Why should my child learn grammar?

Grammar is the way in which words are ordered to make sentences. Using grammar correctly allows us to be clearly understood by others. Grammar is also about how the meanings of words can change when they are used in different contexts: Did you feel afraid when you were watching the Blair Witch Project? No, I’m afraid I didn’t. Strong grammar skills aid both verbal and written communication and enable children to expand their vocabulary by discovering new and interesting ways to present information and communicate their ideas.  Here we share some other reasons why learning grammar is worthwhile.

Foreign languages

Learning English grammar helps children to learn other languages.  According to Richard Hudson and John Walmsley in their article, The English Patient: English Grammar Teaching in the Twentieth Century: ‘…to support foreign-language learning explicit instruction is an important part of grammar teaching and is easier if pupils already have some understanding of how their first language works’.[1]

In order to be able to progress in a foreign language beyond primary level it helps if children understand English grammar. For instance, if a child knows what a preposition, a verb or a conjunction is in English they will easily identify the foreign equivalent.  If they understand the structure of simple and compound English sentences, then that skill can be applied to a foreign language too.  

Speaking a foreign language is an invaluable skill and it is now a compulsory part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum. Proficiency in another language opens the door to understanding other cultures and appreciating their literature and their art. It also considerably enhances career prospects.

GSCEs

Poor grammar, spelling and punctuation will lose a student marks not only in their GCSE English examinations but also in other subjects too including geography and history. The earlier children get to grips with grammar the better their chances later.

Career prospects

If you have ever been in a position to open job application letters then you will know that English grammar is important.  How many letters composed by well qualified, talented people have been thrown in the bin because they were poorly written?  It may be unjust, but it is a fact. The job market is competitive and we need to give children every chance we can, and one way we can do this is by ensuring that their writing doesn’t undersell them.  First impressions count.

Creativity

Grammar supports creativity.  Whilst writing the first draft of a poem or story children write freely and spontaneously.  Afterwards, if they have some grammar knowledge they can return to their work and polish it.  They will know how to successfully convey their ideas to others, portraying the effects and evoking the emotions that they wish.   They will be able to add style, variety and individuality to their work because they can sculpt their raw material – words and sentences.  Grammar is a valuable writer’s tool.

Thinking skills

Grammar develops children’s thinking and investigative skills.  In order to understand it, children need to make logical connections such as classification, causation and time.  When grammar is taught through investigation of children’s existing knowledge it is a good foundation for scientific method.  Moreover, if taught in this way, grammar is interesting and enjoyable.  Children will develop a critical response to some of the ways that language is used every day.

Supporting your child

Anybody who went to school in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s received very little, if any, grammar instruction so it can be helpful to brush up so we can support our children. The best grammar books for clear, concise explanations are children’s books!  Junior Illustrated: Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Bingham and Alex Latimeris a fantastic starting point and very cheap to order on the Internet. 

Useful websites to explore are:

English Grammar Lessons, https://english-grammar-lessons.com/

Grammar Reference, The British Council: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference

If you feel you would benefit more from direct teaching, Cactus TEFL offers an online grammar course designed for those wishing to teach English as a foreign language, but it is beneficial for everybody: http://www.cactustefl.com/ela/

Making grammar exciting for children

Learning grammar should always be fun. Children learn best when they are excited and enjoying what they are doing.  We recommend:

Crickweb, http://www.crickweb.co.uk/ks2literacy.html

Education.com, https://www.education.com/games/grammar/

FunEnglishGames.com, http://www.funenglishgames.com/grammargames.html

Topmarks, https://www.topmarks.co.uk/english-games/7-11-years/spelling-and-grammar

How TutorMyKids can help

Grammar is confusing – the rules don’t always seem to make sense. Our specialist English Language tutors are experienced in helping children to understand this complicated area, raising the quality of their oral and written communication.  To find out more, contact us today: 01223 858 421, hello@tutormykids.co.uk


[1] The English Patient: English grammar and teaching in the twentieth century, Journal of Linguistics, Cambridge University Press, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-linguistics/article/english-patient-english-grammar-and-teaching-in-the-twentieth-century/97B51A21E50FD0960400C42C65CBF1A2

GCSE writing for a purpose: informal letter

In our last blog post we talked about writing a formal letter. Today we help you to write an informal letter by looking at the differences between formal and informal letters and showing you an example of an informal letter.

Formal letters are addressed to people you don’t know – they are appropriate for job applications, letters to newspapers etc. Informal letters, on the other hand, are written to people you know well – friends and family.

Let’s start with an example of an informal letter:

Your friend is considering taking part in a clinical trial to earn some money. Write a letter to your friend to express your opinion.

Dear Lucy,

              When I saw on Twitter that you’re thinking about getting involved in a clinical trial to make some money I was totally gobsmacked! Please don’t do it! I know that money is tight and you’re having problems paying your rent but letting somebody pump your body with an untested drug is really stupid.

              You’re one of my closest and oldest friends and I can’t just sit back and watch you do this without saying something. Why are you risking your health for a little bit of money? I know you think it’s easy money but it isn’t!  Think what the long-term consequences could be for your health! Can’t you just get a job like everybody else? I saw that there were a few people on Twitter encouraging you, but please don’t listen. They don’t care about you; they just want to be entertained at your expense. They will soon change their tune if things go wrong.

