Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Top Tip for the Holidays!

Watch TV! Yes, really. All kids are going to watch television at some point during the holidays so use the opportunity to sneak in some reading practice! 

A fun way to increase sight word vocabulary and develop a sense of the flow of written and spoken language is to turn on the closed captioning feature on your television. Also use the closed captioning feature on your child's favorite DVDs. Encourage your child to note the captions and read along. Invite a friend, make some popcorn, and they may even forget they're working!

Finland is a country with a very high percentage of capable readers but what do they do in Finland to encourage literacy? Children grow up watching TV with subtitles, so they read while they watch TV. Isn't that just the simplest, most sensible thing? We could do that! Turn on the captioning on your TVs. Your kids will be reading without even realizing it every time they watch a programme. When they grow up, they will never complain when they watch an undubbed foreign film!

The more exposure to text we can give our reluctant readers in a comfortable, non-threatening situation, the better. Happy reading and happy holidays!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pick a book , share, share and share again with reluctant readers and soon they will be on the path to independent reading..

These are some fantastic books to share with a reluctant reader. Children from age 7 upwards would love these examples. If they particularly like one book there is no harm in reading it to death to build up the confidence to go it alone. Curl up on the sofa, take it on the bus, wherever, whenever.

Make a day of it at the library seeing which of these books you can find or spend some pocket money at the book shop! Enjoy...

Weird Street: The Treasure Of Mr Tipp
Weird Street: The Treasure Of Mr Tipp
Margaret Ryan
Weird Street is a terrific little four book series that will get 6-9 year old boys (in particular) and girls really reading and enjoying the experience.  Weird Street is on Johnny's paper round, a bizarre, scary and extremely unusual paper round, where...

A Dinosaur Ate My Socks
A Dinosaur Ate My Socks
Eric Brown
Space fantasy, dinosaurs and a trip back in time are the elements in this dramatic story about some homework that goes a bit wild. Millie and Mouse disagree about their homework on dinosaurs: Millie who loves them thinks it will...

Weird Street: The Curse Of Captain Cross-eyed
Weird Street: The Curse Of Captain Cross-eyed
Margaret Ryan
Weird Street is a terrific little four book series that will get 6-9 year old boys (in particular) and girls really reading and enjoying it.  Weird Street is on Johnny's paper round, a bizarre, scary and extremely unusual paper round, where he...

The Mapmaker's Monsters - Beware The Buffalogre!
The Mapmaker's Monsters - Beware The Buffalogre!
Rob Stevens
The first in an upbeat adventure-fantasy series with character led humour that is perfect for boys.  Think Shrek meets Pirates of the Caribbean.  Hugo is an apprentice mapmaker with a knack for attracting the weirdest things to him.  So why is he so surprised...

The Legend of Spud Murphy
The Legend of Spud Murphy
Eoin Colfer
With five brothers in one house things often get out of hand. When Dad has ‘had enough’, he decides that Will and Marty should spend the afternoon in the Library. But he doesn’t know about the librarian, Mrs Murphy…Can Will...

The Killer Underpants (A Jiggy McCue story)
The Killer Underpants (A Jiggy McCue story)
Michael Lawrence
Featuring Jiggy McCue and his pals Pete and Angie, The Killer Underpants will get every boy and girl aged upwards of 9 years old laughing their clothes off!!! The underpants from hell are taking control and that's only...

The Jumble Book
The Jumble Book
Roger Stevens
Published in aid of Dyslexia Action, this splendid jumble of short poems contains a little bit of everything from a mighty assortment of poets, including Roger Stevens, Brian Moses, John Foster, Michael Rosen, Paul Cookson, and Kit Wright.  It is...

The Iron Man
The Iron Man
Ted Hughes
One of the greatest modern fairy stories, this tells of the strange giant Iron Man who appears from nowhere and begins a reign of terror throughout the countryside as he smashes up the farmers’ tractors and diggers. How the farmers...

The Butterfly Lion
The Butterfly Lion
Michael Morpurgo
The inspiring magic of a white lion brings friendship and hope to a lonely ten year old. Miserable at his boarding school, Bertie runs away. He is rescued by a kind old lady who tells him of how another Bertie,...

Terry Deary's Knights' Tales: The Knight of Spurs and Spirits
Terry Deary's Knights' Tales: The Knight of Spurs and Spirits
Terry Deary
A sad story of cruelty in high places gives a chilling history lesson about the power of the rich over the life and death of the poor. Sir Robert is a bad tempered master who lashes out at his servants...

Mudpuddle Farm: Six Animal Adventures
Mudpuddle Farm: Six Animal Adventures
Michael Morpurgo
The enjoyable interactions of the animals that live at Mudpuddle Farm are brilliantly brought to life by former Children’s Laureate, Michael Morpurgo. Different animals are highlighted in the six separate adventures. There’s the cunning of Mossop the lazy cat who...

Mr Majeika
Mr Majeika
Humphrey Carpenter
Magic carpets don't usually turn up in schools, but this is exactly what happens when Class Three’s new teacher flies in through the classroom window and lands on the floor with a bump. Mr Majeika can behave just like any...

Karate Princess In Monsta Trouble
Karate Princess In Monsta Trouble
Jeremy Strong
Zany, headlong adventure is kept under control – just! – in this hilarious adventure of Belinda, the Karate Princess. Belinda is bored and when she’s bored, her karate habit causes a great many things to get broken… Luckily, her uncle...

Demon Defenders: Zombies in the House
Demon Defenders: Zombies in the House
Jake Lancing
Terrific comedy adventures with a footballing twist that are sure to be loved by boys in particular as well as reluctant readers. These books show that mischievousness doesn’t necessarily mean naughty!  The kids are part of an anything-but-ordinary football team. ...

Michael Morpurgo
Award winning author Michael Morpurgo crams a great deal of emotion into this beautifully told short novel. Lying in a coma after being knocked down by a car, ten year old Robbie is unable to move or speak or see...

Clover Twig And The Incredible Flying Cottage
Clover Twig And The Incredible Flying Cottage
Kaye Umansky
Enjoy a fantastic romp through some crazy magic. Clover Twig's new job as cleaner to the stranage Mrs Eckles comes with a very special house. It's a cottage that can fly! But a flying home has many problems - not...

Andrew Norriss
Entertainingly written, prize-winning Aquila is an exciting adventure. On a boring school trip, Tom and Geoff discover an ancient flying machine. Determined to find out more about it but also desperate to keep their find a secret, the boys return...

Young Wizards
Young Wizards
Michael Lawrence
Perfect for a reluctant or struggling reader of 8+ but with an interest age of 8-12. This is non-stop comedy involving twin boys who discover that when they reach 12 and a half they have the most extraordinary talents, but using...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Test your memory !!

Check out this fantastic advert. After you click on the link under the picture, touch the blue cup and it will surprise you! 

How many of the items for sale do you think you can remember?

I counted 33. Can you remember 10?


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Two stars and a wish!

Using 2 stars and a wish is a great way of marking work for children across all the age ranges. These marking sheets would be particularly useful for junior and middle syndicate children and can be found here.

The strategy of ‘Two stars and a wish’ aims to encourage the children to reflect on their own and each other’s learning. It promotes peer assessment as well as being a useful marking tool for teachers to adopt. The ‘two stars’ in the strategy form the positive feedback on a piece of work and the ‘wish’ indicates where development could be made. Children can assess their own work by giving themselves ‘stars’ and ‘wishes’ or they can give feedback on another child’s work. The strategy is flexible and allows the children to sometimes give only one star or no wish. It is a great way for teachers to make their marking accessible to their children and is a simple way to give positive feedback and constructive comments for improvement. 
For a child that struggles with writing the format below could be one to use with a buddy or during conferencing time with the teacher.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Just for Fun!

Learning can be hard, hard work. Sometimes it helps our learning if we just take a break and think about something that makes us smile. This made me smile when I was looking for a video about how music can help us learn. If you are having trouble remembering a spelling word try and sing it to your favourite rock song melody!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Seminar for parents and the wider community given by Laughton King - psychologist, counsellor, trainer and author on the evening of Tuesday 30th March at Muritai School

Yesterday, Muritai Staff had the pleasure of hearing Laughton King deliver a very inspiring seminar, full of interesting insights and information. He covered many topics surrounding the issue of reaching and teaching the reluctant learner.

Laughton is himself dyslexic and his seminar was invaluable for us as educators. It gave us a real insight into what life in the classroom can be like for children who learn differently, often in a very hands-on, pictoral way.

Laughton will be returning to Muritai on the evening of Tuesday 30th March to extend a warm welcome to our parents and wider community. These are some of the areas he will be covering:-
Motivation, emotional needs, energy systems, reinforcement systems, learning difficulties, dyslexia/ADD/ADHD, parent’s needs and effective communication.

I fully recommend coming along if you can, he is certainly an inspiring speaker. Look out for flyers around the community and further information in The Birds Eye View.

Some Background Information about Laughton King

As a young boy Laughton had significant learning difficulties at school, and even at University, learning was a ‘nightmare’. He knew that he had lots of pictures in his head, ones that came and went, but nothing over which he had particular control.

Coping with classroom lessons was a nightmare, and his responses as a child ranged from fear, depression to emotional withdrawal, to sheer anger at himself for his repeated failure to comprehend. It is therefore remarkable that he went on to University and eventually became a Child and Family Psychologist – with the specific intention of preventing other children from having to have the same tormenting experiences.

He has lived in Whangarei for the last 25 years pursuing his passion about children and their learning difficulties, working in schools and homes, helping children overcome the same hurdles he has faced himself.

Laughton knows that there are possibly three or four children in every classroom throughout the country, who find learning a challenge. Having now-adult children he also knows the challenges of being a parent to such children.

His fascination with the dynamics of adult/child interaction and his enjoyment and fascination in parenting his own children, led him to publish a second book “WITH, NOT AGAINST” (2006). Here he explores and demonstrates the simplicity of a co-operative relationship between children and their parents and teachers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Letters are Everywhere! -The Alphabet in March

Each month in the Learning Den there will be a different picture of the alphabet made from letter shapes found in the most unlikely places! 
Next time you are wandering around outside take a good look around and see if you can spot a letter!
I like the lamp post M best.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Marvellous Mind Maps

Children's learning capacity and styles are not the same. Some students are very fast learners, while others find learning a real challenge. You cannot just apply the same teaching techniques and methods and expect all of them to perform well. One way to keep the interest of students alive in the lessons is to use mind maps. Making lessons visual, hands-on and interesting helps children to grasp concepts more easily. In this endeavor, the techniques of mind mapping have been found to be excellent and work well to teach students.

What is a mind map?

Mind maps are a pictorial way of putting ideas down on paper. They were developed in the late 1960s by Tony Buzan as a way of helping students make notes using only key words and images. They consist of a central word/concept/idea, around which various main ideas and related concepts are placed. Mind maps work well because they operate in the same way as the human mind, not in straight lines! The organisation of a mind map reflects the way the brain organises thoughts. When ideas are reduced to one or two words the brain must actively think about and process these ideas, in turn aiding memory.

Uses and Benefits of Mind Maps

Many classroom teachers already use mind maps with their students as an activity for brainstorming. However, it is also a great individual task for making an outline for a project, reviewing a classroom unit or generating ideas. Before mind maps can be used really effectively children need to be taught how to create them independently.

Since mind maps contain pictures and words, they are excellent activities for all children. Students who are non-writers can work alongside a gifted student. Mind maps increase creativity and the flow of new ideas. Children learn to organise information and learn about planning. Recalling and presenting ideas to others can be a much less daunting task when working from a colourful mind map than a sheet of writing.

Getting ideas down on paper can often be the most difficult part of a task for some children and those who struggle can easily drift off task and become distracted. However, when you draw a mind map you are constantly seeing, in your peripheral vision, what you have already done, whilst working on a new idea. This decreases the possibility of losing your train of thought as you are automatically reviewing the rest of your Mind Map. While a mind map provides structure when planning and can provide the basis for a writing task it can also be used as a stand alone piece of work. Mind maps are a perfectly acceptable way for a child to show evidence of their learning and is becoming even more accessible with the rapidly growing field of mind mapping software.

As well as being a fantastic tool for helping children who struggle to 'show what they know' they can be an art form in themselves! Check out these beautiful examples, some by children and others by adults that I came across on

Some useful reading on the subject of mind mapping for children:-
- Mind Maps for Kids: An Introduction - The Shortcut to Success at School by Tony Buzan
-Introducing Children to Mind Mapping in 12 Easy Steps by Eva Hoffman

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's it like to be Dyslexic?

Rest assured, there are no Mr Teasewells at Muritai school!
Find out more information about dyslexia under the links on the sidebar

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mnemonics - mnem whats?

For the Grown Ups..

What are Mnemonics? It is simply a device which aids in the memory of something. There are many kinds. These can be the key to helping children who find learning a challenge to remember things of importance. Mnemonics can also be acronyms or visual aids.

Our minds search for ways to connect new information to past information. This way we hope to remember data. Information that is not meaningful goes in one ear and out the other! Have you ever noticed that when our minds are threatened by fear or stress that we do not remember details? Helping our children to make learning pleasant and to have fun while remembering is a key to making information stick.
Everyones brain is unique. Mnemonics can really help a child or adult that struggles to remember important data. We can train our minds to remember how to remember. What kind of learner are you? What kind of learner is your child? Visual learners find that retaining facts is easiest when they read information, use notes, diagrams and pictures. Auditory learners relate most easily to the spoken word. They will tend to listen to and take notes afterwards. Often written information will have little meaning until they hear it spoken out load. Kinesthetic or multi-sensory learners need to touch, move around and learn skills by imitation and practice.

For the Kids....

Before we can use mnemonics to help us remember spellings and instructions we need to train our memories to work really well. Have a go at this fun game to build up your memory power! Click for memory game
One type of mnemonic is a spelling mnemonic. We can make up silly sentences and use the first letter of each word to spell a word we are trying to remember. This is an example -
Bethany eats cake and usually sucks eggs = Because
Have a go at making up a silly sentence for one of your spelling words this week!

Below is a video of a great song for remembering the colours of the rainbow in the right order. This type of mnemonic is called an acronym and uses music and rhyme to help too!.

They Might Be Giants were a really cool pop band when I was a teenager but now they have decided that writing songs to help kids learn is far more fun!