in the town.


More Lesson Planning

After that I planned my science lesson which I teach on Tuesdays.  The class I have are terrible at long answer questions.  These questions are worth 6 marks and they just manage to get 2 or 3 marks.   I find it shocking that the children know so little, they don’t think that what they learn in science lessons applies to their lives.  The other day one of my students thought that test tube babies grew and developed in a test tube!

School Run!

After picking up my daughter from school I then go into the centre to teach.  This is when the fun starts.  There is no typical Kip child as I teach children from a variety of backgrounds and children who have a variety of needs.  I suppose the best way of showing you what a Kip child is like is to take a snapshot of the children I teach in a typical day.  For data protection purposes I have changed the names of the students.

Teaching – Yay!!!!

So on Wednesday s I teach:

Linda – Year 11, bubbly, sensitive and avoids maths

Linda has been coming to Kip McGrath since she was in primary school and is now in year 11.  I am helping her with her maths.  One of the areas where Linda needs help is her speed.  She rarely finishes an exam paper and likes to get it neat.  For that reason she believes that you should get it right first time and takes too long thinking about presentation and method.  I also believes this is her way of coping with the task.  This week we had a brilliant lesson on the circle theorem and she left with a beaming smile.  I texted after the lesson to give an update and mum said that Linda had told her all about it already.

Zachary year 1, recently moved to the UK and forgets easily

Zachary came into lesson today with a heart shape he had made out of play dough for me.  He is on our early reading programme and started 4 months ago barely knowing his alphabet.  I had to teach him from scratch.  He is now on book 10 of the early reading programme but is not ready to graduate onto our primary reading programme yet.  This week we did some work on the letter “e” as he forgets the sound it makes in words.  We also drilled some common CVC words like “mop, cat, mud, did, fan, bat” and I discovered that he has a limited vocabulary.  For example he didn’t know that a bat could also be an animal and that a mouse and a rat are similar.  Note to self: do some vocabulary building exercise with him, read non-fiction texts, talk about the books more and encourage him to use and remember one new word per lesson.

Hannah – year 8 with a reading age 3 years below her actual age

Hannah is a real success story.  She has been attending since April and had a real learning block when it came to reading.  She’s worked so hard and overcome her obstacles and is now a free reader.  At school the teachers are in total disbelief that she has made so much progress.  Today I did some creative writing with her and she did a humorous piece of writing on what she thinks I do all day – this is partly what inspired me to write this blog.  We also did some comprehension, but it was too easy for her, so after the first question I changed it to something more on her level.  What I love about Hannah is that now she’s proud of her work, every lesson she wants to show her mum her work and asks me to tell her mum about how hard she has worked.

Joe – year 4, gifted in all areas, needs to learn to focus

Joe’s mum brought him to me for an initial assessment when he was in year 1.  She had been to a parent’s evening at school and was told that he was struggling with reading.  She wanted him to have some extra help with this, and had heard about us through a friend.  His assessment results showed that he was above average in english and maths!  We were both confused!

Three years on and Joe has changed to a better school which meets his needs.  He is extremely intelligent and thrives on challenges.  He asks to do algebra and fractions in class because he enjoys it, and he thrives on solving puzzles and crosswords.  Today he did a comprehension exercise, one which I have chosen because I know that he avoids it.  He likes to read but doesn’t like to write and in the past he has given one word answers. We followed this up by some vocabulary work, choosing 4 words from the passage which he didn’t know the meaning of, and using context clues to figure out the meaning. Then he planned a story for me, focusing on thoughts and feelings of the characters and finally I let him do some maths.

Family Time Is The Best Time

My day ends late evening, by which time I am glad to be at home with my family.

Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2015

For most children, summer is a time to leave classes and homework behind. While summer is a holiday from school, it does not have to be a holiday from learning. The summer holiday is great for recharging your children’s batteries, because if they are not using the skills and knowledge that was learned in the classroom, they will find themselves lagging behind when school starts up again.Children can lose on average two month’s worth of knowledge over the summer if their brains are not actively engaged in educational activities.

Kip McGrath Luton can offer you the perfect solution to this problem.  Our summer school runs Monday to Friday throughout August.  Your child can attend one or more 2 hour teaching session per week and complete a small amount of homework.  After an initial assessment we can pin-point any areas of weakness that need to be targeted and put together a programme of work designed to focus on these areas and prepare them for the coming school year.  This small amount of effort can make a huge difference and mean that your child is ready to learn in the new school year instead of having to spend the first month relearning skills and wasting valuable time.

