Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter and the first day of Holy Week. It commemorates the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem at the beginning of the last week of his life.

He sent some of his disciples ahead to borrow a donkey, which he said they would find tethered just outside the city, and this is the animal he rode into Jerusalem on. His choice of a donkey was a symbol that you came in peace. Riding a horse would have been a symbol of warfare.

As he entered the City, People lined the streets waving palm leaves and laying down in front of him. Christians Mark this day with a church service, sometimes including a walk through the streets carrying palm leaves.

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Boxing Up

This is a technique I learned on a training course for 1:1 tutors, and it is designed to support pupils who find it difficult to come up with ideas and to structure their writing. An example in its most basic form would be using the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill.

boxing up 1




This boxes up into the simple story:

boxing up 2

This could become:

boxing up 3



This second story follows exactly the format of the first, but with enough details changed to make it a new story.

The source text can be carefully chosen to help with whatever the pupils are struggling with – eg a descriptive piece to help them use more adjectives, or to understand how to include similes and metaphors within a piece of writing.

This technique can be used as closely or loosely as needed to support the child, beginning by boxing up every few words, moving onto every sentence and finally every paragraph until the pupil is confident enough to structure a piece of writing unaided.

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How to Study Smart: 20 Scientific Ways to Learn Faster – Daniel Wong

Most of us have to learn something new at some point in our lives. Thankfully my GCSE, A level and BA days are behind me, but I still like to do short courses and if ever a fairy godmother dropped a fortune in my lap I’d love to do a Masters in the future.

These tips, which I found on the Open2Study Facebook page are for everyone who still has exams to pass. I especially like the one about taking notes with pen and paper, because I always feel more creative with a pen in my hand than a keyboard at my fingertips.

How to Study Smart: 20 Scientific Ways to Learn Faster – Daniel Wong.

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C is for Chinese

Chinese is like Arabic in that it is an umbrella term for several mutually unintelligible dialects. If all of these dialects are included, there are over 1 billion speakers of Chinese. The two most well-known dialects to people in the UK are Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin is the official language of China, Singapore and Taiwan; Cantonese is the official language of Hong Kong and Macau, although Mandarin is also an influential language here and is taught in schools. Mandarin is the language that people learn when they study Chinese as a foreign language.

The spoken language is tonal (ie the voice has to go up or down). Mandarin has four tones: up, down, up-down and flat. Some of the other dialects have many more tones. This is one of the reasons why Chinese is seen to be one of the more difficult languages to learn, because getting the tone wrong can change the meaning of the word! Most words are monosyllabic but there are some compound words.

There are two writing systems, traditional and simplified, which are written left to right. Traditional, obviously, is the original. Simplified was an attempt to improve literacy and has been around since the 1950s. As with spoken languages, there is a split by country between the traditional and simplified forms. Simplified is used throughout People’s Republic of China and Singapore; traditional is used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. The writing system is pictorial, but contrary to popular misconception it does have grammatical words as well as nouns and verbs.

Although often perceived as a difficult language there are some elements which make it easier, such as a lack of tenses and plurals.

Related posts: B is for Basque and Bable     D is for Dead Languages

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Shrove Tuesday

The word shrove comes from the Old English word shrive meaning penance. It’s the day before Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent a time of fasting. The date changes each year as it is dependent on the lunar cycle but it occurs 47 days before Easter Sunday.

Originally Shrove Tuesday was the day for using up all the eggs, butter and sugar left in the house before doing without during Lent. Now also known as Pancake Day, the day is a good excuse for eating pancakes! Traditional fillings are sugar and lemon juice, but you can go as plain or as exotic as you like. My personal favourite is banana and chocolate sauce, with just a touch of whipped cream on top!

The “proper” way to cook a pancake is to fry one side, and then to toss it in the air so that it flips over and catch it back in the pan to fry the other side. This method has led to pancake races where the competitors have to run and toss a pancake at the same time. First to cross the finish line with their pancake still intact and in the pan is the winner!

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B is for Bable and Basque

Each of the autonomous regions in Spain have their own language in addition to Spanish, which they call Castellano, or Castilian. The most well-known is Catalan, but that begins with C, so let’s look instead at Bable and Basque.

Bable is the language spoken in Asturias. Surprisingly, it is a Romance language even though the culture and heritage of the region is Celtic. Also known as Asturianu, it has around 100,000 native speakers and there are approximately 450,000 more who understand it or who have it as a second language. It is not an official language of Asturias, but it has protected status.

Bable was used in official documents in Asturias until 14th C and then disappeared gradually between 14th – 17th centuries although it was still spoken unofficially.

Basque also known as Euskara, is spoken in the Basque country which is the region to the west of the Pyrenees in north east Spain and south west France. It has between 500,000 and 700 000 speakers.
Basque is what is known as a ‘language isolate’ which means it is not related to any other language. This means it is most likely to be pre-Indo-European. The first written evidence of it dates to the 11th C.

Basque is not an official language of Spain, but it has co-official status in the Basque Country. It has no official recognition at all in France.

Related posts: A is for Arabic   C is for Chinese

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How I passed the QTS maths test – part 3

The second part is the more traditional pen and paper sort of maths. I found this section less intimidating than the first part, because although there was an overall time limit, it wasn’t a limit per question. I still had to work hard to get through it though.

I owe my success in this part to two men: Derek Haylock and my dad! I bought a copy of Derek Haylock’s Mathematics Explained for Primary Teachers and worked my way through it. It’s on the reading list for a lot of primary PGCE courses, but I’d also recommend it to secondary teachers worried about the skills test. You can often pick up second-hand copies on Amazon fairly cheaply.

I worked through the book cover to cover and almost everything fell into place. All those equations and theories and rules and numbers and letters that had seemed completely meaningless while I was at school, suddenly made sense. The writer has a really easy to read, easy to understand style, and he makes maths seem a lot less scary.

As I worked through the book, I made a note of anything I still wasn’t sure of. It was actually surprisingly little as the book was so good, but there were one or two things – box and whisker diagrams for a start! Then I gave my dad a copy of the book and my list, and he tutored me for one hour a week for about three weeks, by which time I was feeling confident.

Now not everyone is lucky enough to have my dad, but if you have family or friends who are good at maths you could ask them for the same help. The advantage of working through the book the way I did, means that you are able to ask for very specific, targeted help rather than having to say. “I just don’t get it. Teach me the whole of maths.” Obviously this means a financial advantage to you if you are considering a tutor because you won’t need to pay for as many sessions.

I know a lot of people hate the skills tests and question their necessity when you already have to prove you have a grade C or above at GCSE to get a place on a teacher training course. However I’m really grateful that I had to take it. It’s made me relearn my maths and I feel so much more confident than I ever used to. I also feel that it’s made me a better teacher. Having struggled for years, I can understand why people find it so hard, but having finally made sense of it I know there is a way.

If you feel you need one-to-one help to pass your skills tests, and you live in north Birmingham, get in touch to see how I can help you.

Related posts: Passing the QTS maths skills test – Part 1       Passing the QTS maths skills test – Part 2

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