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 series on education exploring the primary curriculum, teaching and learning.

Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE)

Gov.uk (updated 2020) states: “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)

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:

  • Recognising and understanding your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values.
  • Learning to regulate and control your emotions, impulses, and behaviours, including stress management, goal-setting, and self-discipline.
  • Developing empathy and the ability to understand and respect the feelings and perspectives of others.
  • Building and maintaining positive relationships, including effective communication, active listening, conflict resolution, and cooperation.
  • 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.

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Contact me by email 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

How Do You Learn?

Children’s Well-being and Mindfulness

Further reading

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

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?

I continue my blog series on education exploring the primary curriculum, teaching and learning. I use my expertise to proofread for educational publishers and children’s book publishers

So, 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 to enhance my teaching of curriculum subjects, I used Bloom’s Taxonomy, developed by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, as the framework of questioning 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 after I left the classroom after 30 years, I have become much better at asking questions, asking the text questions, and fact-checking. I don’t just accept 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. It’s fine to check if a detail in the brief is unclear.

More often than not, the client will 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 FAQs to reassure them about the process involved in self-publishing. 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 …

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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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, teaching and learning, and how educational publishers and children’s book publishers can benefit from my expertise.

 

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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Contact me by email 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

How Do You Learn?

Philosophy for Children

Further reading

  1. https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/child-health-development/promoting-mental-health-wellbeing – NSPCC article on well-being
  2. https://www.bbcchildreninneed.co.uk/schools/primary-school/mindfulness-hub/ – BBC Children In Need Mindfulness Hub
  3. https://www.twinkl.co.uk/wellbeing/element/children-mindfulness – Twinkl mindfulness activities.

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 … This is part of my blog series about education, teaching and learning.

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 adults, 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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Contact me by email 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 reading

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

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 my blog series on education, teaching and learning, and how educational publishers and children’s book publishers can benefit from my expertise.

English teaching

When I teach English to primary school children, I could be covering within these six skill areas:

  • 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 made by a child 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 got perfect marks on the weekly spelling test.

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 dyslexia are a different discussion. Thankfully they now 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 the semicolon (an elaborate comma) and colon (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:

  1. an adjective
  2. an adverb
  3. a fronted adverbial
  4. a modal verb
  5. a conjunction
  6. a subordinate clause
  7. a relative clause
  8. active voice
  9. passive voice?

Here are the answers, if you are curious:

  1. adjective: describes the noun
  2. adverb: describes the verb (sometimes ending with ‘ly’)
  3. fronted adverbials: an adverb which starts a sentence pausing with a comma, e.g. ‘In the far distance, …’
  4. modal verbs: verbs which show possibility or likelihood
  5. conjunctions: used to be called connectives – links two clauses with ‘and’, ‘but, ‘or’, etc.
  6. subordinate clause: a clause which depends on the main clause to make sense
  7. relative clause: a subordinate clause introduced by a relative pronoun, e.g. who, which, whose
  8. active voice: the subject of the sentence is doing or being, e.g. The cooks burned the apple pie.
  9. 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, when handwritten, 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 dialogue 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 could 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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Emailing

Contact me by email 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

Further reading

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, teaching and learning. 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-long 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 grasp of the concept.

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 thousands, hundreds, tens and units 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 about 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 there are simply 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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Contact me by email to check my availability for proofreading non-fiction, education books and children’s books.

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

Further reading

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? This is part of my blog series on 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.
  • 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 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, my husband showed me an advert he had seen in the window of the local newsagent:

‘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. Would 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 agreed 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.

 

Using your specialism

 

Specialism networking

One of my takeaways from a Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) conference was the encouragement of networking. This includes 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, etc).
  • 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).

Subscribing

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

Emailing

Contact me by email 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

Further reading 

Why SfEP Conference is Cool

conference

By this time of year (May), many SfEP folks will have enthusiastically booked an early bird ticket to the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) conference. Or be in a dilemma wondering whether or not to book for September’s annual networking event.

I am in the former camp.