Who Comes To Kip McGrath Summer School?

 Children sitting the 11 plus exam
 Children who need to catchup in Maths and English
 Children who have learning difficulties such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism
 Children who lack confidence in their abilities
 Children who are not working at the level they are capable of

Monday 3rd August to Friday 28th August

10.00 am to 12.00

If your wish you child to attend our summer school please feel free to call us on 01582 402225 to arrange the initial assessment and discuss in detail your child’s individual needs.  Or fill in this contact form and we can arrange a convenient time to call you back.



All our English courses are taught by qualified English specialist teachers and focus on 2 main areas.

  1. Creative Writing   Creative writing is something many students find challenging! This module breaks down the elements needed to become more confident in relation to creative writing. Students are encouraged to plan, think about their audience and the tone and style of their writing in order to produce a piece with quality and depth. Special attention is given to detail and description, and the student is shown how to apply their knowledge to all types of writing.

  2. Reading and SPaG (Spelling, punctuation and Grammar)  This module helps children to understand the difference between nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and the finer points of using an apostrophe and speech marks. A whole range of grammatical activities will enable your child to understand how the English language works.  It will also focus on the student’s understanding of a range of texts at an appropriate level, and also to extend their vocabulary. They will be shown how to find the right answers by skimming and scanning, and also how to work out an answer if it is only implied in the text.


At Kip McGrath our aim is to put the fun back in the subject and build confidence in both mental maths and problem solving through clear and simple explanations.  The student drives the pace of the lesson so if more revision time is needed there is no pressure to ‘move on’ to the next topic.  Maths skills are consolidated by applying knowledge to problem solving questions.  We help develop these skills by teaching the student to read the question and extract the maths needed to answer the question effectively.

11 Plus

One of the changes in the 11+ is the timing of exams. These now take place in September rather than October as in the past. To help with maintaining learning and keep brain cells “fresh” during the summer holidays, we will be holding 11+ Intensive Courses. We recommend that your child attends at least 3 days a week during the summer school.

The course will widen the knowledge base of students so that they are equipped to answer the broad and challenging English, Maths and non-verbal questions. They will be taught examination strategies and how to think positively when faced with a question they find daunting. Students will write a mock exam extracted from the new specification.

Price List

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Helping Your Child With Maths Word Problems

Maths word problems are a common area of concern for parents because they don’t know how to help their child.  Hopefully this article will give you some strategies to use so that problem solving is not a problem any more.

In my experience, there are 2 reasons why the child cannot do the maths word problem:

1.  The child does not understand the question.

If comprehension is weak, then the child will struggle to see what he needs to do.  A weak reader reads mechanically and approaches a sentence word by word, and misses out on the bigger picture.  They will often read the whole question and then give you a blank look, because they haven’t thought about what they are reading.

I use “DRAW” method to help children understand a question.  For example in the following question:

“There are 4 boys with 6 sweets each.  How many sweets altogether?”

Ask your child, what they could draw a picture of from the information in the question.  You might need to explain the meaning of the word “each” or the word “altogether”

maths word problem

Another strategy I use is called the “FLOW CHART” method.  This might be more suitable for older children, where they have to work out problems involving more than one step.  Change the sentence into a flow chart or diagram where each step is connected by an arrow.  For the following problem, you might need to teach your child how to half a number.  I have written a blog post on this topic.

“Damien had 6 stickers. His Mum gave him 10 more. He then gave half to his brother. How many did he have left?”

2 step word problem

The “TRANSLATE” strategy is also a useful way of getting children to understand the word problem.  Children need to understand the maths language used in questions.  At the simplest level they need to understand that the word “and” in a question means + in maths.  This blog I wrote on the topic may be useful.

The following example is a GCSE level question  and requires an understanding of the word “profit”.

“A shopkeeper sold 16 articles for a total of £400 and made a profit of £48.00. How much did each article cost him? “

2.  The child cannot do the maths required for the problem.

After ensuring that your child can understand what  to do, you then have to make sure they can do the working out.  For example in the question below,

“A shopkeeper sold 16 articles for a total of £400 and made a profit of £48.00. How much did each article cost him?”

the steps are as follows:

£400-£48 = £352

£352 divided by 16

If the child cannot do column subtraction or long division, she will struggle.

Problem solving questions usually involve the four basic operators in Maths.  At a higher level, they may involve knowledge of time/percentages/algebra and fractions.  If this is the weakness in your child, ensure that he or she gets to learn these skills first.

Mother’s Day Poetry Competition Winner

Our poetry competition was a great success.  We had over 40 entries out of which we had to pick one.  It was not an easy decision to make.  Here is the winning poem as promised.  It was written by Kyle age 15.


You’re always there when I need you,

Almost as much as a foot needs a shoe,

Let’s be honest, you will always be my best friend,

I will always love you to the end,

We love to fight, then it turns into a scrap,

We both know I must learn when to shut my trap,

Like a puppy loves to chew,

Don’t forget I really love you,

You will always be my favourite woman in my life,

Yes, even more than my future wife,

As Mother’s day comes around,

I send you all my love,

I thank you for all your help,

You’re my mother sent from above,

It’s about time this poem comes to an end,

Don’t worry, my love will never descend.

Love from Kyle 

And here are the flowers, chocolates and original poem in the card which were hand delivered to the lucky mum this morning.

Mothers day prize

Mothers day prize

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


  1. 4 sides

  2. all sides equal length

  3. opposite sides parallel

  4. all interior angles 90 degrees


  1. 4 sides

  2. 2 long sides, 2 short

  3. opposite sides equal length

  4. opposite sides parallel

  5. all angles 90 degrees



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


square to rhombus


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


rectangle to parallelogram


  1. 4 sides

  2. One pair of parallel sides



  1. 4 sides

  2. 2 long sides, 2 short

  3. no parallel sides

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


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.

My Child Gets Distracted Easily – Should I Be Worried?

Distractions can come in various forms and can deter students from paying attention in lessons.   I believe that all children can lose concentration at times, but some will get distracted more easily than others. The chances are that nearly all parents will answer “yes” to the following questions.

When children don't concentrate...

When children don’t concentrate…

Does your child find it difficult to pay attention?

Is your child easily distracted by what’s going on around them?

Does your child day-dream a lot?

It is a common problem and a worry for many parents and can actually hinder the progress a child makes.  In the classroom setting and at my tuition centre, keeping students focused on learning can be a challenging task.  However, at Kip McGrath, we have learnt to overcome these sorts of problems by using some very simple techniques.

1.  Keep it Short and Sweet

Children have an average attention span of 15 minutes.  After this time, they get bored and lose focus.  So work solidly for 15 minutes and then make a change.  At Kip McGrath, each activity is designed to last 15 minutes, children are then moved onto another activity which uses another type of skill set or study skill.

For example, if you are working with your child at home with reading.  You could spend the first 15 minutes reading, and then move onto writing 5 questions to ask the main character in the book, then move onto watching a short video on a scene from the book and then move onto answering some questions to test comprehension.  Notice that each of these activities uses a different type of learning skill and therefore takes the boredom out of learning.

2. Remove All Distractions

If you know that your child will be distracted by the phone ringing or by overhearing an advert on TV, then switch them both off!  If there are other children in the room, who are also working, then move your child so that interaction between them is minimal.  I teach a child who likes to see what other children are doing and is always keen to help them if he knows the answer, so to avoid this, he sits on the other side of the room with his back to them.  Another rule we have for children who insist on a toilet break every lesson, is that they must go before the start of the lesson.  Grumbling stomachs can be ignored and all equipment must be on the table before work begins.  I even have a stash of sharpened pencils in case a child has a blunt one!

3. Set Realistic Expectations

You need to know what your child is capable of and what is expected of his age before you start assuming that your child has problems concentrating.  If a child’s work is not set at the right level, then you will either get a child who is bored because the work is too easy or a child who will avoid the work because it is too hard.  Pitching it at the right level is key to how we teach children at Kip McGrath.  In fact, I use this strategy when working with my own children.  I also check on the national curriculum website, what they should know for their age so that I am teaching them what they will cover at school.

One parent who brought their child for help with maths couldn’t understand why their child was struggling with it.   He had tried to help at home by getting his 6-year-old to learn all of the times tables by rote.  I asked the child to count up in 2’s from the number 24 – he couldn’t.  So the child had not understood the concept of times tables or how to work them out.  He also didn’t recognise odd and even numbers.

If you find the national curriculum difficult to understand, then invest in some good study books which will summarise what your child needs to know and use them as a guide.

These techniques work very well for us at Kip McGrath, and I have seen many children who find difficulty concentrating at school just thrive in our lessons.  Give them a try.

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.