Category Archives: How children learn

Why do we have creative writing?

The imaginative use of words within a story goes back to the earliest days of humanity.  And it still serves a purpose today.

Humankind has always told stories.  Everything from cave pictures to monuments like Stonehenge, from tales told around the flickering fire to the greatest cathedrals tell us about events, locations, and people that we cannot see.

Indeed it appears to be fundamental to our human psyches to want to hear stories, and as a result there is every reason for all of us to want to tell them too. 

For the ability to appreciate and explore this basic human instinct comes from our own experiences of making up stories of our own.   Indeed such invention allows us to share our experiences and entertain others as we seek to make sense of the mysterious world around us.

But, of course, storytelling does not come naturally to us all, and many children – especially those with special needs – require additional support if the skill is to be nurtured and developed.

For the storyteller needs to consider key issues such as where the story takes place, who or what is in this place, are there animals here that have human characteristics.  Or could it be an object that has feelings?

And in worlds where everything is possible, how can we express ourselves?  What new words and expressions do we need?  How does the story evolve?  What is happening around our central event or person?  What happens next?

Most children – irrespective of their needs and abilities – only come to understand the exploration of such issues through being prompted via their own story writing, which is why the “Boost Creative Writing” series exists. 

The activities here provide the support and help that children of differing abilities need, and you can see how we achieve this through the examples from the series on our website where you will also find details of how to order.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, English, How children learn, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Primary school, Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), Teaching Ideas

"Can you see the wind?"

Free worksheet series from Brilliant Publications

On a windy day go outside with the children and watch streamers blowing. Ask the children whether they can see and feel the effects of the wind on their faces and clothes. Watch the trees and plants move in the wind. 

Can you see the wind?

This is just one of the activities that can be found in the series of worksheets that we are giving away, free of charge, from the popular volume “Science and Technology for the Early Years (2nd Edition)”. Other activities include:

  • Creating a tiny garden from the worksheet Look down
  • Creating an outdoor themed mobile and drawing or painting a picture of the sky from the worksheet Look up
  • Catching the wind in a plastic bag from the worksheet Can you see the wind?
  • Making a travel agency in the role-play area and making and writing postcards from the worksheet Where do you go for a holiday?
  • And much much more!

Request your copy of the free worksheet series.

Science and Technology for the Early Years (Edition 2) contains 120 science and technology activities for use in the Foundation stage, along with ideas for designing resource areas to stimulate purposeful play. The activities are clearly laid-out with the Purpose, Resources and Safety points given, as well as ‘Challenges’, which can be used to provide a focal point for each activity.

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

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

How does work, work, these days?

Increasingly children and those in the world of work have stopped thinking in straight lines

Straight-line thinking is what shop assistants used to use, in the days when we had shop assistants and, come to that, shops.  You could walk into a shop and look around wondering where a particular product was, and the shop assistant would say, “Can I help you?”

I actually tried that yesterday, wanting to buy a rucksack for an 18 mile walk I had signed up to, for reasons that will most certainly not become clear at this point.

But unfortunately, the strategy failed. The three shop assistants inside the very well-known sports store did finally stop talking to each other.  One of them looked at me curiously, evidently bemused that I should be asking a question.  I persisted in my quest, and eventually he said “upstairs” before picking up his mobile phone which had just pinged.

Old-fashioned straight-line thinking would have suggested he might accompany me and help me make the purchase, but no, that is far too passé for the modern world.

And the reason… well, management don’t train staff anymore, because ultimately, they’ll shut the shops and sell everything on-line where straight line thinking is irrelevant – as we can see each time we do a search on Google.  We get answers, certainly, but mostly not to the questions we ask.

So how do people who work in businesses and/or on-line actually think if not in straight lines?  The answer is that they think in the same way lots of contemporary novelists think. In multiple jumps and associations.

To see what I mean I would like, if I may, to direct you to a web page.  When you get there, print the page out (if you don’t you’ll end up standing on your head). 

Of course, children can’t make this leap to a new form of thinking instantly, so you might want to take it step by step by trying this page first of all.

We have produced three books of graphic organisers which start children on the journey towards developing the critical thinking skills needed in today’s contemporary world.

Doing this doesn’t mean that we don’t value logical linear thinking – of course that is still needed.  But in the modern world this alternative approach to problem-solving is becoming dominant, and that is what the “Graphic Organisers Pack” explores through a large series of graphics such as these.

Of course, not every modern organisation uses this non-linear thinking approach – many of them prefer a third option, which generally consists of everyone shouting at each other.  But personally I prefer a quieter life.

You can read more about how we can help children understand the new approach to thinking and planning which many young people, and those who run businesses, are adopting by looking here.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, How children learn, Key Stage 2, Primary school, Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), Teaching Ideas