Best children’s books and stories about the slave trade

The 23rd August is International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  Over a period of 400 years there were over 15 million victims of the transatlantic slave trade including millions of children. This day is about remembering those who suffered in unimaginable ways, and crucially it is about raising awareness of the dangers of racism today.

Here we share our pick of books that educate children about slavery and apartheid in an age appropriate way. Many of these are ‘torch under the duvet’ stories that are truly hard to put down with compelling characters who transport the reader to another world.

Every story is one of courage and hope showing the best in human nature as well as the worst, and every protagonist is an inspiration.

Books for 6-7 year olds

Harriet Tubman (Little People, Big Dreams)

By Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Pili Aguado

Frances Lincoln, 2018

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on a plantation in Maryland, USA in the 1820s. Despite incredible hardship she helped her family to escape to the north of the country. Although she reached safety herself she still made the dangerous journey back to the south many, many times in order to bring others to freedom. Thanks to her bravery and strength hundreds of slaves were saved through a secret movement called the Underground Railroad.

The book is written and presented sensitively for young children and includes real historic photos at the back. If you would like to find out more about Harriet Tubman for your own interest there are many short documentaries on YouTube and you could also watch the 2009 film, Harriet.

Hammering for Freedom

By Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by John Holyfield

Lee & Low, 2018

This is the true story of an enslaved man called William “Bill” Lewis. As a young boy William became a skilled blacksmith and was able to earn enough money to buy his own freedom but he could not afford to buy the freedom of his family. William worked tirelessly to try to earn enough money to buy their freedom, opening his own shop and saving for many years. Eventually, one by one, he succeeded in purchasing the freedom of every member of his family.

William never lost hope and his perseverance and love for his family is inspirational.


Books for children aged 7+

Freedom

By Catherine Johnson

Scholastic, 2019

This is the fast-paced, fictional story of Nathaniel (or ‘Nat’) who is a slave living on a plantation in Jamaica with his family. His master forces him to leave his family and move to England with him. Nat is distraught but there is one silver lining – he has heard that in England slaves are freed and he hopes that as a free person he can earn enough money to buy his family’s freedom. However, when he sets foot on English soil he discovers this rumour isn’t true and so he decides to run.

It’s a story of friendship, kindness and humour but at the same time there are heart thumping scenes of close shaves and narrow escapes. This is a very exciting book and it is educational too with real historical characters and events woven into the plot.

Freedom won the 2019 Little Rebels Award.

Unheard Voices: An Anthology of Stories and Poems

Edited by Malorie Blackman

Random House, 2007

The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 made the slave trade illegal in Britain. Although it was a huge step towards emancipation, in reality it was many years before slavery in this form ended. Even today the government is still working to end Modern Slavery.

Malorie Blackman has compiled an anthology of short stories and poems from renowned writers alongside personal accounts from freed slaves. Her book ensures that we continue to remember those who suffered brutality and misery for many, many years at the hands of other human beings and it also celebrates the work of great black writers.

Journey to Jo’burg

By Beverley Naidoo

HarperCollins, 2008

This is the story of thirteen-year-old Naledi and her little brother Tiro who live with their grandmother in a small, impoverished village. Frightened that their baby sister Dineo will die of starvation and sickness the two children decide to run away to Johannesburg to find their mother who works there as a maid.

Set against the background of apartheid, Naledi and Tiro’s journey illustrates the grim realities of the system. The rich, privileged life of their mother’s mistress contrasts with the miseries of the children’s existence – the poverty of the segregated ‘bantustans’, the pass laws, and the breakup of black families.

This is a sobering read but it is written in a sensitive way that is suitable for children aged 9 upwards.

The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano

By Ann Cameron

Yearling Books, 2000

Ann Cameron has adapted the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave. His autobiography was originally published in 1789 and was a bestseller at the time.

At the age of eleven, Olaudah was kidnapped from his home in Benin, Western Africa. He spent eleven years as a slave in the West Indies, the USA and England. In vivid scenes, Olaudah describes the horror of his capture, the savage conditions on board the slave ship and his auction and enforced labour. Eventually Olaudah was able to buy his own freedom by trading on the side.

Cameron has made the original story accessible for young readers and at the same time maintained the spirit of the original. It is a detailed and compelling read that draws children into Olaudah’s world establishing a deep sense of empathy.

Discover more about the slave trade

Although many museums are currently closed, here’s a list for future reference. Note that the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has a 3D virtual tour on their website.

