Author Archives: Alison Marshall

The trouble with reading …

Reading incorporates two activities. But what is the most successful way of pulling these two elements together?

Most of us working in primary schools will have witnessed children who have the ability to decode texts at an appropriate level for their age, but who find it hard to grasp and hold the meaning of that text at the same time.

As a result they cannot engage in activities that build upon their reading, because they simply don’t have enough of an immediate understanding of what they have read.

In such cases what is happening is that the brain is working to translate each pattern of letters into a word, but because so much effort is put into this activity the brain does not then take the words of a phrase or sentence and convert those words into something meaningful.

As a result there is little ability for the child to answer any questions about what has been read and (more worrying in the long term) there can be no enjoyment in reading.  Reading is a chore to be got through, not something to be enjoyed.

Unfortunately, many resources that exist to help primary school children read, focus on helping children read the text, but don’t simultaneously focus on giving them something that is enjoyable to read.

And so it was to provide this additional vital element in primary school literacy that we have produced the new edition of Brilliant Activities for Reading Comprehension – Years 1 – 6

The books in this series contain a variety of types of comprehension passages ranging from newspaper articles and dialogues to plays, stories and poems.  Each is followed by a series of enjoyable tasks for the children to undertake which test and stimulate their understanding of what they have read.

There is a lot more information about these books and their content on our website.

The books can be ordered either as a PDF for £13.99 or as a hardcopy book for £19.99. There is also the option to buy the hardcopy and PDF together at a discounted price.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, English, How children learn, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, National Curriculum, Poems and poetry, Primary school, Teaching Ideas

Faster French with more understanding

What are the two activities that develop pupils’ ability with French far more effectively than any other?

The answer is, as you may already know, through the use of stories and through singing.

Because both stories and songs put the French the children hear and vocalise into a full context, the words become much more meaningful and become learned as part of sets of phrases which are a part of everyday experience.

As a result, the more you can encourage the children in your class to speak French sentences and to sing in French, the more rapidly they will progress.

Which in turn is why Learn French with Luc et Sophie is such a successful approach to the teaching of the language at KS2.

Each part of the course incorporates no fewer than 14 French storybooks written at the appropriate level along with creative teaching ideas to maximise the pupils’ ability to learn to speak the language.

Each story is topic-based using simple sentences based around key vocabulary and language structures.

And then, in addition, each unit contains an original song to reinforce vocabulary.  Because the children will be happy to sing the songs over and over, the vocabulary and grammar becomes more deeply embedded within their consciousness.

Indeed, if you have ever noticed how children can pick up the lyrics of everything from nursery rhymes to popular songs you will appreciate just how incredibly powerful the rhyme and song element can be – especially when, as in this case, the songs are written to fit exactly with the vocabulary being learned.

The Learn French with Luc et Sophie course follows the Foreign Language Programmes of Study in the September 2014 National Curriculum for KS2 and is written with non-specialists in mind.  

Full details of the Years 3 and 4 course can be found here while the Years 5 and 6 part of the course is explored here.  In each case there are sample audio files of the songs and sample materials.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, French, How children learn, Key Stage 2, lesson plans, Modern Foreign Languages (MFL), Primary school, Teaching Ideas

Multi-Sensory English Literature

What is the most effective way of helping reluctant readers to study a set text?

Over the past 100 years the multi-sensory learning approach pioneered by Maria Montessori has been shown to be a highly effective way of teaching – especially for students who do not respond strongly to single-sense learning.

Unfortunately, the range of multi-sensory resources available for teaching and learning involving set texts in English has been limited.  But it is growing with the use of graphic revision guides.

These have been shown not only to benefit a wide range of students, including reluctant readers, disaffected students and those with dyslexia, but also those students who find the study of a full-length novel difficult to undertake.

It is for all these students that we have produced our Graphic Revision Guide for A Christmas Carol.

This volume develops the student’s understanding of the plot, the key themes and the characters, so that when the student then returns to the full text she or he is able at once to focus on the unfolding story as Dickens created it. 

What’s more, those students who find it hard to picture what literary characters look and act like now find it much easier to understand motives and actions. Those who struggle to follow the plot, now know its direction of travel.

In short, the classic text is no longer hard work for these students, but instead becomes an enjoyable read.  Meanwhile the activities provided in terms of, for example, matching quotes to pictures and drawing character maps, are entered upon with enthusiasm and will help students bring to mind the ideal quote when they sit their exam.

Better still, the resources are printed in black and white for easy photocopying and enlarging.

There is more information on this volume on our website along with other books from the same series of graphic novels.

The book can be ordered as a printed copy for £16.50 or as a PDF download for £10.99. There is also an option to buy the printed copy and the PDF together as a discounted price. Just choose what you want on our website.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, English, How children learn, Key Stage 3, Secondary school, Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), Teaching Ideas

Free Speaking and Listening resources

Speaking and Listening EY - talking about family

Free: speaking and listening resources for Early Years

And before we go any further may I stress that the resources we are offering are completely free of charge.  There is no trickery; no requirement to buy or anything like that.

Our aim is simply to show you what is contained in our volume “Speaking and Listening Activities for the Early Years”.  The activities are available directly from me – all you have to do is drop me an email.

And having got the worksheets, you can re-use them as often as you wish.

The activities in question come from a series that is designed to aid the development of speaking and listening skills for children aged between two and five years and in each case the work is linked to the Statutory Framework for EYFS. 

Through these activities the children who use them will gain the skills they need to succeed at school and to help them develop friendships and the ability to co-operate.

Each lesson in the series is complete in itself and includes such topics as adding descriptions to nouns, saying hello and saying goodbye, learning opportunities linked to early learning goals, learning polite speech, objects which naturally go together, and so on.

In the free lessons we focus on helping children understand the issue of friendship, and how friends can be made.  These practical activities involve children having to make friends and share within a totally safe and controlled environment.

For a link to download these lessons free of charge, please visit this webpage.

If you would like to see details of the book from which these activities come from – please take a look at  Speaking and Listening Activities for the Early Years on our website.

You can order the Speaking and Listening Activities for the Early Years on our website for £18.50 as a printed book, £12.99 as an e-book or both for a discounted price of £22.40.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, Early years, How children learn, Key Stage, Key Stage 0, National Curriculum, Nursery and Preschool, Teaching Ideas

There are two maths: one is better

What is the most effective way of giving KS2 pupils an understanding of how maths actually works?

Missing Digits Addition Puzzle

There is no doubt that the rote learning of times tables is helpful to most pupils. But for progress to be made beyond that point children also need to understand the meanings behind mathematical problems.

Perhaps the most effective way of encouraging children to think about such issue is to give them maths problems that need them to use their knowledge of the four basic functions to solve simple problems.

Of course this can be done through the classic, “A man goes to a shop three times and buys four items each time…” type of question. But before children are ready to enter into those conundrums, they need to be able to solve the maths problems in purely mathematical terms, without any words in the way.

And the most effective way of doing this is through missing digit puzzles in which the mathematical question is set out with one part of the problem missing.

Thus they can be presented with an additional problem in which part of the answer is written in, and one of the two numbers to be added together. They have to work out what is missing.

Later they can be asked for a number in the eight times table where the first number is between 1 and 6 and the last number is six.

The big benefit with this approach is that because the questions are presented as puzzles to be solved rather than maths to be learned, they are much more stimulating and attractive to most KS2 children – and they really do help the children progress towards a mastery of mathematics’ basic functions.

You can see examples of how this works on our website at: Missing digit puzzles for times tables

And there is more information about the book and its contents here.

You can order Missing Digit Puzzles on our website either as a PDF for £10.99 or as a hardcopy book for £16.50. There is also the option to buy the hardcopy and PDF together at a discounted price of £19.80.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, Key Stage, Key Stage 2, Mathematics, National Curriculum, Primary school, Teaching Ideas

Get talking about bullying

get talking about bullying

Use this free resource to develop your childrens’ spoken language skills by highlighting a topic they will have been hearing about this week.

‘Some people suggest it is best to give in and do what the bully wants. But that won’t stop the bullying. You shouldn’t just put up with it. You should always report bullying.’

‘Bullies often say that their victims deserve to be bullied. But no one deserves to be bullied.’

After reading some thoughts like these about bullying the children are presented with 10 statements to make them think about the article more deeply. They are then encouraged to discuss their own views on the statements.

Download your free resource Discussing an issue: Bullying to increase the impact of anti-bullying week and get your pupils speaking AND listening.

The resource is taken from Brilliant Activities for Speaking and Listening KS2, a book of activities designed to develop the spoken language skills of children in Years 3–6. The activities provide full coverage of the National Curriculum requirements for spoken language. The pupil assessment sheets and advice on progress ensure that schools can develop competence in this vital area of the curriculum.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, Citizenship, English, Key Stage, Key Stage 2, National Curriculum, Primary school, PSHE, Teaching Ideas

A story about jealousy for anti-bullying week

Katherine’s Story

How do people react to others’ successes? Some people are pleased for others; others are jealous – in their mind, the success that they see others enjoying, should be theirs.

Download your free copy of ‘Katherine’s Story’ to find out if Katherine finds the courage to be Head Girl after some jealous pupils are nasty to her.

This story is taken from Modern Christian Assembly Stories, a contemporary collection of 50 school stories all having a Christian theme.

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Filed under Assemblies, Brilliant Publications, Citizenship, Key Stage, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Primary school, PSHE, Religious education (RE), Teaching Ideas