What’s the best age to start teaching my child a language?

This is a question I get asked a lot – especially by parents who are holding new-born babies in their arms. My recommendation would be to start getting them accustomed to the sound of the language you have chosen straight away – not by engaging a home tutor, but by playing them a CD of nursery rhymes at least once a day.

Wait until they are at least 3-5 before you think about having a language tutor, and then consider making it a family learning experience rather than a lesson just for your child. This will make the experience less intimidating for your child, will enable you all to practise together in between visits from your tutor, and will help your child retain the language better.

REsources – Part 1 (General resources)

Last year I taught a lot of RE. It’s not my specialist subject (I’m an MFLer), it just worked out that way. When I was looking at the schemes of work for various year groups, I noticed that some stories seem to come up year after year. So how do you hold a child’s interest when you know that they’ve done this every year for the last three years? Equally to the point – when you’re teaching the same lesson in several different schools, how do you stop yourself getting bored so that you can present this to the children as something fresh and exciting? Ideally, you do something else, but as we all know – sometimes it’s a case of “It’s in the Scheme of Work therefore it MUST be done!” And if you’re self-employed it’s best not to argue with that.

One story in particular from last year was the Good Samaritan. I can remember hearing this story as a child – in school, in Sunday school, in church…. The teachers would choose some children to come and act the story out and the first time it was fun. The second time was OK. The third time it was boring and by the fourth time I just didn’t bother listening any more. With this in mind I knew I had to find something a bit different to cover the story. That’s where youTube came to my rescue. I know that in some schools YouTube is banned, but fortunately I’ve been working in schools that are forward-thinking enough to allow it. I found this lovely Lego story which the children really enjoyed – especially when all the lego men starting singing Kung Fu Fighting!

Another YouTube RE resource that I have to share is David and Goliath. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it, but I wish I had because it really made me laugh when I came across it. It’s the story of David and Goliath sung to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Related post: REsources – Part 2 (Christmas resources).

Look out for more Christmas specific posts in December. Why not follow this blog by email  or RSS to receive notification as soon as something new is added – you’ll find links for both on the right-hand  side of this page.

What Will I Do Next?

The last few weeks have been language-filled. Over the summer holidays I taught, alongside a colleague, on a subject knowledge enhancement course at Newman University. The aim was to take people from long-forgotten GCSE French up to AS/A’ level standard in just two weeks. It was fun. It was also exhausting! Most of all though, it was rewarding to watch the final presentations to see how far they had come in a fortnight.

After that there was just one weekend to switch off before starting my next job, which was a 7 week contract at the Blue Coat School teaching French to years 2 and 6 and Spanish to years 4 and 5. That certainly kept me on my toes as lessons of the same language weren’t always blocked together, and lessons were quite short so I had to switch backwards and forwards between French and Spanish very quickly. The school staff and children were all lovely and I shall miss working there.

Then over the half term holidays was the Language Show, followed by writing up notes on all the things I’d learned to I can put them into practise, and some proofreading for my husband, who is a translator.

So – what’s next? Well, first of all a “rest” – I shall “relax” by looking into 11+ tuition, catching up on my BSL homework and hopefully doing some further studies about dyslexia). After that….

I’ve had a few enquiries for French and Spanish GCSE tuition so I shall see if I can convert some of those enquiries to bookings.  I shall also be continuing with private tuition for maths and English SATs. I have a waiting list at the moment, so I shall take a few more of those on.

If possible I’d also like to get some work experience in a Deaf school to put my BSL to use, so I shall try to find somewhere to let me volunteer.

Other than that…I’m open to offers!

If you need a teacher or tutor for maths, English, languages or dyslexia teaching then contact me via my website.

Getting to Know a New Class

Getting to know a new class is always hard with all those names to learn, but usually a class teacher has time on their side. Time to carry out various “getting-to-know-you” activities with a class they will be seeing every day. When your main role is as a PPA teacher you have only a couple of hours to learn the names of 30 children that you won’t see again for another week, so you need one activity that will fix those names firmly in your mind.

My way is to tell a story in French. This immediately holds the attention of the children: in many primary schools languages are not taught and so for children this is a real novelty; in some schools languages are taught, but even so children are likely to have learned only words and phrases, and so the idea of a whole story in a foreign language is still a novelty.
Before I begin I promise the children that they will understand the story, and with the help of props and plenty of actions, I tell the story of a hat that was so small it got stuck on my head. The format of the story is the same as The Enormous Turnip, and I call the children out one by one to help me pull the hat off. Those who have been called out love swaying backwards and forwards as they try to pull the hat off. Those who are still waiting enjoy joining in with “We pulled…and we pulled….and we pulled….but the hat still wouldn’t come off.”

Each time I call another child up, I list the names of the ones already in line. By the time I get to the end of the story I have repeated the names so many times I know I won’t forget them.

The children always enjoy the activity so much that for the rest of the year whenever they see me they ask “Are we going to do French today?” and “Will you tell us that story again?” If you want to give it a try, you’ll find the transcript for the story on my website, www.sjbteaching.com – just click on the link at look at the free resources page.

For language teaching in the north Birmingham, Sandwell and Walsall areas, visit www.sjbteaching.com. For links to other interesting education related articles, come and Like my Facebook page.

