Friday, 14 December 2012

Childcare - 'Tis the Season

As the end of the year approaches, our thoughts turn towards the seasonal festivities in schools and nurseries across the country. Many of your learners will be in their placements helping out with end of term parties, nativity plays, Christmas concerts and other celebrations and it is always a good time to remind ourselves of the many different religious festivals and celebrations that are recognised across the UK.

Equality and diversity in the early years is a very important part of both the Level 2 Certificate and Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce, particularly:

L2:       Unit SHC 23 Introduction to equality and inclusion in health, social care or children’s and young people’s settings

L3:       Unit SHC 33 Promote equality and inclusion in health, social care or children’s and young people’s settings

Unit CYP 3.7 Understand how to support positive outcomes for children and young people
In addition, Diversity, Equality and Inclusion in the Early Years also form a whole unit (Unit 10) of the new Edexcel BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Children’s Play, Learning and Development (supported by the forthcoming Collins student textbook). This unit also includes strategies for inclusive practice and planning to meet children’s individual needs.

Copyright Vicky Brock
In order to really appreciate diversity and discrimination, learners need to be aware of their own attitudes, values and beliefs. I have frequently used an “Attitude Poll” as a starter exercise in class, which provides a forum for learners to explore their own beliefs as well as reflect on how they might deal with ideas that challenge their own views. Divide your learners into small groups and provide each group with a set of statements, including several controversial ones (Some examples are attached). Invite the learners to discuss each statement in turn and decide if they agree or disagree with the statement. Each group should then select one statement (perhaps the one they had the most discussion about or the most controversial) to share with the whole group. You will need to act as facilitator, adjudicator (and sometimes referee!), but it can give rise to some extremely interesting and thought-provoking discussion. This has an important message for learners who will someday be working with a wide variety of people, holding a mixture of different views, which will very often be in opposition to their own. How will they handle that? Learners can sometimes be very critical of parents and families, but it is important for them to think about how they will maintain a professional attitude, which encompasses diversity and is non-judgemental.

Many of your learners will have studied different religions in school, but their knowledge and understanding is often varied. One way to consolidate what your learners already know is to use the blank chart on world religions (Attached) and ask your learners to work in groups to complete as much of the chart as they can. Explain that it is not a test and stress that they are not being assessed on how much they know. Provide the completed chart (Attached, and adapted from for your learners to fill in the gaps.

The significance of this relates to the implications for early years practice, particularly in areas like festivals and celebrations, dress, diet and dealing with death. Your learners may already have some understanding of different religious practices from their own lives or their placement experience. Invite learners to share their experiences and create a collage about the different ways that early years settings embrace religious diversity in practice, (for example by celebrating different religious festivals, having a range of resources or involving parents or community leaders in the setting).
One activity I have found very thought provoking for learners is a role-playing exercise around answering children’s questions, (Attached). This can be extremely challenging, but can also give rise to some very useful discussion and practical advice. If learners are reluctant to engage in role-play, then encourage them to think about how they would respond and then share their ideas in the group. With issues involving different religious beliefs, stress the importance of putting the question back to the child, or checking in with what the child already knows i.e. “Where do you think people go when they die?” or “What has you mum told you about that?”

Amidst the hectic whirl of the end of term and preparing for the holidays, we can always count on young children to bring us all back down to earth.

Janet Stearns, Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies, former Lead Examiner for CACHE

Changes to the Primary Maths Curriculum

When and how is the curriculum changing?
In June 2012, the Education Secretary set out the draft Primary National Curriculum Programmes of Study for English, Maths and Science. The next draft is expected for consultation in early 2013, including details about how current levels of achievement will be replaced with the expectation that children master age-related concepts and skills in the new curriculum. The final version is due in schools by September 2013, with statutory implementation beginning in September 2014. The new Programmes of Study are clearly more demanding than the existing National Curriculum, so schools need to be aware of the changes.

What are the aims of the Programme of Study for Maths?
The draft National Curriculum for mathematics aims to ensure that all pupils:
become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics
can solve problems by applying their mathematics
can reason mathematically by following a line of enquiry.

