Blogs Are For Use!

spellingI sometimes wonder how many people actually use what they read in these blogs! Yet that is what I intend. They are for use. They are all based on actual experience and the ideas do really work!

I am prompted to write this because yesterday I suddenly found myself in at the deep-end using ideas from one of my earliest blogs and it worked like a dream. While helping the young person concerned I hardly realised it, but afterwards it struck me – almost step for step – I had used what I recommended in a blog about helping your child with a learning task.

A mother, whom I did not know personally, was sitting in my studio waiting for her daughter to finish a drama class next door and helping her older girl, nine years old in Year Five, with her homework. I suddenly became aware that the child was a little upset and I heard the mother say several times ‘You just have to do them EVERY night – keep doing them – until it goes into your head.’

Not wanting to seem intrusive, I was nevertheless unable to stop myself asking what the problem was – ‘Spelling’, was the reply. So I volunteered, saying – ‘I have helped people with spelling before’. Reluctantly, the spelling list was produced and a rather downcast little girl stared at me as if expecting the worst!

It was a list of ‘ie’ words – nine of them. She showed me her book – in a test she had got every single one of them wrong! I cannot recall them all but among them were: view, chief, fierce, mischievous. The first thing I did was to check that she understood the meaning of each word. I don’t know if you could remember how to spell a word you don’t understand but I think it pretty unlikely. Every time she got the meaning right I gave her loads of praise and she started to smile and cheer up!. Of course with that her confidence level rose and therefore her ability level rose as well!

Then I asked her to tell me as soon as she noticed something about the words as I wrote them down – which I did, saying each one really slowly. After the third word she said ‘IE!’. ‘Hooray! You found the link!’ I exclaimed, telling her how clever she was! Her smile became wider and her eyes started to shine. So I wrote the remaining words and got her to put the ‘ie’ in for me. More praise – more smiles!

Next she was asked to pick a word that she would easily be able to spell – she chose ‘view’. I hid the list and she spelled it perfectly! I wrote 100% very large next to her answer and she then picked the word ‘chief’. Again – success! Again lots of praise and lots of rewards. By now she was laughing and really having fun. We were able to almost complete the list in the very few minutes we had and they left: one smiling, confident girl and one mother who told me she felt ‘inspired’ to liven up her homework sessions.

Only then did I realise that I had been using almost exactly, in a slightly different order, the exact procedure I had described in that early blog. Break the task down, concentrate on the successes, ladle on the praise and you will have one very happy, willing student!

Try it next time your child is doing one of the quizzes on this site – forget the answers they get wrong! Just praise and enjoy those that are right!

Guest Blog by Cathy Bird

Since retiring from full-time teaching Art and English and her post as Assistant Head and Sixth Form Tutor, Cathy Bird has concentrated on her painting and now runs art courses and sessions at her own studios in Kent. She also tutors students at all levels in Literacy, Comprehension and Essay-writing.

Creating A Character

directing-sceneStill working here with our directing analogy and the moment by moment scenario, let’s look at characterisation.

In a script, a director will look for what a character says about himself, what others say about him and how he reacts to others. These things dictate who he is and how he will act.

In a story, the reader should be able to recognise who the character is by what he says and does and how others react to him. The difference in writing is the need to let the reader know what is happening during any interaction. Continue reading


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) – the greatest composer of all time?

Of all classical composers, Mozart is almost certainly the most universally popular composer. His music appeals to young and old. It can be appreciated on a superficial ‘easy listening’ level, but those seeking emotional depth, technical brilliance and sheer musical grandeur will not be disappointed.

Mozart’s prodigious childhood is well known. Continue reading

Children Should Be Heard

child-attentionThere is an old saying that children should be seen and notheard, but I would like to update that into just this; children should be heard. When you talk to someone you expect him or her in some way to indicate that they have indeed heard you, it’s the civilised thing to do. You probably would be upset if they looked as if they had not paid any attention to what you said. Many marital arguments have probably started in exactly this way. Continue reading

Tuning In To Poetry

quill-penMany young people tend to shy away from poetry and that is a terrible shame because they miss out on so many wonderful experiences and a pleasure that lasts for a lifetime.

There has never been an easier time for a parent to give their child the gift of loving poetry. There have never before been so many funny poems published with an appeal for children of all ages. There have never been so many ways that poetry can be accessed and enjoyed.

Let’s look at how you can give your child the key to this magical door! Continue reading

Atmosphere and Mood

scary-outsideThe director in theatre has control of atmosphere and mood, working with the actors to create a particular feeling in the audience at any given moment.

This is helped by lighting and sound, along with set design. For example, a dim light and scary music produces an eerie feeling even before the actors speak, and they intensify the mood in the delivery of lines.

As the writer, you have to do everything yourself. You need to show the atmosphere by the way you use words. And we should be able to recognise the mood of the dialogue without being told what it is. Continue reading

Listen To Your Child

listening-to-childThere are a number of things we can do to make our children’s lives happier, whether a parent or teacher small changes in how we behave can have a big effect.

One of the most important things is being able to listen. We all instinctively know this but perhaps neglect it when it’s our own kids. As a parent you will probably be hit by a barrage of communication all day and it is very tempting to just switch off. If you are busy or trying to concentrate on something then again you won’t be inclined to listen to what your child wants to say. Continue reading

Handwriting For Kids

good-handwritingIt may be unfashionable to talk about quality of handwriting, but if a child does not learn to write clearly and legibly, he will be at a disadvantage.

In this day and age where all children are well versed in the use of computer keyboards and other high tech means of producing a written page of work, it can be argued that they don’t need to be able to write well by hand.

It is true that essays and formal presentations would normally now be typed and word processing is an essential skill which must be learned. Continue reading

Answering The Question: GCSE English Language

examsI have covered aspects of the importance of answering the question earlier in my blogs. This time I would like to look at examination questions. In many ways this is the most vital time for your child because so many marks can be lost at this level.

Here is part of a question from a specimen OCR GCSE Examination Paper for English which may help to show what I mean. The candidates had to read eye-witness accounts of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. This excerpt relates to one of them. Continue reading


stage-focusStill concentrating on this series of approaching writing from the perspective of a theatre director, let us consider focus. What does it mean?

In theatre, focus is that point where, at any given moment, the audience has its attention. This is quite deliberate. The director decides exactly where he wants to direct attention. He can then use various methods to direct the audience to look at that point.

Dialogue naturally helps this process along, because the audience tends to look at whichever actor is speaking. But a director can change this by having actors look towards the area of focus – an actor who is silent or a doorway. A sudden sound, or lighting can be used for the same purpose. Continue reading