Teaching the Times Tables

I’ve been tutoring maths for a number of years now. I’ve tutored boys and girls. I’ve tutored individuals and small groups. I’ve tutored children of all ages from very different social backgrounds. But they have all had one thing in common: none of them knew their times tables, and this was really hindering their progress in maths.

Of course I told them that they needed to know their tables off by heart, but their parents and teachers had already told them this. If it was that easy they would have learnt them already. So this year I have made it my mission to get all the children I tutor to learn all of their times tables.

To start with I created a desire to learn them. I made a colourful chart to show progress, and offered rewards of stickers for each of the tables that they learnt. But not just any old stickers – exciting, shiny ones that made their eyes light up when they saw them. The boys especially liked these football ones from Superstickers.

Now I had children who were desperate to learn their times tables. What next?

We took the tables one at a time and started by chanting them. When we had chanted them forwards a few times, we did them backwards, then odd numbers only and even numbers only to get used to the idea of knowing them out of order. After that it was a case of practise, practise, practise. The trick was finding enough different ways to practise the same thing so that the children didn’t get bored with it.

I made some sets of cards with the questions and answers so that we could play pelmanism, and these proved very popular. I encouraged the children to read aloud the question as they turned each card over, and to work out what answer they needed to match before turning over the next card. We also used the same cards to play snap, and a race against the clock game to match all up all of the question cards with their answers – trying to be faster each time.

Although the children loved all of these games, I was very aware that I couldn’t rely on the same sets of cards forever without the children thinking “Oh no – not those again!” and losing motivation. I looked around for some new ideas and found some lovely products on Sue Kerrigan’s let me learn website.

The turn table cards were recommended to me by the trainer on a dyslexia course I attended. They are designed for multi-sensory learning and are really good fun to play with. On one side of the card they have a question eg 2×3 and a picture of an array to show children what 2×3 looks like and to give them a visual clue. On the other side is the answer. The children say the question and answer aloud (hearing their own voice) and then turn over the card to see if they are correct. There is a video of how to use them here . I usually use them with one child at a time, focusing on one set of tables at a time, using them as shown in the video, and then doing races against the clock to beat their own personal time. However I have also used them with a group of children each working on a different set of tables. One group of girls I worked with recently, who were all working on the same set of tables, made up another game to play with these cards which they found great fun: all of the cards were put answer-side-up in the middle of the table. I called out a question and they had to grab the card they thought showed the correct answer. They turned the card over to see if they were right, and if they were, they repeated the question and answer and kept the card.  If they were wrong they replaced the card. The winner was the girl with the most cards when they had all been grabbed. All of the children I have used these cards with have really enjoyed it, and I’m sure there are many more games that can be invented using them.

I found the maths wrap while I was browsing the site, and just thought I would give it a go. It’s used for learning tables “in order”, but is great for kinaesthetic learners. Across the top is a strip with numbers 1 to 12. At the bottom is space to put a strip of one of the tables, each of which contains all the answers but jumbled. You have to chant the tables aloud, hunting for the correct answer along the bottom strip and then wrapping the string around the correct number each time. When you have finished you can turn it over to look at the pattern marked on the back. If the children have got all the answers correct, the pattern made by the string will match the pattern printed on the back of the card. When I bought it, I thought it might be one just for the girls, but actually the boys have enjoyed using it just as much. One of my Year 5 boys said “Every child should have one of these. They’re really cool!” I even had texts from two mums, because their sons had been talking so much about how much fun it was that they wanted to know where I got them from so that they could get them as stocking fillers.

As we progressed through the tables we looked at how few they had left. By using counters to demonstrate that for example 2×3 was the same as 3×2, we were able to colour code each new set of tables to show which ones they already knew and which ones were still to be learnt. They learned the easy ones (2x, 5x and 10x) first, which made the chart look less bare, and earned them some shiny stickers pretty quickly. Then they did 4x (easy because it was double 2s). 3x came next (tricky but the colour coding showed that they already knew 2, 4, 5 and 10 x3, so there where only half of them still to learn). Then 6x was easy because it was double 3s. By the time we came to the tricky ones like 7x, the progress chart was looking quite full, and the colour coding showed that they already knew 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10x 7, so all that was left was 7×7, 8×7 and 9×7. Suddenly the sevens didn’t seem so scary and the motivation continued.

Of course it took a long time, although considering the fact that I only see these children once a week it took less time than I expected. In September two of my boys didn’t know any of their times tables, not even 2x or 10x. They now know all of them. Not only do they know them off by heart, but they are able to apply them in all areas of maths, for example working with equivalent fractions. They immediately recognise numbers that are in their times tables which means their skills in division have improved. Their mental arithmetic skills have improved because they can multiply 6 by 7 straight away, instead of having to count up 7 lots of 6 on their fingers, so they have more time to think about what the questions are asking them to do with the information. They have both moved up a maths group at school and their confidence is higher. One of them said to me recently that he used to hate maths, but that he really loves it now. And that’s why I really love my job!

For maths and English tutoring in the north Birmingham, Sandwell and Walsall areas, visit www.sjbteaching.com. For links to other interesting education related articles, come and Like my Facebook page.

Related post: Teaching Number Bonds    A Multisensory Approach to Reading