If you are not feeling brave enough. Or wondering if you can afford to spend such a lot of money (or invest – it’s all relative), then read on. Here are reasons to go.

Booking

If you have booked already, then it seems a very long time until September. When you psyched yourself up in March to book your place, it felt very unreal and way off in the future.

Rest assured, the wait will be worth it. There is popular opinion that it is one of the most valuable CPD (Continuing Professional Development) events you will attend. As well as being a superb networking opportunity.

Previous conferences

Here are my highlights from the first two conferences I attended.

#SfEP2017

I was told about my first conference by a local member when I joined the SfEP in January 2017. I booked my place at Wyboston Lakes, Bedford. They pointed out the advantage that it was only an hour away from where I live (near Stansted Airport). I must admit that I was up for trying anything – it felt like a big adventure. It helped that I knew fellow local members were going as well.

Some highlights were:

  1. Eating meals in the canteen was an experience. I’ll never forget the buzz of 120 delegates all eating and chatting together. If you are a freelancer who lives alone quietly, the change in environment may be something which either excites or frightens you. On the upside, there is always someone to talk to. Or you can get away to quieter parts of the campus to collect your thoughts.
  2. Saturday evening quiz – hilarious!
  3. John Espirian and Louise Harnby’s double act on Content Marketing.
  4. Accountability Groups with Denise Cowle
  5. The Lightning Talks (each speaker has 5 minutes to entertain the audience).
  6. Guerrilla Marketing workshop.*
  7. Sunday evening Gala Dinner – very special.

*I was flattered to be asked by the Editing Matters editor, Hazel Reid, to do a write-up about the Guerrilla Marketing workshop for the Conference report. When I contacted the presenters (Tracey Cowell and Jackie Mace) afterwards to do a fact check, I discovered they were both in my local Herts & Essex SfEP group. In addition, they were both in educational publishing – which where I was heading to find proofreading work. Result!

#SfEP2018

My second conference, held in Lancaster, was an adventure. My local group members, Anna Nolan, Howard Walwyn and I really enjoyed the camaraderie of travelling together to the opposite end of the country.

Highlights were:

  • Keynote Speakers, e.g. Lynne Murphy (#Lynneguist).
  • The Lightning Talks (see a pattern here?).
  • John Espirian’s Guide to LinkedIn (don’t be a LinkedIn Loser).
  • Paul Beverley’s Beginner Macros.
  • Learning how to copy-edit non-fiction with Erin Brenner and Laura Poole.
  • Stephen Pigney, academic, reminisced about his first year as a freelancer (we joined SfEP at the same time).

#SfEP2019

This year, the conference takes place at Aston University in Birmingham from 14th to 16th September, with the theme ‘In the beginning was the word’.

When early bird bookings opened in March this year, there was a huge rush of excitement on social media, and general optimism about something good happening.

Hesitating?

If you are in two minds about attending, please read the variety of conference blog posts. You might find some if you search in the SfEP Forums. They will help you reflect as to whether it is your kind of thing. You will certainly laugh and learn lots. I still refer to my notes from both conferences.

One event I hadn’t had the encourage to attend was the Speed Networking, held on the Saturday afternoon at the same time as the pre-conference tour. This year, I am determined to put that right!

Value for money

The cost of conference needs to be weighed up with the value gained.  Fair enough, if you are training and haven’t earned much income from proofreading or editing jobs in the last year, you will need to pay the bills first. Conference won’t be your highest priority.

The price being asked to pay for accommodation, meals, and speakers is … reasonable. Then, on top, there are the transport costs of getting to the venue.

However, think of it as investing in your career. The benefits far outweigh any disadvantages. You will gain valuable learning experiences and upgrade points. The value of networking is certainly not to be under estimated. In fact, conference might be the only time in the year that some members meet each other in real life (IRL) as they live in other parts of the UK/world.

History

Another reason I am looking forward to this event is that I feel an affinity for Birmingham. My mother lived there for the first 30 years of her life. (So I am not entirely Scottish, only half). She worked as a secretary for the BBC at Pebblemill (in the early 60s) and typed scripts for The Archers!