              Do you know what you’re getting yourself into? These drugs have NEVER been tested on people, only mice. You will be a human mouse. They even make you sign a contract so you can’t sue them if things go wrong. Does that really seem safe to you? “Just sign here and then I’ll stick this giant needle into your arm.” Sounds great doesn’t it?

              What about the side effects too? Did you think about those? You could have a heart attack or anything. What about your family and your friends? How are they going to feel when you’ve made yourself ill for a bit of money? It just isn’t worth the risk is it? You feel as fit as a fiddle now, but will you when the clinic has finished with you?

              Please just find a job. I know it doesn’t sound that exciting and the money doesn’t seem as ‘easy’ but it’s much better than the alternative. Work in a bar or a club and then you will just get paid to socialise! Seriously, think long and hard before you decide. Long-term health risk vs. quick money – I know what I would choose! Give me a ring to talk about it.

                             See you soon,

                             Karen

Language

The language used in informal letters differs from formal letters. In informal letters we use:

  1. Colloquial words/expressions

Everyday language which includes slang and regional expressions eg. ‘gobsmacked’.

2. Contractions

‘Don’t’, ‘doesn’t’ etc.

3. Abbreviations

Shortened forms of words and phrases  – eg., etc., vs.

4. Clichés

These are over-used phrases like, ‘fit as a fiddle’.

5. Imperative voice

The imperative voice is a command or request – ‘Please don’t do it!’

6. Active voice

This is when the subject of the sentence is the person or thing performing the action.

7. Short, simple sentences and exclamation marks.

Short, simple sentences are used in informal letters. In formal letters sentences are longer and more detailed.

8. Exclamation marks

Used in informal letters, but don’t overuse them otherwise the letter becomes comical rather.

Vocabulary

Use informal vocabulary: ‘help’ rather than ‘assistance’, ‘buy’ rather than ‘purchase’, ‘need’ instead of ‘obtain’, ‘thinking’ instead of ‘considering’, and so on.

Use phrasal verbs appropriately

Here are some examples:

Formal: Clinicians did a test.  Informal: Clinicians carried out a test.

Formal: We must eradicate bullying. Informal: We must stamp out bullying.

Formal: We should maintain standards. Informal: We should keep up the standards.

Formal: Let us organize a meeting. Informal: Let’s set up a meeting.

Salutation and valediction

There are differences between the ways you can begin and end formal and informal letters:

Formal: Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Mr Stevens. Informal: Dear Rebecca.

Formal: Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully. Informal: All the best, See you soon, Best wishes or Regards

Would you like support with GCSE English Language?

TutorMyKids offer GCSE and IGCSE English Language tuition. All our tutors are experienced, professional, and have a passion for their subject. They have expert knowledge of exam board requirements and a thorough understanding of the curriculum.

To discuss how we can help you to prepare for your exams, get in touch with us today.

GCSE writing for a purpose: formal letter

In our second English Language blog post we talk about writing a formal letter to express a point of view. Here is an example of the sort of question you might see in your exam:

Many people prefer to spend their holidays in Great Britain rather than travel abroad. Write a letter to a magazine editor giving your opinion on this topic.

Here’s a sample answer:

Dear Mr Smith,

              After reading several articles in your magazine which suggest that it is unethical to travel abroad, I felt compelled to express my contrasting point of view. As a child I spent many happy summer holidays in Wales and Scotland and I love rambling in the countryside, but I cannot agree that we should all stop taking holidays abroad.

              One argument put forward is that air travel is detrimental to the environment. However, a single flight abroad just once a year is inconsequential compared to the millions of tonnes of pollution pumped into the atmosphere by coal power stations around the world. I am not a global warming sceptic; in fact I passionately believe that we are facing a climate emergency. My electricity at home is generated by solar power and I vigilantly recycle my waste daily. Considering all my efforts, surely I should be allowed to take one holiday abroad a year?

              Having spent every childhood holiday listening to the rain hammering on a caravan roof I think I have earnt the right to lie on a beach somewhere soaking up the sun, and swimming in a crystal clear (pollution-free) sea. In all honestly, who wouldn’t prefer to do so? According to a government survey one in five people in Britain today are vitamin D deficient. Therefore, a week in the sun is important for our emotional, mental and physical health.

              Spending time abroad also opens our minds. It allows us to meet different people and to experience new cultures. Our horizons are broadened by visiting famous sites like the pyramids, the Statue of Liberty and the Amazon rainforest. Only by experiencing the world first-hand can we truly appreciate its wonders. I’ve learnt about volcanoes from visiting Mount Vesuvius, and Roman history by visiting the Coliseum. Learning from books and the internet just isn’t quite the same. Moreover, many countries rely on tourism. What will happen to their economies if tourism is taken from them?

              I appreciate that air travel has an environmental cost which is why I choose to travel just once a year. Foreign travel makes a huge difference to myself and to my whole family. I will never forget the look on my mother’s face when she fulfilled a lifetime dream and climbed to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge. The memories I have from travelling abroad are priceless, and I would encourage your readers to keep expanding their horizons by travelling both inside and outside Great Britain whenever possible.

