National Libraries Day: Sat 7 Feb

There are plenty of activities going on at Faversham Library next weekend, as it participates in National Libraries Day on Saturday 7 February.

All across the nation, libraries will be the focus of events as we’re all urged to show our support for our local library by going along and taking part in a range of activities ranging from readings to stories, games and quizzes.

IMG_2334Faversham Library, a little haven of tranquility, will be hosting story-time for young children, quizzes for all ages and encouraging you to share your favourite books between 10am-12pm on the day. The library itself offers internet facilities as well as a rich range of reading stock for children, teenagers and adults alike.

The Digital Age may offer a wealth of information and speed, but there’s no substitute for the hands-on experience, particularly for young children, of exploring the endless landscape of literature afforded by a library’s shelves. With libraries fast becoming a dwindling service as the years progress, make sure you show your support for Faversham’s next week.

New Tests – an alternative view

Not everybody is convinced that the new KS2 grammar, punctuation and spelling tests are a good idea. Read an amusing alternative view from a teacher here:

Personally, I value her alternative to the government advice:

“What if my child finds the test difficult?

We want to work in partnership with you to minimise the levels of boredom and misery for your child.

Prior to the test in May 2013:

  • Talk to your child about the test and ensure that they fully understand how unimportant and irrelevant it is for their future success.
  • Please don’t go and spend money on practice workbooks. Making children miserable has been added to our job description – not yours”.

These tests were opposed by the National Association of Head Teachers, who, at last year’s conference, voted almost unanimously to find ways of stopping the tests going ahead:

Help with Spelling – some essentails for KS2

What can I do if I can’t spell a word?

What can I do?

Download the pdf here: What can I do if I can’t spell a word

Help online:

“Listen to the word and spell it out”game:

and lots more here:

Use mnemonics to help with tricky words: Mnemonics









download the pdf here: Mnemonics

Find lots more spelling resources here (not just for dyslexics):

and reinforcing the alphabetic code can help. Download a printable alphabetic code chart here:

Alphabetic code chart A4

and just out of interest, find the longest words in the English language here:

KS2 grammar, punctuation & spelling tests

In May 2013, the Department for Education is introducing a new test “to make sure that when children leave primary school they are confident in grammar, punctuation and spelling. The test will ensure that primary schools place a stronger focus on the teaching of these skills than in previous years”.

The English grammar, punctuation and spelling test assesses children’s English skills in five key areas in Year 6.

The DfE have produced a leaflet for parents: “This document outlines for parents what the tests are for, why children must take them and how their children will benefit”. It can be downloaded here:

Information for Parents

Both the level 3-5 test and level 6 tests will assess children’s abilities in the following technical aspects of English:

  • grammar;
  • punctuation;
  • spelling;
  • vocabulary; and
  • handwriting (subject to final decisions following the results of the technical pre-test).

The sample materials document gives information about:

  • the specific areas of the programmes of study that the level 3-5 and level 6 tests will assess;
  • what the tests will cover within the National Curriculum level descriptors; and
  • the format of the tests.

It also provides some illustrative examples of the types of tasks and questions children will encounter. It can be downloaded here:

Sample Materials Document

Not everybody is convinced that these tests are a good idea. Read an alternative view here:

Why all this spelling?

I have begun to resent this latest trend for endless spelling practice homework from my children’s primary schools and wonder why we have to endure the drudge of endless, relentless spelling, spelling, and spelling?

Easy homework to mark, I cynically suspected, but I have now discovered that it is not the teachers who are responsible, but the Department for Education, which has introduced a new KS2 English grammar, punctuation and spelling test – so that explains it!

But, why? Why have educators decided that spelling is key? Is this part of the conservatives “back to basics” agenda, or is there evidence to suggest that this endless practice and testing of spelling will reap rewards for our children?

Learning to recognise High Frequency words is useful, I can understand this, but why do our list of spellings include words like “campanology” and “Primula”?

The research of reading Specialist Susan Jones, M.Ed. tells us that spelling improves reading and writing fluency and how it improves vocabulary and comprehension. She writes that:

“Rather than relegate spelling to a back burner, spelling can and should be an integral part of language instruction for every student. It is mortar that helps students master the basics of language, especially students who may struggle with reading. Rather than dismiss it as a frill to “focus harder” on reading, teaching spelling and handwriting enables a struggling student to use different senses and strengths to learn and master the relationship between the sounds and symbols of our language, which is the backbone of reading. Other students will be able to more deeply understand the patterns of our complex language and become master communicators”.

“Spelling is not simple, but when people understand its structure, it is perfectly decodable and not limited to people “born to spell” to understand. For example, many people struggle with spelling the word “broccoli.” Which letter should be doubled? If a student – or teacher or parent – understands the syllable types of the English language, the word makes sense. “Closed” syllables end in a consonant and have a short vowel sound. Open syllables end in a vowel. Often, a consonant is doubled so that a vowel is clearly short, including when we add suffixes. Examples are bagged, collie, and broccoli, which would be divided into syllables as broc – co – li. Perhaps it’s unfortunate that people who are naturally good at spelling and reading are likely to be teaching it; they may not have needed to have these rules explained, or perhaps don’t remember the explanations because they did not have to practice them”.

I can see that the usefulness of understanding spelling structure, as outlined above, but I am not convinced that my 11-year-old is absorbing this. I am sorry to say that he practices the words on Thursday night, gets most of them right in the test on Friday and then they are forgotten again by Saturday. I do take out the dictionary and talk to him about the meanings of words I don’t think he knows or understands, but he shows little interest. He even insists that I test the words in the order they are written, because that way they are easier to remember and that is how they will be tested the next day.

I might put myself in the category of “people who are naturally good…at reading”, but I am good at reading despite the fact that I am hopeless at spelling! I cannot spell a large proportion of the words on my 11-year-old’s spelling list, but I can read them.

MP900309617[1]I worry that my children will be so fed up with learning endless lists of words that they will never experience the satisfaction I felt when I discovered the meaning of a new word. Learning a new word was a pleasure for me, not because I had a list to learn, understood how it was constructed, and got 10 out of 10 for a test, but because I enjoyed discovering new, interesting and unusual words and finding an opportunity to use them.

I fear that this new passion for spelling is part of the tick-box culture of our education system, leaving no room for fun or joy for pupils or teachers. More of a conveyor belt than a journey of discovery – it certainly leaves me sad and cold.

New tests for 11 year-olds revealed

Education secretary Michael Gove has revealed new tests in literacy for 11 year-olds, an article in the Telegraph indicated yesterday.

The new exam, which is more focused, will assess pupils on correct use of punctuation, appropriate grammar usage including knowledge of nouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and the correct use of tenses and pronouns such as “I” and “me”. The tests will form part of the ‘writing’ component of Sats alongside existing teacher assessments of pupils’ written composition skills.

Read more in the Telegraph article online here.

Helping children to read

One school library in Hertfordshire has taken steps to help improve children’s reading abilities, in a recent article in The Guardian.

For those students that we judged to need the most amount of help, we produced a literacy equivalent of an individual education plan (IEP). We use this with the form tutor, English teacher and parents to highlight certain strategies that can be used to help the student make the required progress.

Types of intervention and ideas range from the use of iPads, Kindles and other electronic devices to the use of blogs, guided reading, literacy leaders and the teaching of specific reading skills.

Using a Kindle, for example, is great for weaker readers who may have trouble reading a book with a double page spread – even if they are not dyslexic. If you watch a weaker reader read their eyes tend to wander off the sentence or even the paragraph. This is the same with a word they have noticed at the bottom of the page which they are worrying about. They either skip it or don’t concentrate in anticipation for a word they know they will struggle with. This inhibits fluency as well as comprehension but with the Kindle being able to enlarge the text lowers the chances of this happening and so helps to increase fluency and comprehension and of course, confidence.

Read the full article here.

KCC Library at Boughton

We are very lucky to have a KCC library at Boughton Village Hall (hidden round the back, by the footpath).

It is a great place to spend a quiet hour browsing, on the computers, or occupying your children on a rainy afternoon.

What about combining a visit to the library with a trip to the playground? Could be a life-saver when you’ve all been stuck indoors on a cold winter’s day!

It’s a cosy room with a surprisingly wide selection of books and a number of computers for public use. Some children’s books have been chosen to support the school curriculum and there are lots of story books for younger and older children. The staff are friendly and helpful and can order books for you.

Library opening times: Tuesdays 10.00am  – 1.00pm, 2.00pm – 5.00pm. Fridays 2.00pm – 6.00pm.

Please use it – or we lose it!