BOOK BLOG: Anna Williamson

How Not To Lose It: a brilliant book to use when talking MH with kids

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“The go-to mental health guide for kids!
Exam stress? Friendship issues? Panic attacks?
How Not to Lose It will help you be the boss of all of this, and more.

It’s not just your body that should be fit and healthy – your mind needs to be, too! How Not to Lose It is the go-to guide for achieving a balanced mind and strong emotional well-being. With immediate, heart of the matter advice and a chatty yet honest tone, Anna Williamson addresses all of the key issues affecting children today.”

As a teacher, it’s so important that I have resources available to me for talking to kids about their mental health. We are seeing more and more that MH is something that is talked about in schools – and rightly so. There are more and more books becoming available to help kids learn about and talk about their MH and How Not To Lose It is a brilliant example of a book that’s going to do that! Aimed at 9-14 year olds, this book covers a wide variety of topics and is filled with empowering advice, delivered in a honest and chatty tone. 

How Not To Lose It covers such a wide variety of topics that you can find advice based on almost anything. The contents page kicks off in the way the book continues – friendly, colourful and it doesn’t feel like your typical “self help” book. There’s a handy index in the back too – always useful when you just want ONE specific thing. The topics covered in the book are:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress
  • friendship
  • bullying
  • relationships and sex
  • family life and bereavement
  • phobias
  • peer pressure
  • self-harm
  • self-esteem and confidence.

I love that this book is approachable. If a kid (this book is aimed at 9-14 year olds) picked it up, it’s appealing to them and it’s not just pages and pages of words. There’s agony aunt letters aplenty and there’s these brilliant “myth busting” boxes throughout. The illustrations are perfect for the age range that it’s aimed at and I read through as an adult and I learned things! The language used is chatty and honest, which makes it brilliantly readable for kids without sounding patronising.

This book is BRILLIANT. Properly brilliant. I love the variety of topics that it covers. These ‘To sum it all up…’ pages are my favourite pages throughout – there’s some proper sound advice on them. (This one about friendship is one of my favourites!) 

Anything that empowers our kids and helps them deal with anything they’re going through is a proper winner in my books and this one is brilliant! 

What are your favourite resources to use in the classroom about mental health?
Would you find this resource useful in the classroom?

A massive thank you to the publishers, Scholastic, for sending me a copy. I am going to have this at hand in my classroom. This book is out now and I would recommend UKS2/KS3 teachers to check it out!

S x

Christmas lessons #2

CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD

One of my favourite stand alone (or can be woven into other subjects) Christmas lessons to do is Christmas around the world! 

I am very lucky in that I have lots of friends in a few different countries around the world who are willing to share their country’s Christmas traditions with me! Two years ago I used my brother and the Christmas traditions in Sweden to teach the children all about Christmas in Sweden. It’s all very different over there and the kids absolutely loved it!

There are loads and loads of resources out there to help you with this! 

There’s a few different ways you could do it…

  1. Everyone could concentrate on the same country
  2. Children could work in groups of 5/6 to work on a few different countries
  3. Children could work in pairs to work on a lot more countries
  4. Children could work independently to work on countries

I have found that it always works better in small groups or pairs personally, but that’s my children in my school! I’m sure in every setting it works differently! 

There are any number of different things you could do too. Some examples of things you could do:

  • Create a poster for the country
  • Children create a fact file of the country and their traditions
  • As children to produce a powerpoint, or a book (either a physical book or in a book creator app) about their country
  • Children could create something for them to teach their friends with, or younger pupils
  • Children do work to present an assembly or present to another class

Now, I have to say, I’ve done this 2 years in a row and both years the children have been so engaged and so curious as to how Christmas works in other countries that it has produced amazing results! I do have lesson planning which I am more than happy to share if anyone wants it!

The wonderful people at Twinkl have all kinds of gorgeous Christmas around the world activities! There’s all sorts from powerpoints, to activity sheets, to fact files to help with this kind of work. There’s assembly scripts, if you wanted to turn your learning into an assembly. They’re so incredible over there in the world of Twinkl that most, if not all, of their resources come in multiple languages, they come in differentiated ability groups and you can choose black and white or colour! That’ll make lots of school business managers happy! No more colour charging for the photocopier!

Some of my favourites are:

As I say these are just some of my personal favourites, but get searching on Twinkl! There are SO MANY amazing resources! 

S xx

 

Book inspired lessons

I am going to start a ‘BOOK INSPIRED LESSONS’ blog post series. It will only be as and when for the minute, then once there’s a few ideas in the blog I might make it a real thing!

