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 Ways To Help Your Child With Handwriting.


The national curriculum has put a greater emphasis on cursive handwriting. Children in year R are being taught how to write joined up and it’s worrying many parents because they don’t know how to help. I’ve collected some “gems” over the years and have used some of these resources with my daughter. This post gives you easy ays to help your child with hand writing.

What is cursive handwriting?

‘Cursive’ or ‘joined-up’ handwriting is any style of writing where letters are joined to make writing faster.

Make it Fun!

If we can make the physical process of writing – handwriting – enjoyable from the start, children are more likely to see themselves as ‘writers’. If the physical process is unpleasant then there is a danger that everything associated with it – spelling, writing stories will also be unpleasant.

Pre-writing Activities

Handwriting is a skill which takes time to learn, just like using a knife and fork or tying your shoelaces. So activities like colouring in, using scissors, anything involving the hands are beneficial.

The Dadlab Youtube channel has some great videos on practicing handwriting with children. This video is a Montessouri method where the child writes the letter in a tray of granulated sugar. It’s so easy to do and great fun.

If you do have a whiteboard, you can write and then get your child to rub out what you have written by tracing over it with a finger. I have done this at Kip McGrath and its so easy to do. Here is a short video.

For a more structured approach try pre-writing activities which involve tracing shapes and lines. I print these out and laminate them so that children can write over them with a dry wipe pen, rub out and write again. Senteacher.org has lots of printable resources you could use.

These worksheets from Activity Village are lovely.

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Once your child has mastered simple worksheets, they can move onto pictures. The idea is to give plenty of opportunity to hold a pencil correctly and control the pencil.

 Try this lovely owl picture from the Scholastic website.

 owl-handwriting-practice

Then there’s these pre writing worksheets which don’t use dotted lines at all.

pre-handwriting-practice-pages-for-preschool-and-kindergarten-from-walking-by-the-way

Back Chaining

Start with your child’s name. This technique is called “back-chaining”.

Write the whole name first, and then write it again underneath but leave off the very last letter for your child to complete. Then write it again, this time leaving off the last two letters and so on, until the whole name is written independently by your child. Doing it this way means there is always a correct model for the student to copy, and you are breaking down your child’s name into manageable chunks.

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Back- Chaining a technique to help your child learn to write their name.

Starting Points

Starting points are very important- mark them with a dot or a star, and make sure your child is forming the letters in the right direction.

This worksheet from kidstv123.com marks the starting point with a star so the child knows where to start.

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I make the children say what they see before they start writing so for example an “m” is a stick and tunnel and a tunnel.

a – round the roundabout and then straight down

b – it’s important to get this right as many children confuse their b’s and d’s. Talk about the letter as if you are describing a movement rather than a shape. Start at the top and go down the ladder. When you get to the bottom go up the ladder a little bit and then go round the roundabout. You may need to explain that the roundabout comes after the ladder.

c – is a curly caterpillar

d- same as the letter “b” but explain that the roundabout/ball comes before the ladder.

e – across the bridge, over the top and down and round.

l – long ladder

r – one-armed robot

Teach similarly formed letters in groups, rather than working alphabetically, so, for instance, “c” and “a” may be taught together as may h, m, n and r.

These workseets from the measured mom are an excellent way of writing numbers. They show clearly where the starting points are and each worksheets covers one number. The numbers are in different sizes too which also helps with pencil control.

Get your child to practice their name by making your own name writing worksheet. Just print the worksheet, and put it into a clear plastic pocket. Children can write on the clear plastic pocket and wipe clean easily if you use dry wipe markers.

To Trace or Not To Trace?

Tracing letters instead of writing from scratch is easier but I would only do that for children who have good pencil control. At Kip McGrath we prefer to start with tracing as it gives the children a template. Tracing improves fine motor skills and should be used initially. Stop tracing once your child can write all the letters of the alphabet confidently.

The following websites do some great tracing worksheets.

SEN Teacher Flash Card Printer – select a word list suitable for your child, select font size 4, select a dotted font and change to a plain border. Print, laminate and use.

Handwriting worksheets – particularly good for making cursive handwriting worksheets.

Soft Schools – easy to use and prints out the handwriting guide lines too.

Super Teacher Worksheets – child friendly worksheets generated, a few are free to try.

Donna Young has a whole section on handwriting resources and what I like abut this website is that they are arranged in order of difficulty.

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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Student Alert: Why Didn’t I Pass My Mock Exams?


You revised, you went to revision classes at school, you paid attention in class, you did your homework, yet you still didn’t get the grades you hoped you would. What did you do wrong?  If you are wondering this, then read on.

This week I have had numerous calls from worried parents who have said the same thing to me.  Their child works so hard, yet it doesn’t show, what could be the reason?  They saw their child sitting at their desk with their books open, sometimes even staying up late to get the work done.

Experience tells me that any child can learn, if given the right tools.  It’s all about focus, technique and time.  If one of these three elements is missing from revision, then it won’t work.

FOCUS

The obvious meaning is to avoid distractions, and really really concentrate.  Don’t procrastinate.  One of my students can take up to 10 minutes just getting her books out, another will leave out the tricky topics hoping that they won’t come up.  One student had a super organised study area, where she had a collection of text books, notes, past papers and worksheets, but no real revision had actually taken place.

The other meaning is to cast aside all the stuff you don’t need.  Only revise what is going to come up in the exam.  If you don’t know what will come up, then you need to ask your teacher to print off a syllabus. Then tick off each topic as you revise it.  It will show your progress and will ensure that you don’t miss anything out.  If you missed out questions or revised the wrong topics, then you didn’t FOCUS on the right things.

 

TECHNIQUE

1.  What’s your learning style?

We all learn in different ways.  I am an auditory learner, so I prefer to watch videos or listen to talks and lectures.  Sometimes I like to make notes, and use highlighters to help me remember things.  Find a learning style that suits you and one that comes to you naturally.  If you don’t have a preferred way of learning, then use what works.  This infographic will help you find out your learning style and how you can use it to study better.

what type of learner are you

2.  Test yourself.

There’s lots to revise so break down each topic into smaller chunks.  Revise that chunk, and then test yourself.  So many students will revise without doing past papers and tests.  Worse still, they do the past papers and wait for their teachers to mark them.  How will you know if you got the questions right? It’s like cooking something to eat and not eating it!  Mark the papers yourself, look at the wrong answers, and then figure out how to get the right answer.  Then do another paper and repeat.

TIME

I was watching a TED talk on YouTube called “The First 20 Hours — How To Learn Anything.  The speaker claims that all you need is 20 hours to learn something and is worth watching. Did you devote this much time to your revision?  If you did fail your mock exams, then now is the time to get organised.  Watch the video and then act on it.

Raising Tomorrow’s Champions


After seeing the remarkable achievements of team GB in Olympics 2012, it made me think about what it takes to make a champion and whether it is possible to transfer these “champion-making” skills to the classroom.  As a parent and a teacher, what can I do to make sure that children can achieve up to and if not, beyond their potential.

What qualities does a champion have?  Is it down to natural talent or is it due to sheer hard work?

There is no magic formula, but the key ingredients are:

Passion and Enthusiasm

High achievers love what they do, and have a deep respect for it.  Whether it’s a sport like Tennis or whether it’s a science project, they will absorb themselves into it.  I’m not a champion, but I love Chemistry, and I have such a passion for it that I see chemistry everywhere.  I see car number plates as the elements of the periodic table and I see hexagons and benzene rings.  Find out what your child likes, what they have a passion for and allow them to follow it. 

Hard Work

Even if someone has superior genes, it’s not enough to get to the top.  Champions and high achievers actually enjoy working hard, and constantly push themselves to achieve more.  In fact, if they are in a situation in which is too “easy” for them, then they will soon get bored and get out.  Striving and struggling and working to the extreme limit is what they thrive on.  After a bad test result, they are more likely to analyse the test in detail and revise twice as hard to improve.  Mo Farah, the winner of the 10,000 metre race, trained 120 miles every week without fail.  Children need to see how much hard work goes into making a champion.  Show children how much it really takes to make a champion, the hours of hard work, the many failures and the lessons learned.

Focus

Champions are extremely focussed and never take their eye off the target.  I’ve seen this in many athletes in the Olympics, and when an athlete loses concentration, they lose the game.  Being focussed is a fundamental skill for children to learn.  It’s easier to focus when there is a target to aim for, so whatever task a child has to do, give them a target.  Target driven learning is much more successful. 

Ambition and High Aims

Champions know what they want and they aim high.  Aiming high allows them to visualise success, and it drives them.  But just having ambition is not enough.  You will find that Champions have a main target but also lots of min-targets and goals.   They adhere to a strict timetable and nothing can get in their way.  So if your child wants to climb Mount Everest, then let him have those dreams.  It may seem like a pipe dream to you, but don’t discourage your child.  Instead help and encourage him to take one step at a time remembering to give rewards for small achievements.

A Love of Competition

Champions are not afraid of losing a game or playing or racing against someone who is better than them.  They see competition as part of the struggle to get to the top.  They use competitions as opportunities to learn and improve and to gauge their success.  Encourage your child to be more competitive.

By competing, they learn how to:

  • work under pressure

  • how to stay focussed

  • how to handle things when they don’t go their way

  • how to perform in front of other people

The journey to excellence begins with a belief and an attitude that says “no matter what happens, I will and I can do it”.  I believe that once a child has this in their heart, then anything is possible.  What do you believe?

