Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Suffragette Centenary 2018


100 years ago marked an incredible change in British history. Groups of women were finally given the right to vote after years of campaigning and protesting. As the great-granddaughter of a prominent suffragette, equality is something close to my heart. Books featuring strong and fearless heroines are becoming more and more popular. But did you know that there was a time when women would publish under a male name for fear they wouldn’t be taken seriously? Thankfully, today some of our best loved authors are women and they write about bold and courageous heroines in a way that encourages girls to be proud of who they are. This month’s blog will showcase the best female writers of today that have written about strong girls                                                                

1.      Jacqueline Wilson- Opal Plumstead
Undoubtedly one of the most popular author’s today, Jacqueline Wilson is renowned for her female protagonists. Opal Plumstead tells the story of a clever, determined girl in the early 1900s who dreams of going to university. However, her father is sent to prison and she must work instead to support her family. It is whilst at work that she is introduced to Mrs Roberts, who shows her the world of the Suffragettes and the rights they fight for.
2.       Louisa May Alcott- Little Women
Little Women is a classic. Meg, Beth, Jo and Amy live with their mother and father, but when their father is sent away to war, the women are forced to gain independence and take care of themselves. The girls journey from childhood, to adulthood experiencing their fair share of troubles and fun along the way. 

3.       Malorie Blackman- The Noughts and Crosses Trilogy
Sephy is a Cross. Callum is a Nought. Crosses are the superior race and rule over the lowly Noughts who act as their servants. Sephy and Callum have been friends since birth, but in a world full of prejudice, violence and racism, their friendship struggles and the pair must overcome the rigid views of the adults to stay friends.

4.       Frances Hodgson Burnett- A Little Princess
Another classic, A Little Princess tells the story of Sara Crewe, who moves from India to London as a rich princess, laden in velvet and expensive clothes. But when her father dies, she is thrown into poverty. She becomes a beggar and has to do hard work just to survive. Only her imagination and the kindness from others gets her through.

5.       Cressida Cowell- The Emily Brown Stories
Aimed at young readers, these books follow Emily Brown, a gutsy and headstrong young girl who overcomes challenges and struggles thrown at her. My personal favourite is That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, where The Queen decides to take her favourite rabbit and replace him with a beautiful brown bear. Emily is livid. She marches straight to the Queen and demands to see her rabbit. Little does she know that her rabbit isn’t quite the same as it was… 

6.       Beatrix Potter- The Tale of Kitty in Boots
Most famous for The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Kitty in Boots was only discovered a couple of years ago, over 100 years after it was written. Potter was a self-confessed feminist, and this story shows the strong nature of girls even though it was written at a time when women weren’t seen this way.  It tells the story of Miss Kitty who leads a daring double life defeating villains.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Suffragettes or reading books with strong female leads, here are some suggestions of books you might find interesting: 

The following collection of books are also perfect for younger readers. The little people, big dreams series tell the stories of famous women through history who have made a difference. You’ll even find one on Emmeline Pankhurst:

This post was written by Lucy Taylor, one of our IGCSE English tutors at Blackhen Education.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Marvellous Museums

If like me and my children, you love going to museums, you're bound to have a favourite. For me it's Bowes Museum near Barnard Castle: ,because it has such a brilliant variety of treasures from the past; everything thing from a silver swan automaton which preens itself every hour, to incredible dresses and rare works of art. My eldest daughter's favourite is The Natural History Museum: will go back to it time and again and I'm sure it is because we visited when she was young and she fell in the love with it. At the time she was obsessed with dinosaurs and enjoyed putting her large collection of plastic dinosaurs on display at home. 

Which leads me on to making museums at home.
Most children love collecting and sorting, which makes creating a home-based museum a very engaging activity. These items can be anything: toy cars, shells, Lego models, anything that interests your child. Your museum could be as small as you want; just the top of a book case for an Autumn museum for example, with a temporary display of Autumn finds. 

A historically themed mini-museum, such as the Ancient Egyptians could lead to making models and artefacts.
You could begin with a visit to a local museum and discuss what is there, how it is set out, what they enjoyed finding out about. Then all you really need to make a museum at home is paper, cards and pens and a collection of items, or artefacts!
Start with deciding how to display the items; perhaps in boxes with cut outs to look into or on some shelf space that has been cleared.

Now for exhibition labels, perhaps on small folded cards, describing what the artefacts are. This is a good way to support some research, as well as practising factual writing. Encourage your child to to be precise, including the name, dates and other relevant information, rather than opinions, such as “This is the best dinosaur.”

 For example:

Tyrannosaurus Rex
T-Rex was a carnivorous dinosaur which lived in western North America
 68 to 66 million years ago.
It weighed up to 14 tons and was 12 metres long.
Fascinating fact: Tyrannosaurus Rex had the strongest bite of any animal ever discovered.

Another writing route is to create a leaflet all about their museum. Discuss what they'd need to include:  a brief description of the museum, opening times, facilities, location and so on. Leaflets are a great way to encourage paragraph writing, sub-headings and captions. A map could be included on the back. Using ICT can lead to colourful and professional looking leaflets.

Finally, your child might also like to take on the role of a museum guide, showing visitors around the exhibits and telling exciting stories about where the artefacts were found.
So as the nights draw in and the weather keeps us indoors, fashioning a museum out of treasured possessions can be a lovely way to spend a wet day. If making a museum seems a bit daunting however, you could always help your child turn their books into a library. We still have a few of the books from my husband's library he created when he was nine, all catalogued and with pockets for the lending tickets! See my previous post 'Making Books'

Whatever your child's interests, I hope you have lots of fun creating your mini-museums. We would love to see photos of your finished museums at Blackhen too!
This post was written by Bernadette Whiteley, a KS2 & KS3 English tutor at Blackhen Education.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

How to use adjectives in your writing.

Teachers often ask students to use more adjectives in their writing.
But what are they?
Before we look at adjectives, it is important that you understand what a noun is, because adjectives and nouns go together.


   Nounsperson – baby     place - London             thing - cake

A noun can be:
·        A person – Mum, John, girl, teacher, President, friend.
·        A place – France, shop, beach, home, London, Eiffel Tower.
·        A thing – dog, tree, house, bed, hat, toy, cloud, road, lolly.
If the noun starts with a capital letter it’s called a proper noun.

Adjectives are words that describe the noun.
The adjective can describe a noun in lots of different ways.
Look at this poster to see how you can describe a noun:

When we write a sentence, there is always a noun in the sentence. The noun is the subject that we are writing about. 

·        The dog barked.
·        Tom read his book.
·        The ship sailed away.

In these sentences the words in blue are the nouns (nouns: dog,book,ship / proper noun: Tom).

By using adjectives in our writing, we can make our sentences more interesting to read.

·        The lonely dog barked.
·        Old Tom read his tattered book.
·        The huge ship sailed away.

Sometimes a sentence has more than one noun:
        I found a sock in my toy-box.
We can use adjectives to describe both nouns:
        I found a smelly sock in my old toy-box.

We can even use more than one adjective, but we must remember to separate them with a comma:
        I found a smelly, bobbly sock in my old, blue toy box.

The Adjective Game.
You can play this game with your friends or family when you are sitting around the table having tea, or when you are going on a car journey.
Take it in turns to think about a noun. Now see if each person playing the game can think about an adjective to describe the noun.

For example: house
·        haunted house
·        pretty house
·        huge house
·        derelict house

Notice how the different adjectives make you imagine a different kind of house each time.

Hopefully, you now know what an adjective is.
So, the next time your teacher asks you to use more adjectives in your writing, you will know what to do!

Remember, adjectives make your work more interesting to read.

There are lots of links on the internet that will help you to use adjectives in your writing.
Why not play some of these games, and make your teachers very happy when they see adjectives in your work!

Ice Cream Talk – select nouns

Word Invasion – untick all options other than nouns and adjectives

Noun Explorer - Identify the nouns

Adjective Explorer - Identify the adjectives

Trapped – use your mouse arrow to push the crates
(Note, comparative adjectives tend to end in er. They compare two nouns: bigger, smaller, longer, taller, quicker, slower etc.)

This post has been written by Karen Crichton, one of our English tutors at Blackhen Education. For more information about any of our English courses, feel free to contact me at: or visit our website: