Thinking School by NinaLaZina

Primary and Secondary education. Online learning. Special Educational Needs (SEN). Holistic Approach to education. We help kids learn and support children in education from primary school to secondary school. Give your children the very best education they can get and help them in school.

13 March 2020

Maths and Science and Bill Bryston A Short History of Nearly Everything Review

A Book Review
A Short History of Nearly Everything By Bill Bryson

 - Published  1st June 2004

Bill Bryson, O.B.E, F.R.S, (born December 8, 1951), is a best-selling American author of humorous books on travel, science and the English language.
science maths with bill bryson ‘Welcome, and congratulations. I am delighted you could make it’; so begins Bills Bryson’s prize-winning, vibrant prose, A Short History of Nearly Everything, which is a scientific history of the world.  What could make a better read? Your eyes will crawl quickly over the pages, consuming and enjoying all the knowledge, facts and tales it has to offer. This books covers biology , physics with a sprinkle of the history of maths. 

Bryson brings to life a whimsical, wonderful wealth of science, which is often shrouded in mystery and destined not to be deciphered by the non-scientist.  Geology, chemistry, palaeontology and astronomy are imparted in a clear, fun and comprehensible way. Through his expedition of time and space, Bill Bryson surrenders to whimsical questions, which many science text books decline to supply. Subsequently, we travel as if we are on a trip of a lifetime. He does it with such frivolity, clarity and light heartiness so that even those of you who are most fearful of science would enjoy it and chuckle your way through this book. However, do not take his light hearted approach as a lack of concrete knowledge; for Bryson supplies us with a wealth of scientific facts and anecdotes.
This book is produced with the assistance of scientists, and each section of the book had to be rubber stamped with academic authority before its publication. It also won the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book in June 2004 and it was one of the best-selling popular science books of 2005 in the UK, selling over 300,000 copies.

A Short History of Nearly Everything tells us of anecdotal events that inform us of how certain developments in science have transpired. For example, how the German chemist Johann Becker in 1685 thought he could extract gold from human urine (given that urine is yellow like gold – of course!).  Becker kept the urine in his cellar for weeks, and mixed it with other substances until it turned into a bright yellow paste! As you would expect, it did not turn into gold, but later a strange thing did happen: when the substance was exposed to light, it would spontaneously combust. This led to the understanding of phosphorous, and later, to the development of matches.

With his humour and clear prose, Bryson surrenders to the questions so many of us would like to ask: Are the bones of the dinosaurs in the Natural History museum real?  How do we know how big Earth is?  Do scientists make mistakes, and if so, do tell? How many bones do we have of dinosaurs? How long do humans have left on Earth?

Although A Short History of Nearly Everything is limited to American and European scientists thus lacking in diversity, it still captures and excites your imagination, and takes you along on a scientific journey that so many science books fail to do.

Some would argue that A Short History of Nearly Everything is unbalanced and there is not enough biology or maths included in the book; others would say that the title does not betray the true nature of the book – it is not actually a history of everything! Nonetheless, although many books like it exist, for example Horrible Histories, I would argue that this book has crossed over.   I recommend you give this book a try.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a fun to read, so much so that I now have an audio copy. For those of you who like to listen, you can ‘read’ a copy and listen at the same time. 

12 March 2020

How To Build Self Esteem In Children int the Academic World!

Building Self Esteem!
Have you ever felt hopeless and inadequate? Well, many of my students after trying and not getting the desired results feel like this. Imagine feeling this weary for most of the day. Not just for an hour but an entire day! It cannot be easy. It's important to encourage activities and thinking that will improve your child's self-esteem. 
Self Esteem in the Academic World 
The fact that they have so many resources on and offline does not make it easy. In fact, it makes it more difficult as they do not know where to start. This can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem. For teenagers, this can be even more difficult. The fact that their entire body is going through changes which they have to deal with on a daily basis does not help with their overall well being and self-esteem.

Many students  with low self-esteem will proclaim, 'I am not good at maths' or 'I'm not good at sport'. They do not realise they can improve in maths and sport. These qualities are not fixed at birth, but develop with life and life skills. It is about perseverance and understanding what you are doing incorrect and correcting it. It is about challenging yourself and endeavouring to ignore the negativity or any discouragement from others. It is about not comparing yourself to others but setting your own bench mark and adhering to it. It is about being flexible and knowing that sometimes we are just going to fail, but they must pick themselves up, dust themselves down and try again.

Here is my list on how to encourage children to succeed academically
 1: Never compare your child's academic performance to yours. 'I am good at maths so that is why they are' or 'I am bad at maths that is why they are'.  There is no scientific research to prove this. This will impact on what a child perceives they can do. Give them the space to develop their own skills and to find out what they can do - not what you can or cannot do!  The chances are the reason they are good at the subject you are good at is because you have inadvertently taught them the about the subject and its positive aspects.

2: Listen carefully to what they are saying. Maths for example, cover so many topics. I doubt very much they have an issue with all. Explain to them, that some topics just my take them longer to learn than others. It may mean they need additional help from a tutor, after school club or to increase their independent learning. This will help raise their self-esteem. 

3: Encourage your child to be an independent learner. They do not have to wait for a teacher to cover a subject. If they are in secondary school, they should be able to read around a subject. They may not understand it entirely, but they will have a good head start. This means that when the subject is covered at school it will not be alien to them.

4: Encourage your child to give the subject/ topic a chance! They should not give up. Would they give up trying to get to the next level for a computer game? Probably not! Help them to see the bigger picture. What they are endeavouring to learn is only a small part of their life. If they do not get it the first time around then it is just a matter of being patient and continuing to learn until they do get it! 

                 Watch this video it gives insight into harmful attempts 
to boost self - esteem !
5: Many parent state that their child will not listen to them. Well you must stop talking and listen to your child. Ask them how they are going to fix the problem. Ask them how you can help. Give them some tips. Let them take control of the situation and get themselves to a place where they are not only independent learners, but independent thinkers. You may need to assist with in this journey to independence, but it can be done in time. 

6: Get them into the habit of forming a routine. Encourage them to set a time each week to dedicate to the subject they are having issues with. Tell them that little and often is the best way to learn. Encourage them to stick to this time for two months and then show them how much they have done in that time. Little and often is the key to success. Trying to remember all of a topic in two weeks is impossible for most of us. Little and often will help children to retain the information as it will be sent to their long-term memory. 

7: If your child is under 14 teen there is a great book by  Matthew Syed  called ' You Are Awesome'. There are activities in here that help with a child's self-esteem and will get them thinking about situations and themselves. This book inspires young people to dream big. It uses examples of personalities that have struggled and made it.

I am not an advocate of our celebrity driven culture but the book does a good job of endeavouring to give young people hope by siting some celebrities as models of what can be achieved.  It advocates with hard work and determination anything is possible. I would state it is not always about working hard, but working smart that brings success.  The book advocates a growth mindset - whereby children look beyond what they know and try to think how they can achieve things they did not feel possible.  

8: Teach your child to learn from their mistakes. There is no point in making a mistake and continually doing it. Children need to be able to reflect on what they have done incorrect and set a plan or at least have an idea of how they are going to change it. Teach them that mistakes are part of life and the true test of learning and developing is how we come back from our errors. By doing this they are taking a positive outlook on life and this in turn will help you raise your child's self-esteem. 

9: Teach children that asking for help is not a negative quality. It is a great quality. Look at how many successful businesses have become rich from asking for help! It is obviously  right thing to do!  They recruit people to help with jobs which in turn makes them money. Yes, the relationship between a business owner and staff is one of the staff helping the boss - many people fail to realise this. Yes, the boss helps them by paying but it has to work both ways in order to benefit both parties. Henry Ford could not have made all the cars he produced without help. Teach your child that asking for help is a way to empower themselves by getting solutions and guidance to issues or problems they may have. 

10: Explain to your child that time  to relax and de-stress is an important part of their life. They should spend time with their friends, chatting, laughing and doing extra curriculum activities that they enjoy. Life is about living for all age groups. They should experience the rich and wonderful life we have and how beautiful life can be if you just take control of it. This will lead to a greater sense of sell being and self-esteem. 

To conclude:
Not all things are equal. Teach children to prioritise what is important and what is less important. If they can see this then, they will not be under so much stress and they will endeavour to take the advice you give them. If everything seems so important and overwhelming then this will have a negative impact on their self-esteem and their academic success.

