Friday, 2 June 2017

Summer Activities for Children


Treasure Ahoy!
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy some outside learning. Many studies have shown that it has numerous benefits for children: better health, decreased stress levels, enhanced communication skills and increased motivation, being just a few.
Treasure hunts and scavanger hunts are a great way to get children learning and exploring away from I pads and computers, either in your own garden or in a supervised outdoor space, such as woods or a park. They are also a means for children to practise reading, writing and communicating in a fun way. For all of the activities outlined below, there is the option of the adult writing and child reading or vice versa, one child writing for another child to read and with very young children, working together on both writing and reading,
Creating maps:This is perhaps the most obvious aspect of treasure hunts. Using a large piece of paper, create a map of the garden, encourage children to label important parts, e.g vegetable patch, chicken run, swings. Of course, you don't have to stick to reality; the sand pit can become quick sand and the pond a swamp filled with alligators! Your garden could be Narnia, or Arendelle, or anywhere that your child is interested in at the moment. X will mark the spot for the hidden treasure (the possibilities are endless). An alternative to using paper, is to use chalks to mark out a route and leave signs, such as “Danger”, “Go forward 10 steps”,  “Proceed at your peril” or “Welcome to Narnia”. Maps are also an excellent way to introduce the idea of keys.



Clues and codes: Setting up a treasure hunt around the garden or any space you’re familiar and comfortable with, can again be done by you or your children. The hunters are looking to uncover a succession of clues leading them ultimately to the hidden treasure. The clues can be hidden in all sorts of places and is very exciting. Whether the children write the clues or decipher them, both activities entail using creative thinking and will certainly lead to lots of discussion!




Scavanger hunts: Slightly different to treasure hunts, scavenger hunts are a race to find as many items as possible on a list, so are great if you happen to have loads of children in the garden during the summer holidays.
The site below has 10 fantastic ideas for scavenger hunts, many of them outdoors.




Another fabulous resource is the Woodland Trust, which has free spotter sheets on everything from butterflies, creepy crawlies, tracks and leaves to poo! https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/activities/search/?activityType=100016071
I have used the Woodland Trust spotter sheets with whole classes and individual children, with great success. The children are so excited to be finding leaves, birds, flowers etc, they hardly know they are reading. If you want to involve a bit of technology, help the children to take photographs of their finds, upload and label, describe and catalogue alphabetically.
Alternativley, children can easily create their own spotter sheets for each other. A great way of doing this is encourage them to  select 10 toys (plastic dinosours, cars, teddies) write the names on a piece of paper and then place them around the garden for another child to find.
Finally, just in case we have some rainy days over the summer, treasure hunts and scavanger hunts are easily played indoors too. If you want to challenge older children, searching for adjectives, proper nouns, adverbs etc in books works well as a timed competition.


However you decide to organise your treasure or scavenger hunts, you and your children are sure to have lots of fun while reading and writing!
We would love to see your designs for your treasure maps. So why not send them to us at: sue@blackheneducation.com 
This blog post was written by Bernadette Whiteley, one of our English tutors at Blackhen Education.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

IGCSE ENGLISH REVISION TIPS

With exams around the corner, you’ve probably already started revising, but by now your revision should start picking up. If you struggle with motivation, something that could really help you is creating a revision timetable. Set our certain hours of the day to revise different subjects; remembering to refer to your exam timetable so that you prioritise the exams you will sit first. In preparation for your English exams, we’ve created a list of tasks and exercises you could complete to thoroughly prepare you.

1.       Have a go at past papers- head to the Edexcel website  (http://qualifications.pearson.com/en/qualifications/edexcel-international-gcses-and-edexcel-certificates/international-gcse-english-language-a-2011.coursematerials.html#filterQuery=category:Pearson-UK:Category%2FExam-materials), and you’ll find past papers that you can browse and attempt on your own. Some of these are specifically locked for teachers, but many can be accessed by anyone.  Attempt whole papers, or just the questions you struggle with. You’ll then be able to look at the mark scheme and so how well you did.

2.       If you’ve exhausted the past papers, try creating your own writing questions. Remember that you could be tested on writing to: inform, explain or describe in Paper One, and explore, imagine, entertain, argue, persuade or advise in Paper 2. Ask your friends or family for a topic you could argue an opinion about, or a situation you could advise on.


3.       Make a list of different literary techniques you could use- not only will it improve your exam if you are able to identify techniques such as metaphors and personification, but you’ll also need to apply them in your written exam. Write a list of effective examples of different literary techniques. Remember that examiners are looking for students who stand out from the crowd for those top grades, so try to think of examples a little bit outside the box.

4.       Look on YouTube- you’d be surprised how many students and teachers add revision material to YouTube. Whether you’re looking to revise an individual poem or looking for tips on how to write a strong argument, this is a great place to start.

5.       Re-read the texts- if you start to become tired practising exam questions and making notes, and would like something a bit more relaxing to do, try simply re-reading chapters of your key texts. Have a pen and notebook handy so that you can jot down any quotations or ideas that spring to mind. Reading things like newspapers and magazines can also help prepare you for the creative writing part of your exam.

6.       Head to BBC Bitesize- from specific revision tips to general advice about writing styles and genres, BBC Bitesize has lots of interactive resources including videos, quizzes and self-mark questions.

7.       Redecorate your room- So I’m not suggesting that you should repaint the walls with quotations from Shakespeare, but you’ll find it easier to take information in if you see it everyday. Write key quotations, effective vocabulary or even definitions of key terms around your bedroom, or even around the house. Simply walking past these sheets of paper everyday will help you absorb the information.

8.       Ask people to test you- create thematic flashcards, and then ask a sibling, parent or friend to test you to see what you’ve learned. You’ll also find lots of quizzes on the internet if you’d rather just test yourself.


Remember, it’s important to balance out revision and your free time. Spending hours and hours shut in your room revising non-stop isn’t healthy. Timetable yourself free time so that you can have dinner with your parents, see you friends or simply watch television. Do your best and I’m sure all your hard work will pay off!

This blog post was written by Lucy Taylor (IGCSE English tutor at Blackhen Education). For more information about our IGCSE English course, please contact us at: sue@blackheneducation.com or via our website: www.blackheneducation.com

Monday, 3 April 2017

Blackhen Education's Top Easter Reads


During the school holidays, you deserve to be relaxing and putting your feet up, and what better way to do that than with a good book? Research suggests that children who read regularly are more imaginative, and it is said to improve your writing skills too. However, finding a book can be tricky; there’s millions out there. So we’ve compiled a list of some recommended reads to help you pick the perfect book for you.


The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
(Ages 5-7)
Duncan wants to colour, but when he opens the box he finds that all his crayons have gone, and there is a note saying ‘we quit’. Will Duncan get them back?
                      






To Wee or Not to Wee by Pamela Butchart
(Ages 6-8)
Izzy is asked to tell her friends some SUPER hilarious and scary stories. Izzy knows how funny Shakespeare was, so exaggerates some of his best stories in this funny book.

The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside
Ages 6-8
Jenny has a lot of worries. So many worries in fact, that she has to carry them around in her big blue bag. The bag goes everywhere with her. Finally, Jenny decides they will have to go, but will anyone help her?

The Parent Agency by David Badiel
(Ages 9-11)
Barry hates his parents and wishes he had better ones. But far away, there’s a world where children get to choose who their parents are…










Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
(Ages 9-11)
Daisy and Hazel set up their own secret detective agency at school. It’s all quite quiet, until they find their science teacher lying dead in the gym. Will they catch the culprit before they strike again?







Holes by Louis Sachar
(Ages 10-13)
Stanley is cursed. At least that’s how he feels when he’s accused of a crime and then sent to Camp Green Lake instead of prison. Camp Green Lake is not green and there’s no lake. Each day Stanley has to dig a hole, and it feels more like prison than he could have imagined. Then, one day he finds something that changes everything…

Once by Morris Gleitzman
(Ages 11-13)
This book tells the story of Felix, a little Jewish boy living in Poland during World War 2. Felix escapes from the orphanage where he lives to try and find his parents and save them from the Nazis. If you enjoy this book there are five more books in the series.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
(Ages 13+)
The first book in this trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go tells the tale of Todd, the only boy left in Prentisstown, and in one month he will become a man like the rest of the town. But this is no ordinary town, as here, no thoughts are private. Todd realises secrets are being kept from him, and he’s left with no choice but to run…





Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
(Ages 13+)
Sephy is a Cross. Callum is a Nought. The dark-skinned crosses are the ruling race, whilst the white skinned Noughts are members of the underclass, who were once enslaved by the Crosses. The Noughts become increasingly frustrated with their social position, and war erupts. But amidst this a romance builds between Sephy and Callum.


Other Recommended Reads:
Rosie Revere, Engineer- Andrea Beaty (5-7)
The Thirteen Story Tree House- Andy Griffiths (6-8)
Oh The Places You’ll Go-  Dr Seuss (5-9)
Beetle Boy- M.G Leonard (8-11)
My Brother is a Superhero- David Solomans (8-11)
The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe- C.S. Lewis (8-11)
An Eagle in the Snow- Michael Morpurgo (9-12)
Tom Gates Series- Liz Pinchon (9-12)
Ketchup Clouds- Annabel Pitcher (11-14)
One- Sarah Crossman (14+)
Broken Beautiful Things- Sara Bernard (14+)

This post was written by Lucy Taylor (IGCSE English tutor at Blackhen Education).



Friday, 24 February 2017

Making Books - Everyone Can Be an Author




World Book Day is just around the corner; one of the highlights of the school calendar for teachers and students alike. Its magic is two-fold, because we all get to indulge in dressing up (I have been The Queen of Hearts, Winnie the Witch and Professor McGonagall to name but a few). We also get to share our favourite books from home and enjoy book related activities all day long.



Writing is always more enjoyable when it has a purpose, so what better purpose than creating your own book to share with friends and family? One of my students’ favourite activities on World Book Day was making a book of their own. This was always inspired by the writing of other’s, for example, a new adventure for Winnie the Witch or creating a new character in the world of Harry Potter. It culminated in the children sharing their own newly created books at the end of the day. Because the children knew this would happen, they took extra care with their presentation and writing, as well as planning an excellent story or new chapter.
Of course there is a long history of children creating their own stories and books, the most famous being the Bront√ęs. Their fantastical stories of the lands of Angria and Gondal were written in miniscule handwriting in tiny handmade books.

Book making really gives children ownership of their work. They are author, editor (parents can be sub-editors if required), illustrator and of course, publisher. Many children even like to put a barcode and price on the back of their books. This is also a great space for a blurb. Summarising the plot without giving away the ending is a great skill to develop.
The books don’t have to be complicated to make. The simplest is a piece of folded card, with the required number of pages folded and either glued or stabled into place. For very young children, a great place to start making their own books, is writing about themselves. Writing about their family, pets and favourite food and places really engages them. 



For many years I treasured my first handmade book, “All about Me.” I made it at the age of four, with help from my teacher, lots of yellow wool hair and two blue buttons for eyes. Today, of course, you can use the computer to produce equally thrilling results and multiple copies for grandparents, for example.
Homemade books can come in many different materials and open and close in a variety of ways. Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord, is an American teacher who is passionate about bookmaking for children. Her varied and interesting projects can be found on the link below:  
                                 


http://www.makingbooks.com/freeprojects.shtml

Homemade books can come in all shapes and sizes and be about anything! For children who prefer reading and writing non-fiction, these can fit very well with a favourite topic.  In the past, we’ve made books shaped like Viking boats, cats, Tudor houses and trains. The link below shows one example of how to create a book shaped like a house.
                                                             

Pop-up books are great fun to make too. Because they are not much more than a card, they are not daunting for younger children. The writing needs to happen before the pop-up is made, so can work as an incentive. Parents may to help with some of the more intricate designs on the link below.

So whatever your child’s interests, there is a book in them just waiting to be written. For lots more advice and ideas on helping your children to create their own books, see the link below.
Happy World Book Day!

This post was written by Bernadette Whiteley, one of our Key Stage 2 tutors at Blackhen Education.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Blackhen Education - 2016 Review


The New Year has well and truly started. Whilst most people use this time of year to de-clutter, stash bust or turn over a new leaf, for us at Blackhen Education, it is a time to reflect and celebrate the year that has just finished.

So what did our students do in 2016?
We ran several successful competitions, starting Valentine’s Day. This is always a popular competition and the entries were lovely.






In September, students entered our Roald Dahl Day competition. As one of our best loved authors, we feel this is always an important day to celebrate.





To celebrate Christmas, students were asked to write a ghost story or design a new sledge for Father Christmas. We had a lot of fun looking at the wonderful entries and choosing our winner.






IGCSE English Exams
In May and June our IGCSE English students sat their final exams, (despite industrial action and travel disruption). And in August we received the brilliant results. Our students had achieved 100% A-C grades, including an A* and 2 A’s.


New Courses
In September, we were very excited about launching two new English courses at Blackhen Education. A Foundation English course for 4-5 year olds and Key Stage 1 (5-6 year olds) course. Both courses were written by Karen Crichton, one of our specialist English tutors at Blackhen Education.These now complete the series of 14 courses we offer for age groups 4 –16 yrs. Students can now start with us at the age of 4 and continue up to and including IGCSE. We also launched our new one year 14+ English course. After Key Stage 3 (11-14 yrs), students can now opt for 14+ English, without sitting any exams at the end.






New Tutor
In October we welcomed Bernadette Whiteley to the team, making us up to 5 tutors. Bernadette is a KS2 ( 7-11 yrs) specialist teacher and has been an invaluable addition to Blackhen Education.


Our Students
Of course we cannot finish the year without mentioning the impressive standard of work our students produced, from the youngest aged 4 through to the eldest ages 16. Considering our students complete their Blackhen work along side their French school work ( and other countries), it is truly amazing what they produce!








Our History students continued to produce excellent work. The course, now in it’s second year, covers Anglo Saxon Britain through to post war Britain.



What does 2017 hold in stall for Blackhen Education?

Competitions
New Charity to support
IGCSE English Language & English Literature exams
Monthly blogs and more……


For more information about any of our courses, visit our website at: www.blackheneducation.com or contact me at: sue@blackheneducation.com

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Aberfan - 50 years on

On Friday 21st October 1966, I was one week away from my 6th birthday and was at school at Dean Row Infant School, Cheshire. On that same day in Aberfan, South Wales, 116 children and 28 adults were to tragically lose their lives, when a huge landslide of coal slurry would engulf their school.

I was too young at the time to know anything about this tragedy, but would learn later as a young adult and teacher. I have always felt very affected by this awful event and believe it is important that it is not forgotten about.

This very powerful British Pathe video from the time, shows exactly what it was like:
                                                         
http://www.britishpathe.com/video/aberfan-slag-heap-buries-school 

                                                                  


'The tragedy happened at 0915, just as the pupils of Pantglas Juniour School were about to embark on their first lessons. Some children were filing into classrooms ready for register. 
                                                                      


In total, 144 people were killed - 116  of them children. The last body was recovered nearly a week after the disaster  happened.
                                                                                   

                                                                   

The NCB (National Coal Board) said abnormal rainfall had caused the coal waste to move.
The inquiry of Tribunal later found that the NCB was wholly to blame and should pay compensation for loss and personal injuriies.
The NCB and Treasury refused to accept full financial responsibility for the tragedy, so the Aberfan Disaster Fund had to contribute £150,000 towards removing the remaining tip that overlooked the village.
This was fully repaid in 1997, by the then Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies.' BBC On This Day. 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/21/newsid_2705000/2705335.stm

                                                                       

Here are some writing ideas for children to learn about Aberfan:

1) Imagine you are a newspaper reporter at the time of the tragedy. Write an article for your paper, explaining to your readers what has happened.

2) Imagine you have been asked to interview one of the mothers who's child had died on that day. What questions would you ask them? What answers would they give?
                                                               



3) Imagine you are one of the children who was lucky enough to escape the disaster. Maybe you didn't go to school that day? Maybe you were late to school? Maybe you were lucky enough to have been rescued? Write a diary entry for that morning of 21st October 1966.

For more teaching resources about Aberfan follow the links below:

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/aberfan-50-years-on-11395452 

http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/wl2-t-42-aberfan-powerpoint

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/aberfan-the-story-of-a-disaster-6091597

For more information about any of our online English courses, visit our website at: www.blackheneducation.com or contact us for a Parent Pack at: sue@blackheneducation.com

Friday, 23 September 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children - Creative Writing Ideas


                                                                        


I heard about this book a couple of weeks ago and have been fascinated with it ever since. I particularly love the use of  spooky, old photographs in the book and as a teacher, the idea of a home or school for 'peculiar' children.

So what is the book about?
A teenage boy (Jacob) travels to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he finds the ruins of an old house; Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. Who were these children? Why were they there? Why were they 'peculiar'?

This is the link for the offical trailer to the film and it will give you a little taste of what is to come!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAdpJw-MM-M 

I then began to think about how the book and it's wonderful photographs could be used as starting points for creative writing. In particular, writing prompts for Key Stage 3 (11-14 year olds) students.

Here are some ideas:

1) Using photographs from the book as stimuli.:



These three photographs come from the book. I won't tell you who they are, I will leave that up to you to imagine. What are their names? Why are they at Miss Peregrine's home? Why are the two younger children dressed as clowns? Where have they come from? What happens to them all?


2) Using your own photographs as stimuli:

Here are three old photographs from my own collection. I can already see a story evolving. Who are the family on the left? What has happened to them? How old is the house? Where is the house? Is it empty? Who are three girls? What are their names? Have they been to school? Or are they going to school?



3) Using the set of the house as a starting point for descriptive writing.





Imagine you have arrived at the house for the first time. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? Who else is there? How do you feel?


4) Imagine you have been asked to interview Miss Peregrine. What questions would you ask her? How might she reply? Are you nervous? Is she scary?
                                                                 


5) Write a diary entry as if you are Jacob. Write about the first time you lay eyes on Miss Peregrine, or one of the 'peculiar' children. What time of day or night do you meet them?How do you feel? How do they react to you? Do you want to run away from them? Are they friendly?

6) Check out the offical website of the author Ransom Riggs, to find out more about him, his books and read the opening chapter from Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children.

http://www.ransomriggs.com/

All of these ideas can be done at home and will help your child with their English writing skills.

If you want to take it further, you can use one of the central themes to start a discussion or a prompt for a piece of non fiction writing.

The book has a lot of deeper messages within it, two of these being:
1) Tolerance/ tolerating people who are different.
2) Persecution / treatment of Jews during World War ( Jacob's Polish grandfather escapes the Jews during WWII).

I would love to see any of your work that comes from these ideas. It might be a piece of writing or a picture, but feel free to send it to us at: sue@blackheneducation.com

For more information about any of our online English courses, please visit our website:
www.blackheneducation.com or email me at: sue@blackheneducation.com