Oracy Teacher’s Blog

FREE VE Day resource! Understand the VE Day 2020 celebrations.

This week I have a FREE VE Day resource for you! To get your free copy fill in the form at the bottom of this post and your free resource will be emailed to you.

FREE VE Day resource to download!

At the moment we are all learning at home. This week marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. This was the day when Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, told the nation at 3pm that the second world war was officially over.

Using the FREE VE Day Resource

Use my resource to share with your child. Firstly, read the text together and answer the questions to test what they have remembered. There are then 5 activities you can choose from to complete. Among them is writing a postcard to a family member that is not there on VE Day. This could tell them about the street parties and the celebrations. In addition to this you could create your own bunting and VE Day posters.

Plans for the day

The VE Day celebrations 2020 are somewhat changed due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, there are plans to celebrate this in August on the VJ Day celebrations. May 8th 2020 is a Bank Holiday for the UK to mark the 75th anniversary. People will be celebrating with their families at home. There have been suggestions of having a picnic in the garden with tea and cake. The BBC will be showing a programme to mark the day at 2:45pm. This will be interesting for your child to see. At 8pm there will be war songs with Dame Vera Lynn culminating in a UK-wide rendition of her famous “We’ll meet again.”

Despite the fact that we cannot have street parties at the moment we will come together and unite as one – all be it in a socially distanced fashion!

If you would like to have my VE Day resource emailed directly to you please use the sign up form below.

My top learning tips – using talk to help your child learn

As parents we all want to help our children get on in life and the first step in this is to help them with their learning when they are at school. In this blog post I will give you my top learning tips to really help your child embed new learning in their long term memory.

Learning tips – #1 vocabulary

My top tip is to talk. I don’t just mean about the weather or what they want for tea but talk that develops and challenges their thinking. There are a number of ways you can engage with your child and talk is undeniably one of the most valuable. Children who engage in talk with others from an early age tend to do better in school and later on in exams. Talk means you develop your vocabulary which is vital not just in school but also when you leave school and get a job. Better vocabulary opens doors for you.

So how do you start to develop your child’s vocabulary? Make it fun! Play word games when you are out and about or even on journeys in the car. My children always loved the alphabet game which is great as it is incredibly versatile! Choose a topic e.g. animals and each person has a turn to say a different animal beginning with A, then move on to say a different animal in turn beginning with B. And so on. This game can be used for any topic and really helps to develop vocabulary. As an adult you can introduce your child to a wide range of new vocabulary.

Learning tip #2 – talking in sentences

High expectations gives your child something to aspire to. When teaching I always expect children to reply in a complete sentence. This puts everything into context. Encourage your child to speak in complete sentences. There are so many different types of sentence starters for different circumstances. For example, if you are trying to evaluate something you might start a sentence with, “What I found hard was… because…” whereas if you are comparing you might start with, “One similarity is…” or “Another difference is…” It is important that your child has the opportunity to play with language and learn the correct language structure for the different types of talk.

Learning tips – #3 make it fun!

You can make talk fun and engaging without having to try too hard. There are so many games you can play to practice different skills. I like the game – Odd one out. This can be played with just 2 or more of you. Pick a couple of things and ask the question which is the odd one out. If you choose carefully then there could be more than one answer and this opens up the talk. Expect your child to say ‘because’ as this will encourage them to explain their thinking – a very useful tool for learning. This game can be played with any subject. I like it with Maths – for example, which is the odd one out with these numbers? 2, 5, 8, 10. Give the opportunity for your child to say what they think. You can share your ideas and discuss the difference between them.

Learning tip #3 – using games for learning talk.

Whatever you choose to talk about with your child as long as you talk it counts! If you don’t engage in conversation with your child then they won’t learn from you. Other things could be to ask them what their favourite part of the day was or ask them to tell you 5 things they are looking forward to this week. Whatever you do – make sure it involves talk!

Times-tables games – learn your times-tables in a fun way!

Times tables can be really tricky to learn. It takes time and regular practice. Making the learning fun is half the battle. If your child enjoys the practice then they won’t mind doing it. Using a variety of times-tables games can make this a fun task.

Times-tables games – Dominoes

Using a set of dominoes turn over a domino each and multiply the two ends together. You can add some competition in and set a timer for one minute. See how many you can do in that time and then try to beat your partner. Another way is to write the answers onto card and then find the answer to match to the domino.

This type of game may need a little preparation unless you are practicing all times tables up to 12.

Times-tables games such as dominoes makes learning more fun!

Times-tables games – Tic Tac Toe

Do you remember playing noughts and crosses as a child? This is a really fun game and can be used to practice times-tables. Set up a 3 x 3 grid and in each square write a multiplication that you are currently practicing such as 3 x 4 or 6 x 4. When you have set up the grid, (see the picture below) you are ready to play. In order to claim a square you must answer the times-table first. Winning is the same – get three in a row!

