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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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

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: