Beat the Transfer Test nerves

How to support your child in the build up to the Transfer Test.

Transfer test 2015

 

After months of preparation, the Northern Ireland Transfer test exams are almost upon us. How can you ensure that your child is calm, cool and collected on the day. Here are a few tips to make sure they can perform to the best of their abilities.

The hard work has been done! How can we make sure the actual exam is stress free?

The week before the test

  • Try to make sure your child eats healthily in the run up to the test. Don’t be tempted to give them too many sugary, fatty treats to make them feel better. The body needs lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, oily fish, and plenty of water. Dehydration shrinks the brain!!
  • Make sure your child is getting lots of sleep by going to bed at a reasonable hour. Try and keep any extra after school activities to a minimum in the week before the test. You don’t want them to be over tried.
  • Make sure that your child knows when the test starts and finishes.
  • Go shopping for some new HB pencils and a quality rubber.

The Day of the Test

  • Leave time for the journey to the test venue. Check the traffic reports before you set out.
  • Make sure that your child has a good healthy breakfast. Consider giving them a healthy snack on the way to the test such as a banana. This will keep their blood sugar up, which will help with their concentration.
  • Remind your child is keep an eye on the time. The invigilators should alert your child every 15 minutes but your child must take responsibility for timing the test as well.
  • Don’t forget essentials such as glasses or an inhaler. Give them some tissues just in case.
  • Prepare your child for the fact that some children may cry. Help them understand that they must focus on themselves and not the emotions of others.
  • Talk about the distractions they may face in the exam room and how to ignore them and get on with their work.

After the test is over

  • Give them a big hug and reassure them that it doesn’t matter what the result is, they have done their best and you are extremely proud of them!
  • Spend the rest of the day engaged in a relaxing and fun activity of your child’s choice to help them take their mind off what may have been a stressful experience.
  • Ask your child how they felt the exam went. Try to find out if anything significant went wrong for them. This information could be important if you have to appeal.

For more information on how we can help your child prepare for the Transfer Test please visit our website.

 

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Getting the most out of a school open day

Choosing a Secondary or Grammar School

Making the right choice for my child.

  • Make a list – Decide with your child which schools you are interested in going to see and write down the dates of the open days in your diary.  You can usually find them advertised in publications such as ni4kids, Primary Times, The Irish Times and The Belfast Telegraph.  Many schools also publicise their open days on their own websites.  My advice would be to visit as many as possible.

Lisburn School open days 2017

  • Discuss with your child what their main priorities would be in choosing a school and ask them to think about these when they visit each one.  It may even be a good idea to have a check list of questions to ask when you are touring the schools.  That way you can make sure you have all the relevant information and it will be easier to compare them.
  • If your child has a particular interest in sport or music it is important to find out what sort of emphasis the school puts on these activites.
  • Talk to as many of the teachers and pupils as you can.  Soak up the atmosphere.  Do you feel welcomed?  Are the staff and pupils friendly?
  • Find out what the admissions criteria are.  Does your child fit easily into some or, preferably, most of these criteria?  If not then you may have to reconsider the order of your choices.
  • What subjects are available for GCSE and A level?  Does the school do well in the league tables?
  • How will your child get to school? If your child will have to catch a bus to get to school you may have to factor in this extra cost and how it will affect family life.
  • When you have decided which schools are most suitable for your child, you can then put these into your preferred order.
  • If your child is required to sit the Transfer Test to be considered for entry to a grammar school then you also need to consider their results before making a final decision. Looking at the scores the school has accepted in previous years will give you a guideline as to how your child’s result might perform but remember that intake varies year on year. Read our AQE 2014 results blog to see results from 2011-2014. Read our GL Assessment 2014 results blog to see results from 2011-2014.  The 2015 test intake has not been published yet.  We will add it to our blog as soon as the figures become available.  The previous years intake are published in the Belfast Telegraph every January and this is where we get the data from.

 

 

 

 

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Get Your Child Ready for Year 8

Is your child ready for Year 8?

The transition from Primary to Secondary school is one of the important milestones in every child’s life.  It can often be a daunting time for children as they move from the safe, sheltered environment of the Primary classroom with one teacher to the much busier world of secondary education with multiple teachers, classrooms and homework to try to keep on top of.  It is all too easy to let your child take a holiday from all things education for the whole summer.  However, remember that the last few months of Primary 7 are often filled with less academic activities and it is especially important that the summer brain drain does not mean your child falls behind at the beginning of their first year.

So what can you do over the summer months to make sure your child is ready and able to cope with the realities of being a “Firsty”?

Keep them reading!

Sit down with your child and create a summer reading list.  Give them a target of perhaps 3 or 4 books per month and let them select the books that interest them.

Summer Reading List:

The Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke – A magical adventure which blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction when an evil ruler escapes the pages of a book and enters the world of a young girl called Meggie.

Ratburger by David Walliams – One of Britain’s favourite comedians returns with another hilarious romp.  The story of a little girl called Zoe whose stepmother treats her like a slave and whose pet rat is in danger of being turned into a burger by the evil Burt from Burt’s Burgers.

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman – This award winning trilogy has turned into a classic which adults will enjoy just as much as the teenagers.  The story of Lyra and her Demon is set in two parallel universes and takes the reader on a fantastical quest to save children from a terrible fate.

The Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer – Artemis Fowl the criminal mastermind who is still only a boy. Can he be stopped from stealing from the fairies?  This bold and daring thief takes on more than he bargained when he captures a leprechaun.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B White – This timeless classic should be on everyone’s reading list.   A beautiful spider helps to save Wilbur the pig from his fate.

Alex Rider Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz – Follow the adventures of orphan Alex Rider as he finds himself recruited by MI6 to train as a super spy.  This book will keep even the most reluctant of readers turning the page!

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo – This book is essential reading for children and adults alike.  The themes of childhood, growing up too young, friendship, courage and war make thought provoking reading in this heart breaking story of brothers thrust into the horror of the trenches.

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien – This tale of Hobbits, elves, trolls, goblins and wizards is still as addictive today as it was when it was first published.  The world of Middle Earth and the magical adventures of Bilbo Baggins and his friends is a masterpiece in children’s fiction and a must read for all pre-teens.

Anne Frank:  A Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – The remarkable, true account of a young girl caught up in the horrors of World War 2.  A Jewish family forced into hiding in Nazi occupied Amsterdam – Anne’s diary chronicles her own experience of the transformation from childhood to adolescence and the terror of the persecution of the Jews.

Blogging

Another great way to keep brains ticking over and make sure that their communication skills are not restricted to texting is to have them write a blog about their summer holidays. Try setting one up on a simple site like WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger.  If you are uncomfortable with your child’s blogging efforts being available to the public you can make the blog private and send a link to friends and family so they can comment on their work.  Blogging is a fantastic way to ensure your child continues to practise their writing skills and the novelty of self- publishing is often much more appealing than asking them to put pen to paper.

Practice mental skills

On average children lose as much as 3 months’ worth of knowledge during summer holidays!  At this crucial transition stage it is vital to consolidate the skills learned in the Primary school, to give your child the best possible starting point in their first year at secondary.   Fast and reliable mental maths is the key to success!  Try making a game of arithmetic – Let your child take control of the weekly shopping.  Give them a budget and a list of what is needed.  Can they make sure it will all add up once they get to the till?  Cooking is a chance to revise fractions and measure.  Every day experiences can be fun and interesting, while giving children opportunities to go over the skills they need.

What about on holiday?

Pack some suitable books that they will enjoy reading in a quiet moment, some books of puzzles, word games and logic problems. There are lots available in the shops.  Even simple crosswords and Sudoku’s can make a big difference and help your child develop fast, accurate thinking skills.

By Clare Rimmer

 

 

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10 great books to read with children on Christmas Eve

Christmas books for kids

Image: Clare Rimmer

Image: Clare Rimmer

One of my greatest pleasures on Christmas Eve is snuggling up by the fire after we have hung up the stockings and reading a lovely Christmasy book.  We have many favourites in our house and I wanted to share a few of them here along with some great suggestions from our facebook fans on On Target Tuition.  I have included an amazon link so you can get some last-minute shopping in.  It’s not too late!

