I is also for… Inspiration

I is for...You never have it when you need it. You know how it is… your teacher says, “Describe it!” You think for a moment, before proudly saying, “Yellow!” and your teacher replies, “How yellow?”

You look around the classroom for something yellow and then in desperation say, “As yellow as this pencil.”

Hmmm. It’s not the best description is it? How about making an inspiration book to help? Find a notebook and write one adjective on each page, then have a look through magazines and cut out pictures for them. Try for 4 or 5 pictures for each one – but remember to ask for permission before cutting up other people’s magazines!
On my “yellow” page I have a daffodil, a canary, a newly-hatched chick, the sun, a buttercup and a banana. Now if someone asks me “how yellow?” I can tell them “buttercup yellow” or “as yellow as the sun.”

Your teacher won’t mind you using your inspirations book in the classroom as long as it is improving the quality of your writing.

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Why Don’t Children Read More? (part 3)

I tutor a couple of children who hate reading. I don’t mean they’d rather play football or computer games than read,  I mean they’d rather gargle saltwater than pick up a book. It’s always a challenge to find something that children like this will read.

I thought about getting them to read magazines or comics instead, but there doesn’t seem to be the same range of titles or quality of articles as there used to be.

I’m going to show my age now, but when I was younger there were age-appropriate magazines with a range of types of writing inside. For younger girls there was Girl, and for the older ones, Jackie. They had photo stories, full length written stories, page-long articles about how to apply make-up, problem pages. It wasn’t just the girly girls who were catered for. My friends and I used to read Shoot, which had interviews with all our favourite football players, discussions about tactics, a letters/opinions page…. There was also Look-in with features about TV shows and several comic strip stories.

I recently scoured the children’s magazine section of a large newsagents, looking for something suitable, but with only a couple of exceptions, there is nothing. I know that people get up-in-arms about the phrase ‘dumbing down’, but in my opinion that is what has happened to children’s magazines. The emphasis seems to be more on the free gifts than the content, which seems to consist of lots of photos of celebrities and/or footballers with a two-line caption under each one, and pages of word searches and spot the difference puzzles. I picked up magazine after magazine and found them all to be the same.

The only exceptions were First News and National Geographic for Kids. Both of these have interesting and informative articles of a reasonable length, with the quality of writing I want my pupils to be producing themselves. The two pupils I mentioned at the beginning of this piece have enjoyed both of these publications. If only there were more magazines of this calibre.

How can we ever hope to encourage our children to read more if we don’t provide them with good quality alternatives to books?

What about you? If you have found any good alternatives I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Q is for…

Q is for…Quality and Quantity. Why is this letter for two things? Because they are both important. In general, quality is more important – your teacher would rather see one page of good quality writing, where you have thought carefully about your word choice, used some different openers, and varied your punctuation, than several pages that are not very good. Quality rules!

However, if you only write four sentences, even if they are very good quality, your teacher won’t be happy because it’s not enough to show how fabulous you are. Quantity is important too. Try to write at least 3/4 page every time if you can. that way you can show off lots of your great vocabulary, prove that you can write in paragraphs, and show that you can write a beginning, a middle and an end.

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