Tips & resource

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READING

The aim is to find an author that you enjoy.  The School Reading List is an excellent online resource - it provides reading lists for every year group and every interest.  It also has reviews, competitions and even costume ideas for world book day. But reading can become an expensive habit - so consider visiting your local library or exchanging books with friends.

 

Mainly you should read for pleasure, but do take a moment every now and then to consider how the author uses language (an unusual word, an effective simile) and how they develop the story to make it interesting (a humorous opening, drip-feeding information to build up suspense...)

If you like facts and information, you may be interested in subscribing to The Week (Junior).   

Journaling is a great way to develop your writing skills.  Visit journalbuddies.com for an endless source of prompts.

Descriptosaurus is a fantastic resource to develop descriptive vocabulary and writing style.  Rather than copying, I advise using it as a pre-writing warm-up. Select a relevant theme then read the example snippets. Tick the ones that you particularly enjoy and think about why - this a great task to do with a parent or friend.  Then close the book and attempt your own piece of writing. Don't worry if it doesn't feel too good at first - with practice, the words will begin to flow more naturally.  Be experimental with language, and don't forget to get feedback from a more knowledgeable other.

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writing

Enter a story writing competition. BBC 2 hosts the '500 Words' short-story competition for children between the ages of 5 and 13.  This annual event culminates in a live story-telling extravaganza from a world famous venue (past venues have included the Tower of London and Windsor Castle), read by a celebrity narrator (such as David Walliams!!!).  Visit the website; read the stories; listen to the podcasts; enter!

Finally, here are some creative writing tasks to inspire you to write.

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General English

Get to grips with Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar (SPaG) with BBC Bitesize.  There are also tips on reading comprehension and writing.  In fact, BBC Bitesize is the one-stop-shop for all subjects from primary through to post-16.

To build your vocabulary, download an app such as 11+ Vocabulary Builder. For spelling, my personal favourite is Wordscapes - a useful time-killer if you're stuck at a bus stop or waiting for your pizza to arrive.

For vocab revision, create you own flash cards with Quizlet. Simply type in the word and a few definitions will appear - select the one that you like best (you should already have some familiarity with the word). You can select an image too.  I have designed a number of study sets that map to specific test papers - click here for an example. Or browse the Quizlet library to find one that matches your needs. There are a number of modes for you to practise the words - multiple-choice, matching task, gravity and more.  All in all, it's a neat little revision tool.

All the while, you should be reading regularly.  As well as  the pleasure of getting stuck into a good book (do take the time to find an author that you enjoy), it will do wonders for your literacy, imagination and general knowledge.

I'm a big fan of Corbett Maths. Originally for GCSE, it now has a primary section. It's a perfect free resource for the self-motivated learner. For each topic, there is a video, worksheet and hand-written answers showing the method. '5-a-day' is a novel way to keep your skills ticking over - 5 maths problems for every single day of the year, with a choice of level (bronze, silver, gold or platinum). There's also the option to purchase a set of study cards which outline the total maths knowledge that a child should know by the end of Key Stage 2.  Study cards are also available for GCSE.

BBC Bitesize is also a very comprehensive maths resource.

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MATHS

For times tables, download a fun app to your phone to ensure that this foundation skill is well and truly learnt.  Visit the Educational App Store for a review of best times table apps.

11+ resources & information

Entrance to Grammar School is generally tested by multiple-choice style questions in English & Maths, and (in some cases) Verbal and Non-verbal reasoning too.  For some schools, there is a second stage where more in-depth answers are required.  A good starting point for information about grammar schools and to buy resources/test paper is The 11 PLUS website.

For private schools, test papers generally require fuller answers (standard format).  For English, this often includes a creative writing task.  For maths, marks may be awarded for method as well as the final answer. It is a good idea to visit the individual school websites for further information about the application process as well as sample test papers. A good starting point is The Independent Schools Council.

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English as a Foreign language

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An excellent EFL resource is BBC Learning English.  It presents grammar and vocabulary in a very natural context using stories from the news and around the world. You can follow a drama, practise your pronunciation, learn English for university, or for work and much more.  You can also study a course (from basic to advanced). It is the next best thing after real live classes. 

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