Time away from my desk

I appreciate that I can take time away from my desk:

  • My children have grown up so I don’t need childcare.
  • I am no longer tied to teaching in the primary classroom, and can arrange the times of my pupils’ tuition lessons to suit me.
  • My husband is addicted to long distance cycling so is away a LOT. In fact, when he checked about a trip and found I was going to be away this particular weekend, his glee was apparent!

It will be lovely to meet up again with trusted colleagues and make new edibuddies.

See you there!

conference

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, CIEP (was Intermediate Member) now Professional Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Proofreading Training

training

Want to be a proofreader? Wondering about proofreading training? Are you a possible client wondering about my professional qualifications?

In this episode I go into more detail about my ongoing training to develop my proofreading business. In previous posts (How I Started, Business Plan and Training, Website Building and Social Media and To Business) I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance providing proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher.

If you are confused about what proofreading training to do (and training is vital to show your professionalism) this blog may help you make up your mind. Especially if, like me, you have no background in publishing.

Learning something new

After three decades as a primary school teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave for five months. Then I had to come to terms with a dawning and daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was coming to an end. I was desperate to find a Plan B.

The medication for my newly discovered heart problem (atrial fibrillation) was taking time to embed, and I looked for something to take my mind off my worries. I saw an advert in a magazine for a proofreading course and thought – marking’s my thing, why don’t I try it?

Chapterhouse Publishing

The course was the Chapterhouse Correspondence Course in Proofreading and Copy-editing. I was eager to change direction. I pottered through the course while ‘lunching with ladies’, enjoying my recovery. It took me six months to undertake each section of the four modules. I was happy with what I learnt in the proofreading basics: the British Standards Institute proof correction marks, using shorter and longer exercises to practise using the symbols. The exercises are all done on hard copy with red and blue pen! However, copy-editing confused me.

This all happened before my business and website was a twinkle in my eye. But the thought was in the back of my mind. I registered as unemployed, and as detailed in the post ‘Business Plan and Training’, subsequently applied for the New Enterprise Allowance.

My Business Plan was as follows:

  1. Become a member of the SfEP (now CIEP).
  2. Start training …
  3. (And so on.)

Of course, if I had known then what I know now … Now I am aware that the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) and the Publishing Training Centre (PTC) offer some of the most reputable training in proofreading and copy-editing.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (at this point in my third year), I have ticked off the following courses:

  • Proofreading Progress
  • References
  • Getting Work with Non-publishers
  • Educational Publishing Development Day

There follows a brief summary and my take on each course. These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate. For all the courses, you are appointed a tutor and given login details to a forum for students within the course section, to ask questions within a safe environment.

Here is the link to the Training page of the website.

Proofreading 2: Progress (Was P2 now P3)

As I had already got the basics in proofreading knowledge, I headed towards the online course Proofreading Progress. (Then P2. Now the final of three.) I learnt loads more, got confused many times, then thankfully reached surprising clarity and confidence. Grade: Pass!

I was now able to add my qualification to my website with pride.

References Course

My main motivation for doing this particular course was that up, until now, I had worked solely with students, proofreading theses and dissertations. I could justify charging more for services if I could offer more skills. As with all the courses, I found out that there was much more to references than I imagined.

It is an online self-assessment course which means that you learn the facts, take the test at the end of each exercise, check the answers, and move to the next exercise. The concepts covered include the author-date, short-title, and number systems. A useful tip I picked up was to use the software Edifix.

Finally, you print the certificate to confirm completion of the course. It was the hardest course I have ever done. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. But I learnt a massive amount about a huge variety of references. My notes will be referred to when I need them.

Getting Work with Non-publishers

By February 2018, I wanted to take on a course run as a workshop, to enable networking and discussion with fellow students. I headed to the training building in London and met eight proofreaders/editors/project managers doing the course – all fellow members. Some of whom had been working for educational publishers. But who wanted out and onto other opportunites. Eagerly, I took their contact details as this was one of the routes into publishing I was looking for …

During the day’s workshop we learnt about considering other fields outside publishing, e.g. businesses, large charities, government; how to market ourselves; and how to approach potential clients.  The workshop made us think ‘outside the box’. (This course is no longer available.)

Educational Publishing Development Day

When I saw this advertised, I couldn’t resist – Education – it was right up my street! It was booked months in advance, such was its popularity and the calibre of speakers. Again, I headed up to the training building and found myself in a large room with upwards of 80 delegates. But I recognised some faces, thank goodness, and it was lovely to reconnect with members from around the UK.  (Organised by Anya Hastwell – then the professional development director.)

Two speakers who stood out were:

  • Sophie O’Rourke – Managing Director at EMC Design. She covered what freelancers need to know about the current requirements of educational publishers.
  • Astrid deRidder – Head of Global Custom Publishing at Macmillan Education [international/ELT focus]. Very entertaining and knowledgeable about making educational textbooks relevant to international and particular cultures.

Technology

As someone who has used textbooks in the Primary classroom for decades, I find the development of e-learning materials most interesting. For at least the last 10 years, starting with the installation of interactive whiteboards and projectors, and each teacher being given a laptop, the developing complexity of technology has been exciting. This, coupled with the changing national curriculums from the government of the day, has led to startling, but inevitable, changes in the way teaching and learning happens in the classroom.

E-learning

The arrival in schools of banks of iPads added a new layer of excitement when used as a resource in subjects like ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Though now I think it’s just called Computing (Primary Curriculum 2018). The devices made Guided Reading group sessions very popular, using the Pearson scheme called Bug Club.

My favourite new technology is augmented reality, e.g. pictures in books being brought to life by an app. I think. I first saw this in practice in an Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS, or Reception) class of 4-5 year olds. It really got their attention!

Mentoring and being mentored

I have been fortunate that I have been able to invest in my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) with the SfEP over the last three years. What’s the expression? ‘Speculate to accumulate.’

My hope is to save enough over the next few months to take part in the mentoring scheme as a mentee. Plus attend the SfEP 2019 Conference. Booking is nearly open! We’ll all be asking questions. How about a blog about my last two conferences? Alright, if you insist.

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

To Business

business

This fourth episode details the business of preparing for proofreading jobs, and the administrative and accounting side of my proofreading business.

In previous episodes (How I Started, Business Plan and Training, and Website and Social Media) I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelancer providing proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher.

Paperwork

Who admits that they actually like paperwork?!

Me!

One of my strengths, I have found through the years, is that I am efficient at paperwork and recording. One of my roles in our household is handling the finances. So I was keen to start things properly as a business owner, and have legally binding templates in place. Three of the following I found on the SfEP website or recommended on forums:

  • Terms and Conditions (T&Cs; no longer available)
  • Invoices
  • Feedback form to prompt a testimonial from a happy client
  • A recording system for paid invoices.

If you read this blog all the way to the end, you will find the link to free resource templates on my website, which you are welcome to tweak.

You soon discover, as a freelance, that you wear many *hats*. My job as a teacher was very similar – time had to be managed efficiently to fit it all in. One of the many *hats* you wear as a freelance sole-trader is that of business admin.

Once I had built a basic form of my website, I registered as self-employed for self-assessment with HMRC, then prepared the documents. Now I was ready for my first client … eek!

Where to find freelance jobs?

I see this question asked many times on Facebook freelancer groups and on the SfEP forums. “Where do you find opportunities for paid work?”

I signed up for Find a Proofreader. This was the directory I preferred to use to register my services. There is a wide selection of directories out there. There are also strong views about the poor rates offered. They are good to start with for experience. But that topic is not for now.

Initially, I targeted students, as education is my specialism. I followed the advice of Nick Jones (owner of FAP), from his session at the SfEP 2017 Conference, to make my profile as relevant as possible. Sadly, I have never been quick enough to land a proofreading job with this site. Your application has to be very quick off the mark – as soon as a query is sent out!

Universities are another source of work from students. I googled many universities and, in some cases, found the relevant proofreading guidelines page with their policy. I could, therefore, gauge the advice students were being offered.