How will the curriculum be organised?
The Attainment Targets of the current National Curriculum (2000) and the strands of the Primary National Strategy Mathematics Framework (2006) will be replaced and the 2014 Programme of Study for Mathematics will be structured and sequenced under the following domains, with content arranged into yearly blocks which children will be expected to master.

What are the key differences?
Overall, the levels of expectations have been raised, especially in relation to number and recall of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division number facts. A strong emphasis has been placed on mental and written calculation of whole numbers, decimals and fractions. Many mathematics topics are now introduced at an earlier stage and taught at an accelerated pace. This is especially the case in Key Stage 1 where, at the end of Year 1, children will be expected to recall and use number bonds and related subtraction facts within 20. Some new topics have also been introduced, such as Roman numerals, identifying parts of a circle, recognising binary numerals and a more formal introduction to algebra in Year 6.

How can schools get ready for 2013–2014?
In preparation for 2013–2014, I would strongly advise schools to:
become familiar with the draft Programme of Study for Maths and updates to follow
begin to look at any differences between current levels/standards and expected levels/standards
identify two or three priorities for your school and begin to implement these
refocus teachers, support staff, children and parents on the importance of memorizing key mathematical facts and, in particular, knowing by heart the:
- addition and subtraction number facts to 5, 10 and 20
- times-tables and related division facts up to 12 x 12
- product of a multiple of 10 and 100 and a 1-digit number, e.g. 40 x 7, 600 x 9.

Where can schools find more information?

Keep up to date with the new Primary National Curriculum:

Download reports related to this article:
DFE–00135–2011 (report of the Expert Panel)
DFE–RR178 (analysis of curricula of high-performing jurisdictions worldwide)
DFE–00136–2011 (responses to the call for evidence)

Peter Clarke
Series editor, Collins New Primary Maths

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Your school can save 50% on bulk purchase of Apps!

Many traditional classroom aids and learning supports are changing shape; they are now available as ‘apps’ that can be downloaded and used on digital tablets and phones. The Apple App Store, which supports apps for Apple products such as iPhones and iPads, is where many useful educational aids can be found.
The Education Volume Purchase Programme allows app providers to offer their apps in the store at a special discount rate, which can be ordered only by educational establishments.
Here is a brief guide from Collins on the Education Volume Purchase Programme by Apple, and what it can mean for your school. To access these special benefits, just follow these simple steps:

1. To best utilise the store, your school needs to have a dedicated Programme Manager to look after Apple orders. Your school can have as many Programme Managers as they require.
2. The Programme Manager may then set up Programme Facilitator accounts to allow teachers to browse and purchase from the site. All you need is an email address that isn’t already linked to an Apple ID.
3. Simply access the Apple Store to use the Education Volume Purchase Programme
4. Once orders are placed, an easy to use code for each copy can be downloaded from the App  Store.
5. Send the code to any student or teacher with an iTunes account. There is no time limit to use the code

 At Collins we like to support teachers using this feature. All of our Education apps, including the recently released Atlas by Collins, are eligible for a 50% discount for orders of over 20 copies. 

Fertility and Birth rate screen shot view from the Population Globe, Atlas by Collins
With 7 globes full of detailed information, and 200,000 places available to browse offline, Atlas by Collins is specifically designed to inspire: the more you discover, the more you want to explore! Atlas by Collins  provides an additional fun learning platform to the usual classroom equipment for both students and teachers, particularly in the run up to the Christmas holidays.

In particular, Atlas by Collins can be used as both a general interest platform within a range of subjects, such as Geography, History, Languages and the Sciences, as well as a useful reference base from teacher to students. Here are a couple of ideas for use in the classroom:

·         In the run up to the holidays, why not try a quiz utilising the hundreds of embedded and interesting facts in the app?

·          Or provide hours of interest by tying the app into current world events; for instance, the recent news of declining birth rates in the US?

Atlas by Collins has something for everyone, which is why we think it’s the greatest app on earth!

We hope this brief introduction has been helpful – look out for more useful guides in the near future!
Wishing you all very ‘App’y holidays...

Monday, 10 December 2012

Reforming the ICT Curriculum - Coercion or cooperation?