8 March 2020 United Kingdom

The Abacus Can Help Your Child See Maths

What is an abacus?
An abacus is used to help children with maths. It normally has beads that can be moved up and down and sometimes around. It is normally brightly coloured and made of wood. It is a very ancient ma thematic tool. The abacus is not like an electronic calculator, it is a tool to help visually see what has been counted and to remember how much has been counted. 
How to help your child with maths abacus

Why use an Abacus?
Using an abacus is a different way to teach maths to children. Maths should be taught using a variety of resources from: songs, videos, worksheets and games. There is not one way to teach maths to younger children, so it is important to give them an opportunity to experience a variety of resources and ways to learn. Abacuses are  great for children that like to learn via the kinesthetic method of learning - touching and feeling. 

Who uses an abacus?
The abacus are used by many teachers and parents. However, it is not used in school as much as I think it should be.  It is a great way to have hands on fun with maths. As the beads are brightly coloured they attracts young children and can get them interested in maths from an early age.  

The history of the abacus
The abacus is an ancient tool that has been around for centuries. It was used in Africa and Asia by merchants selling in the market and by clerks. This was their form of an electric calculator! Some of the traders in the market wold have it attached to their side with string and use it  to add, multiply and subtract. Nowadays, we no longer use the abacus in the workplace, but it is great way for children to learn adding , subtraction, multiplication and even fractions!

How to use an abacus with your child
You can use the abacus it as a simple adding and subtraction tool. You can count numbers to 20 forwards and backwards. You can portion beads and add on or subtract.  Here is an abacus being used with a preschool child  to count in twos and to 20.

What age group should use and abacus
You can use an abacus with a child from age of 4 to 6. That is when a child is just about to enter school or has entered school. The earlier you start a child with maths the better they will be when they have to enter secondary school at the age of 11 years old. Read about why early years maths is so important here.  A firm grounding in maths is essential and an abacus is a great resource alongside other methods. 

To Conclude: 
Maths is important to learn from an early age. An abacus is a resource that comes in handy for young children. Children love the bright colours and moving the beads around. This is definitely something that you should have in your tool box of resources to use for children. My youngest son always enjoyed playing with an abacus. He used it to add and subtract and even do fractions. He is now seventeen and taking A'level maths! I am not saying that your child will take A'level maths, but a good start helps with a good understanding and grounding in maths. 

3 March 2020

Transform Your Child's Early Years Maths Make Them Smart!

What is early years ?  Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

What age group is early years?
Early years is the name given to the years from birth to five years old. It is an important developing age range for children and the UK government has set standards for provision of education for this age group. From birth to 5 children are taught via games, songs and interactive play. They should be given the opportunity to explore, create and time to developing thinking and problem-solving skills. 

Children learn very quickly at this age. There are a number of scientific reasons for this. Their brains, for example, are developing and their brain makes new connections each day - which means they are rapidly developing and interpreting new information. This is why early years are so important. It is important to expose children to a variety of activities and different situations. Research has shown that those children that develop core maths skills from a young age are at a advantage when they go into secondary school and those who are behind are unlikely by the age of 11 to catch up with those children who have solid maths knowledge. 


How can I help my child with maths?
Children who are exposed to maths at a young age tend to retain and develop what they have learnt. This is why learning of times tables facts and number facts comes so easy to some children, even if they do not understand the concept. It is a good idea to explain the concept first, but if they do not get it, then you can still get them to memorise the times tables until they are developed enough to learn it. For example, once a child can count to 100 forwards and backwards, then they can go ahead and learn to count in twos. The government sets out guidelines as to when certain topics should be learnt, but as a parent you do not have to stick to this. My son was counting in two’s in his early years and this stood him in good stead for developing his maths skills. He loved using an abacus. Read how an abacus can help your child with maths here. 

Maths in early years is - what should children be able to do?
 Number - children in early years should be able to count objects and understand bigger and smaller.  They should be able to explain more or less and do simple money problems.

Shape, measure and space - children in early years should be able to understand size, qualities, capacity, position, distance and money. They should be able to compare quantities and solve basic problems.

What are some good websites for early years maths?

 How can I help my child in early years develop maths skills?
- Bake cakes, biscuits or try chocolate cornflakes. This requires them to weigh, plan and problem solve.
-  Take your child out and experience the park, shops and museums. They can count objects and navigate to different areas of the location.
- When you are out an about count shops, buses, cars and more. This is counting and observation skills.
- When your child comes across something new, call it by its correct name. Name flowers, trees and cars. This teaches the importance of vocabulary and language skills. Use correct maths terms – e.g. subtraction and addition.
- Expose your child to different situations. Take them to the library, a puppet show, a book reading.  This will broaden their perspective on life and they will become aware of things around them. Read how to teach your child to read here. 
- Plant flowers in your back yard together and count the seeds. Line them up in a rows and columns. Teaches science and maths.
- Visit your local zoo and make a survey of all the animals in the zoo. Basic surveys can be combined with drawing to make maths fun.
- Make up a song and make it rhyme! This requires them to keep a beat! 
- Play a board game like snakes and ladders - counting and adding skills. Taking turns.
- Do a puzzle together. This reinforces problem solving and teaches children to patient and observant.
To conclude: 
Early years are an important time in a child's life. They learn so much and are so open to new ideas. It is the best time to widen their experiences. Help them develop their maths skills by exposing them to as much maths as possible.  You will be amazed at just how much they will learn. Maths is all around us and so their experiences must be based on things all around them! 

19 February 2020

Free Play Scripts for Kids / Shakespeare Children Play Script / Original Work - NinaLaZina

Free Plays For Children 

Free scripts play for young people

This is a free play for children to use to get use to using the language of Shakespeare. This play has been written an adapted to help young children make sense of Shakespearean words and phrases and verses.
Free Play Script For KidsI wrote this play script for teenagers/ children a few years ago. We performed it in open air theatre - well just in a park actually! Written in Shakespearean language but very easy to follow and read . The play last about 15 minutes and can have up to 20 cast members, with the party scene having many extras. Ideal age for this play is 11 years and above.
Feel free to use it or adapt this Shakespeare style play free script for young people. Hopefully they have fun with it and it brings out their true acting ability.
I have also included some links below of sites that have free plays for children.
Interested in finding out more about children and education?

Have Fun.

This is a play that I wrote for children to have fun with. Feel free to download and use as you wish. Enjoy!

Play Script For Kids

Title : Thou Step upon my shoes!
Script by Nina Odejimi-Riley, Words adapted by O. Johnson
Dramatis Personnae:
Peter (David’s friend)
Mike (Ross’ friend)
Sarah and Julie
Bruno (Bouncer)
Two under-18 kids:
Two partygoers, both alike in dignity,
In fair East London, where we lay our scene,
Where school-field mud makes new school-shoes unclean.
Comes now a darker hate to end so quick a life
A gang that stands strong and in danger pulls a knife Dirty trainers and a horrible rage
Is now the 10 minute play that’s on our stage;

There is a party scene. All are walking, chatting and dancing and laughing away. There are two younger under 18s who shouldn’t be at the party and are hiding downstage.

Young Kid #1:
I fear my friend we’re not as old perhaps as we should be
(Teletubby walks by with beer in hand) Maybe we should leave these sprightly things to their devices and quickly flee
Young Kid #2:
Indeed my friend, I fear that you are right. Here cometh the doorman, Bruno to escort us from this night.
[Bruno a bouncer comes and escorts them from the premises]
Enter DAVID, with JULIE and others from his Course, meeting the other party goers who are in his gang.
Welcome guys - and ladies that paint their toes and wear pretty reddish bows (laughing with the girls)
(Arrogantly) Which of you beauties will now dare deny a dance with me? A gentleman is I that bends the rules in this merry room of happy fools! (Laughing at other lads in the room)
Come, musicians, play!
A hall, a hall! give room! and dance everyone
The band plays, and they all dance.
(Complaining of the heat) More light, you jesters and joking-jovial lot, quench those lights, the room is grown too full of people!
Yes ‘tis true, ‘tis crowded in this little clubber’s land, but the crowd doth add to the party’ scene, but do not worry just raise your hand, and dance along with the lead-singer Dean!
I do too love this happy night and happy band with my beer in hand and glowing light (holding up a glow stick and stepping backwards and treading on a chap’s feet rather clumsily and spilling a little beer) – Peter motions as if to say sorry- and continues dancing.
(To Ross)Ross my boy this is our foe,
A villain that is hither come in spite,
To scorn our trainers on this night.
(Looking at shoe then pushing Peter)
Do you tread upon my shoe sir?
It appears I tread upon your shoe sir. But I did not intend to tread upon your shoe sir.
Ross’s gang gathers round him
But you do tread upon my foot sir, if not intended, you do still tread upon my foot.

We all tread Sir, why Elephants tread and birds tread when not in flight, and though mice tread with relatively little might we all are treaders here, relax my friend, come now let me buy you a beer.
(Angrily) I want not your beer, I want your shoes!
Come, come my friend, surely ‘tis no reason good to fight over something as small as a misplaced foot in misadventured flight?
(suddenly changing tune) Of course you are now most right my friend, no need to cry over such a silly bend of the rules that mock us in this club-land mist. I will of course now retire home to my bed and unclench my angry fist.
(To the rest of his gang)I will for now withdraw but this intrusion will not be forgotten. To Taxi rank my boys I’m sure we must now stride, our black-chariot-cabs await us now and to our homes confide.
[They go down stage and talk while Peter and the others party in the background]
What is this Ross? ‘Tis not like you, to take such lip from a clubber who, tread so deliberately upon your foot with beer in hand and cocky smile that sought to wipe ours off at least for a while.

Indeed my friend, im happy not!- ‘tis but a trick of mine while I fetch the lads to finish the job all proper so, and when ready we, in strong gang four, we will then show him exactly what we’re for. [They head back towards the party]
What is to be done for us to settle this even’s strife?
I will settle the score. I will draw this knife.
Now, by the stock and honour of our gang, To strike him dead, you would hold it not a sin?
For surely not, no sins would invade, my mind as I consider short this act. For you all as my gang you all made a promise, in this ancient bloody schoolyard pact.
(On seeing the gang approaching) I will not allow your anger on any part of this club so respect my wish and wipe off those frowns gentleman
(Taunting the gang) Do not worry my friends; if you are willing to fight us for such a folly-cause, then we will comply. We are merely guests. Fights we do not encourage but we can fight as strong as Bears.
It fits, when such a villain is a guest:
I'll not put up with him!
He shall be treated properly or leave this place!
Back down, we will not fight by choice, but if we need to then we will stand by our friend (dancing around like a boxer) and to this battle lend our dainty footwork and nimblest of moves! Hurrah!
(Talking to Julie) I know for sure that this cannot be right to use such horrible words from our own minds, to say to each other and then draw these wretched knives.

But we are here now
(Realizing that she recognizes one of the other gang)And this shall be folly as we are all related in some small though incremental way, on Facebook see!
(Pointing to one of the gang) And you are my brother’s wife’s Cousin yes!?
Gang Member:
(Pointing to someone else) And it would appear you know my Grandmother Jess!
Why do we fight then as sun comes up on new-born day?
Put down your knives and let us be
That we are united all in harmony.
We are not brothers of any sort? Surely not, this I cannot see? (approaching with knife)
(To one of the other gang)Hey you are the one who knows my Aunty Bee!
(to Mike who approaches with the knife) No need to fight then, and draw such wretched knives and draw good-blood and ruin lives –We could be the best and hey I know you, your sister's children attend the NinaLaZina drama workshops in Walthamstow!
Like ripples of a lake after stone-thrown deep, it blasts across a chasm, sweeps across families, friends and cities too – tis not surely worth’t to fight your brothers or your kin in such deadly and atrocious sin?
There are really links between us all.
It appears that there is no need to brawl
In futile and uncivil blood in which we stand
We are all friends after all.
We should not fight. There have been many who’ve fell
At the hands of these blades, do not say
That in the cold light of day that any of this is right?

Too true I suppose you are right my friend
Perhaps this is where we should make amends,
And put a stop to this deadly game
Of blood and violence and sinful shame
(They drop their knives and leave chatting and shocked by the news they all know each other)

The kids come back in:

Under 18# 1
Come, let's inside we go now to; the strangers all are gone!
(They go and grab two beers, sit on a table with Teletubby and ‘chink chink’ their beers)


A bright new peace this morning with it brings,
The sun for friendship will now show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these happy things.
All will be pardoned and no more bloodshed
For never was a story of more woe
Ended with such joy and friendship so


Top Children's Reading Books / Books For Children/ Invest ion Reading Books for Your Child and Create a Love of Reading

Reading is a wonderful self-fulfilling activity for all age groups. Reading with a parent/ carer will ensure that your child knows that reading is valued and enjoyed in your home. What ever effort your child makes read they should be praised and supported, no matter how small the effort is.

Click here for  for books for all ages 0  to 14 years old.

There are many well structured after school reading classes that help with children learning to read
 that aim to  draw the children to books. They help children with diction, idioms and  phrases. For young children, these classes can be fun with animated  characters and pictures.

Let your child know, through example, that hard work will be rewarded. If your child believes that achievement is a natural by-product of effort, he is more likely to put in hard work. Such children are also less likely to drop out of programs and college at a later stage. 

Reward success of reading:

When a child achieves something, it is necessary to praise there hard work. Positive reinforcements enhance confidence and increases self-esteem. Conversely, beware of criticism. It can ruin the frail ego of children/ teenagers and play havoc with their minds.

How Children Reading Helps with Math

Why is reading important?
Reading is not just important for subject English, it crosses over the entire school curriculum. Children  who enter secondary school with a below level reading age, find it difficult to access the school curriculum and this includes the math curriculum. In order to access and understand the curriculum children do need to be able to understand the vocabulary needed and have a good level of vocabulary.  Those  children who read well from an early age tend to do well across the entire curriculum. Whilst those who are below their age level for reading, struggle to engage with the curriculum

How to make your child love reading
When should a child start to read?
In my opinion all children should be introduced to books as soon as they can sit up and hold a book" They obviously will not be reading at one years old, but you can read to them and point to the words. By doing this your child will begin to read from a young age. Some children can read a few words from the age of four, some can by the age of three. The key is not to be restrictive. Read to them and enjoy stories together. Point to words as you read and you will be surprised at how quickly they will begin to read.

How children reading and maths are interlinked
Reading and maths are interlinked, just like the rest of the curriculum. As I stated above, those children who can read well tend to do well in all aspects of the secondary school curriculum. Maths requires students to understand the question and interpret information. If  they cannot read well, how can they do this. Research has found that a good maths students will also be a good reader. 

Don't make reading a test
Teaching your child to read does not just start with you teaching them. It starts with them gaining a love of looking, feeling and listening to books. Many parents make reading a quiz , a test of the child's ability. I don't think even an adult would like to be tested each time they read a book. Reading then becomes a source of anxiety for children. Reading should be a joint effort and fun. Something we do together. Reading should be enjoyable and something that children enjoy and want to do. 

Reading activities

In a world that is slowly but surely turning away from books and getting glued to monitors or television screens, the importance of developing a passion for reading cannot be overlooked. Reading is a habit and should be established when a child is relatively young. What can you do to foster
this habit?

Find a reading class: 
There are many well structured after school reading classes that aim to  draw the children to books. They help children with diction, idioms and  phrases. For young children, these classes can be fun with animated  characters and pictures. Illustrated picture books, rhymes, silly songs  and pretend stories all attract young children. Use creativity to capture the child's vivid imagination. Contact your local library.

Pique your child's interest in reading 

If your child has a favourite character, pick a series of books that features this character. For my son, it was Spider-man. Thanks to friendly neighbourhood spidey, my son latched on to comics fairly early in his childhood. Now, as a teenager he still reads comics! 

Build a home-library reading corner
A skill like reading cannot be learnt in isolation. Do not leave all the hard work to the school. Pick up books that you think your  child might like. The Internet is also a rich resource of reading games
that will attract little children to the fine art of reading.

To conclude:
Develop and guide your child's reading, so that they can access all areas of the curriculum in secondary school.  The relationship between successful exams and literacy is very closely related, so please make sure your child is given the gift of strong reading skills

15 February 2020

SEN Should not Limit your Child's ability to Achieve their Full Potential in Primary School

Fifteen years ago I decided to join a tutoring agency as I was interested in primary education. I had no previous experience apart from working as an assistant at a primary school, teaching my own children and limited knowledge of special educational needs ( SEN).
Learning Primary School Sen
When I started. A look back! 

 I researched tutoring agencies, joined one and within a week I was contacted by a keen parent!  I was so keen that I immediately purchased some primary school text books and a range of different teaching aids.

This parent wanted  one hour per week for their child who I shall call student B. I was thrilled to get my first appointment and I started researching lesson plans, course material and worksheets online.

I started teaching student B in September. However, after about 3 months, I realised that progress was slow. I would teach a topic and have to reteach the exact subject week after week - as their retention of the information was extremely low.  However, I persevered  and would challenge myself to get better and more creative ways to teach,  and I also adapted my lessons to suit Student B's personal needs.

We eventually started to make good progress and their mother and father were extremely pleased. A year later this child had to sit primary school exams. Again, I found it difficult to get student B to remember key facts and Student B struggled with the basic elements of maths and English, but I persevered and researched better and more productive ways to help.

Child B did the best they could and achieved a full pass for science and just under a grade for maths and English. Of course,  I was disappointed that they did not get the pass for all three subjects but was happy that they achieved almost average mark for maths and English. This was something we could work on.

When I attended the lessons after her results her mother was beaning about what child B had achieved. I was a little taken back as I felt her mother might be disappointed that student B did not achieve the pass grades which would deem her an average student. Student B'S mother informed me that they was thrilled with the success. It transpires the primary school had stated, for student B's entire primary school years, that been able to give them a grade as Student B's work did not even fulfil the minimum criteria. This means that the primary school were never able to give her a grade for individual tests.

Student B's mother did not expect her to even get a grade and would only ever had imaged that she would get a full pass for science and near passes for maths and English.

For me this was a lesson learnt. When I started teaching I was inexperienced so did not even consider asking about SEN. My concern was to deal with any issues and find a solution to them.  I never even considered this to be an issue. My issue were how was I to get student B to a standard that would be achievable and show that she had been learning and progressing . I did not make excuses for their  lack of understanding but endeavoured to find a solution to the problem.

Had student B's mother had told me about their special educational needs would I might have restricted the curriculum? Would I have given student B the rich,vibrant education that we both enjoyed and learnt from or would I have stated, 'poor student B they cannot do that'? I do not know, but what I do know is that we must not limit our children's progress. There will be topics within a subject they enjoy. To say my child is not good at maths is ridiculous. Maths is so vast it covers number, geometrically to algebra. Is this parent telling me that their child cannot even learn what different shapes are called?

Because of this experience, I never ever limit children. I teach a rich and vibrant curriculum and give all children a chance to shine in what they are good at. Yes, there will be topics which they find difficult but we can overcome that by teaching in bite size chunks or to a level appropriate for them.  Challenge and support  children and you will see a vast improvement in their education attainment and their self confidence.

My final words are:

1: Give every child the opportunity to study the vast range  topics
2: Do not use the label of SEN to stop a child from  achieving
3: Listen to the child and find out what they enjoy
4: The entire UK population has special needs! Okay, that's a bit of a hyperbole - but you know what I mean!  Some are more severe than other and I understand that some are so profound that they are limited in their educational achievement. However,  children should not be limited in their educational achievements. Give them the tools and patience to learn to the highest level attainable for them.

28 January 2020

Why Students Forget and How to Prevent it from Happening

Why Students Forget and How to Prevent it from Happening

Research in this area has pointed to several techniques that can help students remember information. Spacing out the study of a topic and self-testing and other exercises that retrieve information, often in small chunks, are the most effective. 

Why do children  forget what they have learnt?

1: If we do not learn a topic well enough and it does not get stored in our long term memory then we will forget what we have learned.

2: Sometimes when we learn a new topic it interferes with an old topic and we merge or cannot separate the two. This leads to misconception or misunderstanding. For example, students learn the rule for adding fractions with different denominators and then they try and use the same rule when they want to multiply a fraction. These two fractions have different rules and should be consolidated and remembered in order to answer a question.

3: We often forget topics when we do not use them. It is very important to use what we learn regularly to keep it in our long term memory. It happens to all of us. For example, if the student understands a topic very well, but fails to use it for months, then they are unlikely to remember it or be able to retrieve the information quickly.

4: Also, the students has to want to remember  it. They must not feel that they cannot remember it.
Even if they have a poor memory then they should make an effort to try and help themselves by using some of the  methods below:

  • Practice testing - Self-testing or taking practice tests covering material that has been covered.
  • Distributed practice - Implementing a schedule of practice on certain topics that spreads out study activities over time.
  • Elaborative interrogation - Asking students to provide an explanation for why a fact or concept is true.
  • Self-explanation - Explaining how new information is related to known information, or explaining steps taken during problem solving.
  • Summarization - Writing summaries of presented information.
  • Highlighting/underlining - Marking potentially important portions of materials while reading.
  • Keyword mnemonic - Using keywords and mental imagery to associate verbal materials.
  • Imagery for text - Attempting to form mental images of text materials while reading or listening.
  • Rereading - Restudying text material again after an initial reading.

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