Philosophy for Children

The following areas of the primary curriculum are covered in this post:

  • Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE)
  • Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Philosophy for Children (P4C).

Tall Tartan Talks here … This post continues my education series which starts with Why I Tutor.

This post on Philosophy for Children leads on from Children’s Well-being and Mindfulness. See the links at the end to other posts in this series.

Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE)

The UK Department for Education website (updated 2020) states: Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education. All schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice.

[ … ] Schools should seek to use PSHE education to build, where appropriate, on the statutory content already outlined in the national curriculum, the basic school curriculum and in statutory guidance on drug education, financial education, sex and relationship education (SRE) and the importance of physical activity and diet for a healthy lifestyle.

Agreed – vital!

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) refers to the process through which children acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to understand and manage their emotions, build and maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and navigate social situations.

SEL includes:

  1. Recognising and understanding your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values.
  2. Learning to regulate and control your emotions, impulses, and behaviours, including stress management, goal-setting, and self-discipline.
  3. Developing empathy and the ability to understand and respect the feelings and perspectives of others.
  4. Building and maintaining positive relationships, including effective communication, active listening, conflict resolution, and cooperation.
  5. Developing the ability to make ethical and responsible choices, considering the well-being of yourself and others, including problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Research has shown that SEL can have a positive impact on academic performance, behaviour, mental health, and long-term success, as children who are emotionally and socially competent are better equipped to handle challenges and build positive relationships.

Philosophy for Children (P4C)

Defining Philosophy for Children

P4C is an approach to teaching and learning that explores the big ideas that arise in all areas of education and life experience. P4C uses philosophical dialogue and enquiry to help learners to think, to speak, to listen, to learn and to live together more effectively.

SAPERE: Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education; the UK’s national charity for Philosophy for Children (P4C). See the link at the end.

Purpose of Philosophy for Children

P4C is a subject which helps children of all ages think for themselves through philosophical dialogue with others. To encourage them to develop strategies for thinking, to be independent thinkers, but also to co-operate, as well as accept that others may have a different point of view.

Teaching P4C in the classroom

I discovered P4C when I was teaching a Year 4 class (8–9 year olds) in Essex, UK. The Headteacher of the school asked me to go on a course about teaching Philosophy. The course was six half days, (one half a day a week for 6 weeks). The two leaders borrowed a Year 5 class to practise with.

Fascinated, I learnt so many skills that I used their techniques weekly in lessons for years after as a way to encourage discussion, debate, healthy questioning and enquiry.

I started an after-school club called P4C. It was aimed at Key Stage 2 children (7–11 year olds). My P4C Club enjoyed using a bank of resources, including a wide range of games and subjects for debate that were philosophical in nature.

Encouraging philosophical discussion

P4C encourages discussion with a philosophical lean using:

  • stimuli for enquiries including stories, images, videos, poems, and picture books.
  • activities to get everyone involved in speaking, listening, and working as a community.
  • create a thoughtful space, build a supportive and challenging community, and develop questioning.

Debating philosophy

One of the P4C activities was to encourage debate.

  • In my role as facilitator / chairperson, I encouraged skills of debating deeper by asking why. Explanations, agreement, or opposition were expressed in an ongoing, respectful fashion.
  • Through each debate their opinions became more informed, with better, more reflective reasoning. Mainly they were safe in the knowledge that, if they could explain why, they were entitled to their opinion.

Specialising in education

This education series reflects on my former role as a teacher in the primary classroom. It relates to my specialism of proofreading educational materials. It emphasises my interest in promoting curiosity in children – and adults.

lightbulb of ideas
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See the links to the other posts in my series on education and teaching:

Why I Tutor

How I Teach English

How I Teach Maths

How Do You Learn

Children’s Well-being and Mindfulness

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Subscribe to my blog to receive new posts directly to your email.

Email

Contact me to check my availability for proofreading non-fiction, education books and children’s books.

Read further

  • PSHE Association: https://pshe-association.org.uk/
  • Philosophy for Children, Colleges and Communities. Introduces educators to P4C which helps learners to be critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers: www.sapere.org.uk
  • The Searchable Library of P4C Resources has free P4C resources, designed, tried and tested by experienced teachers, SAPERE trainers and children of all ages.
  • – The International Council of Philosophical Inquiry with Children: https://www.icpic.org/

Punctuating Children’s Fiction (Part 2)

Punctuating Children's Fiction Part 2 blog post

This Part 2 guide on punctuating children’s fiction follows on from Part 1. It is mainly for my clients who are independent (indie), self-publishing authors of children’s books because it answers the questions they ask about punctuation.

The rules, though, apply to any writer of fiction.

When I give feedback to indie authors who ask for help about how to punctuate, especially the dialogue in their book, this is my advice.

 

Covered in Part 1

  • capitalisation
  • dialogue (speech)
  • paragraph break
  • exclamation mark
  • question mark
  • comma
  • ellipsis
  • curly quote marks.

 

Punctuating further

Here in Part 2 are more advanced types of punctuation: colons, semicolons, hyphens and types of dashes (including the en dash and em dash), and brackets (parentheses).

These punctuation features are used in more complex stories and texts for older children and young adults. As children progress through upper primary school (Key stage 2), they learn how to read them, their function and effect, and how to apply them in their own writing.

  • colon
  • semicolon
  • brackets
  • hyphen/dash (-)
  • en dash (–)
  • em dash (—).

 

Colon (:)

A colon is used to introduce the information that follows it.

– Introducing a list: The colon is used before a list of items, examples, or explanations, eg There are three primary colours: red, blue and yellow.

– Introducing a quote or statement: When introducing a quote, a colon can be used, eg She had one motto: Never give up.

 

Semicolon (;)

A semicolon is used to connect two closely related but independent clauses, creating a stronger link than a full stop or comma. The main uses of semicolons are:

– Joining related independent clauses, eg She went to the party; he stayed at home.

– Separating items in a complex list. When a list already contains items with commas, semicolons can be used to separate the list items. For example, The colours available were red, blue, and green; other colours were unavailable.