My first proofreading job

I confess I didn’t know much about marketing when I first started my business. So, imagine my joy, three months after I had applied to be on the Register of Proofreaders at a major university in East Anglia, to receive a query from a student.

Once I had seen a sample, we agreed a rate per 1,000 words and the deadline for the return of the dissertation. She agreed to my T&Cs. I conscientiously got on with the job with fervour.

I finished the job in good time. When I returned her checked writing, I attached a copy of my invoice. I was lucky that she was a prompt payer; and that she was happy to give me a good testimonial about my thorough approach. An excellent first job. Phew!

Since then I have done proofreading for about 10 students, checking for errors and inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, grammar and context.

Working with students

Of course there are issues around proofreading for students … How much of the writing do you change?

One non-English speaking student wasn’t happy with my proofreading when I sent the proofed dissertation chapter. He pointed out the *errors* I had *missed*. After enquiring, it transpired that he wanted his English to be improved. I recommended that he look for an editor with the permission of his supervisor.

As a result of the misunderstanding on his part, I tweaked the wording on the website page for student clients. To make my terms absolutely clear. I emphasised my role: to indicate errors only and with the permission of the supervisor. The SfEP have an excellent guide called Proofreading Theses and Dissertations’.

Payments, deposits and late payments

A question many people ask is “Will I earn enough to pay the bills?” The answer: It depends …

You probably won’t earn enough to begin with, as, on average, it can take up to two years to grow your business to something sustainable. In fact, many people have a part-time job alongside editing or proofreading. I go out every afternoon to tutor primary children – the change of scene does me good. Two other members of my family also have a *portfolio* of jobs: my husband, for example, has a gardening business to pay the bills alongside art, his other vocation. His week is a mixture of both.

Bank transfer is the usual preference as a payment method by freelancers. Some freelancers prefer clients to use Paypal or Stripe, among others. Again I have observed many views on this subject.

A tip I have picked up from fellow SfEP-ers is to charge a deposit if the project is large, or going to be split over a few weeks. For one student client, I have charged 50%. But it depends on the freelancer and client. For example, that student wanted to send me module 1 to proofread immediately, then, a month later, module 2.

A growing problem which freelancers experience is those clients who pay late or, worse, not at all. A solution is to include a clause on your invoice explaining the Late Payment Fees. Another method is to request settlement of the balance payment before releasing the completed files. This strategy refers to independent clients rather than companies / publishers.

I have got used to spreadsheets. I record the invoice number next to the client name, the amount paid and when. This way my accounts are accurate and up-to-date for tax purposes.

Creative paperwork – no, not that kind!

When you are busy being creative with the images and banner (maybe even a logo?) on your company branding for your website and social media. Here’s another tip: remember to carry it through onto your business templates. It continues your personality and makes it consistent.

My to-do list

Now (two years later) I have evolved with my business. More SfEP training and a wide range of networking has encouraged me to psych myself up to try a variety of marketing strategies. Imposter syndrome has a lot to answer for.

  • Cold email local businesses, such as Chambers of Commerce, to advertise my availability.
  • Advertise myself to more educational publishers to proofread Primary textbooks, now that I feel competent enough.
  • Provide proofreading specialisms to publishers of children’s fiction and non-fiction. I have discovered that this really excites me!

Therefore, my next job is to add to my spreadsheet of publishers to contact.

This involves listing the publisher/packager name, project manager/editor contact email, date of my introductory email sent, date of reply (if any). I am pleased to say that, out of the first 15 publishers I emailed, I had a positive reply from two! So have a 13% success rate. Which I’m told is good!

But it does mean investing a huge amount of emotional energy, which most of the time isn’t rewarded. But so worth it for the 10%. Learn to develop patience, persistence and perseverance. Or, put another way, ‘a dropped pebble starts ripples’.

Find free resources on my website. It can be very daunting starting your own business. If you want to ask questions or to share experiences, I’m here.

 

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux,  https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Credit: My resources are tweaked from the resources available on the website for the CIEP (formerly the Society of Editors and Proofreaders).