A is also for…

Again!  This is just a quick note for anyone who has been following this blog who hasn’t joined me in my new home at sjbteaching.com.  The alphabet series on here was a really popular one, and we are going through the alphabet again at sjbteaching.com, starting today with A is also for….Alliteration.

Hope to see you over there.

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See You Over There

This blog has now been moved to its new home on my website, so I won’t be posting anything else on here.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has signed up for email alerts of new blog posts. I hope that you have enjoyed reading them, and that you will continue to follow posts from their new location.

You’ll find a new sign-up at www.sjbteaching.com/blog

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What are the benefits of private tuition?

With a private tutor your child will get individual, targeted help. The tutor will assess your child to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then focus solely on those areas where your child needs help. Everyone learns in a different way, and a private tutor will also take this into account, ensuring that learning is an enjoyable experience for your child. Because the tuition happens on a one-to-one basis, any mistakes or misconceptions can be picked up on and addressed immediately, before the child has chance to embed wrong thinking or methods.

Posted in Dyslexia/Dyscalculia, English, Languages, Maths, Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Why the English are being left behind in the world of business

Today’s post is a guest post from my lovely husband, Ian.

In my work as a Blue Badge tourist guide, I have the opportunity to meet people from all around the world, from all walks of life.  The job also gives me the chance to use my fluent German in my professional life, which opens up a great many possibilities.

I recently had the pleasure of guiding a group of families from Luxembourg, on a tour of Harry Potter film locations throughout England (one of my numerous special interest tours).  As most people know, Luxembourg is very much a multilingual nation.  The group I worked with had Luxembourgish (which, incidentally, sounds like a mish-mash of German, Dutch, French and bits of other languages, a little like the country and its people I suppose) as their native language but the tour was in German, the main international and media language in their part of Luxembourg.  While I was not surprised to discover that most of the adults had a good level of competence in several languages, including a number who spoke perfect, unaccented English despite never spending more than short holidays in Britain, I was amazed by the incredible language skills demonstrated by the children, who were aged between around 5 and 13.

In addition to their home language they all spoke at least fairly fluent German, certainly enough to have read or watched Harry Potter in German, and to follow my tour and explanations and to talk and joke with me with no problems at all.  Officially, I was told they start to learn German at the age of 5, but it was clear that earlier exposure through the media had given them all a massive head-start.  While the younger ones “only” spoke the two languages, most of the older ones had gone several steps further.  They start to learn English at 12, but those of 9 or 10 already had a solid grasp of the language, and coped perfectly well with being in England for the week.  There were several of them who were capable of reading books and watching films in English.  Most also have at least a conversational command of French, another of the official languages of their country.

One of my abiding memories of the week is a conversation with two of the older children, aged around 12 or 13, who both proudly told me that they were fluent in four languages, and had a good knowledge of two others each.  Having studied for many years to reach fluency in one, I was in awe of their abilities.

Of course, part of the reason for Luxembourgers’ language skills is cultural – their country has several official languages and people live in close proximity to borders with other nations.  But even so, I could not help comparing the attitude of the children I met with kids (and indeed adults) in Britain, for whom learning languages is a chore and largely seen as unnecessary.  The children on my tour took huge delight and pride in being multilingual, appreciating the opportunities for communication and experience it opens up for them.

These are the young people the next generation of Britons will be competing with in education and employment in a few years.  While the oft-cited argument that “the whole world speaks English” does have some validity – and there is no doubt that being a native English speaker is a major advantage – in a multinational and multicultural world, someone with six languages always trumps a comparably qualified person with one, even if it is English.

Apart from the sheer joy of meeting children who take such pleasure in learning and speaking other languages, what I took away from that week most of all was the contrast with the insular attitude in Britain.  Rather than dismissing languages as a non-essential part of the curriculum, how amazing would it be if the average British kid of 12 could enjoy books, films, and conversations in six languages, opening them up to a world of experience, culture and potential?

Ian Braisby works as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide and as a German into English translator. He and I blog together at IAB Tours and he can also be contacted via his tourism and guided tours website.

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Ian Noon: The impact of concentration fatigue on deaf children should be factored in

A great insight into what it’s like to be a Deaf learner.

The Limping Chicken

I went to a great conference today. It was riveting and I was hooked on pretty much every word.

And then I got home and collapsed on the sofa. I’m not just tired, I’m shattered. I’ve had to turn my ears off to rest in silence and my eyes are burning. I’ve also had about 3 cups of tea just to write this paragraph.

Boo-hoo, so the Noon is tired, so what? True. People go through worse.

But I do also think the fact that the impact of deafness doesn’t just manifest itself in communication is ever really that well understood. It’s about the energy involved in lipreading and being attentive all day long.

Processing and constructing meaning out of half-heard words and sentences. Making guesses and figuring out context. And then thinking of something intelligent to say in response to an invariably random question.

It’s like doing jigsaws, Suduku…

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How can I help my child with their homework?

It’s difficult. You want to support your child with their homework, but you don’t want to do it for them. So, how much help should you give them and what’s the best way to go about it?

The first thing you should do is make sure that you child has somewhere comfortable to work. By this I mean that they should have enough space to spread their books out, and there should be enough light for them to see what they are doing. Also make sure that there are no distractions, such as from the television or other siblings. This may be all the help that they need.

If they are struggling with the task itself, read through it yourself to make sure you understand what they have to do. Then try breaking it down into a series of smaller tasks for them, but instead of giving them a list of steps to follow, give them a list of questions to answer.

Click here for ideas for helping with English or literacy homework
Click here for ideas for helping with maths homework.

If your child is struggling with their homework on a regular basis it may be worth talking to their class teacher to see if they are having general difficulties. Sometimes children can benefit from having a private tutor who can give them some one-to-one help to help them catch up with their class.

Finally: everyone likes to be praised so make sure you do this. If your child has found the homework particularly hard then it may be better to praise the amount of effort they have put into it rather than the end results.

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How can I help my child with their maths homework?

As a private maths tutor, I often get asked by parents, “How can I support my child with their maths homework without doing it for them?”

In the short-term, the best thing you can do, is to read through it first to make sure you understand it yourself, and then break the problem down into a serious of questions like this:

What’s the first thing you need to work out?
Which operation (ie + – x or ÷) do you need to use?
If your child is unsure, you may need to ask supplementary questions:
Will the answer you get be bigger or smaller than the numbers used in the question?
Which two operations will give you a bigger/smaller number? (If necessary, try both of   these to see which answer looks more sensible)
What’s the second thing you need to work out?
Which operation (ie + – x or ÷) do you need to use?
What’s the third thing you need to work out?
How can you use the answers from the first two steps to help you?

In this way, you are helping your child to see that there are lots of small steps to be taken before the final answer can be worked out, but they still need to do the work for themselves. Think about it like a building job – the scaffolders always come first so that the builders have a safe environment to work in, but they still have to carry out the building work themselves. My worksheets for breaking down word problems into simple steps is available for download from my free resources page.

In the long-term, make sure that your child is confident with everyday maths such as times tables, and number bonds as this will help them in the rest of their work.

If you live in north Birmingham (Great Barr, Hamstead, Kingstanding, Pheasey, Streetly, Sutton) and would like to book a private maths tutor for your child, you can contact me via my website.

Related post: How can I help my child with their English homework?

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How can I help my child with their English homework?

As a tutor, one of the questions I get asked most often by parents is, “How can I help my child with their homework?” They understand that they shouldn’t be doing the homework for their child, but are not sure how to go about supporting. My recommendation is to read through the homework yourself first, and then give your child a series of questions to answer.

For example if they have been asked to write a recount of an exciting day and they don’t know where to start, try breaking it down as follows.

Where did you go?
Who came with you?
What did you do in the morning?
What did you do in the afternoon?
What was the best bit of the day?

If their task is to write a review of their favourite book, you could break it down like this:

What is the book called and who wrote it?
Who is the main character?
What sort of book is it (adventure, mystery, horror, fairytale, etc)?
What’s the best thing that happens in the book?
Is the ending expected or a surprise?
Who else in your class would like this book?
Would you read another book by the same author?

In this way, you are giving them a framework to support their writing, but they are still having to think about how they will answer the questions for themselves, so the homework will still be their own work.