For a long time I’ve wanted to learn how to sign, properly. But it’s just not something I’ve ever got round to unfortunately. It’s always been there, bubbling in the back of my mind! As soon as I read ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder’, I knew I wanted to do something BSL inspired, but I wasn’t quite sure what. Rhys being deaf just spurred something on in me!

I pondered over it for a day or two and had a browse on Twinkl and saw that they have some INCREDIBLE resources all about BSL. I knew instantly that I wanted to use the resources in my Year 4 classroom! I found this video and knew that I had to use it! It’s a very simple video showing how to sign the letters of the alphabet, which will enable the children to “fingerspell” (spell with their fingers) their names!

We watched the video twice, with the children copying the lady on the video. Then the children went back to their desks with this sheet and they had 5 minutes to practise fingerspelling their name with the partner. The children absolutely LOVED it.

It only took 10-15 minutes and now all the children have some awareness of BSL and hopefully can spell their name using this incredible language! I hope to teach them a christmas song in BSL too… Twinkl is wonderful and has all kinds of Christmas BSL resources available! Check them out!

Have you ever tried BSL in your classroom? How did it work? I want to show my children that all forms of communication are important and create a classroom filled with children who are aware of the diverse nature of this world!

S x

Curriculum maps

So for my recent SCITT interview and observation I wanted to show off my skills, to show them that I had a skill set already. I’ve worked for 7 years honing these skills so why should I not “show” them off?

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Since I was using The Tunnel by Anthony Browne (which is an incredible story, you can get so much from it, with any age I reckon) I thought it would be a great idea to show the people running the course that if I was to do a topic around this book how I would link it to other areas of the curriculum (specifically in Year 3). I spent a lot of time looking through the curriculum objectives for Year 3 and thinking about how they could/how they would link to a topic around this book/Anthony Browne books!

I love doing topics based around books. They lead you down so many different paths, or down one very specific path that you can have so much fun with it!

I’ve attached the curriculum map I’ve made for Year 3 to this post as I think it could be useful for other Year 3 teachers who are possibly using the story for the first time, or maybe have been using it for years and would like to see how other people would use it.

Please let me know if you have any comments to make about it, or if you have any curriculum maps you’d like to share. I think they’re incredible and have so much worth to them. They’re a great place to have all of your ideas on!

Download here:the-tunnel-y3-cross-curricula

S x

Freeday: Y6 Science

Year 6 this year have brought on new challenges (I knew my last class very well!) so I have had to keep things fresh. Last year the children loved looking at the adaptations of the animals we have in the world today, whereas I know this new class can cope with something which is more of a challenge… 

We have been looking at the wonderful (ha) new addition to the curriculum which is Evolution and Inheritance (thanks to Twinkl FYI for the amazing Plan It resources for this topic, I would’ve struggled without your gentle guidance!). We’ve looked at adaptation using the lesson I did last year, which they absolutely loved, so I thought for the final lesson for this topic I would get them to design their own creatures and to describe the adaptations the animal has which make it suitable for whatever habitat it lives in. 

The worksheet is herey6-science.

Let me know if you download it! Tell me in the comments or via twitter @eenalol

S x

(Credit to: https://www.tes.com/lessons/search/science for the picture!)

Free-day: Maths challenge!

During a Maths learning walk last year I was in the Year 5 classroom and we were thinking about algebraic problems involving shapes, patterns and missing lengths.

I produced the sheet attached which has 2 differentiated versions of the problems.

We had spent the previous week looking at a few different variations on the same problems so this week (luckily for my observation) was one in which was just a bit of input from me but then a lot of problem solving skills from the children. They were able to use their whiteboards for any help needed but I encouraged the children to draw and write all of their thoughts in their maths books for assessment purposes. The children were all well engaged and loved the challenge posed at the end.

This would work well in Year 5 and Year 6. We were following Maths Makes Sense at the time and we found that some of the expectations were too high, so possibly even higher up would be good.

Let me know if my maths-learning-walk worksheet is any good to you! Comment below or let me know on twitter @eenalol

S xx

Free-day: Speech marks ideas!

Teaching speech marks can’t always be the most interesting thing. But when you start to think outside of the box there are some absolutely amazing things you can come up with!

Last year, whilst thinking of interesting ways in which we have conversations it dawned on me that the most prominent way I have conversations (which aren’t verbal) was on my phone. Via text message. Was there any way I could use text messages to inspire the Y4s to use their speech marks? Well yes! I used the sheets that are attached in a speech mark lesson and the kids talked about it for about a week after! The teacher loved it too! They’re Little Red Riding Hood themed, as that was the story they were concentrating on at the time.

Here is the speech-marks-worksheets (there are 3 different conversations. 1 which asks children for an alternative “said” word and add an adverb, the other 2 just asking for children to use an alternative “said” word)

I asked the children to turn the textual conversations into conversations using speech marks correctly punctuated! They all achieved the LG and their work was incredible. They remembered new line new speaker, speech marks and came up with some incredible “said” words too!

Hope you find it useful. Let me know in the comments or tweet me @eenalol

S x

Free-day: Science dictionaries

In teaching lots of science last year I noticed that children had little knowledge of defining scientific words. I used a science dictionary as one of my assessment tasks at the end of a Year 5 topic and the kids thought it was great. During a book scrutiny the SLT also thought it was a great idea. It took me a while to think how I could make this a long term thing rather than just a one off assessment type task. So I came up with the idea that the children make their very own scientific dictionary in their science books. I’ve spoken to a few different teachers and they loved the idea.

I will use these sheets at the back of the children’s science books and then introduce key vocabulary at the start of the lesson and then when they think they can define a word they can write the definition on the lines. This will be a really useful piuece of on going assessment for me and I feel that it will help the children to have a bit more confidence in using scientific terms too!

I hope you find this dictionary template useful! Let me know if you download it and use it!

S x

Free-day: MFL Assessment!

Since a language is now compulsory in all KS2 classes there have been many chats about how to assess the children. How do we assess the children when the government have given us a very vague idea of what is expected? How can you show progress when there isn’t much scope given for what progress looks like?

As MFL coordinator for my school I am very lucky in that I have been involved in a cluster group of MFL coordinators who get together once a term to share resources. We have been helping to rewrite a SOW for KS2 French with the help of a wonderful languages teacher from one of the feeder schools. It has been an incredible piece of training and I would suggest making a cluster with schools in your area (we have them for all sorts of subjects, not just languages).

On one of the last sessions we were shown some incredible assessment documents which we are trialling for the year ahead. The resources are written by a wonderful woman called Sue Cave and they are incredible. I thought it would be good practice to share these resources with you all!

Sue Cave website
On here there are all sorts of things from assessement documents to policies and ideas for teaching activities!

I hope these are useful for you too!

S x

UKYACX blog with Gabrielle Kent!

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UKYACX is coming soon to Newcastle and I can not wait!! It is going to be amazing. I am lucky enough to be involved in the blog tour! Today is my turn to introduce the amazing Gabrielle Kent! We had a discussion and decided to fuse our worlds together – mine as teacher, hers as writer and she has written a brilliant piece on how to get kids (or adults, for all you budding writers out there!) writing!

5 Ideas to Get Kids Writing Creatively

When I was at school I absolutely loved the rare opportunities we had to really get stuck into creative writing exercises. Unfortunately, today’s curriculum can suck the joy out of creative writing by pushing overly complex language in order to fit marking schemes. When Steph invited me onto her blog, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some creative exercises and worksheets that I hope you’ll enjoy using with your children. It’s important that this doesn’t feel like homework so treat these exercises almost as games, and have fun!

So, lets get started…

What Ifs…

What Ifs are a brilliant way of encouraging kids to let their imaginations run wild. They can work well for adults too!

My Alfie Bloom series started with two What Ifs. I was visiting Castle Coch in Wales and thought, ‘What if a kid inherited a castle?’ That one thought was enough to spark a series of books, but that wasn’t the only What If  that came to mind in Castle Coch. In one of the rooms  there was a carving of The Fates above a fireplace. I thought ‘What if they came to life and told me my destiny?’ So, in the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle, The Fates come to life and speak to Alfie.

Spend a few minutes together with your wee ones discussing crazy What If’s. This can be a really fun game to play in the car. Here are some examples:

  • What if I woke up as a cat?
  • What if my teacher was an alien?
  • What if the gravity machine deep inside the planet broke down?
  • What if cats ruled the world?
  • What if Christmas was cancelled?

Then give your youngster a bunch of coloured pens and blank sheet of paper, and challenge them to fill that page with wild and wonderful What Ifs. Stick the What If’s on the wall or fridge as future inspiration, and keep on adding to them!

If you want to take this further, talk about some of the What Ifs and discuss how they would work as a story. Let your budding writer come up with answers to the following questions:

  • Who is the main character?
  • What is the big problem that needs to be solved?
  • How is the big problem revealed?
  • What other smaller problems need to be solved?
  • How does the main character solve them?
  • What help do they have?
  • What is the biggest, most dramatic part of the story?
  • Is there a twist at the end?

Once this plan is in place, hopefully they’ll feel compelled to write the story!