Times-tables games – Tic Tac Toe otherwise known as noughts and crosses.

Early tricks to help you calculate when multiplying

Obviously it is better to learn your times tables by heart but there are a few tricks to help you along the way.

Use the segments of your fingers and number them (works fro either the 3 or 4 times tables). If you want to know 3 x 4 then you count the 4 segments on 3 fingers. This will give you the answer. The segments are the three parts on each finger plus the top of your palm being the fourth. Or if you want to do the 3 times table just use the 3 segments in each finger. See the picture below to help.

Use your fingers to calculate the 3 or 4 times tables.

To calculate the 9 times tables you can also use your fingers. Take a look at your hands and your fingers. When you multiply 9 x 1, you will fold down your finger that was assigned the “1” spot: your left pinkie. When you multiply 9 x 2, you will fold down the finger that is second from the left: your left ring finger.

9 times-table trick using your fingers.

Give it a go and have some fun!

Using talk to understand maths concepts – make sense of new learning

Using talk wasn’t really a big thing when I went to school. When I was learning Maths at Primary school I never really understood what I was doing. Why was this? I believe that this is linked to the way the lessons were set up. When I was at school we used to get out our Maths text books (where everyone was on a different page and some were even on a different textbook) and work our way through.

Consequently, we were never actually taught Maths. If you were good at problem solving and had an idea what to do then you could access the learning. If you didn’t then you could potentially not do very much during a lesson. Don’t even get me started on the Friday morning Maths! This was a quickfire session where we had a test of a variety of facts. The teacher read out the facts and we had about 10 seconds to record the answer, calculating in our head.

Did the teacher use physical materials to ensure we had a good visual of the concept? Did we discuss the concept? No.

Using talk – the key to understanding

The key to really understanding a new concept is allowing new connections to be made in the brain. Using talk is a great way to help the new pathways build and develop. We all need the opportunity to digest new learning and use it in a variety of ways to ensure it is committed to long term memory.

Also, alongside the opportunity to talk is giving a good visual to support the understanding. Teaching Maths well is about having the knowledge to reveal the learning step by step in a clear way. Physical materials and talk enable this to happen.

Using talk in Maths really helps to embed new learning.

Previously I have written about the use of Oracy in developing understanding. In the picture above you can see the children are in a small group and are discussing something on the ipad. Giving the children something visual to discuss whether that is equipment, a picture or a video clip can be extremely powerful in allowing them to make connections. The talk that follows this is definitely the key to unlocking the learning.

Spelling games that help your child to learn their spellings in a fun way!

No matter where your child does their learning they will need to practice how to spell a variety of words. Spelling games can really help your child to make this otherwise dull part of learning more fun!

There are so many different ways to learn and practice a set of spellings. The most traditional way is ‘Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check.’ Not all children enjoy learning in this way or find it particularly helpful.

All children can enjoy learning and all children can enjoy learning to spell… the difficulty is in how it is presented to your child to engage them.

Spelling games – Jenga!

The first game I will introduce is a classic! Do you remember playing Jenga as a child (or an adult!). Jenga can be used to practice spellings or reading new words with a bit of a twist. It takes a little preparation but can be used again and again. On each of the Jenga blocks write one of your child’s spellings using a pencil. (Using pencil means you can rub it out after and use the Jenga blocks again for new words.)

Once you have written the words on the side of the Jenga blocks set up the game as usual. Each player takes a turn to select and take a block. Here is the twist… you can only keep your block if you can correctly read the word on the block. If you get it wrong you will need to put the block back. Repeat as you each take turns. To develop this further into the realms of spelling you can take a word and read it to your partner who must spell the word correctly to keep your block. Then your partner takes a block and reads it to you – you must then spell the word correctly to keep your partner’s block.

Spelling games with a twist – Jenga spelling!

Spelling Battleships

The next game is based on Battleships. Remember this game? You have to plot 5 ships on a grid and then try and guess where your partner has hidden their boats to destroy them. Well this is similar but you need to hide 5 spellings and your partner must find them. Use a similar grid and hide your 5 words with one letter in a square. Same rules only you search for the 5 words. You can add an extra challenge when the word is discovered your partner must correctly spell the word to finally blow it up.

Spelling games – Practice 5 spellings with Spelling Battleships.

Spelling Roll a Word

Sometimes it is enough to change up the way you are practicing a spelling. Roll a word is a way of changing up the practice. Roll a dice and then look at the poster to see how you need to learn to spell the word. You might have to write it in a particular colour, draw a picture including the word, write it a set number of times, write it in a sentence etc. You can create your own ideas based on suggestions from your child or use the example here.

Spelling games – roll and spell – you just need a dice!

So no excuses! Give it a go and see if your child can learn their spellings with less grumbling!

Do you have a reluctant reader? How do I get my child to read?

Do you have a reluctant reader at home? If you are anything like me then you love to read… either for pleasure or for new learning! But, what if your child does not enjoy reading? How do you get them to sit down and read?

Many children and adults do not like reading and so it can be a real chore to get them to read. You then have regular arguments about reading where your child tells you all the excuses under the sun why they ‘can’t’ read! It can become a real source of tension and at the end of the day when everyone is tired this tension can often result in a full on heated argument. This is the last thing that anyone wants.

Providing a purpose for reading

Providing your child with a purpose for reading can often be enough to encourage a reluctant reader. The hardest part is getting your child to pick up a book in the first place so creating a purpose for reading and offering a reward for reading can provide the ‘carrot’ that is needed. Once you have hooked your child in you then need to encourage them to develop a habit. Encouraging your child to read before they go to bed can create a habit that then sticks.

Challenge your reluctant reader!

If this is you then why not give your child a challenge next month. March is the month that we celebrate World Book Day (5th March 2020). Providing a purpose for reading can really inspire your child to pick up a book, especially if there is the potential for a reward at the end of period of time.

Giving purpose to reading can encourage a reluctant reader.

Print out and display this poster (or create your own) and decide on a reward for completing the challenge. Maybe you can have smaller rewards for completing a line and a larger reward for completing a certain number of tasks during the month of March.

Problem solving resources and how they are enhanced by oracy

There are many problem solving resources on the market that are good for developing problem solving skills. Oracy can really help to develop these skills particularly if you develop discussion with sentence stems.

Talk it solve it is a problem solving resource created by Oxford. Each book is divided into 2 year groups and Oracy is firmly embedded within the structure of this.

Problem solving resources – How does Talk it solve it work?

Great problem solving resources to support mathematical development and problem solving through talk.

When setting this up the idea is that you divide your class into groups of 3 children. Each child will be given a role within the group that can be rotated. For example one person is given the role of reading the cards out, another person is the one who turns the cards over or moves them away, a third person is the one who begins the talk and makes sure each person has a turn in giving their ideas and opinions. The cards are along the lines of the talking points activity in that they give 6 statements about a particular mathematical concept. The children are then asked to discuss each one in turn and say whether they are true or false. There are even a few red herrings thrown in to challenge your thinking.

How does this resource use Oracy to develop maths?

The Talk it solve it resource can be used in its own right as it is designed to be used and it will use talk to develop mathematical problem solving and reasoning. It already takes into account groupings and encourages talk and some basic roles. These are some basic parts of Oracy so it is great to see them included.

I also think this resource could be adapted to be used in a variety of different ways. I mentioned earlier that it is similar to the talking points activity as described by Lyn Dawes. You could therefore use this within a whole class setting split into smaller groups and discuss each point in turn as a talking point saying whether each point is true or false. This could then be developed further and you could discuss the red herrings within the task. Which statements did not matter and were not necessarily relevant to the answer for the task? As always remember to use sentence stems to provide a good scaffold for the talk.

Feeling frustrated? Leaving children to struggle with their mental health.

Grrrr! Feeling frustrated! 😡😡

What is my frustration? What is the biggest challenge I face right now?

I’ll tell you…

I’m trying to give my children the best support possible and when you need help and support from an outside person there is actually very little to help our young people!

My eldest son Jack has struggled with his self-esteem and resilience over a number of years and I have tried to get him some support from various places starting with our local doctor.

The doctor sent me on a wild goose chase and told me to get help from another agency who actually only deal with adults. “I’m afraid you’ve been fobbed off!” I was told when speaking to a very nice lady on the phone. At this point I was feeling more than a little frustrated!

She then proceeded to tell me there is very little support for children when talking about their mental health.

I will not give up – I have followed her advice and am now waiting to see if we can get some support for him for elsewhere.

CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) are available and can give you support either in small help groups or one to one support. The issue with this is the lengthy waiting list. If your child needs help now it is very difficult to get help right away. There is usually a 4 month waiting list which as you know feels like an eternity to a child!

There are some apps such as Headspace and other forms of meditation can help. Getting out in the fresh air and exercising can also relieve some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Here is a link to Young Minds where you can seek help from CAMHS for your child.

Let me ask you a question…

What is your biggest frustration or challenge right now? 😤

Using pictures and talk to develop mathematical understanding

There are hundreds of ideas out there to support the teaching of maths. You have seen through this blog that Maths can truly be enhanced through Oracy. Using pictures and talk to develop mathematical understanding really draws together some very key things in understanding new concepts.

Picture Stimuli – pictures and talk!

They say a picture tells a thousand words… Well sometimes they really do! Using pictures or physical materials can really open up a concept for us, especially when learning a new mathematical concept. The talk that ensues from looking at a diagram or picture is sometimes incredible.

Using pictures and talk to develop mathematical understanding – what concepts are revealed?

I really feel that we need to use a variety of pictures and images when teaching any maths. It is through seeing and having an image in our heads that we can then manipulate the concept and begin to delve deeper. I love the third picture above as it really opens up the floor for dialogue about fractions. Using this in a Year 2 lesson would most definitely spark conversation about the size of the parts and the teaching of fractions being equal sizes becomes easier. A carefully chosen image is definitely worth the time it takes to explore the ideas! Don’t forget to add a sentence stem and display the vocabulary you wish the children to use.

Always, sometimes, never

This activity is great for mini investigations. I usually place a large A1 sheet of paper in the centre of the table and write the question in the centre. The children then have to convince me by writing and proving their answer on the sheet in as many ways as possible.

Using pictures and talk to develop mathematical understanding – investigations are a great way to develop understanding of a concept.

When children work with their peers towards a common end they really can develop a good understanding of a concept. This is particularly true when talking through and making a decision about how true something is. The addition of asking children to prove what they are saying further develops their understanding. A child may start off trying to prove something is true and in fact end up proving the opposite. A powerful activity when this happens. The process enables the child to change their mind with the realization that something doesn’t work as they thought. When you try something out and the idea fails you have to re-evaluate your thoughts and make a change.

Words affect how we feel! An activity to share with children.

Here is a post from Relax kids Tamworth which I thought was a brilliant way of demonstrating how words affect how we feel.

Words affect how we feel – the activity

Today in one of our classes I introduced the children to two apples. (The children didn’t know this, but before the class I had repeatedly dropped one of the apples on the floor, you couldn’t tell, both apples looked perfect).

The bad apple

We talked about the apples and the children described how both apples looked the same; both were red, were of similar size and looked juicy enough to eat. I picked up the apple I’d dropped on the floor and started to tell the children how I disliked this apple, that I thought it was disgusting, it was a horrible colour and the stem was just too short. I told them that because I didn’t like it, I didn’t want them to like it either, so they should call it names too. Some children looked at me like I was insane!

We passed the apple around the circle calling it names, ‘you’re a smelly apple’, ‘I don’t even know why you exist’, ‘you’ve probably got worms inside you’ etc. We really pulled this poor apple apart. I actually started to feel sorry for the little guy.

The good apple

We then passed another apple around and started to say kind words to it, ‘You’re a lovely apple’, ‘Your skin is beautiful’, ‘What a beautiful colour you are’ etc. I then held up both apples. Again, we talked about the similarities and differences, there was no change, both apples still looked the same.

The light-bulb moment when children realise that words affect how we feel!

The light-bulb moment

I then cut the apples open. The apple we’d been kind to was clear, fresh and juicy inside. The apple we’d said unkind words to was bruised and all mushy inside. I think there was a light-bulb moment for the children immediately. They really got it. What we saw inside that apple, the bruises, the mush and the broken bits is what is happening inside every one of us when someone mistreats us with their words or actions. People feel horrible inside when they are bullied – especially children. Sometimes they don’t show or tell others how they are feeling. If we hadn’t have cut that apple open, we would never have known how much pain we had caused it.

I shared my own experience of suffering someone’s unkind words last week. On the outside I looked OK, I was still smiling. But, on the inside someone had caused me a lot of pain with their words and I was hurting.

Unlike an apple, we have the ability to stop this from happening. We can teach children that it’s not ok to say unkind things to each other and discuss how it makes others feel. We can teach our children to stand up for each other and to stop any form of bullying, just as one little girl did today when she refused to say unkind words to the apple. More and more hurt and damage happens inside if nobody does anything to stop the bullying. Let’s create a generation of kind, caring children. The tongue has no bones, but is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words.

A few points to consider…

The apple was a red apple and to ensure it remained looking like there was no damage inside it was tapped repeatedly (but gently) on the floor over and over again. To touch you could feel the bruising, but you could not see it. No one noticed this within the class. After the apple was cut open and the impact was made, we discussed how I’d purposely bruised the apple before the session to make the point that we don’t often see the pain our words cause people. It had a very powerful impact.

Children got it and children understood. During this Relax Kids class (and every class) we offer children tools and techniques to manage their feelings and emotions, and through our unique seven steps we offer children strategies and solutions to manage any stress or anxiety. All of our activities promote teamwork, respect, peer support, conflict resolution, self-esteem and confidence, and children know where to go for support, if needed. Within this lesson I really wanted to focus on the power of JUST our words and the damage they may cause us inside, the pain no one can see.

This is pretty powerful stuff right? If you want to see more from Relax kids then click here.