Yours sincerely,

Nicola Higgins                              

When writing a formal letter like this you need to include the following:

  1. Addresses

In the top right hand corner write your address and then leave a space before writing the date underneath. The date should be in long form eg. ‘July 14th, 2020’ rather than ‘14/07/20’.

Just below your address, on the left hand side of the page write the name of the person you are sending the letter to, their job title and their address.

For the exam, you can make up both addresses. Make sure you use capital letters for proper nouns.

2. Salutation

This is the greeting. In the sample letter here we’ve written ‘Dear Mr Smith’, but if you didn’t know the person’s name you would write ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

3. Complimentary close

Sign off your letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ if you know the name of the person (as in the sample letter), and ‘Yours faithfully’ if you’ve stared the letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.  Sign the letter with your signature, and beneath your signature write your name eg. ‘Nicola Higgins’.

4. First paragraph

In the first paragraph of your letter clearly state your point of view and use a tone that is more formal than your everyday language. Do not use contractions (don’t, I’m, can’t, it’s) or vague words like ‘good’ and ‘nice’. Always be respectful and polite even if you are writing a letter of complaint.

5. Use persuasive techniques

When expressing a point of view check that you have used at least 6 of the following techniques:

  • Anecdotes
  • Comparison
  • Counter argument
  • Direct address (‘I’)
  • Emotive language
  • Facts
  • Imagery (simile/metaphor)
  • Opinions
  • Repetition
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Statistics
  • Triples

How many different techniques can you spot in the sample letter?

6. Final paragraph

In the last paragraph of your letter restate your point of view as strongly as you can using a persuasive technique and suggest a course of action.

Read the final paragraph of the sample letter. Has the writer’s point of view been restated effectively? What persuasive techniques are used? What course of action is suggested to the editor?

Do you need help with GCSE English Language?

TutorMyKids offer GCSE and IGCSE English Language tuition. All our tutors are experienced, professional, and have a passion for their subject. They have expert knowledge of exam board requirements and a thorough understanding of the curriculum.

Whether you are struggling with a particular aspect of English Language or need more in-depth tuition, please get in touch to discuss your needs.

What are learning gaps and how can a tutor help?

Learning gaps are the difference between what a student is expected to have learnt by a specific point in their education and what they have actually learnt. For example, by the end of Year 2 most children are expected to have reached Gold band reading level. However, if a child is placed on Gold band reading books before they can read the Year 1 high frequency words and sounds then this will slow their progress further because they will be wasting time staring at pages they cannot read. In maths, if a young child is unable to count backwards they will struggle with subtraction later on. 

Learning is like a child’s wooden block tower – each block builds upon the last. If a block is missing from the tower then it is hard for a student to progress.

What causes learning gaps?

Learning gaps are caused when a student is pushed on to the next level of learning before they’ve fully grasped what came before. 

Learning gaps occur for all different reasons, for example:

  • A student has missed a lesson due to illness or other circumstances.
  • The student cannot focus in class due to bullying, difficult circumstances inside or outside school, or lack of confidence in the subject.
  • The teacher didn’t cover the concept adequately for the student.
  • The pace of the lesson was too fast for the student.
  • The teacher thought the student understood the concept because they mechanically followed the steps but they didn’t really understand what they were doing.
  • The student didn’t master the concept well enough to be able to apply it.

How are learning gaps identified?

If a student is struggling, a teacher or tutor will need to carry out a diagnostic assessment to find out whether there is a learning gap and the nature of the gap.  For instance, if a child seems to be having difficulty in a particular area of maths a quiz is a useful starting point.  Analysing the child’s maths books and talking to them directly will also help to pinpoint problems.

How should a learning gap be addressed?

The only way to address a learning gap is to specifically provide instruction to fill the gap. This could include revisiting activities and topics from previous units and previous years.  Material may need to be presented in a different way than it was before bearing in mind the particular student’s preferred learning styles, and the pace of teaching may need to be slower. The student will need plenty of opportunity to ask questions in order to address misunderstandings. They will also need opportunities to apply their knowledge to a variety of situations so that understanding is secure.

At school, ideally the teacher would find time outside the classroom to provide individual instruction. In the classroom environment, the teacher would need to adapt the content of new material so that the student with a gap can access it as well as those who have a more through grounding. In maths, this could mean using smaller numbers and more straightforward problems so that the struggling student isn’t handicapped by their lack of understanding of prior material. 

How long does it take to close a learning gap?

It depends upon the nature of the learning gap and how soon it is addressed. It can take a week or several years. The quicker a gap is identified the less of a knock-on effect there will be for the student. Once a student falls behind, it’s a difficult cycle to break.

How can TutorMyKids help?

One-to-one tutoring by a qualified teacher is the most effective way of addressing a learning gap. A private tutor can adapt teaching to meet a student’s specific needs.  They can personalize instruction to suit a particular student’s level, pace and unique learning styles – something that’s very difficult for a teacher in a busy classroom to achieve.

Equally importantly, students tend to be more comfortable to talk to a tutor about their difficulties than they are to draw attention to themselves in a classroom.  By talking they become partners in their learning, asking the questions necessary to further their understanding.

At TutorMyKids we know that learning gaps should be addressed as quickly as possible through regular and rigorous teaching.  For fast, effective tuition call us today on 01223 858421 or email: hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Pop, Bang! 6 super-simple science experiments

It’s World Science Day on 10th November.  Part of the purpose is to highlight the relevance and importance of science in our daily lives. 

Here we’ve compiled six of our favourite experiments.  They’re really easy to follow and you will find all of the ingredients in your kitchen cupboard or local supermarket.

Go ahead and stoke the fire of enthusiasm by amazing your child with the magic of science!

Animated Stickman

You will need:

Dry wipe marker pen

Glass bowl or plate

Water

Instructions:

  1. Draw a stickman on the plate or the bottom of the bowl with the dry wipe marker.
  2. Slowly pour water into the bowl or onto the plate and watch the stickman slowly rise.
  3. Gently swirl the water around to see the stickman move.

What happened?

Marker pen ink contains alcohol and different pigments.  The alcohol dissolves leaving behind the pigments as a solid.  The solid slides about when the glass gets wet because glass is so smooth.

Bag Explosion

You will need:

Bicarbonate of soda

Cellotape

Mixing bowl

Tablespoon

Toilet paper

Vinegar

Ziplock bag

Instructions:

  1. Make a bicarbonate of soda pouch by putting one tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda on a square of toilet paper.  Fold the toilet paper and cellotape closed so that the bicarbonate of soda doesn’t leak out of the sides.  Don’t overdo the cellotape though!
  2. Pour 75ml vinegar into the ziplock bag.
  3. Zip the bag so it is almost closed, but there is enough of a gap to fit the bicarbonate of soda pouch in.
  4. Insert the pouch into the bag but don’t let it touch the vinegar.
  5. Zip the bag tightly shut.
  6. Carefully place the bag in the mixing bowl.
  7. Swish the bowl about to mix the chemicals and watch what happens.

What happened?

When vinegar and bicarbonate of soda mix they react to produce carbon dioxide, water and sodium acetate.  The carbon dioxide builds up and is trapped in the bag and so the bag explodes!

Fizzing Snowballs

You will need:

Bicarbonate of soda

Pipette

Tablespoon

Teacup

Vinegar

Water

Instructions:

  1. Fill the teacup 1/3 with bicarbonate of soda.
  2. Gradually add water to the teacup until the bicarbonate of soda forms a compact snowball.
  3. Place the snowball in the freezer overnight.
  4. Take the snowball out of the freezer.
  5. Pipette drops of vinegar onto the snowball to see it fizz.

What happened?

When vinegar (an acid) is added to bicarbonate of soda (a base) they react to produce carbon dioxide.  Change the experiment by warming the vinegar before squirting it onto the snowball.  You could also try freezing the vinegar instead of the bicarbonate of soda and sprinkling the bicarbonate of soda onto the vinegar. 

Lava Lamp

You will need:

Alka Seltza tablet

Clean, empty lemonade bottle

Food colouring

Torch

Vegetable oil

Water

Instructions:

  1. A quarter fill the bottle with water.
  2. Fill the rest of the bottle up, almost to the top, with vegetable oil.
  3. Add a few drops of food colouring.
  4. Drop half of the Alka Seltza tablet into the bottle.
  5. Turn off the light and shine a torch at the bottle as you watch the lava fizz!

What happened?

You will notice that the oil floats on top of the water – that’s because oil is less dense than water.  The food colouring sinks through the oil and mixes with the water because it is the same density as water.  The Alka Seltza tablet dissolves producing carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide is lighter than water and so it floats to the top bringing some of the coloured water with it.  When the carbon dioxide is released from the coloured water the water becomes heavy again and sinks.  This process repeats until the Alka Seltzer tablet has completely dissolved.

No-pop Balloon

You will need:

Balloon

2 pieces of cellotape about 6cm long

Sharp needle

Instructions:

  1. Blow up the balloon.
  2. Make a cross shape on the balloon by sticking the two pieces of cellotape.
  3. Stick the needle into the centre of the cross and leave it there.

What happened?

The cellotape stops the balloon from popping quickly.  What causes a balloon to pop is not the sudden release of air but the widening of the hole.  As the balloon’s hole gets bigger the balloon rips and pops. The cellotape slows down this process.  You can try experimenting with different sized balloons and different sorts of tape to compare what happens.

Storm

You will need:

Food colouring

Dessert spoon

Pint glass

Teacup

Shaving foam

Water

Instructions:

  1. Half fill the pint glass with water.
  2. Spray shaving cream onto the water until the glass is 3/4 full.
  3. Spread the shaving cream evenly over the top of the water with your finger so that it’s flat.
  4. Half fill the teacup with water and add 10 drops of food colouring.
  5. Add the coloured water, spoonful by spoonful, to the shaving cream and watch a storm form under the foam!

What happened?

Like the shaving foam in the glass, clouds in the sky hold onto water.  When the water gets too heavy for the clouds it falls out (precipitates) as rain, hail or snow. 

Does your child need extra help with science?

TutorMyKids can put you in touch with an experienced science tutor who can help your child to understand tricky concepts and rekindle their enthusiasm.  To talk about your child’s requirements, please call us for a chat.

10 stress-busting tips for students

The 6th November is International Stress Awareness Day which focuses our minds on caring for our emotional wellbeing.

Most students at one time or another suffer from stress.  This can be due to workload and deadlines, exams, family expectations, social problems, relationship issues, money worries – so many reasons. 

A little bit of stress is good.  It can motivate you to prepare for exams, for example.  However, too much stress can cause anxiety, depression, and other health issues.  That’s why it’s important to learn to manage stress effectively. 

There will always be stressful times in your life, so stress management is an important life skill to master now.

  1.  Sleep

Sleep is number one on the list because students are famous for late nights!  You need between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night to be productive, focused and safe.  However, if you are feeling stressed then it’s much harder for your brain to shut down so from this respect sleep should be last. 

The main thing is to avoid too many late nights and to keep a consistent sleep pattern.  Go to bed early and read or listen to gentle music for an hour or so to switch off.  If you can’t sleep don’t obsess about it because, of course, this makes the problem worse.  Anybody who has cared for a small baby will tell you that months and even years without adequate sleep is not ideal but will not kill you!

For more about sleep see: Why is sleep important for academic success?

2. Exercise

For your mind and body to function effectively you need regular exercise.  Exercise helps you to concentrate and it improves memory and general cognitive ability as well as lifting your mood and improving your sleep. 

Choose exercise you enjoy so you’re more likely to do it.  If you like to dance, join a class.  If you want to lift weights, join a gym.  Find a gym that runs from a school or leisure centre and doesn’t require you to be locked into an expensive contract.

Meet a friend and go for a jog.  For those who want a challenge check out Couch to 5K.  You could take regular brisk walks combined with a high-impact exercise DVD that raises your heart rate.  If you’re time poor search the internet for 15 minute exercise routine programmes.

Intensive exercise before bedtime can make it difficult to sleep, so stick to Yoga or stretches in the late evening.

3. Healthy eating

Your diet can sap your energy or boost your brain.  A balanced diet is made up of carbohydrate, protein, fruit and vegetables.  Include some of each with every meal.  Here are some examples.

Carbohydrates: brown rice, wholemeal bread, potatoes cooked in skin, wholewheat pasta, low sugar breakfast cereal, oats.

Protein: eggs, fish, read meat, beans, lentils, poultry, milk, cheese, yoghurts.

Fruit and vegetables: carrots, tomatoes (fresh or tinned), frozen peas (and other veg), salad vegetables, onions, peppers, oranges, apples, bananas, pears, grapes, tinned fruit in unsweetened juice.

Food doesn’t have to take long to prepare.  Beans or sardines on toast, boiled eggs, jacket potatoes and vegetable-based pasta dishes are quick and easy. 

Avoid takeaways and fast foods.  Cook from scratch by finding yourself a student cookbook.  Don’t deprive yourself of treats though – all in moderation!

4. Relaxation techniques

There’s a book called 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom by Tammie Prince which, although not aimed at students, contains a wealth of easy-to-follow and very effective relaxation techniques that are great for everybody.

The techniques in the book draw upon the following:

  • Breathing
  • Active meditation
  • Guided meditation
  • Mindful walking
  • Positive thinking
  • Yoga

The internet has a wealth of information about each of these too.  See Relaxation coping skills – activities to help kids calm down at home and at school.

5. Do what you love!

What makes you happy?  Is it socialising with friends?  Being immersed in a craft project?  Playing basketball?  Whatever you love doing, make time for it alongside your studies.  Remember to have a work-life balance.  If you do you will feel:

  • More motivated and therefore more productive in your studies
  • Have higher self-esteem
  • Happier and friendlier towards others.

6. Listen to music

Music has many benefits.  It can:

  • Help you to concentrate by making you feel calmer.
  • It can inspire creativity, getting your ideas going.
  • Make you feel better.  When you enjoy music your brain releases a chemical called dopamine which lifts your mood.
  • Motivate you to exercise.  Running, spinning or dancing to music keeps you going!
  • Be sociable.  There’s nothing like a shared love of music to bond friends.

7. Think positively

Negative thinking can be paralysing.  It can stop you from moving forward in life and achieving your goals.  Thinking positively boosts confidence, makes you feel happier and reduces stress levels. 

But what is positive thinking and how do you achieve it?  See the NHS Moodzone (below) for ways to manage unhelpful thinking habits.  Also see 7 practical Tips to achieve a positive mindset.

8. Explore Moodzone!

The NHS provides free mental well-being podcasts to help young people who are feeling low or anxious.  Each podcast gives simple advice to boost your mood.  There’s a mood self-assessment to help you to choose which guide will help you the most.  You will find:

  • Anxiety control training
  • Overcoming sleep problems
  • Low confidence and assertiveness

9. Manage your time

Create a study timetable and stick to it as far as you can.  Make sure the timetable is realistic.  It’s vital to rest, exercise and socialise too.  Remember that work can often take longer than you think it will so be kind to yourself when you’re planning.  Set yourself up to succeed.

Choose the best place to study.  Where are there fewest distractions?  Where are you less likely to daydream and procrastinate?  Some people study better when there is a buzz around them and others prefer quiet.  Be honest about which one is you.

10. One step at a time

When you’re on top of your studies you will feel more relaxed.  Sometimes you might feel like you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start.  This becomes a vicious cycle because then you’re too frightened to begin and so the mountain becomes a daunting climb.

So take small steps.

Decide what you want to (realistically) achieve today.  Don’t work for more than 40 minutes in one stretch.  Take 10 to 15 minute breaks with an hour for lunch. 

At the end of the day reflect upon what you’ve achieved.  If you need help from your tutor because you’re grappling with a difficult concept then get help as soon as you can.  Don’t allow any difficulties to become road blocks.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your studies?

If you feel you need extra help TutorMyKids can find you an experienced, qualified local tutor who will support and motivate you with your studies.  We offer tuition in the evenings, on weekends and during the holidays. 

Whether you need regular tuition or short-term, intensive revision sessions please get in touch.

Why use a tutoring agency to find a tutor?

It can be cheaper to hire a private tutor directly, so why should you use a tutoring agency?

The biggest reason is that tutoring in the UK is unregulated.  Anybody can set themselves up as a tutor.  They don’t need to have formal qualifications, experience or be particularly skilled in the area they teach.  Tutors working alone cannot process their own DBS check (a DBS check is carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service and is a record of a person’s criminal convictions and cautions).  In order to obtain a DBS check tutors working alone need to go through an organisation such as the Tutors’ Association, but many choose not to join because individual membership is costly.

Should I use a private tutor directory website?

Private tutor directory websites are created all the time and they have thousands of tutor profiles you can browse.  On the face of it that sounds brilliant, but there are significant drawbacks:

  • Many websites list tutors from all over the country and don’t specialise in your particular locality, which means you have to sift through a lot of profiles to find a skilled, local tutor.
  • Not all directory websites undertake DBS checks making it easy for criminal offenders to slip in unnoticed.
  • Most directory websites do not interview tutors face-to-face.  This wouldn’t happen in any other professional field – especially one involving children!  Personal interviews are a vital aspect of the selection process. 
  • If you’re unhappy with your tutor, a directory website will take little or no responsibility for the problem. 

Why use a tutoring agency?

  • Your tutor will have been properly vetted saving you having to ask awkward questions about DBS checks, references and qualifications.  A reputable agency will follow safe recruiting practices by:
    • Obtaining DBS Certificates and reviewing them annually.
    • Obtaining references from previous employers as well as personal references.
    • Verifying qualifications.
    • Interviewing tutors face-to-face.
  • Your child will receive a higher standard of tuition because you will be assigned a tutor who is specifically matched their needs.  When matching tutors and students consideration is given to:
    • Whether the tutor is qualified to teach the subject at the student’s level and beyond.
    • The tutor’s and the student’s personalities.
    • How well the tutor can tailor their teaching to the student’s learning styles.
  • Tutors must agree to follow the agency’s quality standards.  If they do not follow best working practices the agency will act because their reputation depends upon the quality of their home tuition service.
  • Your tutor will be local making it easier to organise regular tutoring sessions at a time that suits you.  They may also have taught at schools in your local area. 
  • If your tutor is ill or on holiday, an agency can find you another tutor to at short notice.

Why choose TutorMyKids?

TutorMyKids is a premium home tuition service, so in addition we:

  • Meet you and your child at home to discuss specific learning requirements and to answer any questions that you have.  This consultation is free of charge.
  • Liaise with your child’s teacher to identify areas of need so that we work with them to ensure your child reaches their full potential.
  • Find you a local tutor.  We specialise in providing maths, English, humanities and language tuition in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.
  • Match your child to a well-qualified, experienced tutor.  With a few exceptions, all of our tutors are qualified teachers working in UK schools.
  • Match you with a tutor who is:
    • up-to-date with the current syllabus;
    • has high learning expectations for all students;
    • organised and prepared so that lessons are structured, active and engaging;
    • able to adapt their teaching to keep motivation levels high;
    • able to form a positive, warm relationship with your child to ensure they achieve;
    • committed to communicating with you after every lesson to discuss your child’s progress and next steps.
  • Provide tutoring in your own home, unless you specify otherwise, so that your child feels secure and comfortable.
  • Talk to you regularly about how your child’s tuition is going, so that if any adjustments need to be made then action can be taken.

Qualified teacher and founder of TutorMyKids, Rachel Law, is committed to helping all children to reach their full potential.  Rachel only selects private tutors who share her dedication to achievement.  

To find out how TutorMyKids can help your child, please get in touch for a free consultation.

Encouraging-reluctant-readers-by-taking-reading-outdoors.

How can you encourage your child to read?  According to research conducted by King’s College London, most children learn better outdoors.  They feel more curious, motivated, and happy to concentrate when they’re outside.  

Share stories under a tree, in a tent, on a picnic blanket or snuggled up in a pile of cushions and blankets.  With a bit of preparation you can go out whatever the weather. The worse the weather, the more exciting it can be!