Following the Reformation a number of people found Good King Henry’s neck supports were uncomfortable - fortunately this turned out to be only a temporary problem for those afflicted.  It appears that changes following Gove’s January speech to BETT are likely to be somewhat kinder towards the teaching force, although the intention is to change the direction of travel, in this case from ICT (boo!) to the Nirvana of Computer Science.  A well intentioned move made not before time, but these columns have speculated on the two major problems to be solved before necessary improvements in the IT/Computing curriculum can be used to effect; these being teacher training and arranging a suitable bandwidth in the new curriculum to cater for pupil-all-comers.  It looks as if progress is being made, certainly the problem is recognised and proposals advanced for solutions to both problems.

In the case of Teacher Training, the press notice updated 22nd October:

This reports that the intention is to provide annually around 50 scholarship programs at £20,000 each available to top graduates.  The training programs are set up by the British Computer Society (BCS), supported by Microsoft, Facebook, BT and IBM.  Graduates with at least a 2.1 will be eligible to apply for the one of these scholarships.  These graduates will have, in addition to “exceptional subject knowledge and enthusiasm for the study of Computer Science”, will also have an “outstanding potential to teach”.  The relationship between these students and the BCS will continue into their careers; it’s interesting to speculate on what is intended by this: are we talking about feedback for the next tranche of students, ideas for lesson plans or something more radical such as career advice and assisted professional development?
In addition to the BCS students, around 500 teachers are to be trained through a “Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence”.  This grandiose title relates to a scheme to train up to around 500 teachers, so it could be one lucky individual I suppose, anyway these missionaries with some knowledge of ICT are to be trained to “better teach Computer Science”.  There is an information pack from the BCS which summarises much of this with further useful links:

It seems a worthy effort that might work, but I have never been able to pick someone with outstanding potential to teach without seeing them in action and then in an environment where they can show their potential.  Teachers so often prosper in their natural habitat (and not necessarily an academic temple) else the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries.  Probably others will disagree and have more success at picking winners.

In the next blog we’ll look at proposals which impact directly on those taught.

John Giles

John Giles is an educational consultant and author specialising in IT and computing. He works closely with exam boards, and has written syllabuses and exam papers.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Alex's Chinese Challenge – Getting started

Meet hyperpolyglot Alex Rawlings, winner of the 2011 Collins Livemocha search for the Most Multilingual Student in Britain

Alex's  language skills were assessed by  eleven native-speaking judges who all confirmed his  proficiency in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Greek, Catalan, Dutch, Hebrew, Afrikaans, Russian (and English!). Don't believe us? Then take a look for yourself...

Alex doesn't want to stop there though and has set himself a new challenge – to learn Chinese in just 10 weeks! Read his Chinese Challenge reports to find out how he gets on, and to see what tips he has for you when learning a new language.

Chinese challenge – Week 1

I’ve just come to the end of the first week of the Chinese challenge! Every day for about half an hour I’ve been working on my Chinese, using the Collins Easy Learning Mandarin Audio Course, Easy Learning Chinese Characters and Chinese Language and Culture book. It’s been really good fun and I’m really enjoying using the variety of materials available.

So far I’ve listened to the first three units of the audio course a few times on the way to and from work, and read two chapters of the culture book, which is really interesting reading about Chinese history and the way the language is spoken in practice. I’ve learnt 5 Chinese characters so far, but I’ve been concentrating on the audio side so I can get used to the sound and rhythm of the language first. So far I can introduce myself, greet people, ask how they are, and say whether or not I speak English or Chinese. The tone system is quite challenging though, and I’d like to speak to a native speaker to make sure I’m getting it right!

Next week I’m going to concentrate more on reading and writing, hopefully learn five to ten characters a day, while still listening to the audio course. But Chinese seems like a fascinating language, and I’m really glad to have got this opportunity to study it!

New Year is coming – keep taking the tablets

As a child of the sixties I was no stranger to books and magazines featuring artists’ impressions of cities of the future.  Sleek skyscrapers, elevated freeways and even personal jetpacks were all clearly going to be on offer; it was a case of when rather than if.  They indicated a clear optimism that the future was going to be better than the past and a belief that technology would be a key driver, presenting lifestyle choices that anyone in their right mind would seize.  When these did arrive, they somehow seemed a little less glamorous and not quite as exciting.  I’m still optimistic about the jetpacks though.
I think this resonates with ICT, which sometimes seems to arrive a little later than promised, not saving quite as much time as we’d thought and always needing a back-up.  However we’re still sometimes promised game changers and, true to my optimistic roots, I’m willing to believe it.
Copyright Sean McEntee
Enter the iPad.  Not being used to Apple systems I was keen to explore and wanted to learn about the potential for use in the classroom.  Three things won me over – Cox, the camera and Machinarium.  “Wonders of the Universe”, already a TV series and a book, was introduced as an iBook.  Seductive in its beauty and simplicity, it invited exploration.  Pictures grow to fill the screen and up pops Brian himself in an exotic location to explain some tricky concept.  What’s not to like?
The camera was next – not so much that the images were stunning as the speed and ease with which they can be displayed.  Anything in the classroom worthy of sharing, be it a chemical product from an experiment or a set of notes from a group task can be snapped and projected, without missing a beat.
Then came Machinarium.  A colleague of mine is involved in a British Council Anglo-Indian project (UnBox 21) to develop the use of computer games in science teaching.  Machinarium was one of his favourites; I asked my 18 year old son to road test it – last I saw of the iPad (and son) for the next four days.  The game is a surreal little world of problems to be solved by using logic, science and technology; entirely devoid of language it nevertheless stimulates a lot of discussion amongst users.
As many of you will know, New Year is closely followed by the ASE Annual Meeting, this time in Reading (January 2nd – 5th).  I’m running a number of sessions there for Collins including ones on iPads (as long as I get the kit back) and others on developing extended writing and effective revision strategies.  If you’re there it would be great to see you.  Either way, have a wonderful Christmas.
Ed Walsh
Ed Walsh is Science adviser for Cornwall Learning. In the past, he has worked extensively with teachers, schools, local authorities and national agencies in relation to science education.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

'Daredevil vs the Hulk? It's just comma-sense!'

You think using full stops is hard!?” I asked one group of GCSE re-sit students the other day as they grappled with just two simple tips on what to look for when locating the end of a sentence – those being, whenever you can hear a substantial one second pause and / or wherever two main clauses come together – “Wait till you get a load of the rules for using the comma!” Obviously, if we are still struggling with full stops by next term, then the comma is unlikely to get a look in.  However, should the long-awaited full stop revolution ever occur, I will boldly venture forth into a whole new set of starter activities featuring this agile little punctuation mark.

So, in a spirit of reckless optimism, I’ve prepared a slimmed down list of essential comma rules (do you know that there are over twenty in total?) and thirty sentences taken from the epic super hero clash referred to above which occurred in Daredevil, issue163. I’ve selected, and sometimes modified, sentences which not only cover all of the comma rules that I wish to focus upon, but which also tell the full story of this rollicking rumble.

If Daredevil isn’t your thing, then you could always adapt a classic text of your own choosing.  But for me, Daredevil has many of the elements of great literature: powerful characterisation (no, I don’t just mean the big muscles!), as much conflict as you could possibly wish for in a single sitting, and all served up with a generous helping of the most vivid imagery - much of which, thankfully, has been graphically illustrated for me, thus saving me the bother of having to visualise it for myself.  Of course, if you are already a Marvel fan, then your concerns might run in a different direction: “Daredevil versus the Hulk!? What happens after the opening panel???”  Well, to put your mind at rest, DD does survive, albeit after a spell of intensive care in City Hospital!

Should you decide to take the Marvel route, but feel the need to justify all of your literary choices by searching for deeper meaning, then you could encourage your students to imagine the much heavier, more bulky full stop as the Hulk of punctuation – massive and imposing … nothing breaks through it – and the nimble, much more versatile comma as the athletic Daredevil himself.  However, this might be stretching allegory a bit too far!

Ultimately, I hope to project three of these sentences onto my white board at the start of each lesson and ask my students to identify the relevant comma rules from the slimmed down list which, in this heavily idealised world of super heroes, super villains and near-perfect full stop usage, will have been glued into every exercise book for homework!

This abridged version of the comma rules is as follows:

Rule 1: Only use a comma when absolutely necessary; if in doubt, leave it out.  If you think of the sentence as a highway, then unnecessary commas are like bricks in the road.  They severely hinder the smooth flow of traffic.

Rule 2: Use a comma to separate two adjectives when the word ‘and’ can be inserted between them.

Rule 3: Use commas before or surrounding the name or title of a person directly addressed.  You should also use a comma when the inclusion of a name is additional information as opposed to being in the main flow of meaning.

Rule 4: Use commas to embed individual words that interrupt the sentence flow.

Rule 5: Use commas to embed clauses or phrases that interrupt the sentence flow.

Rule 6: Be very careful when using embedding commas in conjunction with words like WHO, WHICH and THAT (relative pronouns).  If the information is essential to the reader’s understanding of the subject of the sentence (i.e. the person or thing being referred to), then the information is not additional and thus does not interrupt the sentence flow. In such cases, the information should not be embedded and so the commas are unnecessary.

Rule 7: When starting a sentence with a subordinate (weak) clause, use a comma after it. Conversely, do not use a comma when the sentence starts with a main (strong) clause followed by a subordinate (weak) clause.

Rule 8: Use a comma when beginning sentences with such single word sentence-starters (introductory words) as: ‘However’, ‘Alas’ and ‘Conversely’.

Rule 9: Use a comma when beginning sentences with short phrase sentence-starters (introductory phrases) such as ‘On occasions’, ‘From time to time’, ‘On the other hand’.

Rule 10: Use a comma to demarcate (to separate) clauses if it will help avoid confusion or make the meaning clearer and easier to understand.

Rule 11: Use commas to separate direct speech from narrative.

Rule 12: Use commas to separate items in a list.

Basically, most of the above could be summarised as follows.  Use commas:
  • when beginning a sentence with anything other than a main clause
  • in order to demarcate (separate out) extra / additional information which is not in the main flow of meaning
  • in order to separate words, phrases and clauses when it is necessary to make the overall meaning of the sentence clearer for the reader

  • A comma splice is an error caused when two sentences are separated with a comma instead of with a full stop.
  • A run-on sentence is an error caused by placing two sentences together without any form of punctuation at all.

Thus, as is often the case with tales of mystery and suspense, this final reflection brings me full circle to the point at which I began:

“You think using full stops is hard!?  Wait till you get a load of the rules for using the comma!”

 Peter Morrisson

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Easy Learning practice books

I have been studying Italian for a couple of years now and plan to start a GCSE course in September. Throughout my studies so far I have been greatly aided by Easy Learning Italian Verbs and the Easy Learning Italian Dictionary. The Easy Learning Italian Verbs has been excellent for allowing me to quickly check verb infinitives and for flagging up irregular verbs clearing up any confusion I might have and helping me to complete homework assignments. The Easy Learning Dictionary not only offers me great translations and definitions but it also provides me with examples instantly placing the word into context which I feel really helps me to remember it.

I bought Easy Learning Italian Grammar & Practice to use over the summertime, as having the grammar advice and tips collated together looks like it will be really handy when I start my studies in September. Also the practice exercises provided at the end of each section have been helpful in refreshing my Italian knowledge before the course starts. The practice exercises so far have been really useful for helping me to remember those common irregular words and verbs mentioned in the different sections by returning to them in different practice exercises throughout the book -getting them to really stick in the brain!

What I have found really handy with the Easy Learning titles is that they provide lots of extra bits that also aid my studies, for example at the start of the Verbs and Grammar titles there is a really helpful Glossary of terms that defines all those grammatical words and phrases that I often get confused with (such as the difference between Past Perfect and Simple Past!). And being able to check the meaning of these in English is vital when coming across them in the different areas of my studies. Once I have achieved my GCSE in Italian I hope to continue studying the language and hope to one day achieve an A Level in the subject, for this I will definitely continue to use my Collins resource books.

by Emma

FREE sample exercises from Easy Learning series