Merry Christmas from all of us at On Target Tuition.

  1. The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis – Written by the award-winning writer and director this book gives a new twist to the naughty and nice theme and has become a firm favourite in our house this year.  A heartwarming tale that will ensure perfect behaviour from now until the big day! Find it here.
  2. Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr – This book is a classic and should definitely be on everyone’s Christmas book shelf.  Our copy is dog-eared and even has my eldest daughters early attempts at writing adorning its front cover (I hope Santa wasn’t watching!).   Mog finds Christmas just a little bit strange.  Trees that walk and talk, too many people in the house and everyone is too busy to play.  You will have to read this one again and again!  Find it here.
  3. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas by Ronda and David Armitage – The final story in a series of books about the Mr Grinling the Lighthouse Keeper.   Christmas is in danger of becoming a disaster with no food and no presents.  Another heartwarming tale that shows the true spirit of Christmas is a about being around the ones we love.  Find it here.
  4. Angelina’s Christmas by Katherine Holabird – A sweet little tale about being alone at Christmas and a kind-hearted little mouse who makes sure that an old, lonely man can enjoy the magic of Christmas too.  Find it here.
  5. The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg – A great book for younger children due to its interactive element.  The Jolly Postman delivers gifts to various fairy-tale characters and not only that the children are able to take each present from its envelope to find out what the characters get for Christmas. Find it here.
  6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuess – Nobody can stop the magic of Christmas – not even the Grinch!  Your little ones will be captivated by the whimsical drawings and witty rhymes that make this book a modern classic.  Find it here.
  7. Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore – This poem has been entertaining us at Christmas since 1822 and Christmas Eve wouldn’t be the same without it.  Start your recital with hushed suspense and build into a dramatic crescendo as the mysterious night-time visitor makes his appearance.  Find it here.
  8. Box of Delights by John Masefield – A wonderful Christmas fantasy novel set in snowy England.  The Box of Delights is a true Christmas classic.  A young boy is entrusted with a shiny black box with magic powers, which can transport the owner through time and space.  Find it here.
  9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (retold for younger children by Gill Tavner) - The definitive Christmas story.  The moral transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge helps us to rescue the festive season and set a guideline for what the spirit of Christmas should mean.  This version of the book makes the story much more accessible for younger readers and is a great introduction to the work of Charles Dickens.  Find it here.
  10. The Lion the Wich and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis – Another unforgettable Christmas classic that all children should be introduced to. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy step through a wardrobe door and into the wintry land of Narnia where a magical adventure full of Christian allegory unfolds.  Find it here.
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When should my child start preparing for the Transfer Test?

When is the best time to begin supporting your child for the AQE and GL Assessment Transfer Tests?

tranfer test tuitionThe answer simply is now!  Your child is half way through Primary 6, fully settled and by now parent-teacher consusultations have taken place.

Learning time is crucial as there are many new concepts which need to be introduced and your child needs time to digest these and fully understand them without any stress.

English skills need to be assessed and bad habits with punctuation and spelling need to be worked on.  Understanding of figures of speech such as nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives needs to be thorough.  Your child must be confident skimming and scanning questions and texts.

Problem solving methods need to be worked on in maths, which is the key to success for the Transfer Test.  A solid foundation in times tables, decimals, fractions and percentages is required along side a good grasp of measure, shape and the use of statistics.

A year to prepare for the Transfer Test allows time to build in revision of concepts to consolidate understanding as well as the opportunity to be introduced to past paper questions.  This helps build confidence by building on success and learning from mistakes.

The aim is to maintain a steady pace of progress which peaks as the first test approaches around the first week of November 2014.

At On Target Tuition we have a lot of experience guiding children and supporting parents successfully through this process.   We begin with a free assessment from which we can pinpoint areas of weakness and tailor a programme of study designed to help them achieve their own personal targets as they move towards the test.  Our lessons are 80 minutes long, which allows us to work on both English and Maths as well as past papers.   Our tuition involves extensive past paper practice in both the AQE and GL Assessment papers, which is vital to improve exam technique.

For more information or advice please call us at our Lisburn centre on 9267 5071.

By Clare Rimmer

Posted in Primary education, Top education tips for parents, Transfer test | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Top tips to become a homework hero

Fight the homework blues

Homework tipsThe first month of the school term has come to an end. Has the new term shine started to wear off yet? Is your child’s homework  becoming a stress filled chore?  If the answer to these questions is yes, you are not alone! By week 5 your child should be well into the swing of their classroom routines and they should also be settled into a homework routine.  Homework is a bone of contention in many households and can lead to stress, especially if you are trying to juggle your own work schedule with spending quality time with your children.

However, homework is an important part of your child’s education. It gives you a chance to become involved in the learning process and a good homework routine from an early age will develop good study habits that will help your child later on in their school careers when they are sitting exams and writing coursework.

Here are our top tips to becoming a homework hero

  1. Routine – Establish a study routine at the beginning of term and stick to it. Discuss what you expect from them when they get home from school.  What time will the homework be completed in the week and how much time will they spend on activities like watching T.V or playing on the Wii.  Set clear ground rules from the beginning and you will find it much easier to get everything completed without any unexpected tears or protests.
  2. Time – The amount of time a Primary school aged child spends on homework should increase with age. In P1 and P2 this might be 15-20 minutes per week but I would also recommend that you set aside some more time to practise reading together. Perhaps sharing a book at bedtime. Increase the time to 30 minutes 2 to 3 times a week week in P3 and P4 , focusing on reading, mental maths skills and spelling.  By P5 to P7 this should increase to 45 minutes 3 times a week.
  3. Read – Remember to encourage your child to read for enjoyments sake. If you make sure they have access to a range of books that excite their interest, reading homework will never be a chore.
  4. Stress free – Try and keep homework as stress free as possible. If your child is aware of your own anxieties about how well they are performing they may become stressed and switch off learning altogether. Find a quiet time and place. Let your child work independently but be on hand to help if they start to struggle. Make sure you never tell your child the answer just to get the homework finished. Instead, explain how they might find the answer and guide them to the right solution. If your child is really struggling with any aspect of their homework make sure you communicate this to their teacher. Remember the purpose of homework is to practise what they have learned at school allowing the teacher to evaluate if the child is capable of doing it on their own.
  5. Remember the golden rule of homework – If you sense a fight brewing then step out of the ring! If you and your child are frequently locking horns over homework then take a step back. Ask your spouse or a grandparent to help out.

 

 

By Clare Rimmer

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Help! My child doesn’t know their times tables.

Easy tricks to help learn the tricky times table facts

Learning times tables is often a huge struggle for many children.  In my school days times tables were learned by rote.  I can vividly remember chanting the tables as a class and the dreaded Friday test where knowledge was tested and those who did not live up to expectations were made to chant them again in front those who did.   While rote learning works for many children, not everyone can memorise facts by simply repeating and repeating until the brain takes them in.   Often these facts are learned only to be forgotten the following day or week.  So what are the tricks to help children retain their times table facts?

Start with the basics

The commutative property of multiplication simply means it does not matter which number is first when you write the problem.  The answer is the same.

  • 3 x 5 = 5 x 3 (The numbers can be switched around and the answer is the same.)

If you take the commutative property of multiplication into consideration then you really only have to learn half of the times tables.

Any number times ZERO is always ZERO!

Any number times ONE is always itself!

Learn your doubles and you know your 2 times tables

  • 2 x 7 would be 7 + 7 or 14
  • 6 x 2 would be 6 + 6 or 12

The FIVE facts

(Method 1)

  • If you can count in fives, method 1 makes the fives easy.
  • 3 x 5 would be 3 fives.  Count in fives to the third number.
  • 5, 10, 15  (The answer is 15, because the third number, when you count in fives, is 15)

(Method 2)

  • If you are multiplying five times and even number.  Take half of the number and put  a zero after it.

