Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three. Confucius

07 March 2011


Hi Everyone,

Today I'll look at english. There are no hard and fast rules for teaching your kids english, but there are certain areas that the Education Dept would encourage you to cover.

For younger children these are usually learning to read and write within the first couple of years of schooling, and generally sharing lots of literary experiences. There are reams of ready made resources for english such as Jolly Phonics, Reading Eggs (ABC), LEM amongst others. At this age I believe that as parents reading, talking and spending time with your child can be as thorough and inspiring as any of these.

For the middle years child, learning grammatical rules, creative writing, identifying characters, looking at different styles of writing (novels, plays, poetry, basic media observation, letter writing etc) as well as possibly doing some drama, show and tell, whatever suits your child is generally ample.

Lapbooks are a brilliant way to encourage your child to read and write more, doing unit studies which span across several learning areas to keep children engaged.

My children love Spike Milligan and Pam Ayres' silly verse, and Alexandra has had a go at writing her own poetry quite often, as well as reviewing poems. There is also a resource called Teaching English Through Art which looks fantastic and I have friends who swear by it. This is about the age when appropriate media reviews can be introduced to identify various identities and issues within our society, and by sitting with your child you can intelligently direct their responses to things.

Writing letters to relatives, pen pals or organisations is another skill that can be acquired at around this age, and can be a really nice way to connect socially too. Cloze activities for the more structured learner can also be fun, as can book reviews, there's a whole series of book reviews you can do on Harry Potter so I hear..not sure of link but will investigate and get back to you if you register interest. There really is loads you can do if you look around and you're a bit creative.

For the older child, a slightly more complex curriculum/learning programme may be required, such as a detailed analysis and opinion of current events, looking at literature with more levels of meaning, analysing poetry in depth, identifying characters in more detail and building their own characters and storylines in creative writing etc. This may all sound a bit alarming, but it is really something you graduate into over the years and kids are generally very astute at character analysis and very creative, given enough space and interesting writing prompts.

Alexandra and I used a lot of different styles of novels, non-fiction,poetry books and film and Lex wrote a lot of reviews and character analysis (through writing, drawing, discussion, poetry etc). With the right resources and encouragement it really is not hard to engage your child in english. I introduced Alexandra to Shakespeare through movies with modern english (Romeo and Juliet, Othello etc), audio recordings and then plays in written form. Eventually she joined a drama group and rehearsed A Midsummer Night's Dream feeling absolutely comfortable with the language...it's all about how you present things.

As your children get older there are also creative writing and poetry competitions to enter online and via magazines etc, if they're comfortable with competition it can be really inspiring to enter the ranks with other writers to improve on style and experience :)

Remember that you know your child better than anybody else, so feel free to fish around for ideas and resources, identify what works for you and your family and make the guidlines fit around that...the possibilities are immense.

Personally I use retrospective programming, which means that I write out the programme after we've done an activity/unit of study. I follow what my children are interested in and run with that, having a loose idea of where we're headed and it generally works out that we cover all curriculum areas required more than adequately. I check how we're going every couple of weeks and add some more maths or whatever when needed.

I'll look at Mathematics next post.....

Talk Soon, Cynthia x