 

I’ve seen much confusion in the use of colons and semicolons. Writers don’t remember the differences between them. If it looks wrong, if you’re in doubt, don’t use them. Or ask someone to check you’ve used them correctly.

 

Hyphen/dash (-)

The hyphen or dash is used to join words together to form compound words or to make nouns become adjectival phrases when they are used to describe a noun.

Do you prefer ‘well-being’ or ‘wellbeing’? NODWE (New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors) uses a hyphen; Collins Dictionary doesn’t. When you have decided on whether to hyphenate a word or not, keep the style for consistency.

Another common use is that adjectival words are hyphenated before a noun, eg well-known phrase, up-to-date regulations.

 

En dash (–)

When the dash gets longer, it becomes the en dash/en rule (–) and em dash/em rule (—). Until I did my proofreading training with the CIEP I had no idea there were differences. I hadn’t looked that closely …

The en dash is the length of an ‘n’ and is used in two ways:

1. To represent a range of values, such as numbers or dates, eg pages 10–15, 1980–1985.

2. Instead of commas to show a parenthetical phrase, eg Alfie had fair hair that was far too long – making him peer under his fringe – and pale blue eyes. En dashes are used in the same way as brackets. Used mainly in UK fiction and non-fiction.

Em dash (—)

The em dash is the length of an ‘m’. It is more likely to used for parentheses in fiction published in the US. Again, it indicates a break in thought or to separate parenthetical phrases in a sentence. It provides emphasis, eg The weather—hot and humid—was unbearable. It can also be used to show interrupted speech, eg I thought for a while, then—.

Don’t worry too much about en dashes and em dashes in your book. Children don’t learn about them in school. There is no need to use them in your books for children.

If you are an author and your editor spots that dashes have been used instead of en dashes or em dashes, they have an efficient way of changing them as part of their editing service. So no worries.

 

Brackets (parentheses)

Parentheses are used to enclose additional information or explanations within a sentence. They provide extra detail or clarification, eg The conference (where there were over 200 delegates) was very informative.

 

Ensuring readability and clarity

There we are. That concludes your author guide to punctuating children’s fiction, whether you’ve written a picture book, chapter book, or fiction for Middle Grade (MA) or Young Adult (YA) readers.

Remember to use punctuation marks thoughtfully and appropriately to improve the clarity and readability in your writing. Using a variety of punctuation will keep the reader interested.

But if there is a missing full stop, misplaced comma or quote mark, it will trip the reader up.

If you’re still unsure about how to use punctuation, go to a bookshop or library, pick up a book for the age and genre you are writing for, and look at how the punctuation is used.

 

Using my teaching experience

My experience of 30 years teaching in the primary classroom is valuable if you need advice on writing a children’s book.

Think of me as a fairy godmother placing that punctuation perfectly … Your book is in safe hands.

Fairy godmother sprinkling publishing confidence.
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Email me

See my Contact me page to email me about my availability to proofread children’s books and educational books.

 

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Further reading

Punctuating Children’s Fiction (Part 1)

Some of my relevant blog posts:

What is a Good Question?

What is a Good Question blog post

“Does anyone have any questions?” is a question often asked in a Zoom meeting in the networking groups I attend as part of running my business.

Tall Tartan Talks here … Questioning fascinates me. How does skilled questioning promote learning progress?

What is a good question?

Questioning

Questioning refers to the act of asking questions to acquire information, stimulate thinking, or prompt discussion. It is an essential tool for teaching, learning, and critical thinking. Effective questioning can engage learners, encourage reflection, and deepen understanding.

When I taught in the classroom, it was vital to ask the children a range of questions to widen and deepen their understanding, whether that was in English comprehension, Maths mastery, Science investigation, and so on. There were eagerly inquisitive children who asked cracking questions. My response when there was an interruption from an over-enthusiastic learner waving their hand wildly in the air was: “Hold that thought!”

Encouraging them to justify their answer further by asking “Because?” meant they didn’t just ‘parrot’ what the child next to them said. It prompted them to give their own explanation.

It thrilled me when a learner’s ‘lightbulb’ lit up – and new thinking progress was made.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

When I wrote worksheets for teaching curriculum subjects, Bloom’s Taxonomy, developed by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, was the framework of questioning used to ensure all levels of cognitive complexity were addressed.

It provides a structure to design and assess learning experiences. Bloom’s Taxonomy is often represented as a hierarchical model with six levels, each representing a different cognitive process.

Not all levels are addressed in all activities (that would be exhausting!) but aiming for a balance of question types in a range of subjects over a week ensures maximum opportunities for learning.

Levels

  1. Remember: This level involves recalling or recognising information. Questions at this level focus on factual knowledge and require learners to retrieve information from memory. Example questions: Who…? What…?
  2. Understand: This level involves demonstrating comprehension and interpreting information. Questions at this level aim to check if learners can explain ideas, concepts, or principles in their own words. Example question: What is the main idea of the paragraph you just read.
  3. Apply: This level involves using knowledge or skills in new situations. Questions at this level require learners to apply what they have learned to solve problems or complete tasks. Example question: How would you demonstrate …?
  4. Analyse: This level involves breaking down information into parts and understanding the relationships between them. Questions at this level focus on examining patterns, identifying causes and effects, or making connections. Example question: How can you sort the different parts?
  5. Evaluate: This level involves making judgements or assessments based on criteria and evidence. Questions at this level require learners to analyse information, consider different perspectives, and form opinions. Example question: What are the implications of …?
  6. Create: This level involves generating new ideas, products, or solutions. Questions at this level encourage learners to think creatively, design, and produce original work. Example question: How would you design …?

Bloom’s Taxonomy encourages higher-order thinking skills and helps learners develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Bloom's Taxonomy Pyramid
Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid

What is a good question?

Asking a good question means inquiring clearly in a way that is relevant, specific, and well-structured to gain informative and valuable responses. It involves the art of effectively conveying your curiosity or seeking information from others in a way that maximizes the chances of getting a meaningful answer.

Characteristics of a good question

  • Clarity: A good question is easy to understand and free from ambiguity. It should be straightforward and unambiguous, leaving little room for misinterpretation.
  • Relevance: The question should be pertinent to the context or topic at hand. It should address the specific issue you want to explore.
  • Specificity: Good questions are specific and focused, targeting particular aspects of the subject matter rather than being overly broad or vague.
  • Purpose: A good question has a clear purpose or objective. It should convey what you hope to achieve by asking it, whether it’s gaining knowledge or solving a problem.
  • Open-endedness: Open-ended questions allow for more in-depth and thoughtful responses. They encourage the person answering to provide detailed and comprehensive information rather than simple yes/no answers.
  • Conciseness: A well-phrased question is concise and to the point. Avoid unnecessary jargon, complexity, or unnecessary information that could confuse.
  • Respectful and non-leading: Ensure that your question is respectful and unbiased. Avoid leading the respondent towards a particular answer or expressing judgement in the question itself.
  • Thoughtfulness: Take a moment to consider if the question has already been answered or if it can be easily researched elsewhere before asking.
  • Context-awareness: Consider the background and knowledge level of the person you’re asking the question. Adapt the question complexity and terminology accordingly.
  • Follow-up potential: Ask a question that encourages follow-up discussion or elaboration, allowing for a deeper exploration of the subject matter.

By asking good questions, you demonstrate a genuine interest in learning and engage in constructive conversations. This can lead to valuable insights, improved understanding, and a more fruitful exchange of ideas.

Questions arising in business

Asking clients questions

Having trained first as a teacher then as a proofreader when I left the classroom after 30 years, I have become much better at asking questions, asking the text questions, and fact-checking. Not just accepting that the text is correct.

I am most likely to ask questions when I want clarity with a freelance proofreading job that I have been offered by a publisher. I used to worry I was asking a stupid question. But it’s fine to check if a detail in the brief is unclear.

More often than not, the client would answer my question promptly with reassurance. Phew!

Clients asking questions

These days half of my clients are self-publishing, independent (indie) authors. They have many questions, especially if they are looking to publish their first children’s book (one of my specialisms).

I have written several blog posts for authors in answer to their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to reassure them about the process involved. The most commonly asked question is, “How do I self-publish?” If I don’t know the answer to a question, I’ll know someone who does …

So my question to you is, are you inquisitive and curious? What do you want to find out? How will you do this?

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Read further

https://www.teachit.co.uk/cpd/ite/blooms-taxonomy

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/pedagogy-focus-what-blooms-taxonomy

Children’s Well-being and Mindfulness

 When I taught in the primary classroom, it was vital for me to promote children’s mental well-being, boost self-esteem, and encourage mindfulness.

It is still important to me.

Tall Tartan Talks here … I continue my education series exploring the primary curriculum, which starts with Why I Tutor.

 

Well-being

More than ever children (and adults) need support to look after their mental health and well-being.

Promoting a child’s well-being involves creating a supportive environment that nurtures their physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development. They should feel worthy.

 

When supporting the well-being of a child, whether at home or at school, here are key strategies:

  • Foster a healthy relationship by encouraging positivity. Promote open communication, active listening, empathy, and a growth mindset. A growth mindset is when failure is viewed as good (leading to improvement), not bad.
  • Help them recognise and express their emotions. Teach them coping mechanisms such as deep breathing. Create a nurturing and non-judgemental environment where they feel comfortable discussing their feelings.
  • Create a stimulating environment that encourages curiosity. Offer age-appropriate activities that promote cognitive development. Engage in conversations, ask open-ended questions, and encourage critical thinking.
  • Establish routines and boundaries by giving consistent routines and clear boundaries to provide them with a sense of security and stability. Set reasonable expectations and rules while allowing room for autonomy and decision-making.
  • Support their efforts towards independence. Allow them to develop self-confidence and a sense of competence.
  • Be a positive role model by modelling positive behaviour, such as kindness, respect, and resilience.
  • Demonstrate healthy ways of managing stress and conflicts to teach children effective coping mechanisms.

 

Once a child is aware of the state of their mental health and well-being, they can maintain a feeling of wellness and positivity by practising mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness

Here are some strategies to help children develop mindfulness and promote their self-awareness and present-moment focus. These strategies help them to cope with feelings of overwhelm. These strategies work for adults too!

 

Mindful breathing

Teach children to pay attention to their breath by taking slow, deep breaths and noticing the sensation of the air entering and leaving their bodies. Encourage them to do this for a few minutes each day, especially when they feel stressed or overwhelmed.

 

Being aware of body

Guide children in bringing awareness to different parts of their body. They can do simple exercises like stretching or yoga poses while paying attention to how their bodies feel in each position. This helps them develop a connection between their minds and bodies.

 

Mindful listening

Encourage children to listen carefully to sounds around them. They can close their eyes and focus on identifying different sounds, such as birds chirping, leaves rustling, other voices, or even their own breath. This practice enhances their ability to be fully present and attentive.

 

Practising gratitude

Teach children to increase gratitude by reflecting on things they are thankful for. This can be done through daily gratitude journals or by sharing what they appreciate during mealtime or bedtime routines. It helps shift their focus to the positive aspects of life.

 

Mindful walking

Guide children to take mindful walks, where they pay attention to the sensations of each step. Encourage them to observe their surroundings, look up at the sky, notice the colours, textures, and sounds, and feel the ground beneath their feet.

 

Mindfulness games

Introduce fun mindfulness games and activities designed for children. For example, ‘mindful colouring’ where they engage while focusing on the present moment.

 

Using guided meditation

Use age-appropriate guided meditations or mindfulness apps that offer guided sessions tailored for children. These resources can help children relax, improve focus, and develop mindfulness skills.

 

Being a role model

Children learn by observing the adults around them. Practice mindfulness yourself and demonstrate mindful behaviours in your daily life. This sets an example for them to follow and encourages them to incorporate mindfulness into their own routines.

 

Remember, consistency is key when helping children develop mindfulness. Encourage them to practice by making sure it remains enjoyable and not forced.

 

By doing a variety of the activities above, the child will:

  • Recognise and acknowledge when different emotions arise.
  • Realise how to manage difficult emotions such as anxiety, overwhelm and anger.
  • Empower themselves to deal with life’s challenges.
  • Become more emotionally resilient.
  • Create a more positive mindset.

 

Support a child by helping them to put their worries into perspective – therefore boosting their self-esteem. Failing does not make them a failure. Failing is the first step to success. Assure them that they are worthy.

Giving the child self-help techniques will help promote a willingness to learn. In my experience children can’t learn if they are worrying. Isn’t that true of all of us?

As a freelance proofreader, one of my proofreading specialisms is the non-fiction genre of well-being, mental health, and mindfulness.

 

Children's well-being and mindfulness. You are worthy.
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See the links to the other posts in my series on education and teaching:

Why I Tutor

How I Teach English

How I Teach Maths

Philosophy for Children

 

Subscribe

Subscribe to my blog to receive new posts directly to your email.

Email

Contact me to check my availability for proofreading non-fiction, education books and children’s books.

 

Read further

  1. NSPCC – Well-being: https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/child-health-development/promoting-mental-health-wellbeing
  2. Young Minds – Fighting for young people’s mental health: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/https://www.youngminds.org.uk/
  3. BBC Children In Need – Mindfulness: https://www.bbcchildreninneed.co.uk/schools/primary-school/mindfulness-hub/
  4. Twinkl – Mindfulness: https://www.twinkl.co.uk/wellbeing/element/children-mindfulness

How Do You Learn?

 

How Do You Learn blog post

When I taught primary children in classrooms  a method of pedagogy called VAK learning was practised to maximise the opportunities for all learners to access and engage with the curriculum.

Tall Tartan Talks here … In this blog post I talk about VAK learning. This is part of my blog series about education, teaching and tuition.

What is VAK?

The acronym VAK stands for Visual Auditory Kinaesthetic.

In my role as a classroom educator, I asked myself:

  • How can I use language, vocabulary and sounds to help this new material be remembered?
  • How could physical movement help?
  • Am I encouraging depth in the learner’s experiences?

How do children learn?

Some children find the ability to learn comes easily.  Some are able to concentrate for long periods, e.g. when reading. Some relish solving Maths problems. Some can hear and follow instructions efficiently; others need to fidget with something in their hands as they learn.

Children will not use one sensory approach to the exclusion of all others, yet they will learn more effectively if their needs are met.

How do adults learn?

By the time we are adult, we have more idea of which learning style suits the way our brains work.

For those of us continuing learning as an adult, we are able to tweak our strategies to find the best way to study and to absorb new information.

If you understand which is your preferred learning style, then you’ll make it easier on yourself to study and learn.

Three main learning styles

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinaesthetic

What kind of learner are you?

Visual: If you lean towards this learning style, you will prefer to see and observe things. You’ll typically work best from lists, written directions, and instructions.

Auditory: If you lean towards this learning style, you will prefer the transfer of information to be through the spoken word, or through sounds, noises, or music.

Kinaesthetic: If you lean towards this learning style, you will prefer a practical hands-on approach. You’ll prefer the physical experience, wanting to experiment and do first, rather than read the instructions.

Visual style of learning

visual learner

If you are a visual learner, you learn by reading or seeing pictures. You understand and remember things by sight. You can picture what you are learning in your head. You learn best by using methods that are visual. You like to see what you are learning. You often close your eyes to visualize or remember something. You may have difficulty with spoken directions and may be easily distracted by sounds.

Auditory style of learning

listen

If you are an auditory learner, you learn by hearing and listening. You understand and remember things you have heard. You store information by the way it sounds, and you have an easier time understanding spoken instructions than written ones. You often learn by hearing it or speaking it, in order to take it in. You need to hear things, not just see things, to learn.

Kinaesthetic style of learning

If you are a kinaesthetic learner, you learn by touching and doing. You understand and remember things through physical movement. You are a ‘hands-on’ learner who prefers to touch or move while you learn. You tend to learn better when some type of physical activity is involved. You need to be active and take frequent breaks. You often speak with your hands and with gestures.

You learn best by doing, not just by reading, seeing, or hearing.

learn

Ways to teach using VAK

The VAK approach engages different levels of cognitive challenge in every curriculum subject.

Once I taught a class who enjoyed using VAK to represent punctuation marks (using Punctuation Karate!). Quite simply, they used their arms and hands to represent the marks, e.g. a full stop was a clenched fist thrust forward … Saying ‘full stop’ aloud along with the karate action helped them remember to insert a full stop at the end of a sentence.

The VAK tool is an effective way of ensuring that you balance and broaden your range when educating children (as a teacher or parent).

Teach children to see it, hear it, do it, and be curious about it.

 

any questions

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Subscribe

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Email

Contact me to check my availability for proofreading non-fiction, education books and children’s books.

Education blog posts

See the links to the other posts in my series on education and teaching:

Why I Tutor

How I Teach English

How I Teach Maths

Children’s Well-being and Mindfulness

Philosophy for Children

Further website links

Here is a link to a learning style questionnaire from the Open University: https://help.open.ac.uk/learning-style-activity

Manage Emails

Manage emails

Would you like to get your email inbox down to zero by the end of each day? I didn’t know such a thing was possible. You may wonder – inbox zero – what is this magic?

Tall Tartan Talks here … I have discovered a non-fiction business book called Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott.

One particular chapter which struck me immediately was about managing your emails. His strategies were revolutionary for me. This blog post is a review of that chapter.

I was one of those people who had over 200 emails in each of my three inboxes. I sorted them occasionally. They were mainly newsletters I subscibe to. Inevitably, if I include my smartphone, I was prone to checking them far too often. But the important emails got lost too easily.

Scrolling through social media didn’t help my efficiency either.

slow hamster wheel

Cluttered inbox

I starred or flagged some important or urgent emails for easy reference, but my inbox was becoming unmanageable. My professional email, annie@proofnow.co.uk was the fullest.

Then I found, in his chapter Ninja Email Processing, where Graham says, “Be a Ninja – take a ruthless approach to emails!” Now I adopt his strategy daily.

Interested? This is how you do it.

Reduce your inbox to zero daily

The bare bones of how to get started are:

  1. Open emails
  2. Create three new files: Action, Read, Waiting
  3. Scan the first couple of lines of each email. If it needs to be dealt with immediately, move into Action. If it isn’t important, move to Read. If you are waiting for someone else to action, move to Waiting.

I used to look at my growing email notifications, groan inwardly, feel fear and overwhelm, avoid, then stress about what might be in my inbox. When I was waiting for a particular email from a client, I would pause a job whenever a notification sounded, whether that job was proofreading, or tuition preparation. I had to check then and there who it was from, especially if I was expecting an email.

STOP!

Graham suggests that the problem needs to be viewed in a different way: your email inbox is just where your emails land; don’t check your emails, process your emails; and don’t let your emails nag you all day.

Strategy

Firstly, look at your inbox as a landing page, not a to-do list. We tend to keep the emails in that inbox so we don’t lose them. The answer? New folders need to be created to hold actionable emails, and those emails which can be deferred.

Secondly, restrict checking emails to, at most, three times a day.

  • First thing in the morning, or 9am (or whenever your business day starts).
  • Second around 4:30pm to give you 30 minutes of reducing your email list to zero. Or later, if you don’t stop on the dot of 5pm.
  • Third, you may also want to check emails at lunchtime.

Me? … I am slowly restricting my addiction of reading of emails after 8pm … in an attempt to maintain work boundaries. The same goes for checking social media or message channels. (My excuse is that some of my editor colleagues are in a different time zone.)

How to process (not check) emails:

  1. Scan the first email for a couple of seconds. Don’t hang about. Ask yourself, is it vital I action this? If yes, move it to Action.
  2. Scan the next email. If someone is acknowledging they will action something you have delegated, move it to Waiting. This guarantees that you will have a reminder to follow this up.
  3. If the next email is something not at all urgent but for perusing, say, a subscription which you want to read at your leisure, move it to Read. Don’t start reading it now.
  4. Repeat steps 1–3.
  5. By the end of 30 minutes, there should be zero emails in your inbox.
  6. Repeat three times a day.

management

Subject folders

You may be like me and organise your emails into many subject, client-baased, or archive folders. Again, this can get out of hand. My next job is to whittle those down to more efficient labels. So that when I have gone through my burgeoning Read file, I will move each email to a re-named folder. Or delete it.

Graham’s theory is that if you have only three files to move the incoming emails into, it makes decision-making and sorting much easier. Agonising will be reduced to a manageable level.

If, say after a week, you look in the Read folder and email subject is no longer current or valid, then delete. Or move it to an archive folder.

One of Graham’s tips is to think of a set of Ds: decide, do, delegate, defer, delete.

Cut the dead wood

Perhaps you subscribe to newsletters by email. For example, if you follow particular people for their business or subject knowledge … there are many out there. It may be time to review them and prune who you subscribe to.

Try subscribing to one for six months. Count how many of their newsletters you actually read (and follow the advice suggested) in those six months. Be honest. Be brutal. Cut out the dead wood and unsubscribe if the answer is only one or two. That is one way to reduce the number of emails you get.

If you are successful with this method, you have more control over those incoming emails.

Information overload

Information overload is a threat to our productivity, so I recommend Graham’s book if you want to be proactive about reducing that overload. By managing your emails, and your time, by procrastinating less, you can focus on your priorities.

I look forward to finishing Graham’s book. Guess what – I have signed up for his newsletter. Oh the irony!

There you have it. If you learnt something from this post, head over to my Blog page.

Author background: Graham Allcott

Founder of Think Productive (@thinkproductive), Graham Allcott is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and podcaster, coaching strategies for business and time management. He is host of the podcast Beyond Busy. His book was first published by Icon Books Publication in 2014, and totally revised in 2019 because of the advances in technology.

Other chapters in Graham’s book include:

  • The Organize Habit
  • The Review Habit
  • The Do Habit
  • Stop Messing About on Your Phone.

strong arm

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How I Teach English

How I Teach English blog post

There is a lockdown. Schools have closed for all except the children of keyworkers, with a rota of teachers. Parents are home-schooling their children by teaching English, and all the other subjects.

The pupils who I used to teach face-to-face have moved over to online tuition. I have been learning how to use Zoom, and how to share resources using screenshare.

Tall Tartan Talks here … my feeling now is that the information I share in this post about how to teach English is just as important now in the current climate. You will become more aware of just how MUCH there is to teaching English – and that’s just up to Year 6 (age 11) level – never mind GCSE or A level.

Teaching background

I write about my freelance business. I have been providing proofreading and tutoring  services since I left classroom teaching in 2016. This is part of the blog series I have written about education, teaching and tuition – the others being Why I Tutor and How I teach Maths.

Recently (2020), my time has been spent following the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP)  proofreading mentoring course being mentored, providing primary tuition, and editing a local monthly charity magazine. Now the coronavirus pandemic is happening.

Read further to find out how I teach English and why my skills and expertise are valuable to publishers of ELT and educational materials.

English teaching

When I teach English to primary school children, I could be covering anything up to six areas of skills. They are:

  • reading decoding and comprehension
  • spelling
  • punctuation
  • grammar
  • handwriting
  • writing composition

Reading

The key skill in teaching English is the teaching of reading. Without having efficient reading skills, children find it more difficult to access other areas of the curriculum.

By the time children leave primary school, they should be able to read and understand what they are reading. There are those children (below average) who can decode (break down) the sounds in words to help them recognise and pronounce them.

More able children can read challenging texts fluently. When I taught in the classroom it was a pleasure to hear a child read with expression or have confidence performing with drama. It was equally pleasing to see the progress a child made who was struggling with phonics. Those lightbulb moments are priceless.

books

Infer and deduce

It is intriguing to teach more able readers how to infer and deduce (read ‘between the lines’) by increasing their vocabulary, by prompting them to understand what that challenging vocabulary means,  by leading them to dig deeper into the text.

It is encouraging to watch reluctant readers laugh at the stories spun by authors such as Liz Pichon (Tom Gates). They want to read on … But it is also frustrating when they ignore an unfamiliar word, hoping it will just become invisible. I teach them to become inquisitive enough to want to find out why the author chose that word, investigating how that word adds to the story.

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPaG)

Three elements of English – Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar – have been turned into a variety of acronyms by the Department for Education over the years: their incarnations have been SPaG, GPS, … In the 2010s the government introduced intensive assessment of SPaG at the end of key stage 2 (Year 6), which resulted in children being taught far more about grammar than they need to know at that age.

Let’s begin with Spelling.

Spelling

you're

I find that children generally divide into two camps: either they can spell, or they can’t. Some children really worry about spelling. Some don’t know what the fuss is about – spelling isn’t important to them. Or there are those who are proud because correct spelling comes easily to them – they learnt the weekly spellings with 10/10.

When tutoring my pupils, I ask them to look at the spelling of a word they have written. Does it look right? Does it match spelling patterns they know?

Spelling can be taught in fun ways using games, e.g. Scrabble, wordsearch, to name just two. ZType is a typing app which reinforces spelling in a fun way. Try it!

Children with dyslexic tendencies are a different discussion. Thankfully they get more recognition and help now than in the past.

Punctuation

It was so frustrating when, in upper primary, I experienced children forgetting to use capital letters and full stops to begin and end a sentence. Ironically, they could use more advanced forms of punctuation, but forgot the skills taught in Year 1.

By Year 2 (age 7) children are taught to add to their knowledge of punctuation by using a question mark or exclamation mark. By Year 5 (age 9) children are taught to use a wide range of punctation, including semicolons (an elaborate comma) and colons (introduces further information).

When I wrote their ideas on the whiteboard or Learning Wall during Guided Writing, pupils were keen to point out punctuation errors (deliberate mistakes made by me) but they weren’t as observant in their own writing. Children had to be retaught to punctuate as they wrote, rather than put the punctuation in afterwards.

Which is why writers perhaps can’t see the wood for the trees and need a trained editor and/or proofreader to find errors.

eyes looking

Grammar

Here are some terms you may not have come across before. They are assessed in the SPaG SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) for Year 6 (age 11) at the end of Key Stage 2.

Let’s try some … Can you identify the following? What is an adjective, adverb, fronted adverbial, modal verb, conjunction, subordinate clause, relative clause, and finally, active and passive voice? (The answers are below if you are curious.)

  • adjective: describes the noun
  • adverb: describes the verb (sometimes end with ‘ly’)
  • fronted adverbials: an adverb which starts a sentence pausing with a comma, e.g. ‘In the far distance, …’
  • modal verbs: verbs which show possibility or likelihood
  • conjunctions: used to be called connectives – links two clauses with ‘and’, ‘but, ‘or’, etc.
  • subordinate clause: a clause which depends on the main clause to make sense
  • relative clause: a subordinate clause introduced by a relative pronoun, e.g. who, which, whose
  • active voice: the subject of the sentence is doing or being, e.g. The cooks burned the apple pie.
  • passive voice: the subject is being acted on by the object, e.g. The apple pie was burned by the cooks.

However, this is not the place for a debate about which and why grammar rules should be taught to 7 – 11 year olds.

Right, moving straight on to something a little less controversial …

Handwriting

According to the National Curriculum, children should be joining their handwriting from Year 2.

I get much satisfaction from showing children how to form their letters correctly. Tall letters have ascenders (lines going up, e.g. b, d, h, k, l, t) and others have descenders (lines going down, e.g. g, j, p, q, y). The letter f should have both.

Each school usually has their own handwriting policy. Some schools advocate teaching cursive handwriting from EYFS Reception (Early Years Foundation Stage). That’s fine if the child demonstrates good fine motor control with the pencil, but I’m not convinced. Then again, I never taught in an EYFS classroom. (I was too tall to get my legs under the tiddly tables!)

Another tip I offer is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s after the whole word is written, rather than lift the pencil/pen and stop the flow of the word to finish those letters. Try it with the word ‘little’. Oh, and remember that those l’s are ascenders, so will be taller than those standard i’s and e’s.

Neatly joined handwriting has its place and does look absolutely exquisite in the right setting. But the quality of the handwriting should be appropriate to the audience. For a quick visit to the shops with a list just for one’s own viewing, a scribble is sufficient. On the other hand, perfecting the greeting on a card to granny is the opportunity to be proud of neatly joined, cursive script.

handwriting paper

An example of a student handwriting sheet which encourages the use of ascenders and descenders.

Writing composition

quality content

There is nothing more thrilling than to have a child show their learning by incorporating features of writing you have taught into an unaided composition.

Whether the genre is myths, legends, historical, comedy or horror, their ability to show understanding of the features of that genre is a mark of their progress and success as writers.

Their skills at writing are enhanced if they are reading a wide variety of genres. If they can also build believable characters, with imaginative speech which moves the story on, and they can talk directly to the reader, their writing becomes a sheer joy to read.

By Year 6, most children can include a wide range of devices in their writing: plot structure; description of setting and characters using vivid adjectives and adverbs, similes and metaphors; action between characters; speech (using the rules of speech punctuation); and punctuation. Even showing contrast of types and lengths of sentences, e.g. ‘long/short/long’ or ‘short/long/short’ for dramatic effect.

The hardest concept for some children to grasp is how to lay out paragraphs. They are taught to start a new idea on a new line with a small indent. Each paragraph should have a new idea. One example of a model to help understanding is to show children fiction authors’ work where paragraphs have been jumbled. The task is to rearrange them so that the meaning of the overall text makes sense.

So, all these elements are taught in a module lasting several weeks over a half term, building up their skills, until the children get a chance to show that they can apply their learning.

At the end of an hour’s composition, the children are given the opportunity to read their work back to themselves. In the classroom, they would whisper aloud. So they can hear it. Hearing it spoken is a tip for the checking of any errors. Editors and proofreaders do it as a proven strategy!

Hoping this helps

To finish, you will find some helpful websites below about the teaching of primary English. They will be especially useful if you are home-schooling.

all the best

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Email

Contact me to check my availability for proofreading non-fiction, education books and children’s books.

Education blog posts

See the links below to the other posts in my series on education:

Why I Tutor

How I Teach Maths

How Do You Learn?

Children’s Well-being and Mindfulness

Philosophy for Children

Websites on teaching primary English

How I Teach Maths

 

How I Teach Maths blog postI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … one of the things I love about my freelance business is the variety. As well as editing, I enjoy teaching primary school pupils. Maths is one of the subjects I boost in tutoring sessions.

Tall Tartan Talks here … This blog post is part of my series on education and tuition. The first in the series is Why I Tutor.

In this post, I continue to share tips from the 30 years I spent in the classroom teaching 5-11 year olds.

Who is this blog post for?

Proofreaders with an educational specialism are asked to proofread not only English texts for publishers, but materials in any subjects in the National Curriculum. The ability to fact-check that answer books are correct, and marking schemes match, is a definite advantage and sought-after skill.

Perhaps you are a former teacher considering adding tuition to your portfolio of jobs. It’s a no-brainer to apply your expert skills to running a tuition business, over which we have sole control. No need to answer to OFSTED.

maths

Maths lesson

Now I describe how I tutor an hour’s Maths lesson. I enjoy using particular resources, described below, to encourage engagement and learning.

This Maths lesson is aimed at an average 8-year old in Year 4. It is divided into three parts: mental warm-up, written practice and reinforcement, finishing with a fun game to wind up the hour.

Pre-requisites for this lesson

  • Mental number bonds to 20.
  • Times tables knowledge of x2, x5, x10, x3, x4, x6, x8 (according to the National Curriculum 2014, children should know all times tables by Year 5). Notice I have listed them in the order they are taught from Year 1.
  • Some division tables knowledge of ÷2, ÷5, ÷10, ÷3, ÷4.

Resources for games

  • wrap-ups (I’ll come to these in a moment)
  • dice
  • playing cards
  • iPad or Android tablet device.

teach maths

Mental starter

Use mental maths strategies to add quickly and efficiently. This part should last no more than 10 minutes.

The purpose of this is to settle into a focused frame of mind, and warm up the little grey cells. So, a speedy game of Snap with playing cards for hand/eye agility and coordination is a thrill.

Or throw two dice and add, or multiply, with speed. Extending this, throw three dice and add by finding the largest number first; or find two numbers which make ten; or near doubles.

My favourite starter is the Wrap-up.

Wrap-ups are available as all four operations (+ – x ÷) as well as fractions. The photo shows the times tables version of a Wrap-up.

Each key has a separate times table, with answers mixed up on the back, for self-checking. A string is wound matching the question to the answer, while saying the question out loud. For example, 4 x 3. The child winds the string around, matching the question to the answer.

I vary the vocabulary used to ask the question: 4 lots of 3; 4 sets of 3, 4 groups of 3, 4 times 3, 4 multiplied by 3.

Rotating the string round and round, at the same time as vocalising the question, is known as the VAK approach – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic. The child uses the strategy they feel best suits their learning. It is especially appropriate for children who can’t keep still as they learn. (One of my tutee clients has ADHD.) Wrap-ups are available from this website.

Main session

Written short multiplication method: carry out multiplication calculations using the following as an example, 854 x 4. This part should last around 30 minutes.

Using relevant vocabulary

It is vital to use the correct vocabulary when describing a strategy. Children tend to use the word ‘sum’ to describe any operation involving numbers! ‘Sum’ describes addition only – it means ‘total’. The answer to a multiplication question is the ‘product’. So, we could re-write the above question as: “What is the product of 854 and 4?” (This extends the question level to Year 5, as the word ‘and’ confuses the concept; a common error is for children to read the question as addition.)

Use this method

On squared paper, set out the 3-digit number, 854, (with one digit in one square) in the column values HTU, drawing two horizontal lines underneath as the place to write the answer. It astonishes children that the = sign means the same as those longer lines in a written strategy.

It’s hard to describe the method here, but I’ll have a go. Set out x4 underneath with the 4 in the Units or Ones column. Multiply 4 by the 4 Ones, making 16. Write 6 Ones in the space for the Ones answer, and ‘carry’ the 1 Ten into the Tens column. Multiply 4 by the 5 Tens. This equals 20, then add on the carried Ten to make 21 Tens. One Ten stays in the Tens column, and ‘carry’ the 20 Tens into the next column as 2 Hundreds. Multiply 4 by the 8 Hundreds to make 32 Hundreds, then add the carried 2 to make 34 Hundreds. The completed answer is 3,416.

Linking the calculation to a real-life problem gives the answer more context:  “If four people each made £854 in one month, how much was earned altogether?”

Showing mastery

If children can explain how they got their answer using the correct terminology, then it shows they have a secure concept of the method.

A common error is to forget to add on the carried digits, so I reinforce this aspect repeatedly. More able mathematicians can check the answer by using the inverse operation, division. Skills can be extended by multiplying ThHTU by a single digit.

One of the most common parental comments is that methods have changed since they were at school. They feel it’s hard for them to help their children. Ask your child’s teacher for clarification. Some schools produce a handy leaflet for parents with how the Maths methods are taught.

Lesson plenary

My pupils love using a Maths app on my Android tablet to round up the session and relax. These include Card Match, Solitaire (which I knew as Patience when I was young), and Countdown. They often beat me, too. This part should last no more than 10 minutes.

Why I tutor … part 2

Having been a classroom teacher, with many conflicting demands on time, you find that, simply, there are not enough hours in the day to spend quality 1-1 time with each child. Improving reading skills is probably the highest priority.

I find doing private tuition much more rewarding: I can choose the resources I want to use; planning for one child takes so much less time than for a class; children feel more relaxed to ask questions when there are just two of you.

If you’re thinking about tutoring … what are you waiting for?

Feedback

Finally, positive feedback makes it all worthwhile.

Here is a comment from the parents of a 6 year old boy: “Annie is a fun, calm, creative and experienced tutor who immediately put my son at ease. He looks forward to her lessons and loves her ideas and games. We would definitely recommend her.” Really chuffed!

Read on to the end to find website links to Primary Maths websites I have found useful for resources.

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Kindly proofread by Lisa de Caux, CIEP Professional Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Education blog posts

See the links to the other posts in my series on education and teaching:

Why I Tutor

How I Teach English

How Do You Learn?

Children’s Well-being and Mindfulness

Philosophy for Children

Useful Primary Maths website resources

Teacher bloggers:

Why I Tutor

Why I Tutor blog post

One of the things I love about my business days is the variety: proofreading, editing, and tutoring primary school pupils.

Tall Tartan Talks here … How does this blog post on tutoring relate to proofreading and publishing? Well, this is the beginning of my blog series about my specialism – education, teaching and learning – and how educational publishers and children’s book publishers can benefit from my expertise.

In this post I explore:

  • Why my tuition lessons are valuable.
  • How I got into tutoring
  • Specialism networking
  • Appeal to publishers with a specialism
  • How I keep my specialism updated
  • Education blogs
  • Why tuition is in demand

 

It is aimed at:

  • Educators and those in educational publishing.
  • Freelancers (editors, tutors, etc).
  • Recovering teachers who are considering adding tutoring to their portfolio.
  • Lastly, you could be a parent/carer wondering whether their child needs a tutor.

 

Why my tuition lessons are valuable

 

While freelancing I have tutored individual pupils ranging in age from seven to 11, for up to five afternoons a week, in their homes. During and after Covid hit, I went online using Zoom.

My students all work at a level below average and need a boost in confidence. This is my preferred focus – my Unique Selling Point (USP) being that I am skilled at raising self-esteem.

By cultivating a growth mindset, I enable a child to make visible progress.

Let’s face it, couldn’t we all do with a boost, praise, and some positive thinking?

 

My favourite phrases that I use during tuition lessons to make the experience positive for the child include:

  • IMPOSSIBLE becomes I’M POSSIBLE
  • Don’t stop until you’re proud
  • Make progress with every mistake. Mistakes mean I learn better
  • FAIL = First Attempt In Learning
  • Don’t quit = Do It

do it

 

How I got into tutoring

Back to the beginning. When I was teaching, I developed a heart condition which led to sick leave away from the classroom.

Obviously it was a relief to be away from the increasing mound of paperwork (more and more demands on planning, deeper marking, and continuous assessment).

But I did miss the interaction with the children. After a year of online training in proofreading and setting up my business website, I was shown an advert my husband had seen in the window of the local newsagents:

‘Tutor required for girl in Year 4. Needs boost in Maths.’

He persuaded me that Year 4 (8/9 years old) was an age I had much experience with so I should phone the number.

I had mixed feelings … No, to be truthful, I was terrified. I had been out of the classroom for about a year. Even after the six-week summer break, many colleagues share how nervous they are to go back into the classroom – will I remember how to teach?! Anyway, I met her family and prepared the first lesson. To say I was nervous is an understatement.

I shouldn’t have worried – the hour of tuition flew by. She had fun. I had fun. She learnt. I learnt. We talked about her strengths and weaknesses in Maths, and that, over the next few weeks, she would tell me what she had done in school that she wanted to practise. I would reinforce concepts sent as homework by the school. Her self-esteem and confidence grew quickly which, frankly, was a delight. I was pleased to be making a difference.

 

Use your specialism

 

Specialism networking

One of my takeaways from a Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) conference was the encouragement of networking. Going to CIEP local group meetings and events, if you feel confident enough, but also meeting editors with your specialism.

Education and English Language Teaching (ELT) are two of the special interest groups in the CIEP online forum community.

I must say I do get excited when I meet a proofreader who was a teacher or who freelances for educational publishers, as we have education in common.

 

 

Appeal to clients with a specialism

My teaching experience is a specialism I offer to educationaI publishers. I can describe ability levels and different learning styles; I am open to new pedagogies; and I adapt to the government policy of the day. My experience with educational materials makes me ideal to proofread them.

Also, I love children’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, and have proven my expertise to publishers and self-publishers. See my children’s book publishers page.

 

Updating my specialism

I was a bit doubtful about how to keep up to date with current strategies in primary education. Here’s why. The only access I would have to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) about current educational practice is if I was still in the classroom and employed by a school.

To offer effective and modern tuition practices, I need to keep up with developments in the world of curriculum changes. I need to match what is being delivered in primary schools, so that I can reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. I realised, after doing some joining-up thinking, that reading blogs about education, written by teachers, would be an efficient way of keeping current. They are, after all, sharing examples of best practice.

 

Education blogs

While researching for this blog post it dawned on me that I have read a plethora of blog posts written by fellow editors with suggestions on how to edit and proofread, helpful tips on spelling, punctuation and grammar, and how to write. But, I hadn’t actually read any blogs about education. Lightbulb moment!

lightbulb picture showing why I tutor

I investigated Google and found many blogs about education. Teachers and teacher trainers have written about education, teaching and learning, assessment, and resources. But, most importantly to me, how teachers are coping with trends in education and demands from the Department for Education, and the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). See links at the end for further reading …

 

Why tuition is in demand

As well as demonstrating my specialism, the other reason I have written about tuition is that there is debate around it. When should children be tutored, if at all? In theory, the input of the teachers and parents should be enough …

When I was a class teacher at parents’ evenings, it became more common for parents to ask, “Does my child need a tutor?”

In my experience, here are the most common tuition requests from parents:

  • To boost those children who are struggling to keep up in the classroom; those who are below average, perhaps with special educational needs, e.g. dyslexia, ADHD, etc.
  • To support parents who are too busy to help.
  • To support parents who complain that methods have changed since they were at school. For example, they don’t understand the homework (Maths methods, grammar rules …)
  • To support with the 11+ or Common Entrance Exams.

 

 

To finish, let me answer the question I asked at the beginning – Why do I tutor?The feedback from my tutees and their carers is why. The best feedback I received was from the parents of a 10-year-old boy with ADHD and dyslexia:

“I feel so much cleverer when Annie has been.”

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Thank you to Lisa De Caux  for proofreading (former SfEP Intermediate Member, now CIEP Professional Member).

Subscribe

Subscribe to my blog to receive new posts directly to your email.

Email

Contact me to check my availability for proofreading non-fiction, education books and children’s books.

 

Education blog posts

See the links to the other posts in my series on education and teaching:

How I Teach Maths

How I Teach English

How Do You Learn?

Children’s Well-being and Mindfulness

Philosophy for Children

 

Here are those UK blogs I mentioned written by education experts: