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.

 

Advertisements

Student Alert: Why You Probably Won’t Get The Grades You Hoped For.


I get a lot of comments from frustrated GCSE students who just don’t know how to revise effectively and get the grades. Despite trying their best to study and swatting up for exams, they keep failing. Some do well in class, know all the answers but flop in exams. Others will spend hours making colourful notes, drawing mind maps, reading books, and trying all sorts of revision strategies and still end with a fail. So what’s going wrong? Are they just not cut out to be A* students?

I don’t have a magic formula to help students pass their exams but I can draw on my past experiences when helping students revise to come up with some winning strategies. There are 4 types of problems:

1. When You Get Good Marks in Class Tests But Not in Real Exams

A class test is usually taken in the classroom and it is usually with the class teacher present. This makes it easier for students to relax because they are not faced with something unfamiliar. The class test is often not taken as seriously because “it doesn’t count” and so again helps the student to be more relaxed.
Another reason is that class tests are taken straight after a topic is finished whereas exams are on topics which might have been done months ago. For example, if your child is taking AS exams, then they might have to revise all the work they’ve done since January or even September. For GCSE students, they will be tested on topics they’ve covered since the beginning of year 10. For KS2 SATs students, they will be expected to know everything they’ve done in year 6.
To get over exam nerves , students need to get used to working under timed conditions and under pressure. Practicing past papers at home with a stop clock ticking away can help a child get accustomed to it. Getting used to the idea that it is normal to be nervous for exams, and learning strategies to cope with such feelings can also be beneficial. I have taught students who have well-used revision guides and text books, but haven’t seen a single exam paper. They haven’t had mock tests, and they haven’t timed themselves to see if they finish on time. So you must:

  • get used to working under pressure

  • practice tests at home under timed and un-timed conditions

  • compare your test results to see if you really are performing as well as you can in exam conditions

2. You Don’t have Enough Time To Learn It All

There’s no point in revising topics you know already. Find out what your weaknesses are and which skills you need to brush up on. You can ask your teacher if you don’t know. Then choose one topic you need to improve on and find exam questions on that topic. For example if you need to improve your vocabulary, then you need to read more and work out the meaning of unfamiliar words in the context of a passage of text. If you are a level 3 because you don’t know how to read tables and graphs, then find questions on data handling.

Exam papers are written so that the easy questions come first. For a higher GCSE maths paper, the C grade questions come first, for KS2 SATs, the level 3 questions come first and for English reading papers, the easy comprehension questions come first. Save time by finding out what level/grade you are working at. If you are already a C grade and need to get a B, then just skip the C grade questions. If you want to get a level 5 in your SATs then start at the back of the level 3-5 paper to practice harder questions.

3. You Spend Too Much Time making Notes/Mind Maps/Revision Cards

I encourage all of my students to have a good bank of resources to help them revise. For some students, this could be a set of colourful index linked revision cards, for others it might be mind maps and for some may even be their school text-book with highlighted text. In fact it’s essential when it comes to revision.

But some students take this as the “be all and end all” to revision, just because they’ve spent hours writing these beautiful colourful notes. Revision resources have to be used once they have been created. Aim to have all resources ready at least 4 weeks before the exams. There are many ways to use revision resources. You can:

  • read them

  • edit them

  • re-write them

  • shorten them

  • add questions to them

  • pin them up in your bedroom

  • use them when revising with a friend

4. You Don’t Know How To Revise

Read my other blogs on revision techniques:

How To Revise 1-create a timetable

How To Revise 2 – do some mock exams

How To Revise 3-read with a purpose

How To Revise 4- understand the wording

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.

 quote-about-writing3

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

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.

2011 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Tackling Times Tables


One of the biggest issues facing our pupils at Kip when they join us, is the common problem that they do not know their times tables. Lots of work goes on in primary classrooms to address ways of learning tables, but I’ve got to say, that the old-fashioned way of learning them by heart seems to bring the best results.
We always try to incorporate 10 minutes of Timed Tables into a lesson.  The purpose is to get as many random times tables correct in one minute as possible.   The pupils love the competitive edge to learning their tables, and this has a positive effect on their maths knowledge and problem solving skills.

One of our siters centres has written a great article on this topic.  You can view it here.

I never believed this was possible- but I do now.


I never thought that a student could improve their reading age by 2 years after just 14 weeks of tuition.  And I didn’t discover this until I started teaching at Kip McGrath. 

The reading scheme we use is the best in the world in my opinion, and without telling you the trade secrets, here is how it works:

  1. teaching the child how to break down a word into sound groups (phonemes)
  2. drilling words over and over again
  3. drilling high frequency sight words to improve visual recognition of words.  A sight word is to be recognised without being broken down into syllables and phonemes. For example the word “the” is a sight word because it cannot be “sounded out” as “t”, “huh” and “eh” and put together again.
  4. understanding what the sight words mean and using them in sentences.

I believe that if parents and teachers stick to the above 4 techniques when teaching reading, then progress will be much quicker.

Why I love my job.


My job = teacher.  How can i not love this job.  But it’s not just a job its an obsession and the more I do it, the more it becomes a part of me.  If you had to separate my personality from my job, then hand on heart I don’t think there would be much personality left.

I love teaching because it makes me feel good to know that I am making a difference.  I love teaching because every lesson is different and has its own challenges.  I love teaching because I can share my knowledge.  I love teaching because I learn from my students as much as they learn from me.

Any one can teach, but not everyone can teach well,

On this point I shall dwell

Because its important to know that teaching has its ups and downs

We have to cater for the sensible ones and the clowns

And that is why I love to teach

Because then I know that my efforts are not wasted.

 

Testimonial of the week.


I’ve just received this testimonial this morning and it has made my week.

“I would like to express my sincere thanks to you for the help you have given Emma and the flexibility you have shown. You have not only built up her confidence as we set out to do but you have managed to created an environment that Emma was happy to come to and enjoyed learning in, I can only remember one occasion where she did not want to go! I would happily recommend you and should Emma or her younger sister Hannah need help in the future I will not hesitate to be in touch.

I wish you every success for the future and again thank you very much.”

Emma started tutoring 2 years ago. She was bright but lacked confidence in Maths. She was particularly slow with mental calculations and didnt like problem solving. I put her onto our “timed tables” which is a computer programme designed to make learning times tables fun and to improve speed. In the first lesson her highest score was 12, but by the time she had done one term of tuition, she was getting 32.

Because she had made so much progress in Maths we then decided to do some english as well, and we have worked together with school and parents to overcome learning blocks in this area.

I wish Emma the best of luck in the future and will miss her – as I always do.

If you would like extra help for your child, call the Kip McGrath Education centre in Stevenage on 01438 746986 or the Luton centre 0n 01582 402225.