About Paul Watthey

Director and Website Owner - Focus on Phonics Ltd

Developing Your Childs Appetite for Education

What we are talking about here is developing a ‘growth mindset’ in your child. I know it sounds like corporate speak but the concept is absolutely sound, even for children!

Firstly, a couple of terms defined. A fixed mindset is one which believes basic qualities like intelligence or talent are fixed traits. In contrast, a growth mindset believes that basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, brains and talent are the starting point. To paraphrase Alfred Binet (the inventor of the first IQ test) “it is not always the people who start the smartest who end up the smartest”

Children with a growth mindset believe they can improve themselves through effort, persistence, learning from mistakes and trying different strategies. This view creates a love of learning and resilience for great accomplishment.

So how can I help develop my child’s growth mind set?
The first thing children need to know is that our intelligence isn’t fixed, that it can change. It can get stronger or weaker depending on how much effort we are willing to apply. Teach them that people with a growth mindset believe they can learn, change, and develop needed skills. They will be better equipped to deal with the inevitable setbacks, and know that hard work can help them reach their goals.

Consider using role models
Show your child examples of successful people that they can relate to who may have failed, struggled or just worked really hard for success. Try reading biographies, Steven Spielberg, for example, was rejected twice by the University of California’s School of Cinematic Art! Another great example is Sir James Dyson, he had 5,126 failed attempts at developing his bag less vacuum cleaner before succeeding with his 5,127th try!

Thinking growth mindset thoughts
Much of developing a growth mindset for children will be learned from listening to parents or teachers. Show them how to recognise fixed mindset thoughts and replace them with growth mindset thoughts, here are some examples:

Instead of ‘I’m no good at this’ – try ‘What am I missing?’
Instead of ‘I give up’ – try ‘I’ll use a different strategy’
Instead of ‘This is too hard’ – try ‘This may take some time to do’
Instead of ‘I made a mistake’ – try ‘Mistakes help me to learn’
Instead of ‘It’s good enough’ – try ‘Is this really my best work?’

When faced with a challenging task it is tempting to say “never mind, let’s try an easier one” when the wrong answer is given. But this doesn’t help, it lowers expectations and ultimately self-esteem of the child. Encourage them to find out what went wrong and learn from the mistake and make the error a positive experience, not a negative one.

Praise the process
It is often thought that praising intelligence builds confidence and motivation to learn, but while this may give a brief boost, this kind of praise leads to a mindset that is more concerned with looking smart than on actually working hard to learn. Parents and teachers do better to praise the process, or personal effort and any effective strategies used. Place the value on what the child has done and what they need to do to continue to succeed. This simple change in approach is one of the most effective ways to cultivate a growth mindset.

Developing a growth mindset will take consistency over time. You will know your child is starting to implement the growth mindset when you see them becoming more persistent, not dwelling on their failure much but instead thinking of their mistakes as problems to be learned.

If you want to know more about this topic look out for Dr Carol Dweck’s excellent book on the subject MINDSET.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Don’t under-estimate the power of a game of catch!

Even with all the fabulous online learning tools available for children today, handwriting is still a core skill for children to acquire. There are many factors that can affect your child’s ability to form letters from the actual grip on the pencil to poor visual perception meaning children are unable to discriminate between different letters (e.g. b & d).

Children with poor handwriting may be disadvantaged if teachers cannot mark their work accurately. A less obvious disadvantage is that a child may struggle to write creatively if it takes all their concentration to just form the words. You can imagine the frustration this would cause a child.

There are a few simple ways you can help which we discuss below. However, if you identify significant issues and challenges with your child’s handwriting and reading and are concerned this should be followed up with an Occupational Therapist who is a specialist in this field.

Good hand-eye coordination is necessary to guide the pencil but simple garden games can help develop this key skill:

• Basic throwing and catching a ball with a parent or friend. Start to add variation in height and pace to gauge improvement
• Use a bat and ball and see how long your child can keep the ball in the air
• Swingball is a great game and very good at helping coordination
• Throwing a ball against a wall and catching it, increasing the height and pace for variation

When the weather is not so friendly then use worksheets or books with mazes or follow the path exercises inside.

Another important element in handwriting is a child’s fine motor skills or dexterity. This is the coordination of the movement of small muscles in the hands and fingers and synchronising them with the eyes. You can work on these by encouraging lots of scissor cutting, using playdough and lego to improve dexterity and your child’s ability to manipulate a pencil successfully.