Find stories and non-fiction books your child will love by browsing together at the library, and by picking out books that you think they will enjoy.  Extend your child’s reading with activities linked to books, and join in with activities yourself – enjoyment and enthusiasm are infectious.

Here are some examples of how to get your child interested in reading through story themes.   

Potions

Picture books:

Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski

Potion Commotion by Peter Bently and Sernur Isik

Paperbacks:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

Activity

The child makes a magic potion by mixing natural ingredients (stones, soil, weeds, leaves) with water.  Add a sprinkle of bicarbonate of soda and a dash of vinegar for a magical fizz. Encourage the child to jot down the ingredients on a sparkly notepad as they go.

Once the potion is made, the child writes a recipe, giving it a name e.g. ‘Invisibility Potion’, ‘Wishing Juice’.    The child reads their recipe to you. If you have written a recipe too, you can swap and read each other’s.

Monsters

Picture books:

Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman

Not Now Bernard by David McKee

Paperbacks:

Fing by David Walliams and Tony Ross

Tom Gates: What Monster? By Liz Pichon

Activity

Make a monster by pressing clay onto a tree and adding natural materials for features.  The child writes a fact card for their monster detailing the monster’s name, age, special powers, what it looks like, what it eats, where it lives, and what it likes to do.  Ask the child to read their fact card (and yours too, if you have joined in).

Picnics

Picture books:

Florentine and Pig Have a Very Lovely Picnic by Eva Katzler

The Teddy Bears Picnic by Gill Guile

Paperbacks:

The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Activity

Support the child to read and follow instructions from a children’s cookbook to make picnic treats (Florentine and Pig contains recipes).  Write a picnic shopping list together and, as you shop, encourage the child to read and follow their list.  

Before the picnic, the child writes invitations to toys or friends.  After the picnic give the child an attractively presented thank you letter from a guest (the letter should be at the child’s reading level).   

Gentle Giants

Picture books:

George’s Amazing Adventures: Jellybeans for Giants by Adam & Charlotte Guillain

The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Paperbacks:

The BFG by Roald Dahl

The Gentle Giant by Michael Morpurgo

Activity

Outside, hide a letter from the story giant.  The letter should provide details about the giant and its life and also ask the child questions about themselves.

The child finds the letter by following props or footprints relevant to the story.  For instance, The Smartest Giant in Town props could be a trail of discarded clothes.

Once the child has read the letter, they write a reply to the giant.

Treasure!

Picture books:

Mr Men: Adventure with Pirates by Roger Hargreaves

The Pirates of Scurvy Sands by Jonny Duddle

Paperbacks:

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Scarlet Silver: Swashbuckle School by Sarah McConnell and Lucy Courtenay

Activity

Write and hide clues that lead the child to hidden treasure (perhaps chocolate coins).  Make the clues descriptive, incorporating some directional language: ‘Turn right by the garden table and walk towards the flower bed’.  For extra engagement, write some clues in secret writing.    

Once the child has completed the treasure hunt, they could create one for you to follow!

What else can you do to encourage a reluctant reader?

At Tutor My Kids we believe that with the right support reluctant readers can be inspired to read for pleasure.  

  • Set an example.  If your child sees that you love reading, they soon will too.
  • Read to them.  They are likely to appreciate exciting stories that are above their current reading level.
  • Motivate children through their interests.  Encourage them to choose books independently, and at the same time introduce them to books you think they will enjoy.

Remember, writing is everywhere – indoors and outdoors.  It’s on signposts, labels, instructions, cereal boxes, flyers and so on.  Wherever they are, encourage your child to engage with the written word and they will soon be a fluent, interested reader.

How-long-should-my-child-have-a-tutor-for?

How long you engage a tutor for will very largely depend upon the outcome or purpose of the tuition and the academic starting point of your child. Tutor My Kids provides tutors in Ely, Cambridge and surrounding areas and work with a huge variety of students from age 6 to 18.

Purpose and outcomes of tuition

There are many reasons that you might choose to engage a tutor to work with your child. It might be because of upcoming exams where you’ll need a GCSE tutor to support your child through the exams, or following a dyslexia or dyscalculia screening or assessment or concerns raised by your child’s school teacher that they’re below expectations for their age. The length of time that you work with a tutor can vary hugely, depending on the reason for seeking help in the meantime.

For GCSE tuition, we tend to suggest that year 10 is a good time to start looking at this. It’s not unusual at Tutor My Kids for all our GCSE tutors in key subjects to be fully booked by September of the year preceding the exams, so it’s good to think about this sooner rather than later. It may be that in fact, your child doesn’t actually need help until year 11, but by getting in touch with a tutor or tutoring company early, you can get on a waiting list early. Equally, if they’re struggling and not keeping up, there may be value in doing some groundwork in year 9 to put them in the best possible position to succeed in years 10 and 11.

You may find out at a parental consultation or end of term report that your child has fallen behind and is below age-related expectations. This means that they’ve not attained the knowledge and skills that would be expected for their year group. There may be many reasons for this: summer-born children can be behind because they’re younger and less mature when they start school, your child may have missed school due to illness when some key areas were taught – this is particularly prevalent with maths and can create maths gaps (take a look at maths gaps – why they occur and the problems they cause). There may also be general or specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, global delay, ADHD, Autistic Spectrum disorders which make it much harder for students to concentrate, process information, retain information and therefore be at or ahead of age-related expectations.

Dyslexia, dyscalculia and other learning difficulties can make it really hard for students to learn at the same rate as other students.

Length of tuition

The length of time that you have a tutor is really largely dependent on their academic starting point. For GCSE tuition, if they’re just a grade off where they need to be, to start in year 11 is usually fine. If they’re well below the level that they need to be in year 11, then earlier intervention is invariably better.

If your child is behind because of gaps, and no learning issues, then tuition usually fills those gaps and no further tuition is needed after that initial period, unless other gaps in learning occur.

Learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and dyscalculia can make it incredibly hard for students to keep up at school and it’s not unusual for attainment to remain below expectations for many years, through no fault of the student, teacher or parents without help. Additional tuition can make it easier for your child to learn and retain the information. One-to-one tuition can make a massive difference in situations such as this, but often this help will be needed for many years in order to get the students the grades they need to pursue their goals.

If you’d like more information on dyslexia or dyscalculia screening, or tuition please contact Tutor My Kids at hello@tutormykids.co.uk or call the office on 01223 858421.

If you’re a teacher who is interested in beoming a tutor in Ely, Cambridge, Newmarket or Huntingdon, please take a look at our tutor page and get in touch by email to arrange an informal chat to discover if it might fit with your present commitments.

Thinking-of-getting-a-tutor-for-your-child-for-the-first-time?

If you’ve never considered a tutor for your child before, it can be a bit daunting to know where to start. The following will give you some pointers to ask the right questions. We’ll discuss the various options available and additional things to think about. Many of our clients have never had a tutor before and find our advice helpful.

What are the options?

There are a number of options to consider:

  • One-to-one tuition
    • In your home
    • At the tutor’s home
  • Group tuition

One-to-one tuition

One-to-one tuition is one tutor working directly with your child. This ensures that the teaching is focused entirely on the needs of your child, rather than being split across a group of students with potentially very different needs. This is felt to be the gold standard of tutoring, however, it does of course, as with all tutoring, hinge entirely on how good the tutor is. This can be in your home or at the tutor’s home.

If the tutoring takes place in your home, you know that your child is in a safe environment, you have greater oversight over what is being taught and it is often more convenient, especially if you have a busy schedule and/or other children. At Tutor My Kids, our tutors in Cambridge, Ely and surrounding areas, always see clients in their homes as we think that this gives the best results.

Many tutors prefer to tutor in their homes because they can tutor a greater number of students in the time they have available. There are undoubtedly some great tutors who tutor from their own homes. Over the years, however, we’ve had a few horror stories: One parent was regularly collecting her daughter from the tutor and finding her sitting at a computer playing a (good and useful) word game, but one that she could have done at home to supplement the tuition, but not as tuition. Since she swapped to Tutor My Kids and the tutor comes to her in Cambridge, she knows exactly what her daughter is learning. Another client felt that her daughter wasn’t getting the best focus from visiting her tutor in Ely at his home because the house was noisy and there were interruptions from his children.

Group tuition

Group tuition scores because it is a more cost-effective option that one-to-one tuition, but there is, of course, a dilution of the focus of your child, especially if their needs are different from the children around them or there are stronger personalities in the group. Potential problems can also occur with focus on areas that are not needed and not enough focus on the areas that your child needs. For example, we worked with a year 4 student who was regularly attending a training centre and her ability to manipulate numbers was very impressive, but when Tutor My Kids assessed her, it revealed some very significant gaps in her maths understanding, which was resulting in poor scores in her tests at school. Her mum and dad thought they were helping her, but it wasn’t addressing the problems that she had.

With group tuition it is very hard to tailor the tuition to the individual student and often the curriculum taught is fixed with the whole group moving onto the next lesson, whether or not it has been understood by all the students.

Additional things to think about

As already discussed, whichever options you look at, they are as good as the tutor who is working with your child. It’s always wise to take-up recommendations where possible. At Tutor My Kids we’re incredibly grateful that most of our clients come in from recommendations from friends and family who are seeing the benefits of working with our amazing tutors in Cambridge and Ely areas.

It’s important also that you know who you’re letting into your home. If you’re not working with an agency such as Tutor My Kids who vet their tutors thoroughly, do ensure that they are DBS checked. In addition, we always insist that there is an adult in the house whilst tuition is occurring and that it happens in a family-friendly, downstairs room, such as a kitchen or dining room.

At Tutor My Kids, most of our tutors are qualified teachers because we know that they have more experience of teaching in a variety of ways to help students understand. It’s certainly worth asking about the background of any potential tutor. If the tutor is for your primary-aged child, this is particularly key as not following the methodologies taught in school can cause further confusion, rather than providing help.

Get in touch

For a free, informal discussion with Tutor My Kids about getting a tutor in Cambridge, Ely, Huntingdon and surrounding areas, please contact us at hello@tutormykids.co.uk to arrange a time to chat.