Crazy Sandwiches

Creative writing isn’t limited to stories and poems, what about recipes? Alfie Bloom’s dad is always forgetting to go shopping, so he often makes sandwiches from whatever leftovers he can find in the fridge. Writing recipes for crazy sandwiches can be great fun.

Encourage your child to create a weird and wonderful list of ingredients:

  • Pickled eggs
  • Sock mould
  • Tarantula eggs
  • Seaweed
  • Jam
  • Fried onions
  • Bread – although a sandwich doesn’t necessarily need to made with bread, how about a doughnut, or two giant cookies?

Describe each step involved in making the sandwich. Does the cheese need to be left in a warm cupboard for three weeks? Should the eggs be whisked with phoenix tail feathers? Use words like: slice, fry, boil, chop, crush, grind, whisk, arrange, layer, sprinkle, decorate.  

Once the recipe has been written, all that is left is to draw a picture of the final creation!

See my Crazy Sandwich worksheet for an example and a template.

In the Picture

I first realised I wanted to be a writer when I was in the last year of primary school. My teacher pinned a painting of a battle scene to the wall and asked us to write a story about it. He asked us to really imagine being there and how we would feel in that environment. I wrote from the perspective of one of the mounted soldiers towards the end of the battle and his journey home to his family. I had never put myself into a character’s head before, and it was the first time I had felt utterly proud of a piece of writing.

Find an interesting picture. For example, you could google Victorians at the seaside, the Great Fire of London, 1950s Space Art, spooky house, or just find an interesting poster or famous piece of artwork.

If there are people or animals in the picture, ask your little writer which one they would be. Ask them what their character can hear, smell, see. What is the character thinking? Where are they going? What is their relationship to anyone/thing else in the picture? What are their hopes and dreams?

If the image is of a place with no people, ask them how they would feel if they were there, and what they would do. If it’s a spooky house would they explore it, or run away? Would they be scared, curious, or both? Would something be stopping them from running away, e.g. do they need to rescue someone, or find a way out?

The next step is to write about it. This doesn’t need to be a story with a beginning, middle and end, it is an opportunity for them to enjoy imagining themselves in an unusual place, or in the head of a different person or creature. Encourage them to write as though they are there in the moment, experiencing life within that picture as though they are a part of that world.

News Articles

This is another exercise that can follow on from What Ifs. Taking on the role of a journalist following up a crazy story peppered with quotes from odd witnesses can be great fun. Ask your wee one to pick their favourite What If, then read my news article in the Read All About It! worksheet, as well as the suggested structure for an article.

Encourage them to talk about how their What If might work as news article. What would the headline be? Who would they interview? Perhaps they could get together with friends and create their own funny newspaper!

Mixed up Beasts

I’ve saved one of my favourites until last!

I came up with the name Hexbridge by mixing up the towns Hexham and Corbridge. Whenever I’m bored, I like to mix up animals too.

Ask your mini writer to think of two animals. If they take the first part of one animal’s name and the last part of another, then stick them together – they’ve got a mixed-up beast! Ask them what that animal would look like, where it lives, what it eats, and what it likes to do.

Here’s mine:

The Koaladile – also known as a Crocuala.

This beast has a cute koala head with big fluffy ears and a squat, scaly crocodile body. It has a long tail, and very sharp claws which it uses to climb trees.

Habitat and feeding habits:

The Koaladile is a good swimmer, but prefers to hang out in Eucalyptus trees. It doesn’t eat the leaves like ordinary koalas, it prefers the birds that land in its branches. It crunches them up with its sharp teeth and spits out the beaks. You know there’s a Koaladile living in a tree if you see bird beaks around its trunk.

Once the beast has been catalogued, they can write a poem about it and draw a picture.

The Koaladile has a devilish smile,

and big claws on its feet.

It lives in eucalyptus trees,

and its favourite food is meat.

See my Mixed up beasts worksheet for more details and a template.

I hope that you and your budding writers enjoy these tasks. I’d LOVE to see the results, so please tweet me them to me at https://twitter.com/GabrielleKent or send through the Alfie Bloom Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AlfieBloomBooks

HAVE FUN!

Thank you so much Gabrielle for your amazing resources and handy tips to getting children writing! I can’t wait to try them at school! I also can’t wait to read Alfie Bloom to the kids at school. I have a feeling it will be a favourite.

If you fancy coming along to UKYACX tickets are available here: (or from Seven Stories!) http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/whats-on/events/122825/ukya-extravaganza-afternoon-event-ya-panel-talks

Wanna keep up to date with all the UKYACX fun? FOllow them on Twitter @UKYACX

S x