If you live in north Birmingham (Great Barr, Hamstead, Kingstanding, Pheasey, Streetly, Sutton) and want to book a private English tutor for your child, contact me via my website.

Related post: How can I help my child with their maths homework.

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Deaf Awareness Week – What Can You Do?

Today is the last day of Deaf Awareness Week 2013, so it’s time to look at how you can be more Deaf aware.

First of all, to gain the attention of a deaf person, tap them lightly on the shoulder and then wait for them to look at you. If you need to gain the attention of a roomful of deaf people, flash the lights, and wait for them to look at you.

That’s great. You’ve got their attention. Now what?

Contrary to popular misconception, not all deaf people can lipread. Lipreading is a skill, and it’s actually incredibly difficult. Stand in front of a mirror and say, “cot dot hot lot not”. Can you tell the difference between them? It’s not easy is it? Now imagine that you are trying to follow a whole conversation just by watching someone’s lips. Some Deaf people I know are very good at it – my old BSL teacher was so good she could lipread from the side! – but others find it difficult or impossible, so don’t assume that they can. If you know that the person you are talking to can lipread, make it easier for them. Always stand in good light. Never stand with your back to a window as this puts your whole face in shadow and makes it difficult to distinguish your features.

Be aware that not all deaf people can read or write. Of course these skills are taught in schools, but they are not easy to learn.  For most of us, we learn our first language purely by being exposed to it. We hear our parents and wider family speaking it. We hear it on the TV or radio. We hear it spoken in shops when our parents take us out in prams or pushchairs. Imagine if you hadn’t had that exposure. Imagine if you had to learn to read without having any idea what sounds the letters made. Would you have found it so easy?

For many Deaf people, English is not even their first language – those born into Deaf families may have BSL as their first language. Think about what your school life would have been like if your parents spoke English, and then when you went to school your teachers spoke only Chinese, and all your books were written in Chinese. It’s really not surprising that some deaf children leave school without being able to read or write.

In short, don’t assume that you can communicate with a deaf person by speaking slowly for them to lipread, or by writing things down.

So, what can you do?  How about learning some BSL? Many adult education centres offer a short (about 6 weeks) introductory course for just a few pounds, where you will learn the basics such as fingerspelling,numbers and introducing yourself. You could also follow @BritishSignBSL  on Twitter to learn one new sign a day.  Once you have a few signs under your belt, have a go, and don’t be afraid to mime things to get your point across.

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Deaf Studies in a School for the Deaf

Throughout Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception aged children are mixed together) children are exposed to both English and BSL. Some of the teachers have English as their first language, and some have BSL as their first language, so the children have good models for both languages from the very beginning of their schooling. The children can choose whether to speak or sign – some do both, some neither, but none of them are forced one way or the other. The thinking is that by exposing them to good examples of both languages at this young age, even if they choose not to use them, they will have a better understanding in KS1 when more formal teaching begins.

In Year 1 the children begin formal Deaf Studies. One of the staff with BSL as their first language leads the lesson. In the session I observed, the children first practised their fingerspelling – spelling their own and their classmates’ names. After this, the teacher gave the children a picture story and they took it in turns to sign the story as best as they could. When they had all had a go, the teacher signed the story herself, demonstrating how to add extra details and to use facial expressions. Some of the more confident children then had a go, using some of the additional features they had picked up from the teacher. The whole lesson was taught in BSL.

Storytime in Year 1 takes place in both languages. In the morning the children have a story which is read in English but with a few signs to support understanding. In the afternoon they have the same story but told entirely in BSL.

Higher up the school, Deaf Studies includes playing memory games, and practising lip-reading skills as well as BSL. Children are also introduced to some of the gadgets that will be useful to them in later life when they are old enough to live independently. They are taught about smoke alarms that cause their house lights to flash instead of beeping. They are taught that they can have their doorbell connected to the lights so that they flash when someone rings the bell. They are taught about vibrating devices attached to alarm clocks that they can put under their pillow when they don’t have mom and dad to wake them up anymore.

One of my favourite lessons was watching the Deaf adults teaching the children how to use FaceTime so that their social interaction doesn’t have to stop when they leave the school premises.

Related posts: Numeracy in a School for the Deaf    Deaf Awareness Week – what can you do?

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