Visual perception is an element that has been found to have a significant effect on handwriting. Visual perception enables children to understand what they see, for example to recognise the difference between an ‘n’ or a ‘h’. Poor visual perception may mean a child doesn’t realise an ‘o’ which is not joined at the top is actually a ‘u’.

Visual perception games can be incorporated into your child’s day like ‘seek and find’ books or bingo games, any games that required the child to notice, and act on small visual difference.

Playing the games is one part, putting the writing skills into practice is also necessary.

So make the most of your time in these early years to provide lots of opportunities to give your child a great start, and you can have a lot of fun doing it too!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Don’t forget to keep the learning going through the holidays!

So the summer holidays are well and truly here and our children are ready for the break that’s for sure, but we shouldn’t assume that a whole summer away from school is necessarily a good thing!

We must not forget the brain, although actually an organ, behaves like a muscle and the more you use it the stronger the neural pathways within it get! However, we need to put this in the context of children and we are certainly not advocating 3-4 hours of sitting at a table every day!

Nonetheless, it is worth considering keeping some structured learning going through the summer, perhaps an educational word game or a number sorting game but the emphasis should be on having fun. A game of catch, for example, can have a significant impact on hand-eye co-ordination which in turn is important in handwriting (more about this next time).

Another activity to help develop handwriting skills is to scribble simple shapes on a large piece of paper, whiteboard or even in sand. The developmental path is to start with straight lines, move on to circles, loops and then rectangles. This visual motor integration activity will help your child to learn to perceive and copy shapes, numbers and letters correctly.

Depending on where your child is in the educational ladder will help you decide what the focus should be. Have a look around for more interesting ways to prepare your child for the new school year, different styles of books, games or activities can, and should, make learning fun for the children. You’ll find plenty of options in our site at www.focusonphonics.co.uk.

There will be many opportunities during the holidays to stimulate your child’s mind, whether you are away or staying at home. It is a great time of the year to get outdoors and for most that involves spending more time with the family. So enjoy the time but don’t miss the opportunity to get your child in great shape for the new term, which is only 7 weeks away!

Debbie Watthey – Director, Focus on Phonics Ltd

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Our updated website is now ‘mobile friendly’

We were happy with our website. Our customers were happy with our website. Google was not.

As of April, if a website is not ‘mobile-friendly’ (a site that is friendly to mobile browsers on smartphones and tablets) then, it will slip down the search engine results making it more difficult for customers to find it.

So, we embarked on an update that went live in September and it certainly looks different to our old site!

I hope that our customers like the new appearance and still find it easy to navigate – we have tried to keep it as simple as possible.

Please do let us know if you have any comments – good or bad!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

trugs PICS – new phonics reading games for those with EAL / EFL

 

trugs PICS games
One of the more significant changes to the school population in recent years has been the increase in the number of children with English as an additional language (EAL)

It was revealed earlier in the year that English is no longer the first language for the majority of pupils in more than one in nine schools.

A growing number of children (almost one in five) in primary education now speak another language in the home, following an increase in the number of children with foreign-born parents.

In some schools, children speak a wide variety of languages including Urdu, Somali, Hindi, Polish, Spanish, Arabic etc. When they arrive at school, some have never seen a word of written English before and may only know a few words or phrases.

For children with English as an additional language (EAL), or for any child with limited vocabulary, the process of learning to read is more difficult. A child might learn to read, but not understand what they are reading and will therefore still be unable to access the curriculum.

Trugs PICS are a new range of trugs games that have been specifically produced to help teach reading to pupils (young or old) who have limited vocabulary – using colourful picture cards to help players by making visual connections with words and short sentences. They are ideal for extending English vocabulary and understanding of words, as well as providing structured phonics games to develop reading skills.

The games follow the same phonic progression as the original trugs games and further details can be found on the FOCUS ON PHONICS website.

 

 

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Numicon at Home

I am a great believer in using multi-sensory activities when teaching children – I always use sandpaper letters and magnetic letters and objects when first teaching children their letter sounds and how to blend sounds to read words.

Numicon is a multi-sensory maths programme that is used in many schools in the UK and it enables children to gain a deep understanding of mathematics from an early age. It makes numbers ‘real’ for a child because they can see and touch them.

Numicon’s strong visual imagery with emphasis on pattern, multi-sensory approach and ‘small steps’ teaching programme is also used successfully with children of all ages with many different special needs.

There are some great resources that can be used by parents at home, either to support what is done at school, or to introduce children to maths in a practical and fun way.

Children are very quick to notice patterns, and the pattern in Numicon Shapes helps children to see the connections between numbers.

