Category Archives: Primary school

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

To subject or not to subject?

The one thing about the rules of grammar is that without context they ain’t much help

Now I know “ain’t” isn’t a word that you would want to encourage in a child’s essay – unless, of course, you had a particularly precocious writer in the class who had already developed an understanding of the “voice” of each character in a story.

Likewise there is little to be gained from worrying about the grammatical issues raised by Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy by wondering how the subject of the opening line turned up at the end of the line. 

So what’s my point?

My point is that for me to be able to get away with writing a paragraph consisting solely of “So what’s my point?” starting with a preposition which the rule books say should be followed by “that”, is that we all of us first need to know the rules of grammar before we start taking liberties.

But (and there, I’ve done it again, this time starting a paragraph with a conjunction) rules are always best learned in context.  In the case of language, in the context of how authors use grammar in their writing.

For if one starts from the work of authors, and works from there into the grammatical rules, rather than starting from the grammatical rules themselves, three things happen. The learning becomes context-driven, the lessons are more varied, and the understanding of how language can be manipulated for pleasure is ingrained in the child.

This consideration led Charlotte Makhlouf to experiment with how she taught grammar in her classroom.  And (oh, I’ve done it again, starting with “and”) so Charlotte used her classroom experience (not to mention her experience writing the best-selling series Brilliant Activities for Reading Comprehension) to write a new grammar series which teaches grammar in context.

In Getting to Grips with English Grammar grammar and punctuation skills are taught in the context of themes, rather than in isolation. Each unit starts with an engaging reading passage, so pupils can see how the grammar skill being taught is used in context. Activities link to the themes and provide opportunities for children to apply the grammar skills in their own writing.

Of course, the books also provide activities to stretch the more able or fast finishers, mini-quizzes at the end of each themed section to enable you to check children’s comprehension, and answers to the pupil activities.

Click here to see the contents of each of the books in the series

Click here to order the Getting to Grips with Grammar and Punctuation Series Pack for £95.00 

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, English, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, lesson plans, National Curriculum, Primary school

Engaging pupils’ fluid intelligence

The important link between fluid intelligence and learning times tables

It has been argued that “crystallized intelligence has become disproportionately valued over fluid intelligence”, yet it is fluid intelligence that is closely linked to working memory and which is responsible for the ability to recognise patterns.

It is therefore important that pupils are taught their times tables in a way which engages their fluid intelligence so that they are not only able to understand why times tables form as they do, but also see how their learned knowledge of times tables can help them to solve maths problems in the future.

With this in mind, Brilliant Publications has developed Mighty Fun Activities for Practising Times Tables – a series of photocopiable activity books suitable for Years One to Six.

The Mighty Fun Activities for Practising Times Tables series uses superheroes to motivate children to practise all of the skills needed to solve multiplication, division and word-based times table problems.

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. They work equally well as stand alone 5 to 20 minute lesson reinforcements or as regular times table learning.

The Mighty Fun Activities for Practising Times Tables series is divided into three books:

For more information and to download sample pages you can try with your pupils, simply visit the links above.

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

Not when, but how.

A resource showing pupils HOW to use French Language whilst helping to deliver the KS2 Programmes of Study

The older pupils get, it appears there is a shift from wondering HOW they will use the knowledge that they have learned to wondering WHEN they will use the knowledge that they have learned. Yet the former approach to learning is far more proactive, not least because their futures are still unwritten.

Bearing this in mind, Brilliant Publications has produced a French language resource which uses drama to teach French language and thus teaches pupils HOW to use the knowledge that they have learned.

12 Petites Pièces à Jouer contains 12 age-appropriate mini French plays for beginner French pupils in primary school and lower secondary school to listen to and act out. The plays serve as a fun way to practise French, promote fluency, and develop confidence.

What’s more, these 12 entertaining mini-plays use simple, repetitive language, are ideal for use with mixed-ability groups and help to deliver the KS2 Programmes of Study: imitate pronunciation of sounds, recognise patterns in simple sentences, and take part in pair and group work.

The photocopiable book contains scripts, English translations, worksheets to extend the plays, and suggestions for performing the plays. Native French speakers perform the plays on the audio CD included with the book.

There is more information, a sample play and audio file available to download on our website.

A pupil from Yorke Mead Primary School in Hertfordshire having a great time performing the play <<Bobo le robot>> (photo reproduced with permission)

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

Why do we teach children how to read?

And how can we use this knowledge to improve our pupils’ level of reading?

Too often it is thought that a fluent reader is a good reader but if your pupils have no or very little understanding of what they are reading, their ability to read (fluently or not) is essentially useless.

Which is why Brilliant Publications has produced the Brilliant Activities for Reading Comprehension Series – to help your pupils to comprehend the texts that they can read but not necessarily understand.

Each activity book in the series includes newspaper articles, dialogues, plays, stories and poems based on a range of themes, with activities ranging from factual recall and vocabulary work to open-ended questions.

What’s more, the cross–curricular activities provide a wealth of ideas for extending the passages further, making them ideal for mixed-ability classes.

For more information (and to see sample pages) or to order the complete Brilliant Activities for Reading Comprehension Series for £95.00, visit www.brilliantpublications.co.uk/book/brilliant-activities-for-reading-comprehension-series-pack-2nd-edition-518

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

Sit still or wiggle?

Just because children are told to sit still, that doesn’t mean that’s the best way to study.

“Put a group of 8 year olds in a room and play some music with a clear rhythm, and they will move.  Some will move gracefully, others may jump about waving their arms and kicking out.”

We looked at my colleague as he said this – still an enthusiastic and highly energetic dancer himself, although well past the age most people associate with anything more than a slow waltz.

“So it’s a primitive response to rhythm,” said another of the editorial team in a ‘I’m stating the obvious’ voice.  “Does that help children learn French?” 

“Yes,” said the dancer.  He swears by dancing, dances modern styles rather than ballroom several nights a week, and travels across the country, even across Europe whenever possible.

“But most people don’t dance,” came the counter argument.

And then I got the point.  True, in our society most people don’t dance – but children do dance.  In most cases, no one has taught them, they just do it.  Which is why dance and movement are ways to teach other subjects – in this case French.

Because if you can actively involve the body, learning comes more naturally and stays in the memory far longer.

Which is why we have a DVD of simple routines which combine movements with repetition of important phrases, making learning languages easy and enjoyable.

To see how click on this link, it takes you to a part of the les couleurs video where Lynn Dryden, the author of Jouez, Dansez et Apprenez le Français demonstrates her dance routine with the children of Mountfield Primary School in Newcastle.

“Show me research that suggests that sitting still enhances learning,” I said, and there was silence for once in my office. 

“Movement is distracting,” replied the main objector on my team (why is there always one nay-sayer in every group?)  

“But not when everyone does it,” I replied.

And so here, for each topic, in addition to the main dance routine, there is also a bank of movement activities that introduce and reinforce the vocabulary, enabling the whole topic to be taught actively.

These tried and tested routines and activities have been developed by a language specialist who is also a qualified dance teacher and have been utilised with pupils and students of all ages, achieving outstanding results throughout.

There is more information on Jouez, Dansez et Apprenez le Français on our website.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, French, Key Stage 2, Modern Foreign Languages (MFL), Music, National Curriculum, Physical Education (PE), Primary school, Teaching Ideas

Are your children watching the Europa League Final tonight in Baku?

Football is fun for so many children and it provides rich resources for reluctant readers. No matter who wins tonight, Arsenal or Chelsea, for many people it will the source of fun, discussion and disagreement. Sheila Blackburn has written a series of stories about football specifically designed for reluctant readers in promote schools. As you will know, one of the challenges with reluctant readers is capturing their attention and imagination. Stories about football are one solution to this, particularly when as well written as these ones and at a time when UK teams will win the Europa League and the Champions League.

Sam’s Football Stories are specially written to stimulate and motivate slower learners and reluctant readers. Written by Sheila Blackburn, an experienced primary school teacher, the six compelling stories in Set A, tell the story of Sam, a football crazy boy. Let your pupils follow this dream come true for Sam and his friends. Join in the fun and excitement as they begin training, pick a team, join a league and enter a tournament.

 

These books:

  • provide stimulation and motivation especially for slower learners and reluctant readers
  • have gripping story lines make children want to read the next book
  • are compatible with the Primary Literacy Strategy category of everyday stories
  • are designed to look like books more able readers are reading with attractive covers and black and white illustrations inside
  • have carefully controlled vocabulary and sentence structure for easy reading
  • have an increasing number of words per book as you progress through the series
  • have a clear font and print style

To extend the stories further, use the Teacher’s Guide – Your Chance to Score!, a photocopiable teacher resource linked to the stories in Set A.

Like to try before you buy? Request your free copy of the e-book Football Crazy, the first story in the series, now by emailing info@brilliantpublications.co.uk

Click here to find out more about the books

Click here to see a sample page.

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Filed under Brilliant Publications, English, Key Stage 2, lesson plans, National Curriculum, Primary school, Reluctant reader, reluctant readers, slow reader, Teaching Ideas, textbooks