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

Museum of London, Docklands

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Summer Science Fun: Growing Monster Plants!

Growing plants at home is a brilliant opportunity to explore science with your child. What do plants need to grow? What makes leaves green? Do all plants grow in the same conditions or do they need different amounts of water and sunshine? Nurturing plants from seeds also teaches children responsibility as most plants needs plenty of care and attention to thrive.

Here are some truly weird and wonderful monster plants that will inspire your child to roll up their sleeves and hopefully develop a life-long love of planting.

Make a light box

To grow many of these monster plants successfully you need a light box.

You will need:

Cardboard box large enough to sit three or four medium-sized flowerpots side-by-side

Tin foil

Clear bin liner

Tape

Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Cut away the top and front of the cardboard box so you are left with the back, two sides and a bottom only. If you sat three plant pots side-by-side in the box you would be able to see them from the open front (like looking at a television screen) and from the top looking down.
  2. Line the sides and bottom of the box with pieces of polythene (the clear bin liner). Affix with tape as necessary.
  3. Cover the lined sides and bottom completely with tin foil.
  4. Cut a square or rectangle of polythene (from the clear bin liner) large enough to drape over the entire front and top of the box tent-style to keep your plant pots covered and warm at night.

Squirting cucumber

What’s special about it?

The Squirting Cucumber squirts seeds at up to 60mph! First it grows horrible, hairy stems and leaves then cucumber-shaped fruits that swell up with seeds and water. As these fruits become heavy they snap away from the stems and the seeds shoot out. They are hardy plants that can survive in most weather conditions.

You will need:

Squirting Cucumber seeds (available online)

2 small plant pots or yoghurt pots

Gritty compost (make this by mixing 1 part multipurpose compost with 1 part sharp sand – all available from a garden centre)

Lightbox

Instructions

  1. Fill the pots to the top with gritty compost.
  2. Sow one seed in each pot and cover them with compost (you should cover with twice as much compost as the seed is long).
  3. Put the plants in the lightbox on a sunny windowsill. Face the open side of the lightbox towards the sun. Squirting Cucumbers are from the Mediterranean so cover them with polythene at night to keep them warm.
  4. Water the plants as often as needed to keep the compost moist. It shouldn’t be too wet or bone dry either.  Seedlings should appear within three weeks.
  5. When the plants have three or more green leaves plant them outside. Only plant them outside in summer and when the weather is summery!  It doesn’t matter whereabouts outside you plant them. If the weather is cold put the plants in a greenhouse if you have one (if not, you can make a mini greenhouse).

Abyssinian Banana

What’s special about it?

This plant doesn’t grow edible bananas but it can grow into a 3-metre tall monster with giant, floppy leaves. Although it’s a tropical plant it will grow here in the summer.

You will need:

Abyssinian Banana seeds (available online)

Medium and large flower pots

Compost

Plant food (from a garden centre)

Polythene sandwich bags

Clothes pegs

Instructions:

  1. Fill the pots with compost and sow one banana seed in each pot (remembering to cover the seed with twice as much compost as the seed is tall).
  2. Water well.
  3. Sit each pot inside a polythene sandwich bag and seal the top using a clothes peg or a plastic clip.
  4. Put the pots in a warm, dark place like an airing cupboard.
  5. Each day check the compost to make sure it is still moist and water if needed.
  6. When shoots appear remove the pots from the sandwich bags and place in a light box on a sunny, warm windowsill making sure the plants are facing the sun.
  7. Keep the soil moist by watering the plants regularly and feed them with plant food every week.
  8. When roots begin to appear through holes in the bottom of the pots replant into large pots and put outside. If the summer weather is more wintry than summery bring your banana plants indoors until it improves.

Venus Fly Trap

What’s special about it?

No monster plant guide would be complete without this famous terror! The Venus Fly Trap’s meaty, redness tempts flies with a promise of a meal but then a trap snaps shut. The plant digests the fly and absorbs it within itself. The Venus Fly Trap is a bog plant so it needs plenty of wet and light.

You will need:

A small Venus Fly Trap plant (you can plant a Venus Fly Trap from seed if you like but it takes a lot of patience as the seedlings are tiny for the first year and become easily overgrown with moss unless they are tended carefully)

Rainwater or de-ionised water (they don’t drink tap water)

A shallow container in which to stand the pot.

Instructions

  1. Stand the potted Venus Fly Trap in the shallow container and fill the container with water. The container needs to hold 1cm of water. Keep this water topped up at all times – you don’t need to water the plant itself.
  2. Place the Venus Fly Trap in a sunny spot outside in summer where there will be plenty of flies for it to catch. Venus Fly Traps don’t need warmth or light in the winter months but they do need to be kept out of wind and rain and protected from frost.
  3. In about two years you will need to re-plant your Venus Fly Trap in a bigger pot or carefully split it across two medium pots. When the time comes, use moss peat as they won’t grow in any other kind of peat and re-pot in early spring.

Does your child need extra help with science?

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During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. Talk to us today at hello@tutormykids.co.uk/01223 858 421.

Summer Projects: Exciting Engineering

After months of homeschooling the summer holidays may be a welcome break for both you and your family, but if you are wondering how to keep your child occupied over the next few weeks we have some ideas to help.

The projects below are designed for children aged 8 upwards and they have one simple aim – to be lots of fun! We talk about how you can extend your child’s scientific knowledge and understanding as they engage in the activities if you wish to do so.

Ultimately, it’s about your child experiencing the joy of making discoveries for themselves and spending time with you.

Balloon-powered vehicles

Challenge: Choose and make a balloon-powered vehicle from 3 Simple Science Experiments from Balloons.

You will need:

Balloons

Masking tape

Additional materials depend upon what your child chooses to make. Think about ways you can substitute materials used in the video for things you already have at home. For example, if you don’t have a sheet of polystyrene to make a boat you could fashion a boat by cutting up a plastic bottle or modify a bath boat.

For your information:

Newton’s third law of physics explains how balloon-powered vehicles work – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the air is expelled from the balloon in one direction, the balloon itself moves in the opposite direction.

Helping your child:

After your child has made and played with their vehicle you could introduce them to Newton’s third law of physics by watching The Dyson Foundation’s Balloon Car Race film.  Can they now explain why their balloon vehicle goes?

Marble run

Challenge: Build the fastest, and best marble run you can.

You will need:

Cardboard tubes (toilet rolls/kitchen rolls)

Tape

Bowl to catch the marbles

Felt tips or paint to decorate the marble run if your child wishes

For your information:

For instructions to make a marble run read Tinkerlab’s How to Make a Marble Run. Also watch The Dyson Foundation’s Marble Run Challenge which explains how a successful marble run depends upon gravity and friction.

Helping your child

Encourage your child to experiment with different angles as they arrange the marble run chutes – what angles work best?

To discover that friction and gravity make a difference to the success of the marble run they could try lining their chutes with rough or shiny materials and then sending a marble down the run. They might also drop different objects down the chutes instead of marbles in order to make further comparisons.

Marshmallow bridge

Challenge: Build a bridge from mini marshmallows and cocktail sticks.

You will need:

Mini marshmallows

Cocktail sticks

Pictures of different types of bridges (which you could print from the internet).

For your information:

Type ‘bridge mini marshmallows toothpicks’ into Google Images to see some examples of marshmallow bridges made by others.

Helping your child:

Together look at pictures of real bridges. Ask your child what shapes they can see in each bridge and whether they could use any of these shapes in their own bridge construction.

If the activity is too tricky, your child could build a tower from marshmallows and cocktail sticks rather than a bridge.

Paper table

Challenge: Make a table that is strong enough to hold a heavy book.

You will need:

Sheets of newspaper

Masking tape

Corrugated cardboard rectangle approximately 20cm x 30cm

Masking tape

Heavy book

For your information:

Start by watching Paper Table from iPhysics. You will see that table legs and supports are made from rolled up newspaper and the table top is a rectangle of corrugated cardboard. 

Helping your child:

Show your child how to make a strong tube from a sheet of newspaper as demonstrated in the iPhysics film. Start at one corner and roll diagonally towards the other corner, rolling the tube as tightly as possible and securing with tape.

Before your child begins, look together at tables and other furniture you have in the house. Do table legs and table tops have any support? Can your child apply what they see to their own designs?

As your child builds their table, support them to solve any problems that occur as independently as possible. Wobbly legs can be supported with extra newspaper tubes, and if their table tips it might help if they make the legs shorter.  The more triangular supports that are in place the stronger the table will be.

Would your child benefit from tailored science tuition?

At TutorMyKids all our tutors are passionate about firing children’s enthusiasm for their subject. We believe children gain a deeper understanding of science by making discoveries for themselves and solving problems.

Whether your child is at primary school or studying for exams, TutorMyKids can put you in touch with a fully-qualified, specialist science tutor who is up-to-date with the current curriculum.

During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. Talk to us today at hello@tutormykids.co.uk/01223 858 421.

Homeschool activities: Children’s Art Week and maths

Children’s Art Week which is organised by Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education, runs from 29th June to 29th July.

The aim of Children’s Art Week is to inspire children to explore different kinds of art and to experiment with a range of media. Families can participate in online workshops led by artists and try their hand at everything from architecture to snow globe making.

Here we share art activities that also develop children’s maths skills. You can try these at home as part of Children’s Art Week or at any time as a way to engage your child with maths. Art and maths are closely related with both subjects requiring the ability to recognise patterns, to understand shapes, symmetry, proportion and measurement and spatial reasoning.

All the activities need very few resources. We hope you and your child have fun!

Tessellation art

Tessellation is a pattern made with polygons (shapes with three or more sides) that completely fills a space with no gaps at all. Tessellations can be seen everywhere from the brickwork of your house to the tiles on your bathroom floor!

You will need A4 card, a glue stick, and a selection of pre-cut squares, rectangles and triangles of different colours. Challenge your child to choose shapes and arrange them on their piece of paper without leaving any spaces in between. Once they are happy they glue their shapes in place. See Art Inspired by Klee for photographs and further instructions.

Older children can try more challenging patterns – their imagination is the limit!

Pi cityscape

Children don’t need to understand the concept of pi to enjoy this activity, so it’s suitable for all ages. For young children it is a good way to help them to remember that pi = 3.14 when they need to know later. Children in Key Stage 2 might benefit from watching Pi for Kids and carrying out measuring activities to develop their mathematical understanding as a supplement to this activity.

Start by printing out the single page pi poster from 10 MinuteMath. Children will also need a piece of graph paper and felt tipped pens. They create a line of skyscrapers by colouring in blocks of squares to match each number in pi – the finished result looks a bit like a bar chart. So they colour 3 blocks, then 1 block, then 4 blocks and so on (3.14…). For instructions accompanied by pictures, visit What do we do all day?

Aboriginal repeating patterns

We love this activity on Nic Hahn’s blogspot. It’s very easy to follow and the effects are beautiful. Young children will learn about repeating patterns, and older children can adapt the activity by making up more complex repeating patterns.

All you need is paper, paint and cotton wool buds. If you don’t have cotton wool buds then finger prints are fine.

Weaving patterns

This therapeutic activity utilizes children’s measuring and pattern making skills.

You will need a paper plate, either paint or felt tipped pens, scissors, and balls of different coloured wool. Children start by decorating the paper plate however they wish. They then turn the plate into a loom by cutting slits around the rim and weaving wool in and out, before weaving their design between these strands.

Cassie Stephen’s blog spot has some beautiful photographs of finished designs which will fire children’s enthusiasm. However, her instructions are difficult to follow so we recommend watching Paper Plate Weaving before you begin.

Geometric paint by number

Here children think about shapes, use a ruler and show that they know the difference between odd and even numbers.

You will need A4 paper, a pencil, a ruler and paint.  Prepare by setting out 10 different paint pots each containing a different colour – or different shades of the same colour. Number the pots 1-10.

Children draw a grid on their paper with each square roughly 4cm x 5cm (4cm across the width of the paper, and 5cm down the length). They then need to draw a large shape right in the middle of the grid – taking up most of the squares. It doesn’t matter if they turn the grid portrait or landscape. On the inside of the shape, in each grid square, they write a different even number to 10.  On the outside of the shape, in every grid square, they write a different odd number to 10. Children then paint their designs by matching the numbers on their grid to the numbers on the paint pots.

Clear instructions for this activity and examples can be found on Nic Hahn’s blogspot.

Mandala maths

This is a lovely activity for children of all ages. Not only does it takes maths and art outdoors, but children can create designs that are as simple or complex as they like. It is an opportunity for children to practise counting, comparing, matching and sorting, and to learn about symmetry and geometry.

If you’ve just been to the beach and have a collection of seashells then have a look at Nurturestore’s website for instructions and inspiration.  Don’t worry if you haven’t been to the beach lately – you can create mandalas from all sorts of natural or household materials or even toys and craft materials. Type ‘mandalas from nature’ into Google Images and you will get the idea!

Does your child need extra help with maths?

If your child is finding particular mathematical concepts challenging or is generally unenthusiastic about the subject, a one-to-one maths tutor can make a real difference to them.

Our highly-qualified tutors are passionate about maths and they want to help children to learn and to enjoy maths just as they do. They take the time to assess children’s mathematical knowledge and to identify where there are gaps so that they can tailor their teaching accordingly.

During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. Talk to us today at hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Homeschooling Project: World Oceans Day

Monday 8th June is World Oceans Day. The aim of World Oceans Day is to inspire everybody – young and old –  to understand why oceans are important and to take action to protect them.

Oceans:

  • Are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe.
  • Are home to a diverse range of marine life which is vital for a healthy ecosystem supporting all life on Earth.
  • Regulate our climate and weather patterns by transporting heat from the Equator to the poles.
  • Are a major food source giving us not just fish but ingredients for other products too – even peanut butter!
  • Provide ingredients for medicines including those that fight cancer, heart disease and Alzheimers.

Here are some practical activities you can do at home to educate your child about our oceans, encourage them to care and to understand that the choices they make really can make a difference.

Why do we need oceans?

Watch National Geographic’s short film, How to Care for the Ocean.

After watching, ask your child:

  • What do oceans provide us?
  • What are the problems?
  • What could happen if we don’t make changes?
  • Can you think of one thing we can do as a family to help care for our oceans?

Know where your food comes from Together search the internet to find out what surprising foods come from the ocean. The National Ocean Service film, What does peanut butter have to do with the ocean? is a great place to start.

Discover what kinds of seafood come from the ocean and ask your child which they have already tried and which they liked best.

Ask your child to make a ‘Delicious Ocean’ poster by drawing and labelling all the things they have eaten that come from the ocean.

Eat sustainable fish

Watch What is sustainable fishing?

After the film check your child’s understanding by asking them what sustainable fishing is and why it’s important. Together visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website to find out what fish is currently sustainable in the UK.  

You could buy a sustainable fish and experiment with a new recipe. To find a recipe type ‘recipe with…’ followed by your fish of choice into a search engine. For example, ‘recipe with coley’.

At the current time it is tricky to buy specific food so this might be an activity to research now and carry out later! Having said that, some local fishmongers will deliver.

Reduce plastic waste

Plastic waste has recently increased due to Covid-19. We are all having to prioritise immediate safety which can mean having shopping delivered in carrier bags and buying long-life food which is often packaged in single-use plastic.

However, even during the pandemic there are steps we can all take to reduce the amount of waste that will end up in landfill. The World Economic Forum’s article Single use plastic in a pandemic: how to stay safe and sustainable is a positive article to share with your child.

To prepare for the end of lockdown your child could make a reusable shopping bag from an old t-shirt – no sewing required. Bags can be decorated with fabric pens or other random craft supplies such as pom-poms, feathers and sequins. Your child’s imagination is the limit!

Care about endangered species

Together look on the Marine Conservation Society’s website to find out which UK marine species are endangered or under threat.

Ask your child to choose an animal they would like to find out more about. Watch a film on YouTube about your child’s chosen animal – we recommend National Geographic Kids’ films. If possible, read books about the animal or discover facts about it online. Your child could make a book or write a short fact file about their animal to teach others about it.  They could also make themed crafts.

For example, if your child chose to find out more about the bottlenose dolphin they could:

  • Watch National Geographic Kids’ Bottlenose Dolphin.
  • Find out more about bottlenose dolphins from National Geographic Kids and write a fact file or make a book to teach others to love them too.
  • Make a dolphin craft – there are plenty on Pinterest and inspiration can also be found on Google Images by typing in ‘Bottlenose dolphin craft’.

Do you need a homeschooling tutor?

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Our tutors can teach your child one-to-one online or set work for them to complete with you. Whatever support your child needs, we are here to help. Contact us today at hello@tutormykids.co.uk.

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?

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8-Tips-for-Summer-Holiday-Learning

The summer holidays are here! Children are excited to be free from the classroom and they’re ready to enjoy a well-earned break. It’s a time for families to create special memories together in the sunshine (with luck!).

As a parent, you may have mixed feelings about the long summer ahead. What if the break has a negative impact on your child’s learning? Most studies indicate that children do forget over the summer holidays, losing at least one month of classroom learning.

So, how can you prevent learning loss and at the same time have plenty of fun together?

Here are some ideas…

Car journey games

  • Break the tedium of long car journeys and at the same time practise intellectual skills, listening, observing, patience and turn taking with these alternatives to ‘I Spy’:
  • 20 Questions. Somebody thinks of a person; it could be a famous person, a cartoon character, a family member – anybody. The other people have to guess who the mystery person is by asking twenty questions.
  • I Went on a Picnic and Picnic Whispers – see ‘Picnics’ below.
  • Punch Buddy. Every time someone spots a Ford Fiesta (for instance) they gently punch the person next to them.
  • Which Animal? One person thinks of an animal. The others find out what the animal is by taking turns to ask a question. The question can only receive a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. For example: ‘Does the animal have four legs?’ ‘Can it be kept as a pet?’ ‘Does it live in the jungle?’
  • Would You Rather? Everyone takes a turn to ask and answer a question which makes them choose between a rock and a hard place. For instance, ‘Would you rather eat a worm sandwich or pour icy water over your head?’

Feathered friends

  • Make a bird feeder.
  • Watch and identify birds using the RSPB bird identifier.
  • Photograph birds.
  • Paint birds with watercolours/pastels by copying photographs or pictures from bird books.

Holiday clubs

Holiday clubs offer a wealth of activities. There’s usually something to suit every child’s interests: archery, arts and crafts, circus skills, dance, drama, go-karting, sports, swimming, trampolining and much more.

Type ‘summer holiday clubs near me 2019’ into an internet search engine.

I love books

Reading stretches the mind and encourages imagination. Children spontaneously re-enact stories or write their own stories if they are inspired enough. Set a book challenge: how many books can you read over the summer?

10 of the best books for pre-schoolers

The top 100 fiction books all children should read before leaving primary school

Keep fit

Keep children mentally and physically active:

  • Cycling
  • Football
  • Frisbee
  • Skipping games
  • Swimming
  • Swing-ball
  • Table tennis
  • Team games like Hide and Seek, Tag, Stuck in the Mud, What’s the Time Mr Wolf.
  • Tennis
  • Walking. Motivate reluctant walkers with geocaching.

Search the internet for team game instructions and skipping games.

Picnic food

Make a picnic together. Cooking involves reading and following instructions, weighing and measuring ingredients, as well as culinary skills such as chopping, mixing, and whisking.

Children could research where ingredients come from and how they are made. For example, they could discover how flour is made or find out where sugar comes from. Always check YouTube videos are suitable before children watch them.

Picnic games

Picnic games are great for developing listening skills, physical skills, social skills and the ability to pay attention in order to follow instructions.

Blanket Volleyball

Make two teams. Each team holds a blanket which they use to launch a beach ball back and forth.

Dance-off

Everyone takes turns to dance to music. The person who receives the loudest applause wins.

I Went On a Picnic…

People sit in a circle and one person says, ‘I went on a picnic and I bought…’ and they say something like ‘an apple’. The next person might say, ‘I went on a picnic and I bought an apple and some sandwiches.’ The game continues with each person repeating what has been said before, adding a new item.

Picnic Whispers

Picnic-themed Chinese Whispers. People stand in a line. One person whispers a message to the next person in the line, eg. ‘Dad likes lettuce, cucumber and cheese sandwiches for his picnic’. The whispered message continues down the line. The last person tells everyone the message.

Relay Race

Use your empty picnic boxes as batons. Divide everyone into two lines. The first person runs, grabs the container and gives it to the next person in the line. The first person goes to the back of the line and sits down. The first team with everybody sitting down wins.

Scavenger hunt

Encourage children to be observant with scavenger hunts. Make a worksheet and attach it to a clipboard with a pencil. Here are some ideas:

Can you spot these minibeasts?

Find 8 round things and then draw them.

20 things to find. (This is a list of random objects to tick off, eg: pine cone, paper clip, daffodil, calculator).

Tremendous trees!

Visit the park or woods to collect leaves and photograph different trees. At home, identify the trees using the Woodland Trust’s leaf ID chart.

Make some leaf art. Type ‘leaf art’ into pinterest.co.uk for some brilliant ideas!

Take a look at our other blogs on summer learning:

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

10-awesome-summer-projects-for-children

Summer Tuition – A great help or pushy parenting?




10-awesome-summer-projects-for-children

Are you looking for summer activities children can get their teeth into? Here’s our list of projects to keep them gainfully occupied.