The holes in the Numicon Shapes correspond to the numbers 1 to 10. When Numicon Shapes are arranged in order, children begin to notice important connections between numbers – that each number is ‘one more’ than the last and ‘one fewer’ than the next for example. Later on, children can see with the Shapes how two threes make six, two fives make ten etc.

Young children learn best through playing, so it’s a good idea to let children start off by simply making up games and generally playing with the Shapes, Pegs and patterns as they will no doubt be learning something valuable.

Encourage your child to develop a mental picture of the Numicon Shapes as these offer children a visual picture of numbers and their relationships. Playing some activities by touch encourages mental imagery.

Find matching shapes – take turns to pick a Shape and the other player has to find one that matches. The feely bag can also be used for this.

Make a pattern with Pegs on the Baseboard and see if your child can copy the pattern. Start with a simple two colour pattern first. Later, encourage your child to continue your pattern and then make up their own patterns.

Use the Pegs to thread on the Bootlaces, making patterns as above.

Make a pattern with Pegs on the Baseboard and the other player has to find the Numicon Shape to match on top.

Put Shapes in order of size, starting with the smallest. Start simply with 5 of the shapes and gradually introduce more Shapes until your child can put the Shapes from 1-10 in order independently.

Put the Shapes in order then ask your child to look away while you remove one of the Shapes, leaving a gap. See if your child can find the missing Shape from the spares pile.

Choose a shape and count the holes as you put a Peg in each one. When your child can count from 1 to 10, ask them to give each shape its number name.

Match the Numeral Cards (or the number thrown on a dice) to the Shapes.
Addition and subtraction can be introduced through practical activities, combining two or more shapes to make a larger one.

Other activities:
Printing using Numicon shapes
Counting marbles / coins / small objects into Numicon shape
Creating shape patterns in playdough
Make rubbings of shapes using tin foil / crayons on paper

As with any resource, it is the skilful use in the classroom that makes a big difference. In the past, Numicon was often regarded as useful in Reception/KS1 or later on as a catch-up or to help with SEN pupils.

New resources have now been produced to support the Primary maths curriculum for Number, Pattern and Calculating and Geometry, Measurement and Statistics. Your child may already be using Numicon at school, but even if they’re not, it’s ideal to support the early maths teaching they will be meeting in the classroom.

Numicon resources to use at home can be found on the FOCUS ON PHONICS website.

More information about  you can support your child’s maths at home using Numicon can be found on the OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS website.

There are also some great ideas for  to help on PINTEREST

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Moon Dogs Phonics Series


The eagerly awaited Moon Dogs Phonics Series for older, struggling readers has just been published by Phonic Books.

Moon Dogs Series Set 1 is a set of 8 books for older ‘catch-up’ pupils who would benefit from starting a phonics series from the very beginning (interest age 8 to 14, reading age Key Stage 1). A series of decodable books that introduce the sounds of the alphabet to older readers. These high quality books have 1 or 2 lines of text to a page to help build confidence in the early stages of reading with phonics.

Moon Dogs Series Set 2 is a set of 8 books that build on the sounds learnt in Set 1 – they have 2 to 3 lines of text to a page to help continue building confidence.

The books are designed to appeal to older reluctant readers with clever, motivating Manga-style illustrations.

Moon Dogs phonics books are now in stock – further details can be found on the website here

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Proposals to rank primary children according to national performance.

Nick Clegg has today declared that “every primary school should make its pupils ready for secondary school by the time they leave”.

The government outlined proposals to rank children according to national performance in English and maths at the age of 11, so that schools and parents will know how their children score in relation to all other pupils in England before the start of secondary education.

Current national curriculum test results (Sats) ‘levels’ will be scrapped. Exams taken at 11 would be dramatically toughened up from 2016 in line with “higher expectations” set out in a new national curriculum published last week. Under the proposals, pupil’s Sats results would be divided into 10 bands and schools and parents would be able to see which band their child was placed in.

Schools will be expected to have a minimum of 85% of their pupils reach a required assessment level in maths, reading, spelling, punctuation , grammar and writing before they move on to secondary school.

There is the possibility of a baseline test at age 5 instead of the current Sats at age 7 against which progress in primary school could be measured. This could be a positive move – most primary schools have children from age 5 to 11 so testing at 7 does not provide a genuine baseline. It also does not offer schools an incentive to push children in the first couple of years to ensure that they perform well on an age 7 baseline as this will not reflect well in their ‘progress achieved’ rating.

There will also be a significant increase in the ‘pupil premium’, which is clearly intended to enable schools to ensure their pupils meet threshold levels of attainment.

Mumsnet users are already threatening to start a campaign to organise a mass boycott of these tests if the idea of ability bands becomes a reality.

Consultation on the proposals for the new primary assessment will take place between now and October – more information can be found on the DfE website

This will be an interesting space to watch.

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Children are all different, so why not use a mix of approaches to teaching reading?

It is true that the majority of children will learn to read whatever method of teaching is used. The question of whether or not to use a range of strategies is one that causes the most disagreement when the subject of teaching early reading is discussed. Many teachers teach phonics as a main early reading skill, but also encourage children to develop a range of other skills.

The first argument for using a range of strategies can be summed up by the phrase often heard to describe children using phonics alone – that they are ‘barking at print’ (i.e. correctly sounding out words, but deriving no meaning from them). As the point of reading is to understand what has been written, why reduce reading to a technical exercise and impose one strategy to the exclusion of others?

Secondly, there is no ‘one size fits all’. if children are all different, why not just offer them all the methods of teaching reading from the outset, so that if they are one of the very small minority who find learning to read with phonics difficult, then they will pick up words by sight memory and will be able to work out the rest by looking at the pictures and making a good stab at the meaning of them.

On the face of it, these arguments both seem to be based on rational and sensible points of view.

There is a flaw in these arguments however, and that is the problems that can emerge further down the line in a significant minority of children. In the early stages of learning to read, remembering words by sight and guessing from pictures, initial letters and context are all easier and quicker than sounding out and blending the sounds to read the words. These therefore become the default methods and children can go on quite quickly to be independent readers.

It is, however, very sad to come across so many children – often around the age of about seven – who are otherwise very bright and able, but who have literacy problems. This is often because they have become reliant on the other methods and have not developed a strong phonic knowledge to enable them to work out new words.  Even if reading is not perceived to be a problem (by this stage children are usually reading silently and the fact that they be reading many words incorrectly can go unnoticed), poor spelling may be causing concern.

This is therefore the reason that phonics advocates believe strongly that phonics should be used ‘first and fast’ – so that children develop good decoding strategies from the very beginning of learning to read. Once a firm foundation is laid, they can go on to develop higher order skills – comprehension, reading for meaning, and using context to help decide on which spelling alternatives to use.

There are very strong beliefs held by people both for and against using a mix of methods, and the debates are often very heated. This is just one of those arguments that will run and run……

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Dandelion Launchers and Dandelion Readers

Dandelion Launchers and Dandelion Readers are designed to launch children into reading. They introduce new sounds very gradually and provide plenty of opportunity for practising reading the sounds in words.

Dandelion Launchers are ideal for children who are at the very early stages of learning to read and need extra support when blending sounds to read words. Each page has just one line of text with simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words to read, enabling children to gain confidence and build self-esteem.

Dandelion Readers follow the same phonic progression as the Launchers, but offer more text to a page as the series progresses. The length of text in the stories increases very gradually to keep pace with the child’s developing reading skills. The Readers go on to cover more complex parts of the English phonic code.

Dandelion Readers Levels 1, 2 and 3 and the Split Vowel series cover the vowel sounds and introduce the concept that the same sound can have alternative spellings:

 

Book

 

Level  1 Level  2 Level  3 Split Vowel Set
1

 

ai ai, ay, a ai, ay, a, a-e, ea a – e
2

 

ee ee, e, ea ee, e, ea, y e – e
3

 

oa oa, o, ow oa, o, ow, oe, o-e i – i
4

 

ur ur, er, ir ur, er, ir, or, ear o- e
5

 

ea ea, e, ai ea’ as, ae, ee or e u – e
6

 

ow ow, ou ow’ as ow or oe All spellings
7

 

oo oo, ew, ue oo, ew, ue, u-e  
8

 

igh igh, i, y igh, I, y, ie, i-e  
9

 

oo oo, oul, u oo’ as in boot or look  
10

 

or or, a, aw or, a, aw, au, al  
         

Dandelion Readers Level 1, 2 and 3 books can be used in two ways:

  • Children can read all ten books in Level 1, which will introduce them to one spelling of each vowel sound. They can then read Level 2, followed by Level 3, which will offer alternative spellings of the sounds learnt in Level 1.
  • Alternatively, children can read Book 1 from Levels 1, 2 and 3, followed by Book 2 in all three levels etc. This will introduce children to alternate spellings for each sound before moving on to the next sound.

The Workbooks that accompany the Launchers and Readers provide fun multisensory activities linked to the stories and characters in the books.

For more information on the sounds covered in the books and discounts available, these books can be found on the website here.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS