My Toolbox

I use many tools to create a comfortable learning experience. I get to know the child’s brain and their preferences, so that I can tailor make their learning to suit them. I adapt according to how the pupil is feeling, some days they can learn an amazing amount and another day, we need to take things slower.

I use several excellent websites:

Smartick (www.smartickmethod.com) is wonderful. The children create their own avatar and have their own virtual world which they interact with. There is a daily session that takes about 20 minutes to complete. Once they have done that, they can play competitions, do lessons or play games. They earn ticks, which they can use to buy things for themselves or as gifts to their friends.

The lesson videos are outstanding. My pupils are happy to do Smartick on their own. I usually introduce it to them first in a lesson and then they just ask for help if they have had a problem.


IXL (www.ixl.com) is a brilliant resource. It has questions linked to the curriculum of various countries. Generally, children don’t like doing it on their own. I use it to teach maths or English. Sometimes, we just do 5 questions on each skill, so that they can revisit it later, to help put it into their long-term memories.


Lumosity (www.lumosity.com) is an amazing brain training program, which has about 35 games to develop different attributes. I use this with most pupils, as they love it and it really improves their self-confidence quickly. It improves their speed of working and gets them to move past a small mistake without engaging with it and getting emotional about it. They happily do this on their own.


Atom Learning (app.atomlearning.co.uk) is used by several schools to prepare for the ISEB computerised Pre-tests. Often the school subscription only covers activities. I encourage the parents to buy the Atom Nucleus as then they have access to unlimited mock tests.


TypingClub (www.typingclub.com) is an excellent way to learn to type. It has simple, graded lessons with occasional games. It is such a valuable skill to have.


Toe by Toe by Keda & Harry Cowling

I use this wonderful book to teach reading systematically, from scratch. I have taught hundreds of children to read using this. It is a very logical approach, so it appeals to the more scientific children, who often haven’t found reading interesting, because it didn’t seem to make sense to them. Normally, I break up the lesson with games or Lumosity. I don’t follow the author’s instructions, as it takes too long to do it her way and the children would get very frustrated.


Thinkfun and Smart Games etc.

I went into an excellent toyshop in Cambridge and asked the owner which were the best games for 4 -14year olds. I came out with two huge carrier bags. They love playing these games. It helps me to get to know their thinking styles, so that I can adapt my teaching.


Science Experiments

I do simple, safe experiments in my science lab (kitchen). The children love them.


Cookery

I often bake with pupils and get them to write out the recipes. This can help with their dexterity and weighing skills.


LunaStix and Jacks

Many of my pupils struggle with manual dexterity, so playing these games really helps them develop. It is also good for learning to listen to instructions carefully and then physically following them.


IKEA furniture

We often build IKEA furniture together. They absolutely love doing this. If it is for my home, then they sign underneath. I made simple step stools with several children and they took them home and decorated them.


Plants

We sometimes grow plants from seed or take cuttings. This avocado plant took a lot of patience as it didn’t sprout for months!


Mountains and trips

I take my long-term pupils on trips. We might walk in the mountains or go on educational visits. One group, who were all out of school, wrote a Harry Potter play and performed it in the forest. They absolutely adored doing this.


I have lots of paints and craft resources. I have some excellent books for making mathematical models and drawings. I find that most children need to be taught how to rule a line and by doing an exciting project they learn effortlessly.


Relaxation/ Visualization

If a child has a subconscious voice in their head saying that they can’t do maths then, however much you teach them, it will always come to the front if they are stressed, as in an exam. So I use a relaxation which is similar to the visualisations that top athletes do. I get them to enter the REM state, which is what happens when they dream at night, using a special breathing technique and a visualization of going down to a lovely beach.

We write a page or two together with positive statements like, “You are a very clever girl. We know this because of how well you do on Lumosity and with the Thinkfun games. You are good at maths. You read the questions carefully and check your answers”

If they are doing an entrance to a school, I get them to imagine themselves in their uniform in a part of the school that they particularly liked.

I read the exact words that we wrote together when they are in the REM state and we record it. They then listen to it each night before going to sleep for 21 days.

This often has a very dramatic effect on their self-confidence and attitude. I have done this very successfully with children from 5 years old.


Stickers

I collect beautiful stickers and the children choose one to put on the front of their books. I give stickers for doing something particularly well. I also give them one for making a mistake, which flabbergasts them the first time that I do it. I say that a mistake is a learning opportunity. In school most children try to hide their mistakes from their peers and their teacher. I explain that in some cases the only way to learn is from trial and error. I encourage them to analyse their mistakes and to learn from them.


Dogs

My two affectionate Golden Retrievers, Arthur and Albert, are my assistants. As long as the pupil likes dogs, they are in the room. Often Albert, has his nose on their lap, while they work. They stroke him and feel happy. If a pupil is here for a long time, they have what we call a “dog break”, where they lie on the couch and have a cuddle. I had a family here for a term and while I was teaching one, sometimes the other was snuggled up on the sofa reading a book with a dog. They weren’t keen readers, but they enjoyed themselves because it was fun!


CGP Science Revision Books and Workbooks for GCSE or IGCSE

I use these books to teach from, so that they can continue when they’re on their own or back at school. I read the page in the revision book, making sure that they understand it all. I then read it again and we record it, so that they can listen to it again later. Then we go through the questions in the workbook. They then do this as homework. I get them to write their answers in pencil and then check to see if the CGP answer is better than theirs. If it is then they rub out their answer and write the best answer in ink. This system has worked brilliantly with many pupils. It is empowering as they can then go away and continue on their own. They then come back with a clear idea of what they need help with. This approach means that they take control of their own revision.


Revision planner

I often help them to prepare a tailored revision timetable. We start with their actual exams and school timetable and work backwards. That way the revision schedule takes into account the nearest exams and keeps other subjects ticking over. We do this on Excel or on paper so that it can be altered easily. The subjects are colour coded to make it easy to see if there are any gaps. They usually agree to work much harder when we write their timetable together.


Usborne Encyclopedias

These are wonderful resources. I use the science one the most and then the history. I haven’t used the Geography one much. They have great illustrations and have links to approved video links or websites. I had one pupil, who was out of school to learn with me, who loved history, so we used the internet links to build Viking boats to invade the Lindisfarne Monastery. There were different routes to sail, a variety of places to land and various tactics for the actual attack. Another has activities for the Great Fire of London.


Mrs Wordsmith (www.mrswordsmith.com)

I use Mrs Wordsmith to develop vocabulary. The children love the illustrations. I allow them to choose the cards that they like then they take them home and bring them back a couple of days later. Sometimes, I get them to write out the definitions.