Reading on the Go…if you have or are a reluctant reader.

Sometimes it is not easy to get children to read. Any child who has trouble learning to read will probably find reading challenging, very hard, scary, frustrating, annoying, embarrassing  or boring or all of these. ‘Come and read to me’ or ‘have you  got reading for homework?’… is something many children dread hearing. There are ways around it. Here are some simple tips to help…

1.Get lots of different reading material.  Books, magazines, comics, word cards, sentence cards, annuals, picture books, non-fiction and manuals.

2.Choose an easy book or whatever to read. One they can attempt easily. This builds confidence. Tell them any unnown words to keep fluency or they lose the meaning of the sentence.

3.Choose books that interest them. I taught a boy to read once with motor bike manuals…he read them because he was interested in them…you see it’s obvious when you know.

4.Read anything you see… What does that packet say? What does the poster mean? Who has lost their dog? What time is the train? This way you are not sitting down and making a child read you are engaging them in conversation and showing that reading is just an everyday thing that we all do all the time.

5.Read anywhere in the house. In the bath can make you laugh if the book gets wet. On the squashy sofa, in the dog’s bed, in the garden or the shed. Anywhere out of the ordinary can make all the difference and makes it a bit special…especially somewhere secret or not usually allowed! Reading in the cupboard with the torch is far more interesting than the kitchen table.

6. Read to the child and don’t get them to read. Sit together and point to the words as you go along. Then casually at the end say…here’s a game…find me the word that rhymes with…find me the word that starts with the sound… Ask questions about what they have heard and what they think might happen next. I usually do this if they are tired. If they are, then it all becomes a big battle and taking the pressure off them really works and shows you care and that it really does not matter that they find reading hard.

7. Play a reading game. Snakes and ladders with a few words on some of the squares is a great game. Hunt the words in the garden or the house…these games all involve reading but they are fun and fun helps you learn.

8.Never let them think you are worried. This just worries them more and can make them think they are failing and it all becomes a HUGE drama. They will learn to read eventually and quicker if you are relaxed about it. Never compare them to their friends EVER.  They are special for who they are and we all learn at different rates. Dyslexic children may need a specialist teacher like me or different approaches to help them but they get there in the end. 

Hope these ideas help. Get in touch if I can be of more help…

My books are ebooks!

This is exciting. Teaching children to read has gone a step further. I was reading with some children the other day and it struck me that some may benefit from using a Kindle or iPad to read books. Children are very keen on new ideas and obviously very computer minded so this may be the way forward for some children. The fact that they are larger print, clear and you can even turn the pages makes reading more fun and interesting. This may be the way forward for reluctant or struggling readers and dyslexic children too. Now Aunty Marmalade and Mrs Poddle and Eric are available through Amazon. I do hope some children will try this way of reading. Let me know if it is successful.

Some easy games to play…

Games can be very expensive and children get bored with them very quickly. Here are ten ideas for games that I have used and I have been able to modify some easily to make them seem like it’s a new game.
1. Sticky note words…they’re around the house. The children go all over the house finding the words and reading them. They make a pile and then it’s a race to see how many they can spell.
2. Swimming the times tables. Right…the breast stroke is the 2 times tables, 3s is the crawl, 4s the backstroke…it’s great fun particulary if you’re wearing a snorkel then everyone can hear you’re doing it right!
3. A garden safari…go into the garden and make a list of all the birds, animals and plants you can find. Look them up in books and draw them. Write a sentence caption.
4. Get the potato bag and choose one. Look at it carefully then put it back in the bag. Can you find it? Good for memory skills.
5. A bag of words cut out from magazines and newspapers. These can be used lots of ways…
a lucky dip for reading and spelling and choose 3 to write a story.
6. Get your snakes and ladders game out. Put some of the words on some of the squares. When you land on those squares read and spell the words.
7. Look at a picture. What’s happening? Who is in it? What are their names? Why are they there? What happens next? Write the story.
8.I went to the zoo and I saw…or the market…or the party. Great for memory. Use associations to help memory…I saw a zebra…think of stripes. An elephant….trunks…
9. One person describes a picture and the other person draws the description. This is great for listening and concentrating. Also great for using descriptive words and focusing on what is really there…
10. Button boxes are wonderful for sorting, counting, tables, making faces, animals, stacking…the ideas are endless.

Hope these 10 ideas help you. Anything written can be put in a diary…it’s lovely to look back on.

There are lots more….I’ll do those another time…

Simple, practical help for a dyslexic child in the classroom.

There are simple things we can do to help a dyslexic child. They do involve some work by the teacher and the parents but they are worth the effort.
The first thing is getting teachers to understand that the child needs extra understanding and help to access the curriculum. They need to know where their difficulties lie and be sensitive to them.
1.If a child has dyslexia then they should sit in the front of the class.
2.They should be given the lesson notes with key words and phrases before the lesson so they can read them so they are aware of the content of the lesson.
3.If there are questions to answer or copying from the board then these should be printed off for them and be on the table next to them.
3.They should have a 100 square, ABC, times table square and a number line all on their desk so they can refer to them all the time. This reinforces the information they need to know immediately and can help them to remember for example their times tables…especially good for visual learners. Many have short-term memory problems and struggle with writing so this cuts down the looking up and down for them.
4.The work should be differentiated for them so they can access it. If there are 10 questions they may only have to answer 5 in the given time. It should be worded in such a way that they can read it independently.
5. All their errors should not be corrected and expectations of their achievements should be relevant for them not the whole class.
6. They should be praised often for their achievements remembering that what they have produced is probably their best. They may not be able, at this stage, to produce work of the standard and volume of their peers.

These ideas work and help dyslexic children cope with every day in the classroom. They are not difficult to implement and make all the difference.

Notes on dyslexia…2

I teach children who have dyslexia. I am often surprised when I see parents panic almost as if their child has a terrible incurable disease. They don’t want people to know their child has it. I often wonder why. They also try to deny it by pushing their children to read unattainable books that are far too difficult for them. Why? Dyslexia is a nuisance but it can be ‘made better’ as I put it. Usually it a class teacher that spots a problem in a child’s learning but you, as a parent, might see problems too. You may encounter a reluctance to read or maybe a confusion of which way round letters go. The quicker a possible problem is detected the better it is. I have taught children when they are five and they can quickly, with the correct Individual Education Plan (IEP) in place start to overcome their difficulties. I can test children which gives me indicators as to where their difficulties lie. Then the IEP will target these findings. If the difficulties appear to be more severe then I would forward a child to an educational psychologist to have a full assessment done which is more specific. These reports give invaluable information of the areas of difficulties and give the teacher specific detail of what help is needed. In some cases, extra time, readers and scribes are also awarded so that these children get as much help as possible.
I have seen amazing development in children overcoming their barriers to learning. Children start to read which is neccessary to all learning. Many dyslexic children are wonderful expressing themselves but they find it so hard to write what they want to say down. These barriers can also be overcome. It takes some children more time of course, others less, but it does not matter how long it takes as long as the child is progressing. Some of the most creative and special children and young people I have taught have had or have dyslexia. It need not be a problem. There is plenty of help out there.

Tips for pushy parents about reading… Words of wisdom 3.

Just recently I have been reading about pushy parents. This worries me. Why are they pushy? Is it for themselves? Do they want their child to succeed and be better than everyone else? Is it because the school is not providing the right learning environment for their child so they feel they have to teach them at home or get them tutored? These are all questions that matter.
Firstly the child comes first. Are they ready to read? If not then don’t even try. It is better to wait for reading readiness and it always comes. If you push it too quickly, they often rebel and then the process can take longer. When they see you reading and have access to books, the world of reading becomes exciting or challenging…but not if you still want to play Batman or greengrocers shops with your new game. Once all the playing is out of the way then we can start. A child who wants to learn is a child that will learn.
When children start to read does it matter if they are on a lower level book than the rest of the class? No…it is not our role to make our child the same as everyone else. Children learn at different rates and if yours sets off quickly the rest will catch up soon enough and if they don’t then there is help there for them. Most children end up reading anyway…does it matter how quickly or slowly? No. Why are you so bothered what level others are at? If you are then why? Your competetiveness will be noted by your child and it puts them under enormous pressure. And they feel it at five or six believe me.
I think it is best to put your child first. Think about their needs. Spending time just talking and listening to their ideas, problems, worries and opinions makes them feel like that you are interested in them. That they are part of the team. Lets face it they are because they are part of you…the only difference is they have not had so many birthdays as you.
The best advice I can give is to back off and let them learn at their own rate. Help them if they want it and ask for it. Take time. Put down the duster or the potato peeler…turn off the radio and listen to them. Believe me the times when they are little and need you are so short make the most of the, but listen to them. They may make you realise the reason why they do or don’t do things then you can work out solutions together. This works so I hope you try it.

Teaching reading.

This week there have been articles in the press about children not having access to books, children having no books at home and having no help at home to learn to read. I have been so disheartened about this news…but I knew it already. One of the first things as a parent we must do is read to our children. I started when my daughters were first born. I read to them and they saw me read. That way they learned that books were a very important part of every day life. Reading is a fundemental skill and we can do very little without being able to read. In London today 1 in 3 children do not own a book and yet 85% own games consoles. 1 in 6 adults is functionally illiterate. To be illiterate must be one of the most challenging things to be. How can you read a label, find out what’s on TV, find the time of your train? This is something that must be talked about now…well it is 2011 and with all the wonderful aids to learning that are out there how can this still be happening?
Reading with a child is a very special time. Going to a book shop to choose a book is so exciting. Sharing a magazine even just looking at the pictures and reading the captions really helps. Browsing through a picture book and talking about what they see and guessing what might happen next are all ideas to help children learning to read. This time when children need our help to learn to read lasts such a short time because once they start to read independently they no longer need out help. We then can look back and see that we really have made a difference and given our children a skill that will grow and develop and stay with them through their lives. It only takes ten minutes a day. What else would we do with that ten minutes? Put our feet up…well you can read with your child with your feet up they won’t mind!

Some more ways to remember spellings.

Spellings are important and remembering them is hard. I know what it is like…those long lists of words you have to learn for the test on Monday.

This might help you remember the ‘ing’ words.
Take ‘hop’ and ‘hope’. They are very similar. One has an ‘e’ at the end and it changes the meaning and the sound of the word completely. Because there is an ‘e’ on the end you say the name of the vowel before not the sound it makes.
So when you want to spell ‘hopping’ because it does not have an ‘e’ on the end you just add another ‘p’ and then add ‘ing’.
For the word ‘hope’ you take the ‘e’ off and add ‘ing’ and it becomes ‘hoping’. Easy. So all words that end in an ‘e’ just take the ‘e’ off and to stop the word falling over add the ‘ing’. If there’s no ‘e’ then do a double of the last letter (it’s called the double consonant) and add ‘ing’.

Also there, their and they’re and hard to remember so try this.

There is a ‘the’ with a rosy end.
Their is a ‘the’ with an irritable rat.
They’re is a ‘the’ with a yucky raspberry ending.

If you can think of better ideas for these let me know.

Hope these little tips help you.

Notes to help you with revision.

There is nothing worse than revision. I would rather have blisters on my heels or a headache. Revision hangs around and sticks there and does not go away even if you close your eyes and count to 100. The thing is we all have to do it and the quicker it’s done the better.
These notes are really for those of you from Year 7 but you can do them any time after then but not the night before your exams…it’s too late. Revision starts well before…at least it does for sensible people who want to do well. If you follow these ideas they will help you with your GCSEs. Now I can hear you say, ‘but we don’t do them until Year 11’. I know that. But if you start now, then by the time you get to Year 11 all the hard work will be done.
The idea is to make notes manageable. A whole page of A4 covered in blue or black words is so scary I would rather be spooked by ghosts. So what you do is make them smaller. You end up with a small card with the key words and phrases on the topic and these note cards you learn and they will trigger off your memory.
OK…so you have just done a topic on say Henry V111 for example. You have ended up with pages of notes and handouts and pictures. You have a test on Monday.

1. Read through all your notes. Close your book. Get the dog or a teddy and sit them in front of you. Now tell them all you know about Henry and his life. Bet you know more than you thought you did! You will impress the dog or teddy to be sure!!
2. Get your notes and your text book and do a mind map on all the facts. Use colour and pictures whatever helps you remember.
3.Now using the mind map, write bullet points. Keep them short. Only use trigger words that will help you remember.
For example…a. Henry V111 1509-1547. Married 6 times. 1533 excommunicated by Pope. 1534 Act of Supremacy 1536 Act of Union. 1536-1539 monasteries closed…etc.
b. Jane Seymour. 3rd wife. Mum to Edward V1. Died 1537.
So all you are left with are small cards with key words and phrases on them and pictures. Some people write each point in a different colour. That might help you too. You can store these cards in a box with subject dividers.
Keep all these note cards for all the subjects as you can add to them as you go up the school as you will revisit some topics. If you never use them again no matter because you have practised doing them and the more you do them the quicker you get. Then when you are doing your revision for your exams they are there ready and waiting for you.
I hope this helps. Let me know. If you have any ideas tell me and we can share your ideas too. Good luck.

Now I can meet you all on YouTube

Hi everyone. I have just started a channel on YouTube to give you more information about me and my books. This is my first video which hopefully will give you a brief insight into my background as a teacher and how I came to be writing children’s books. Watch out for more videos coming soon!

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