For example 5 x 6 (6 is even)

Take half of 6  (3)

Add a zero – 30

The NINE facts

cometogetherkids.com

cometogetherkids.com

  • Hold your hands in front of you with your fingers spread out.
  • For 9 X 4 bend your fourth finger down. (9 X 3 would be the third finger etc.)
  • You have 3 fingers in front of the bent finger and 6 after the bent finger
  • Thus the answer must be 36( see diagram below )
  • This technique works for the 9 times tables up to 10.

These multiplication facts are as easy as COUNTING.

  • 12 = 3 x 4 ( the numbers go 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • 56 = 7 x 8 (the numbers go  5, 6, 7, 8)

Remember the FOURs as a double twice

  • Double twice the number you are multiplying four by.
  • 4 x 3  (Double 3 twice)

3 doubled is 6, 6 doubled is 12

  • 4 x 6 (Double 6 twice)

6 doubled is 12, 12 doubled is 24

Do you have any other fun ways to remember your times tables?  Please add them to the comments below.

By Clare Rimmer

Posted in Top education tips for parents | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Top tips for getting your child ready for the start of the new school term

Back to school checklist

The first week back to school is always hectic and I always like to be as organised as possible but sometimes it is difficult to remember exactly what is needed and who does what and when!

This back to school checklist will keep you on the right track.

1. Out with the old, in with the new – Get rid of any old school uniform that doesn’t fit.  Pass it on to good home by donating anything still in good condition to a charity shop or a younger child.  Clear out old pencil cases and school bags of pens,pencils and rubbers that are past their best.

2. Write a to-do list – Uniform, school bags, lunch boxes and stationery need to be purchased before the big day so your child feels organised and ready for the new term.  Try and get to the shops at least 3 weeks before term starts, just in case you have to wait for a size to be ordered in. Don’t forget about the P.E kit.

3. Stationery - If your child is in the lower primary the school will usually provide you with a list. If you have an older child let them lead the way. Take them shopping and let them pick a pencil-case, pencils, (get good quality HB pencils – the leads last longer than the cheaper ones so will cost you less in the long run!), pens, rubbers, calculators etc.

4. Family calendar - If everyone in the family knows where they should be and what they should be doing each day your life will be a lot easier.  Get used to writing after school activities down and make a point of looking at it with your children every morning so everyone knows where they are going to be each day and who is going to pick them up.

5. Packed lunch or school dinners – This will require a proper discussion if you want your child to make healthy choices this term!  Talk about what sorts of healthy foods will be included if they are taking packed lunches and make sure it is all food they will eat. Compromise is the key!  Try to make choices that will keep you both happy.  A full stomach is important so they have enough energy for work and play.

6. Bedtime routine – If you are anything like me your children’s bedtime routine may have become a bit lax over the summer months. However, it is really important that a routine is established that ensures your child gets the sleep they need to allow them to perform to their best abilities. Talk about what time they will be going to bed on a school night and make sure you stick to it.  Encourage a wind down period that doesn’t involve too much stimulation. Read to your child, or even better – have them read to you if they are old enough.

7. Morning routine – Getting out of the house in the morning without World War 2 erupting can be a challenge in most houses.   I have found that giving my children a bit of responsibility for ensuring they are ready really helps.  Get them to pack their bag the night before and set it by the door ready to go so you are not scrambling around in a panic before the school run.   Give them a time limit for getting organised and let them know what they have to achieve within this time so you don’t end up repeating yourself.  Iron and set out uniforms the night before so all they have to do is dress themselves.  I always used to laugh at my mum for setting the table for breakfast the night before, but now I understand why she did it. The less you have to think about in the morning the better!

8. Homework – This is definitely something most parents and children don’t look forward to returning to.  Talk to your child about what you expect from them when they get home from school. When will the homework get done in the week and how much time will they be allowed to spend on activities like watching T.V or playing on the Wii. If you set the ground rules from the start it will be much easier to get everything completed.

By Clare Rimmer

Posted in Primary education, Secondary education, Top education tips for parents | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting ready for the first day of Primary School

Is my child ready to start school?

If your child is starting Primary 1 this September you may be feeling anxious as we approach the beginning of the new school term.  Is my child ready to sit in a chair and listen to the teacher?  Will they cope with the large class sizes?  Will they be anxious if they are away from me for the school day?

Below is a list of key milestones that will ease the transition from Pre-School to Primary School.  You will probably find that your child is well on their way to achieving most of these by the time they reach Primary school age.  If there are any that you feel your child may struggle with, spend a little one to one time each week working on them together before the start of term.

  • Can your child get dressed themselves?  Apart from the fact that if your child can dress themselves it is a tremendous help to you, it is also important that they are able to perform this task in a classroom situation.  Imagine one teacher and one classroom assistant dressing thirty children after a P.E lesson!
  • Can your child hop, skip and jump?  Gross motor skills such as running, skipping, jumping and hopping are important, because without reasonable gross motor control, it can be difficult for children to move onto developing the fine motor skills that are so essential to for writing and drawing.
  • Can your child count to 10?  Counting and writing the numbers one to ten is something that your child will be taught during their first year of school.  However, it will certainly do them no harm to practise their numbers before they start school.  Practise counting objects around the house and introduce your child to their own age number so they can recognise it.
  • Can your child recognise and/or write their name?  It is helpful if your child can recognise their name, and maybe even write it, to enable them to find their coat hook or other personal items quickly.  Your child will soon begin learning letters, numbers and words in line with the curriculum. If your child can read and write some words before they start school, then great, but don’t panic if they can’t. If you wish to give your child a head start with their letter sounds I would recommend leapfrog fridge phonics.  
  • Can your child use scissors to cut out neatly?  Fine motor skills help us perform tasks such as: cutting using scissors; painting with a paint brush; writing; drawing; holding and manipulating small objects and using a knife and fork.  These skills do not develop over night and children who struggle to perform activities which require gross motor control often take longer to develop these skills as well.  Give your child the opportunity to practise using scissors and to develop these skill through every day tasks including doing their own buttons, using pegs, opening and closing jars, threading beads and playing with dough.
  • Can your child recognise colour and shapes?  Spend some time checking that your child knows their basic colours and can recognise simple shapes.
  • Can your child follow a basic hygiene routine?  It is important that your child is used to washing their hands after using the toilet and before eating.  Schools are the perfect breeding grounds for germs and although the teacher will most likely remind your child to do this, it is best to get this good habit drummed into them as early as possible.

Is your child ready for school?  Please let me know in the comments below!

By Clare Rimmer

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Summer writing activities for kids – The Graphic blog

Encouraging writing during the summer holidays

I have been encouraging my two girls to write a blog this summer to keep their brains active and so family and friends can keep up with what they have been up to.  Blogging is a fantastic way to encourage children to practise their writing skills and because they can receive immediate feedback it is usually a more attractive alternative to writing a diary or a journal.  What child wouldn’t like to have their efforts published for others to see!

The Graphic Blog

Unfortunately my eldest is not too keen on the idea of writing full stop!  I had to come up with a way for her to be able to take part and not feel like mummy was making her do “boring” work during her summer holidays!  After many days of racking my brains trying to come up with something that would inspire her creative writing skills to flourish I was suddenly hit by the perfect way to get her blogging while watching her play with her lego.

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Image: Clare Rimmer

Read the full story “Lego Panic” here.  Please feel free to leave her an encouraging comment.

We came up with a story that could be acted out by her lego figures and photographed each stage of the story at close range on my phone.  We then uploaded the photos to Microsoft Paint and added speech bubbles to her characters.  Find out how at sonic.org.  We then added the photos to our wordpress.com blog and added captions.

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Image: Clare Rimmer

Read the full story “Lego Panic” here.  Please feel free to leave her an encouraging comment.

I have never seen her so engrossed in a project and she even asked when she can do another one!  This sort of enthusiasm for writing is unheard of from my normally work shy child.  The key was finding a subject matter that really captured her imagination.  The graphic blog could be translated into many different forms: lego, teddies, barbies, toy cars, football subbuteo players – anything that can be staged and photographed.  The only tools you need are something fascinating to your child, a camera and a computer.

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Image: Clare Rimmer

Read the full story “Lego Panic” here.  Please feel free to leave her an encouraging comment.

By Clare Rimmer

Posted in Top education tips for parents | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment