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.

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.