5 Highlights From 2020

5 highlights from 2020

As weird as 2020 was, I have a few highlights from the year.

Tall Tartan Talks here … As I mentioned last year in my review of 2019, life as a freelancer has its ups and downs. This year has been, for some people, an extreme of that precarious situation.

Luckily, my freelance work life is mainly online, so I count myself blessed that I haven’t been affected too much.

I want to tell you about highlights in five areas. Well, more really, but five is a factor of 2020, so it sounded better.

Highlights

  1. Training
  2. Networking
  3. Rebranding
  4. Tutoring
  5. Cold emailing

1. Training

This year has been for me principally a year of learning and adding to my Continuous Professional Development (CPD) with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

  • In December last year I began the proofreading mentoring scheme. By May I had completed it. It was a unique opportunity to have experience of  a wide range of real jobs with guidance and virtual hand holding from a highly experienced Advanced Professional CIEP member. I wrote about it in the blog post Editing Training Part 2.
  • A group of us formed an informal Accountability Group. Consisting of other CIEP members, it prompted me to achieve many CPD goals.
  • I attended the CIEP online conference in November. A huge highlight!
  • I completed the CIEP Copyediting 1: Introduction course.

2. Networking

Along with everyone else in the world in 2020, since March, all my networking has been carried out on Zoom. It’s a necessary evil.

A particular networking highlight this year was that I, along with other international members of CIEP, formed our Accountability Group. (Yes, I am mentioning this again …)

We share our goals fortnightly on a Zoom call. We use the messaging app Slack to have daily chats about wins and rants. It is our safe space.

Without their encouragement I wouldn’t have achieved half of what I have done this year.

3. Rebranding

This time last year, I aimed to research how I wanted the branding on my website and social media profiles to appear. I considered branding, my brand identity, values and colours. This is described in the My Branding Process blog post. I am particularly proud of this 2020 highlight.

I tweaked my website; made sure the Contact form worked; added an Upload file widget so that potential clients can add a sample of what they want me to proofread to their query.

I subtly changed the titles of my blog posts. Originally tagged #TallTartanTells, this was changed to #TallTartanTalks.

To help with tips for general efficiency, I wrote this blog post called Managing Emails after I read a book on productivity. Clearing your emails once a day by ensuring you have an inbox-zero situation can clear the head and prevent worry.

Sadly, I am not as strict with myself as I was when I wrote that blog post. Workload weight means that I tend to have a clear-out once a week these days … It has become a Friday job.

4. Tutoring

After such a busy couple of years of tutoring in 2018–19, I was worn out by the beginning of the year.

review of the year

By March, tuition had moved online using Zoom and interactive teaching software. Boy, was that a challenge! How to get the work to parents? How to ensure interactive learning?

More than half a year on, the online tuition routines are well established: work is emailed before the lesson, a variety of resources are enjoyed, and pupils can even share their screens.

The main highlight? Not travelling to their homes. The extra time taken to plan an interactive and challenging lesson, then email the parents with the information; versus the time saved by not commuting …

I wrote two blog posts with teaching tips this year: How I Teach English and How Do You Learn?

In July, one of my pupils left Year 6 (age 11) thereby finishing primary school. The two sessions of tuition per week I had done with them for two years became available.

The main reason I became freelance was to be in control of my work–life balance. Consequently, I took the decision not to fill those spaces with more pupils because I was losing that balance. Saying no to work is never easy, but preserving mental health is a priority.

Instead I did more editing and proofreading CPD using the extra time I had gained.

5. Cold-emailing

With my updated training skills and new branding, I was ready to offer my further proofreading skills to educational publishers and publishers of children’s books.

The last time I cold-emailed publishers (about 18 months ago) I invested a tremendous amount of emotional energy in the process. I thought about it far too much – not good.

This time I was wiser. I bought the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2020. I made a list of websites, contact names and email addresses. Once I had researched a publisher, certain that they published what I was interested in proofreading, the cold emailing began.

I found TextExpander very useful for giving me shortcuts for repeated phrases, so that they were much quicker to type, e.g. my email address, phrases like proofreader available, etc … Even a whole email was saved in my snippets so that it appeared when a simple shortcut “//query” was typed!

My CV was updated with my new branding, training and most recent experience. and I attached it, with the body of each short email acting as a covering letter.

However, it is important to bear in mind that the return reply rate is statistically low – a minimum of one in ten. This time I put emotion and desperation to one side in order to become businesslike and pragmatic.

Since then I have learnt that publishers aren’t keen on receiving email attachments. Therefore I now add a P.S. stating that my C.V. is available.

Once the batch of emails was sent for the day, I put them to the back of my mind, and got on with other jobs.

I am grateful to have received a couple of positive replies from publishers responding that they would add me to their books.

review of the year

Children’s book authors

Having re-vamped my website, I pushed the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) on the page which advertises to children’s book authors.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise then when I had several enquiries from independent children’s authors (self-publishing). When I asked them how they had found me (I’m in several directories), their answer was always “Google”.

A proof-editing job I enjoyed was a series of 9 stories for young children. They featured the adventures of the same small character. I suggested tips for consistency across the series.  The author asked for advice on self-publishing. They weren’t the first to enquire.

I searched the hive mind that is the CIEP forums and found some gems of advice to pass on. I really hope the author publishes next year. Fingers crossed!

Perhaps I should add self-publishing advice for authors to my list of aims for next year …

Next year

So, to 2021 … plans need to be considered and formed, no matter what is going on in the world.

For the readers who haven’t seen them, look out for my hashtags #TallTartanTips and #TallTartanTalks on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. They link to the blog posts which promote my editing and educational skills, as well as giving advice and tips.

Whatever your circumstances, here’s to the future, hoping 2021 is better.

review of the year

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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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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:

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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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 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

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