Animation creation

Watch an animation like Morph or Shaun the Sheep for inspiration. Make up stories from scratch, re-tell stories from books or films, or create animations to match poems. Ideas could be storyboarded first. Make characters from clay, playdough, Lego or any small world toys. When the animation is complete hold a film premiere with dim lights and popcorn.

Download a stop motion animation app and off you go!

Business start-up

Help your child to turn their passion into a business.

They could:

  • Bake cakes or sweets.
  • Make hand-designed t-shirts, candles, jewellery, lemonade, or soap.
  • Knit, crochet or sew crafts/toys.
  • Create works of art – framed paintings, clay models, cross-stitched pictures etc.
  • Write stories (which they can self-publish and sell).

Think of a service to offer such as babysitting, dusting or washing cars.

Entrepreneur Europe explains how to help your child to take their business from idea to market. In doing so they develop skills for life: communication, organization, money management, and problem-solving.

Butterfly garden

Grow your own butterflies with an Insect Lore kit. Keep a butterfly diary by photographing/drawing each stage of development and writing captions.

Read books about the butterfly lifecycle such as Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar and A Butterfly’s Lifecycle by Mary Dunn. Make butterfly crafts.

Alternatively, find other live bug kits on the Insect Lore website.

Family tree

Together research your family tree. Talk to your child about your own childhood and show and discuss photographs. Ask grandparents and other family members questions too.

Sketch out your family tree as you know it. Research missing ancestors and/or decide which branch of the tree to explore further. Focus on the life story of a particular individual who has piqued your child’s curiosity.

The Devon Family History Society: Acorn Club website is available to all and will get you started. It features practical advice and links to research websites.

Herb garden

Plant herb seeds in empty yogurt pots using compost rather than garden soil. Choose herbs that can be used in salads or regular family recipes. Place the potted seeds in a light place indoors and encourage children to keep the soil damp.

Planting a herb garden engages children’s senses and gets them interested in gardening, cooking and healthy eating. For recipe ideas see 26 recipes to get the most out of your herb garden.

Insect hotel

Attract bees, butterflies, ladybirds, spiders and all sorts of insects to your garden by building an insect hotel. Type ‘bug hotel’ into Google Images for inspiration.

You will need wooden shipping pallets (you decide how many), hollow stems (eg. bamboo), pinecones, rocks, soil, sticks, and straw. Stack pallets on top of each other and stuff pallet openings with the other materials.

Use a magnifying glass to observe the features and behaviour of these creatures, and find relevant books in the library to learn more.

Newspaper creator

Get your child designing, writing and stretching their imagination by creating a newspaper. The content might include:

  • Comic strip
  • Craft idea
  • Horoscopes
  • Interview with a friend or family member
  • News (invented news, or something that’s topical locally or nationally)
  • Problem page
  • Puzzle (crossword, maze, wordsearch)
  • Recipe

Newspapers can be hand-made or designed from online templates.

Photograph album

Go out for the day and encourage your child to photograph anything that sparks their interest (strange shaped trees, beautiful plants, animal antics, interesting buildings or objects, people’s expressions etc). Take simple snap shots or experiment with photographic effects by zooming in and out and taking photographs from different angles.

Back at home, choose favourite photographs and make a physical album. Write captions to give photographs meaning in future.

Sewing, knitting and crocheting

Sew toys, bags, clothes, cushions – anything! Use a kit brought from a haberdashery or follow a free, online pattern. Fabric doesn’t have to be expensive. Recycle old clothes or curtains from charity shops or markets.

Knitting and crocheting are relaxing, rewarding hobbies. If you don’t have the skills then you can learn with your child. Type ‘learn to knit’ or ‘learn to crochet’ into YouTube for instructional videos.

World adventure

Pick a country and find out about it using a child-friendly search engine.

  • What is the environment like?
  • What food do people eat?
  • What do they wear?
  • What traditions do they have?
  • Is there a traditional dance?

Follow up with some activities:

  • Write a weather report.
  • Cook food from your chosen country and have a feast.
  • Search Pinterest.co.uk for craft activities linked to that country’s traditions.
  • Under supervision, search YouTube for traditional dances and learn some moves.

World adventure develops children’s geographical knowledge and fosters respect for other cultures. It’s the perfect summer project for children who might be dreaming of holidays and exotic, faraway places.

More summer activities to keep your children busy:

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