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.

Simple Ways To Help Your Child With Maths.


My Child Can’t Do Maths

A solid maths foundation is vital for children to succeed. Without solid math skills, children will probably have a lot of trouble in school and afterwards.

I often get asked the question “how can I help my child with maths at home”?.  If your child is struggling with maths, there are many ways to help, but before you do that you need to know what the problem areas are.

Some of the traits that I see in children who are weak in maths are:

  • They don’t understand the language used in maths like “less”, “more than”, “half of”, “share”, “total” and “difference”.

  • They have difficulty retaining basic number facts.  They will take a long time to work out something in their head and often make careless mistakes.

  • They often use long-winded ways to work out something on paper.  For example, I saw a child work out the sum 100 – 42 by drawing 100 dots and crossing out 42 of them.  I saw another child work out the sum 250 ÷ 5 by writing out the 5 times table.

  • They cannot “translate” number word problems into maths calculations.  For example: if Sam, Tim and Emma each eat 4 sweets, how many is that altogether?  Children either don’t know that this is 3 x 4 or they may know that this but not know their 3 times tables.

Your child may not have such general difficulties; it could be a more specific problem like understanding fractions, or getting to grips with geometry.  The point is that you need to get to the root of the problem.  Fractions are related to division and multiplication.  Is it because your child hasn’t grasped the basics of these skills yet?  Difficulty with geometry could be just a simple matter of not learning the rules for working out angles in a triangle.  Whatever the cause, there are ways in which you can help your child fill in those gaps.

Help Them Learn Their Times Tables.

Times tables is the bricks and mortar of basic maths knowledge and it is crucial that your child has plenty of opportunities to learn them.  Don’t rely on school to the job for you, as many children will need a lot of exposure to learning times tables.

First get your child to write out the times tables, and then try to get them to learn “parrot-fashion”.  If it’s just not sticking then an easy way to help is to write them on your child’s fingertips or use stickers as shown in the pictures below.

 

Another place for great ideas is here.  I also get children to recite times tables going forwards and backwards, and sometimes I get them to recite from half way through the tables.  It just breaks up the monotony and introduces a new challenge.

Use a Multi-Sensory Approach.

It has been shown that children retain information better when they not only see it, but when they hear it and also when they can put it into practice.  Making maths practical and relevant to everyday life can get a child to use all of their senses and at the same time giving it a purpose.  Maths is all around us and we can use our surroundings to help our children with maths.

To teach measures:

  • teach your child to use a ruler or a tape measure with accuracy.  If you are into gadgets then why not invest in an electronic tape measure (often used by estate agents).

  • Point out quantities of things on food packets to show them the difference between grams and kilograms or litres and millilitres.

  • Look at angles on objects around the room, see how many right angles your child can spot.

  • Involve your child in cooking, getting them to read the scales when weighing out ingredients.

  • If you are baking cup cakes and the recipe only makes 12 but you want 24, use this as an opportunity to teach about ratios and equivalents.

  • Play with water using different sized containers, predict how many small cups can fill a large container and measure how much water the containers hold.

To teach place value and money:

  • Show your child a till receipt and look at the quantities in pounds and pennies.

  • Take your child shopping and equip them with a calculator.  As you shop they can work out the bill.

  • Get your child used to handling money, recognising coins and working out if they have/don’t have enough money.

  • To teach about tens and units, read our blog post here.

  • Play Monopoly.

Talk Maths Language

Use mathematical words like “total” and “difference” when talking to our child.  Other words to use are “rotate”, “divide”, “more than/less than” and “fewer than”.

Here are some more ideas:

  • Plant sunflower seeds and get your child involved in measuring how much water to give each day, measuring how tall the seedlings are growing and comparing the length of the seedlings.

  • Make sandwiches and get your child to decide how many pieces of cucumber to put into each sandwich, how much cheese to weigh, or how many slices of bread to take.

  • Get your child to help you with spring cleaning.  They can sort things into different groups for you, place objects in order of size, measure the amount of space they have made by clearing out the clutter and simply just counting all their possessions.

  • Invest in a dart board to get children working out the totals, for younger children you can buy a simpler version of a dart board which uses Velcro darts.

  • Use every opportunity to count things, whether it’s during a walk to the shops, or how many bounces on the ball or timing how long it takes to take a shower.

Back To School Toolkit


Back To School Toolkit

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

A Decent Dictionary

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

100 Square

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

A World Atlas

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

Pictionary Game

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

Playing Cards

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

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.

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


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

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

1.  Ensure that your child gets plenty of sleep. 

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

2.  Review your child’s learning. 

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

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

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

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

  • tackle one subject at a time

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

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

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

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