Many adults who return to study after a break or perhaps enrol on a course for the first time since they left school, find adjusting to study a difficult transition. That is not surprising but there are some simple steps you can take manage some of the trickier aspects of that transition so it doesnt have a negative impact on both studies and other commitments.
As the word implies transition is a change and it can take time to adjust to a change, the following suggestions will help you to make that change as easily and simply as possible giving you the best possible chance for success in your studies.
Identify Time for Study
Whatever course or programme you are studying it nearly always means some study outside of official ‘class’ times. So right from the start identify some times when you can do this. It is very easy to think that you will somehow fit it in but unless you make time to do it and plan some study sessions it is not likely to happen. So, as soon as you start your course, take a look at your diary and pencil some times that will become study times, the amount of time you allocate may need to be adjusted but at least you will have some slots pencilled in.
Find a place for Study
It is amazing how within weeks, even if you are studying an online course you will find you accumulate things, books, papers, pens, and files for example and often that is only the start. Having a place to keep them is vital and it will certainly make it easier to use your study slots effectively if you don’t have to race around your house, flat or room finding all your essential items.
Be Clear About Your Priorities
Each one of us identifies the things that are most important to us in our lives and usually we make it a priority to fit those in. If you are now embarking on a period of study then these may need to be adjusted slightly. Of course it is important to make time for the things and people that are important to you but presumably study has now been added to that list of important things so it might be time to re-visit those priorities.
Manage people’s expectations
The simple fact is that some of the time you will now be using for study, unless you are studying full time, will be time when you used to do other things and some of those other things may need to disappear for a while or be somehow rescheduled to allow you time to study. It’s often best to tell people about your study plans and what that might mean, perhaps not able to stay at work as late, be in the sport club, or as involved in charity work or whatever it happens to be for you in your own circumstances. Managing the expectations of others can mean you don’t need to explain all the time why you can’t always do all the things you did before.
Ask for help when you need it
Whether it is with your academic work or with your other responsibilities it is important to ask for help when you need it. Not doing so almost always leads to problems getting worse and small problems getting bigger and causing you worry and stress. But many people find it hard to ask for help because they somehow think that is a weakness. It is simple, we are all human if you are starting something new then there are bound to be times when you need help. So talk to your tutor if you need help with your studies or to your partner, family, or flatmates if the help you need is domestic and if it is work then talk to you manager or colleagues.
Identify your support network
Quite apart from, and often in addition to, practical help we all need emotional support. Somewhere we can have a grumble, share our success or generally let off a bit of steam with people we know and trust. So having a support network is vital, this may change over time if you are meeting a lot of new people but make sure you never find yourself without a solid support network.
Be prepared to learn about yourself
We all have ideas about how we approach tasks, the way we learn perhaps even the things we find easy and the things we find a struggle. But many people who return to study discover that they may have changed since they last studied, or they do change while they are studying. In many ways that is one of the points of education. So be prepared to have old ideas and attitudes challenged and to learn new things about yourself.
Get the right mind-set
Some people leave study or decide not to continue because they think it is something they can’t do well or because of particular circumstances at the time. But others may not study because they have an idea that they can’t do it or that they will find it tough. I have even heard students say that they don’t think they are the’ academic’ type. Be clear from the outset that if you have been accepted onto the course you are likely tobe able to be successful, It doesn’t mean you won’t need help at times or that you won’t need to develop some new skills but have confidence in your ability to learn, change and develop.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
New experiences are learning curves and it’s not too surprising that some aspects will be a challenge. Don’t waste time, effort or emotional energy beating yourself up because you make a few mistakes along the way or take a bit longer to get used to the demands of study than you thought you would.
Like many others I returned to study as an adult to complete a degree, part of the way through my studies I had my first child and I had a job I loved as well. But I completed my degree, had a lovely bouncing baby and kept working. It might seem daunting at times but it is possible and you will reap the rewards. Making a few adjustments at the beginning can certainly help you, not just settle into a life that involves study, but enjoy it as well.
As parents we want our children to grow up to be healthy and resilient, both physically and emotionally. Teaching your kids these habits will help them to do exactly that but like anything else they need to be taught about them and see you as the adult modelling them. We often put a lot of effort into teaching our kids physical skills, like riding a bike, throwing and catching a ball or skipping but it’s easy to overlook these emotional habits that will help them to be resilient and handle some of the tough times they may need to face.
It’s a choice we all face daily, we can choose to concentrate on what we have or on what we lack. It might seem tough some days but developing a habit of gratitude helps us to focus on the positive which can make us happier and more optimistic. This short video called The Gratitude Jar is worth a watch and although it focuses on a classroom setting but it can easily be recreated at home – either in a jar or on a board.
Many adults still struggle to manage emotions so it can never be too early to start teaching children about emotions. Emotions and feelings happen in response to a stimulus of some sort which may be come from the environment, fear caused by an animal that we think is a threat for example, so the emotions involve a mental state and a physiological one.
The first step is to develop a shared language so you can talk to your children about their emotions and feelings. Identifying feelings or emotional states such as anger, happiness, excitement, or anxiety, and of course there are many more is a good place to start. Then you can talk about the experience of that feeling and how you can manage it. For example if you feel angry then explaining why or telling someone might help, but so might do something active. The aim is to help children to have a growing understanding of how they can regulate themselves, seeking support when they need to, so they are not overwhelmed by the feelings.
Looking after Themselves
So as children are growing it is important that they develop the right habits of self-care. Eating a healthy diet, and taking part in regular exercise can help keep our bodies healthy but learning skills to manage stress, anxiety or other emotions is also a way we can take care of ourselves. Simple things learning to recognise the signs of being tired or that something is worrying us and knowing what to do are skills that will be helpful throughout life.
One of the great things about being kind is that no only does it help the person on the receiving end but it is good for the person being kind too. Evidence shows that helping other is good for our own health and wellbeing. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/doing-good-does-you-good Teaching children that it is good to be considerate and help others and helping them build these habits of kindness will stand them in good stead for their own future and if we all do it we can really contribute something good to the world.
It’s ok to Make Mistakes
Whether it’s a physical or cognitive skill we learn best when we ate stretched and have to move outside of our comfort zone. One of the risks is that we make a mistake, or fail. But that is an important part of learning so help children see that as an opportunity. The important thing is how we respond so encourage children to keep trying even if something is hard and help them build the belief that they can achieve what they set their minds to and not give up as soon as things get difficult. The habit is not in making the mistake or failing in some way but in responding positively to the opportunity that brings for further learning and growth.
Take time when children are small to gradually teach then these habits and the value of them to help build their resilience.
If you have read some of my previous articles you will know I am a fan of mindfulness, not least because it can help us live in the present.
This article was first published in Affinity magazine but I think it may be useful for readers of my website.
For those of you are wondering who on earth Lao Tzu is, he was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer and founder of Taoism. Some of his other quotes I have included here and you will see that while he may have lived hundreds of years ago he has an uncanny knack of addressing very current problems.
But to get back to the quote above – I started to have a few discussions with people about it because it seem to be such a bold statement – surely there are also sorts of causes for depression and anxiety and that is correct however a lot of those can also be linked to the practice we all have of not living in the present.
Clearly the past is important. Firstly most of us will have some lovely memories of happy times we have had, times with family and friends, previous lovers or partners, our children’s childhoods, holidays and experiences and generally whilst some of those may be bitter sweet it would be a stretch for many to say that thinking of such things causes depressions. So to for some of the things in the past that may not have been so good – mistakes we may have made things we regret but they too are an important part of life and looking back and reflecting on such times sometimes means we can learn from our mistakes and do things differently – in essence it’s our past that often allows us to grow and develop.
Then if we turn to thinking about the future surely it is good to plan ahead, to have goals and ambitions and it definitely is and I have written the very same myself in previous articles. In fact I would reinforce as often as possible the need to have clear idea of success and visualise this in order to get to where you want to go and live the life of your dreams. I could even argue that a little bit of anxiety can be a good thing it often helps us to perform well. And from things I have written about the subconscious what we really want at a subconscious level we will work to create. So thinking about the future is also important
What some of you might have noticed is that I didn’t use the word ‘live’ in the paragraph above and therein lies the key. Thinking about the past, reflecting on what has happened IS important. Considering and planning for the future, even visualising the future we desire is also important.
The problem comes when we start to live in either the future or the past.
Most of us would have a working definition of where we live as our base, the place we go back to ‘I live in Bedford’, it’s also rooted in time ‘they lived in the Victorian era’ and there are also elements of inclination and desire ‘I live for my work’ for example. It’s similar to the word dwell and also implies spending time in a place – not only physically but in our thoughts – where we may dwell on all sorts of things that are unhelpful.
The key issue about the past is that however much we may dwell there or live in it we can’t actually change it. Maybe we are sad because we have lost a loved one, we can celebrate the fact they lived that we knew them but no amount of dwelling in the past can ever bring them back. We may worry about the future and there are clearly some things we can plan for and aim towards but often there is little we can do to control things – I have many experiences of careful planning that has gone awry because of disruption to travel caused by the weather, which we would probably all acknowledge we have no control over.
So the problem lies not in thinking about the past or the future but in ‘living’ there. When I think about many of the clients I have worked with who have experienced depression it often stems from or started at a particular point or event in the past. Indeed post-traumatic stress disorder is well recognised as a problem stemming from traumatic past event that impact us in the present. People who suffer from severe anxiety, panic attacks or conditions like agoraphobia, are beset by fears essentially about what might or could happen in the future.
IN our society we live busy lives and it is worth taking a moment to ask yourself how present you have been, in the last hour, in the here and now. Even when you are doing things you enjoy you may be worrying about the future to going over things you are unhappy about in the past. The only true peace we can experience is when we are actually living in the present – but that is often a lot harder than it seems.
Children are all individuals, and while some are generally compliant, others make misbehaviour and defiance almost an art form. All children misbehave and as parents we usually accept this as part of their growing up, which of course it is. But we also ask ourselves why on earth they do it? Well, here are a few of the usual reasons and if as parents we can understand these then while we may never be able to wipe out misbehaviour, and who would want to really, it is part of them becoming individuals and learning about the world, we may be able to reduce it to manageable proportions so it doesn’t completely exhaust us.
Our Expectations Are Too High
Children all develop at different rates and the simple fact is that sometimes their lack of maturity or skills means they just can’t quite comply. Asking them to stay sitting quietly at a table through a fairly long meal, or sit on a carpet at school for a long time, is sometimes just too hard, they fidget and wiggle and literally can’t sit still. Some children of the same age may be able to but what we know is that while development follows a similar patter there can be a wide variation in the age at which children achieve certain skills. If children regularly misbehave in particular scenarios think for a minute whether they can actually do what you are asking them to and if you aren’t certain then think about ways that you can help them behave in the way you want, providing a distraction or activity while they are expected to sit still or a allow them a certain amount of movement periodically.
They Don’t Understand What They Should be Doing
Sometimes children don’t actually understand our requests or don’t hear them because they are engrossed in something else so be very clear about what you do expect and make sure that they understand what that means in terms of behaviour. The other day I was in a shop and a dad turned to his preschool child who was skipping about near some big tins of chocolates and told the child to stop ‘messing about’. The child stopped skipping and started walking backwards slowly, knocking over one of the tins. Dad reminded child that he asked them to stop mesing about and the chid reposnded saying theat they had stopped skipping! Be careful to tell them exactly what you want them to do. In this child’s head skipping was messing around walking backwards wasn’t. Instructions like ‘behave’ or ‘be good’ or ‘settle down’ may have a very precise meaning for adults but maybe not for children. Make sure the child understands – especially if issuing several instructions at once, like ‘go upstairs, brush your teeth and bring down your hat,’ . That is a lot for a child to absorb and follow so get them to repeat back to you what they have to do.
We Give Inconsistent Messages
All parents are human, we have good and bad days sometimes we are prepared to ignore a particular behaviour then at other times we clamp down. If there is more than one person fulfilling a parenting role then there may be differences between what is expected, or accepted in terms of behaviour. This can all be a bit confusing for either a child or teenager. A good example might be an older child’s attempt at ‘cheeky’ humour which might be met with a laugh on one occasion or a sanction on another. Ensuring that there is a general consistency among all adults about what is and isnt acceptable can definitely help.
Life is one Big Game
There is a lot we can learn from our children, they are in the moment, find almost everything interesting and can turn everything into a game. You are trying to get them ready for school but they hide their book bag, or you are trying to get them into the bath and they run away. They are certainly not following instructions but their purpose is to play rather than necessarily misbehave. We don’t want to squash that desire so often it’s helpful to beat them at their own game and introduce ‘fun’ into everyday tasks – timing them for example as they get ready.
They Crave Your Attention
Children have an insatiable appetite for attention from the grown-ups they love, are attached to and have a connection with. In fact often the quiet, remote, uncommunicative teenagers actually need a lot of attention too, though don’t always go about getting it in the best way. Children crave attention so much that even negative attention is better than no attention. As adults sometimes we get sucked into a negative cycle where, if the child is behaving well we use the time to get on with things but of course as soon as they start doing something they shouldn’t then they will get our attention. Once as a parent we recognise that it is relatively easy to switch that cycle around and catch them when they are good and make sure they get our attention then.
Your Mood Impacts Upon Them
Many children and young people are highly sensitive to adults’ emotional state. Even babies and toddlers can pick up on our stress, tension or unhappiness. If they sense those emotions and remember our children do tend to know us well, it can unnerve them and they may respond negatively as they are unsure what the stress or tension means. If you are aware that you are stressed and can explain it in simple terms, reassuring them that you still love them and that everything will be alight, this may help.
They are Testing Boundaries
Children and teenagers are constantly learning and part of that is learning what the limits are. It is an entirely normal part of development to test those limits and your response to that challenge. Try aiming for consistency and flexibility. Individual situations can be handled flexibly and it is ok to change your mind but there needs to be a consistency as well, so only warn about things you are actually prepared to deliver on.
They Simply Don’t Want to do What You Ask
I guess lots of us don’t want to leap out of bed on a Monday morning and some of us would rather skip the peas and get to the brownies! Children are just the same and teenagers are trying to work out how much independence they really have, usually wanting a bit more than they can handle. So as it may already be a conflict for them, try not to turn it into a head on confrontation. Instead turn it into a game, add an incentive, or give a little bit of wiggle room.
Parenting is a tough job especially when children don’t do what we ask but trying to understand why they are misbehaving may help you to find more effective strategies that leave you less drained bith physically and emotionally.
Behaviour is a form of communication. Someone slams a door – you know they are angry (unless there was a gust of wind!), if someone is tearful you infer they are upset. Of course behaviour isn’t just those big gestures lots can be conveyed by the way a person stands, their tone of voice, their demeanour and facial expressions.
Yet when we come to think about behaviour, especially behaviour in children and teenagers we so often seem to concentrate on what they do, rather than why they do it.
Clearly whatever age a child is, part of social learning is developing an understanding that particular behaviours lead to particular consequences, as adults we are well aware of that and we know they are not always pleasant, if we drive too fast, and get caught, we’ll pay a fine, if we display anger in certain ways at work, we may lose our jobs and I’m sure you can think of plenty of other examples. But simply responding to behaviour by imposing sanctions or consequences doesn’t teach a child an alternative way of behaving and does nothing to get behind the behaviour and understand why a child or young person is behaving in a particular way. So next time the behaviour is proving to be a challenge try asking these questions.
Can they behave in a different way?
In many ways as parents we accept the ‘toddler tantrums’ – the behaviour can be hard to manage and embarrassing when you are in the supermarket but often it is accepted, or perhaps tolerated is a better word, because we know it is a normal phase of development for many toddlers. Often it comes about when they are not able to express verbally how they feel, they don’t have the reasoning skills and they express their frustrations or distress in the only way they know how.
With older children or teenagers behaving in ways which are unacceptable, ask yourself if they can, as in are capable of behaving differently. Have you seen them handle a situation and not behave in this way? If the behaviour you see is always the behaviour you see in that situation then maybe they lack the maturity, or skills, to behave differently. It doesn’t mean the behaviour is acceptable but unless they are taught different ways of handing the situation or emotions then it seems a bit unfair to impose sanctions. You wouldn’t punish a child for not being able to feed themselves if they’d never had the opportunity to learn.
What skills do they need to learn?
The next stage is to identify the skills they need. Maybe they need help in identifying appropriate ways of expressing their emotions, anger, sadness, or frustration etc. It’s not easy even as an adult sometimes, so much less so for a child or teenager. They need to understand and be able to identify what they are feeling and then learn ways of expressing those feelings in a way that doesn’t hurt themselves or others. It is important to express the emotion not just suppress it or squash it down – that almost always leads to other problems in the future.
How do YOU manage that emotion?
As adults, especially as parents and teachers or school staff it is our role to give children the strategies they need to not just survive but thrive in the world. So as adults faced with a child who is displaying challenging behaviour we need to teach them some alternative strategies for dealing with those emotions. In the way we do with small children when we encourage them not to shout or cry but explain what the problem is (not in a whiny voice!!) we are saying ‘instead of doing what you are doing, try this.’ So if the behaviour appears to be in response to an emotion identify the emotion and then try to give them an alternative way of managing. What do you do when you are angry or upset, probably you don’t hit people or throw things, but you may leave the room for a while, go for a walk or explain why you are angry with a person or situation and being listened to will often help. Perhaps you use mindfulness, or exercise or offloading to a friend – think about what you do and try to think of a way that a child or young person could use a similar strategy.
Is the trigger really the trigger?
When we stop to consider why a behaviour is happening it can also be helpful to think what triggered it. But I also think we have all had situations when we have responded, apparently TO a particular trigger but actually the cause was really something else. Many people reading this will have experienced a bad day at work then, when they go home, they find something that would usually be mildly irritating but instead find themselves getting really cross over it. We have probably all taken things out on people that weren’t actually part of the problem. Sometimes it is a ‘last straw’ situation or sometime it’s because we feel safe with that person. Beware of identifying triggers though without observations over a period of time. Often what appears to be the trigger may almost incidental- a child who reacts negatively to losing a game may do so out of the frustration of the moment but may also do so because of some slightly bigger issue, the older sibling always winning, a sense of unfairness or because they feel useless at a particular thing, or even fearful of something.
Are they really choosing to behave that way?
Think again about yourself as a responsible, socially well-functioning adult. If you are put in a situation where you feel uncomfortable does that ‘make’ you do things you wouldn’t normally. You are at a party and hating it, do maybe tell a fib to give a reason to escape? Someone cuts you up when you are driving do you shout or gesticulate? You are faced with something you fear, a spider for example do you scream and demand that someone else deals with it? Someone says something to you that touches a nerve or raw spot and you react in an over the top way?
These are all examples of times when we maybe don’t use our usual, rational approach but rather we are ‘driven’ by the emotions the circumstances generate for us, or even other emotions we are experiencing at the time which cause us to behave in ways that are maybe not our usual, characteristic way of behaving. Probably we have all had incidents like this. We are not alone. A child who feels physically, but more usually emotionally, unsafe may react in extreme ways. They aren’t necesarily ‘choosing’ they are responding to the fear – a child refusing to try something because they are afraid they might fail then if pushed will behave angrily for example.
Children and young people won’t always behave the way we’d like them to but trying to get behind the behaviour will help you help them to develop new strategies. Asking yourself the questions above can help in that process.
So this is an unusual blog post for me but it has been an eventful few weeks so I thought I’d give a bit of an update and also a reminder about a few upcoming courses.
I was delighted to have an article published in the TES as I do feel very strongly that excluding children from school is never going to solve the problems with behaviour – yes it might get troublesome students out of the classroom, or even school, for a while but unless there is some ‘input’ or some attempt to work out why they behave the way they do the chances are they will come back into school and behave exaclty as they did before. Have a read and I wouldl love to know your views
Many of you will know that I have worked a lot with vunerable children, those who are in care, have suffered trauma, attachment issues or other ‘vulnerabilities’ so I was very pleased that my article for the Guardian about ways schools can support such students was published recently.
Particulalry when I have read other artices like one on in the Guardian Saturday by Deborah Orr explaining how it’s children who suffer during austerity or indeed another one earlier in the week blaming austerity for record numbers of children and young people being taken into care.
I then had the privilege (costly) of exhibiting and presenting at the TES SEN show – first time doing this and you can read a bit on my linked in post about it. I really enjoyed delivering my workshop on ‘behaviour management strategies that work’ and also chatting to all the teachers, school staff and parents who visited my rather humble stand and a thank you to those who bought my book!! If you haven’t yet you can get it from Worth Publishers
But in fact soon you’ll be able to get it from my very own on line shop along with various other items – exciting I know!!!
As some of you know i have also started to blog for Huffpost and my first blog was about how parents can help their child excel at school you can read it here. and my next one explains why hiring a private tutor for your child can be a good idea I’ll let you know when it is published so keep an eye on twitter, facebook, and instagram
I enjoyed running a Sounds-Write Course for teachers and school satff recenlty at KingsOak Primary School in Bedford. Sounds-Write is an evidence based, highly effective, linguistic phonics programme. Quite simply in 4 days it not only gives a thorough theoretical background to the teaching of reading but with lots of practical activities shows adults exaclty how to go about teaching reading to a class, small group or individual child.
The next one is scheduled to begin on Wednesday 1st November (then Wednesdays 8th, 22nd and 29th Nov)at Weatherfield Academy in Dunstable.
If you’d like to book a place either visit Sounds-Write
or email me.
In addition to courses for schools and you can see a complete list of these by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post, please also take a look at our Attuned Success site as we have 2 one day courses in November
Mind design on Novemebr the 11th and a
Business Builder workshop on 25th Novemebr
Both take place in the delightful surroundings of Woodlands Manor and include lunch and refreshments.
You can book places here or by emailing me.
Mental health has been in the news a lot lately and particualrly mental health among children.
I’ve written posts before about mental health or aspects related to it and links are at the bottom of this post if you’d like to read them.
But this week a couple of powerful new resources have become available which I thought it would be good to draw attention to.
The first is from Times Education Supplement (TES) and it’s called ‘I have a Volcano inside me’
It’s a short animated film which simply explains the struggles of one child and has messages about how the other children can offer support. It is very starightforward and begins wit some year 6 children explaining what they do to cope with their worries, their minor worries and I think is important to understand that everyone has minor worries and it is good to identify what we do to help us cope but also that for some people the woriies are more intense or their situations much more difficult.
The second is from the BBC and can be found here
and contains short animnated videos that tell the stories of different children that have struggled with aspects of mental health. It includes a story about a bully, and someone being bullied, someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, someone with Anorexia and two children talk about panic attacks.
What we here often hear from parents is that when faced with their child or children having a problem that they dont know how to talk about it with them and what we hear from children and young people is that they find it hard to talk about how they feel.
I’m sure it must be really helpful to hear in the voices of the children themselves how they struggled and how they got help, and that must go some way to reducing the isolation they may feel.
The number of children and young people with mental health problems appears to be growing and while there are no easy answers, as adults whether teachers, parents, relatives or family friends the hope is we can all play a part by being there to help or support any child or young person experiencing difficulties and learn a little more ourselves about the struggles they face.
or see below for a post about emotions.
I have met plenty of children and young people who love reading and I have also met children who don’t love reading. Often, but certainly not always this dislike of reading has stemmed from early difficulties with reading. The difficulties may have been resolved but for some children who struggled when they were learning it may take a long time before they actually enjoy reading.
However I don’t think I have met a child, or even adult for that matter who doesnt love a good story.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts reading is an essential skill for children to learn AND it is not a natural or innate skill. Unlike speaking, which children in every human society learn, the skill of reading is an additional skill and therefore needs to be taught explicitly. We also know that English can present some complexities when it comes to learning to read, there being 26 letters but 44 commonly used sounds, unlike other languages where there is a much more consistent sound spelling correlation.
But as parents we want our children to develop this vital skill and to do that they need access to three different types of texts which all serve slightly different purposes when children are learning to read and progressing towards being fluent independent readers.
Stories for Fun
Hopefully even as babies and toddlers picture books and stories are read to and with children and they can be a great source of learning. Learning may come from the content of the stories themselves and the discussion that may follow the story but in addition children learn the pattern of stories, they learn that books can be fun and as they grow they learn that the text is related to the pictures, regardless of whether they can decode the text. It’s a great idea to get children to talk about the story, what might happen next, point to the pictures or detail within the pictures. This all aids their understanding of stories. New vocabulary will be learned from books and stories as well. In fact children over the age of 7 learn most new vocabulary from books rather than from speech so it is vital that children learn to read effectively. English is a rich language with a very large number of words relative to some other languages, think about the number of words we have that mean feeling or showing pleasure –
Contented, Content, Cheerful, Cheery, Joyful, Jovial, Gleeful, Carefree, Untroubled, Delighted, Smiling, Glowing, Satisfied, Radiant, Sunny, Blithe, Good humoured, Blissful, Euphoric…..and you could probably think of a few more.
If we were writing we’d chose which particular word to use depending on the context and personal preference and while we’d all be able to read and understand the words if we read them in a book, many are words that we wouldnt use often in everyday speech.
When children are learning to read themselves it is vitally important that they continue to enjoy stories with adults that are beyond what they themselves could read. When a child is first learning to read they need to decode each word so the books are simple and ideally should use only the sounds/spelling correspondences that the child has learned – see section below on coded stories. In fact until the child is a fluent reader their reading development will be enriched by having stories read to them that they will be able to comprehend but would not necessarily be able to read. Experiencing challenging texts with support may be good for the developing reader but being expected to read books or words that they haven’t the skills or knowledge to do effectively is likely to put them off, or force them into a position where they are guessing which in many ways undermines their learning as they may guess correctly sometimes but not others and that can never be a foundation for good reading.
A mistake that many parents make is to stop reading to children too early. They may be able to read the individual words but imagine if you were reading a complicated text where you were having to really concentrate to get the thread of the argument, often I imagine you’d read a sentence more than once to be sure you’d got it right. It is hard for a child to follow the plot of a story when they need to decode some of the words but you want them to enjoy the story so a mix of books is essential. Stories they can enjoy listening to and stories they can read themselves.
It is also useful to share reading stories with children who are learning to read so they read a page or even a sentence or two but an adult reads the rest.
The message is to keep reading to children even when they are starting to read themselves. Different books serve different purposes but reading to children will almost always be of benefit.
Books for Information
I have used the word books but really I mean text and this may be in a book or a magazine or indeed on the internet. It is all reading. A child may be willing to put in considerable effort to read some information on a computer game. The important thing is that they can see text as a source of information. There are some great non-fiction books and one of the advantages is that often the text is in short chunks like in example below which is form the Natural History Museum website. Again they may need help with some of the words if they are still learning to read but in a short piece of text when they are wanting to find something out it is great to let them read the words they can.
“Diplodocus had a long neck that it would have used to reach high and low vegetation, and to drink water. There has been some debate over how such a long neck would have been held.”
Coded Phonic Books
These have improved dramatically over recent years and there are now an ever increasing number of coded stories with great illuatrations, attractivley designed and with specific information for parents about the sounds/spellings that are being focussed upon. But I have heard people criticise them – often for the very thing they are intended to do.
The nature of a coded book is to use restricted text – that is only words the child has been taught how to decode, using sounds spelling correspondences they have been introduced to. So in the early days of learning to read they will be repetitive as there are only a restricted set of words that can be used. Even as they progress the purpose is usually is for them to practice reading a particular spelling or spellings for a sound. So a child who has learned some of the different ways we spell the sound /oe/ the sound as in the word ‘so’ might well read words like go, boat, show, note, and though, which all spell the sound in a different way.
Using coded phonic books is essential to support reading development, if your child is bringing home books to read themsleves (as distinct from stories to have read to them or share with an adult) that are not coded I would advise talking to the teacher about why coded phonic books arent being used.
Sounds-Write have now produced a brilliant free course for parents which is available on Udemy. If your child is in school and learning to read or about to start school this a great resource of parents – you can complete it at a time to suit yourself but it will definitely help you to understand what your child isbeing taught in phonics at school and why. It will also enable youto offer them great support with their reading and writing. You can have a look by clicking here.
Thoughts about Thoughts
Thoughts are important, I think we’d probably all agree with that. It is our thoughts that in time give rise to our feelings and our actions. Everything that happens begins with a thought whether it is something simple like standing up, lifting a cup or planning a holiday, deciding to move house even having a brilliant idea. Everything for the Taj Mahal to the light bulb began with a thought. So thoughts are powerful and thoughts have a creative energy.
They are also under our control. It doesn’t always feel like that as sometimes our brains can get into ever decreasing circles with anxious or worried thoughts, or negative spirals where we berate ourselves and beat ourselves up, or angry or resentful thought patterns that feel hard to escape but with practice we can learn to control them. That is not to say it is easy but it is possible and it is something we need to learn if we are to see changes in our lives.
We certainly can’t control what happens in our lives but we can control how we respond to what happens in our lives and part of that response is to do with our thoughts. Imagine you hear that you hear something that upsets you – often what is the cause of greatest distress is not the news though that may be distressing but our thoughts about that news. Let’s have a concrete example to explain this. You hear of a terrorist attack, upsetting on every level but if you let your thoughts run away in a short time you can be reviewing decisions to travel or even seeing certain groups of people as dangerous. Our thoughts can change our response to the event. If on the other hand we think that while it was a distressing it is only a very small percentage of people who would behave in such ways and that generally the world is a safe place for most people we probably wouldn’t radically alter our plans. So it is our thoughts ABOUT the event or situation that shape our response.
Our thoughts also impact our feelings. Imagine a relationship break up – almost always upsetting to some degree. But if we let ourselves think that it was all our fault that we are unlovable that we’ll never be happy in our relationships then we are almost guaranteed to feel worse than we would if we think that there will be others that we deserve and can find fulfilling relationships. It might not take away the pain but out thoughts can either make that pain worse or a little better.
Conscious and Subconscious thoughts
I can’t do this justice in one simple blog post but we all know that our brains. Like icebergs have a huge subconscious which is pretty busy all the time. The conscious thoughts are really only the tiny tip of that iceberg. So let’s start by managing our conscious thoughts, literally one thought at a time. A negative or worrying thought happens and we just have to learn to bat it away and change it for a more positive one. Literally thought by thought. If you start doing that you will notice the difference very quickly, not just to the amount of negative thoughts you have which will almost certainly reduce but also to your feelings and when your thoughts and feelings become more positive you actions will as well. Some thoughts may stem from unhelpful mind sets and limiting beliefs that we might have, even if we don’t realise it but by dealing with each thought these will lessen.
When it comes to subconscious thoughts there are also things we can do – click here to read more about how we can harness the power of our subconscious.
One of the most important choices we make is with our thoughts. It is in our power to choose one thought instead of another. I’m not saying it is easy BUT it definitely is possible and if you change your thoughts quite literally you can change your life.
Whatever day of the week it is when you read this just start to notice your conscious thoughts about the things that happen. Every time you are aware of being negative then try to change that into a positive thought or if that feels too tough at least a neutral thought. So instead of, for example feeling angry because you are thinking that the car in front of you is driving really slowly – change that thought. Remind yourself that actually it will probably make very little difference to your arrival time. Or be grateful that you have a car that it is working well. Or think about the destination, that you are going somewhere because you have a purpose. It might sound trite at first but it honestly does make a difference
I have often written blog posts before about reading, teaching reading and helping children to become effective readers. That is simply because, like others I think reading is a fundamental skill that children need to learn and they deserve to be taught in ways that will help them achieve that, by people who have the right skills and knowledge.
So I’m not going to repeat those blogs in this post – but you can find them on the website under blogs and on the side bar there are links to other articles about reading.
There are however a couple of things I want to highlight and the first is very exciting.
As parents most people want to help their child learn to read and write and here is a FREE course from Sounds-write for parents which will show them exactly how to do that. You can access it by following the link below.
It only takes an hour or so to complete – but of course you can go back and repeat any sections that you want to, it gives really clear explanations and demonstrates exactly how to explain things to your child. There is a really helpful demonstration of the correct pronunciation of each of the sounds of the alphabet and it evens details how you can help when children make mistakes – which is where some really effective learning can take place.
When it comes to teaching reading not all approaches are equal! Have a read of this – written in 2004 about ‘what experts should know and be able to do’ It is well worth a read
I would draw your attention to the following paragraph
What Does the Research Say About Effective Reading Instruction?
Well-designed, controlled comparisons of instructional approaches have consistently supported these components and practices in reading instruction:
 Direct teaching of decoding, comprehension, and literature appreciation;
 Phoneme awareness instruction;
 Systematic and explicit instruction in the code system of written English;
 Daily exposure to a variety of texts, as well as incentives for children to read independently and with others.
That is exactly what Sounds-Write does yet many schools insist on using mixed methods which include some phonics instruction but watered down with other approaches OR not used with fidelity. Other school use aphonic approach but while they may spend considerable sums of money on phonic resources they do no spend the money on training staff who use them. Other schools adopt a phonic approach but continue to send children home with books that are not decodable which can have a detrimental effect on the child developing the necessary skills then being put in a position where they are asked to access texts they aren’t ready for.
So teachers, school staff and parents I’ll be running a 4 day Sounds-Write courses in Bedfordshire in the autumn term. In September at Kings Oak School in Bedford and in November at Weatherfield Academy in Dunstable (dates for this still being confirmed).
As well as teaching children to read and spell from the moment they enter school in Key Stage 1, the Sounds-write programme also covers Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 and is suitable for catching-up those pupils who have fallen behind in their reading and spelling.
The course provides a detailed understanding of how the English writing system works and how to teach it. Each participant will receive a comprehensive manual containing all the lesson plans and materials needed to teach children at all levels how to read and spell.
I am sure you are aware that the national percentage last year (2016) for passing the phonics screening test was 81% but many school using Sounds-write achieved higher percentages Potton in Bedfordshire 96% for example.
A recent Ofsted evaluation of the Sounds-Course by an expert from the DfE attests to just how well Sounds-Write meets the DfE’s requirements for a quality phonics programme – for a full copy of the DfE report, see the link on the home page of the Sounds-Write website
“I recommend Sounds-Write to every teacher and school leader I meet. At St. George’s, where deprivation levels are extremely high, we achieve consistently outstanding results in all phases. Our Phonics Screening Check has been 96%+ every year. Sounds-Write is a brilliant phonics programme for all pupils from Nursery but it also enables us to teach pupils with no English, or with specific learning difficulties so that no gaps exist in performance within year groups. It is a superb scheme for teaching polysyllabic spelling right through to Year 6. The training is top quality and all staff use consistent methods to teach phonics, reading and spelling effectively. Skills are taught explicitly and pupils demonstrate confidence and success from the outset. Progress is rapid and the quality of writing from Reception onwards astonishes visitors from other schools.”
Janet Hilary, Headteacher and National Leader of Education
If the school you work in or the school your child attends does nto achieve good phonics results contact us today to see how we can help.
The course is designed for teachers and school staff
but parents are welcome to attend as well.
The cost of the 4 day course is in Bedfordshire is £425 per delegate so if you’d like to book a place on either of these courses just get in touch.