Author Archives: Alison Marshall

The 3Ms of times tables

The three factors within the extraordinary 3M method of teaching times tables.

There are indeed three factors that need to be present if all children are going to learn their times tables in good time.
First, the children need to be motivated. Second, they need to be taught using a method that keeps that motivation going from one lesson to the next. And third the children need to find the whole process enjoyable.
Now, as you may have realised, the only problem here is that “enjoyable” rather breaks the alliterative approach that I was building up with the ideas of “motivation” and “method”, so for my third factor I’m going to say, “mighty fun.”  I hope that’s ok with you.

Motivation, method and mighty fun. That’s our aim.
So, to begin: motivation.  We’ve achieved this in the “Mighty Fun Activities for Practising Times Tables set for Primary Schools” by using superheroes through the materials. These instil a positive and competitive attitude towards learning among the children. 

Second: the method. Of course, each child learns in different ways and each needs to have opportunities to apply the knowledge and skills gained in the lessons. Therefore, for each times table there is a mixture of practical activities to develop their understanding and written activities to consolidate their knowledge.

Finally, the mighty fun.  By using superheroes the books instil a positive and competitive attitude towards learning which not only permeates through these times tables activities, but other areas of classroom work as well.

And although I wrote “finally” above, there is one more M benefit. The books contain reproducible sheets and are designed to be used as flexible teaching aids, which teachers can dip in and out of in any order to support the learning of any times table.  

In other words, “Multi-use”.  They work equally well as stand-alone 5 to 20 minute lesson reinforcements or as regular times table learning.

There are more details on our website (although less playing around with the letter M) where you can place an order.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Mathematics, National Curriculum, Primary school

FREE p&p during November 2019

We know school budgets are tight and you have to fight for every penny so we would like to help.

Visit our website to see how we can help take the worry out of lesson planning, make teaching languages stress-free, keep children engaged and focused, or even just provide some new, refreshing ideas to get the point across.

Order anything from our website in November for delivery in the UK and you won’t pay p&p.

If you live outside the UK, don’t worry – our e-books and e-resources are available 24/7 with no delivery charge!

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The story’s the thing

What is the simplest way of getting students who are disinclined to read a book, to read the book?

For some students the chance to get involved with a classic such as Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Jekyll and Hyde, etc, is very welcome.  These are the students who have found the joy of books and who want to read.
But, of course, there are those who look at such books – even when they have alluring stories within them that might appeal to their interests – and back away.  They have defined books as not being part of their world.
So the question is, how to get these students started.
One way of doing this is to give the students an overview of the complete book within a format that they will find acceptable. And that is where graphic books come into their own.
Graphic books give students who are unexcited by the opportunity of approaching a complete novel a chance to grasp the story and come to terms with the characters before they start reading.
In this way when they do turn to reading the original, everything is already clear to them and they are now able to enjoy the depth of the story in full book form.
Hence they are no longer put off by language from an earlier era, a multiplicity of minor characters, or the amount of reading involved.  Everything is now familiar and acceptable.
This is why we have produced our series of Graphic Revision Guides.  Five volumes are now available: Jane EyrePride and PrejudiceGreat ExpectationsJekyll and Hyde and A Christmas Carol.

What’s more, the Graphic Revision Guides series is available both as printed books and as e-books, or you can purchase both formats together at a discounted price of £19.80. 

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, English, Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4, Reluctant reader, Secondary school, slow reader, Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), Teaching Ideas

How did it all start?

Why knowing the origins of human communication helps us find better methods of teaching a foreign language.

There is much debate as to the way in which human language developed as our species evolved.   But many would agree that an early part of the evolution would have been the calling out of warnings of danger.

And it follows from this that the ability to tell stories must have come much later.

However, although as a species we had to wait for the evolution of the ability to invent and tell stories, this ability to tell stories proved to be a major evolutionary step. 

For whereas “Watch out behind you” can save an individual from injury, storytelling can bring a whole group together with a shared understanding.

In short, the few words that constitute a warning helps the individual.  The story preserves the unity of the whole group.

And it is because being part of a group remains so central to our lives that the use of storytelling in learning a foreign language is such a vital tool.   The children who learn French or Spanish with stories as a core part of their learning, can share their new learning and feel part of the group.

This is why our French and Spanish courses for years 3-4 and 5-6 are based around stories.  For just as our ancestors evolved language as a way of telling stories, so the power of the story remains, and enthuses children with the desire to learn a second language.

You can read more about our story based language courses for Spanish and French through the links below…

Learn French with Luc et Sophie 1ère Partie Starter Pack (Years 3–4)

Learn French with Luc et Sophie 2ème Partie Starter Pack (Years 5-6)

Learn Spanish with Luis y Sofía 1a Parte Starter Pack (Years 3–4)

Learn Spanish with Luis y Sofía 2a Parte Starter Pack (Years 5–6)

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

We’re all professionals here

We can’t be experts in everything, but we still have to deal with everything.

Now I want to make a confession – which I hope you might keep to yourself.  You see,  I’m pretty naff at sports and games.

Well actually, more than pretty naff.  I really just don’t have that hand-eye coordination that is fundamental when it comes to catching a ball.  Or throwing a ball come to that.

And then, not to put too fine a point on it, I don’t have much coordination between my legs and the rest of my body either.

Of course, I am sure your colleagues don’t suffer in this way, but I have to say that when I was offered the chance to publish a pack of PE challenges, written for teachers who don’t have much knowledge of PE, I jumped at the chance.

Not because they are lacking in coordination like me, but rather because coordinated or not, if they have no background in PE, they may well be finding PE lessons less than their favourite time of the week.

And so we have published a set of handbooks that enable teachers to deliver outstanding PE lessons with maximum pupil participation, no matter what their own physical abilities.

But there’s another point – because just as we, as teachers, are all different, so are the children, and so I was insistent that the materials include individual, group and whole class activities.  As a result, everyone can be involved.

Better still, because the book is not written for the PE trained teacher, the activities are laid out to complement the September 2014 National Curriculum Physical Education requirements. That’s another easy reduction in your workload!

Thus if you have a colleague who is not completely excited by the regular PE lessons she/he has to take, you can simply hand over a copy of the 50 Brilliant PE Challenges for the appropriate age group, and everyone will be happy.

For more information and examples of the activities please do take a look at our website.  I do believe some of your colleagues might well feel that their weekly schedule has just got a lot easier to handle.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Physical Education (PE), Primary school, Teaching Ideas

The habit of memory

What is the most effective way of helping children learn to use French phrases and grammar without thinking? 

Although it may not seem always to be so, most humans forget very little.  In other words we don’t lose memories; we lose the habit of recalling that memory. 

Fortunately this can be overcome, for when we have a meaningful link for a memory, rather than just an isolated memory, the knowledge in that memory can stay with us for years. 
In these ways French phrases and grammar become memorable and instantly available – and if those memories are regularly accessed they become habitual. 

For example, the use of “pas de” in French can seem like just another random phrase to remember.  But there is a simple way of helping children to understand and use the phrase.

What we can do is tell children that when a French person ‘has’ or ‘owns’ something, that person cares about its gender because they are very interested in the things that are theirs.

However, for things that don’t belong to them, they see no point in indicating the gender. That is why, instead of using ‘un’, ‘une’ or ‘des’ in negative sentences, they just use ‘de’.

So they say, “Il y a un chien” (there is a dog), but “Il y n’a pas de chien” (literally, there isn’t any dog).

Here’s another little memory trick that fascinates children – the fact that son = his or her.  Although objects in French have gender,men and women are equal and, thanks to this, there is no difference between ‘his’ and ‘her’ in French.

Unforgettable French is full of tried-and-tested French memory activities based on sound and idea associations that help engage the memory and make phrases and grammatical points habitual.  

You can download our “How French Works” flowchart via our website to see the most logical way of introducing French grammar and vocabulary using the Unforgettable method.

For more information or to order the Unforgettable French 2nd Edition for just £19.99 as a printed book, £13.99 as an e-book or you can order both formats for just £24.19, visit the website. 

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, French, Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3, lesson plans, Modern Foreign Languages (MFL), Primary school, Secondary school, Teaching Ideas

When they get puzzled.

What is the one activity that can stimulate children’s interest and ability in maths more than any other?

When a child first comes across number puzzles she or he is more than likely to try out solutions at random.

In fact, making random guesses as to the solution is for most children phase one of the journey towards maths mastery. 

However if we as teachers can then stimulate learning in a way that leads to logical thinking, the child will be en route to being able to break problems down into steps.  And that, of course, is what is required at all levels of maths.

Logical thinking permits a methodical working through of every solution possible – something that can bring the right answer eventually.

But this is slow and laborious, and so we need to move the child on to phase three where the child possesses an insight as to how the problem works and so is able to head towards the solution in a matter of moments. 

Indeed it is when children reach this stage that the great benefit of training in puzzle-solving becomes apparent.  For now children gain the ability to learn the issue lurking behind each problem. 

In short, people who are adept at problem-solving save huge amounts of time, both in maths and in life in general. 

Ultimately a child trained in solving problems by searching for patterns can move on to activities such as solving Rubik’s cube in a couple of minutes.  And generally such children can then solve a large number of problems by applying the process of looking for the underlying rule.

This ability is primarily learned through appreciating how to approach puzzles and problems.  And that is why we have produced “Missing Digit Puzzles”. 

Missing Digit Puzzles allows children to learn that problem-solving is a matter of applying rules rather than guessing or working through each possible solution.

Missing Digit Puzzles is available for just £16.50 as a printed book, £10.99 as an e-book or you can order both for just £19.80.  

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, Key Stage 2, Mathematics, Primary school