Tutor Mum

Local tutor Kellie McCord is blogging for local mums about her top learning tips for primary and secondary age children

Tutor Mum's Tips

Study habits for English

What's the one complaint that many teens have?

As an Editor for Local Mums Online this is one of the most common complaints I hear:

"I do not know how to study English."

As a result, they feel:




After a while, this wears your teen down, so that it no longer only impacts their English grades, but it begins to hurt their other subjects too. Worse still, it begins to chip away at their self-esteem.

No one likes to feel as though they are giving something their best and not succeeding.

So what's going to help your teen to excel in their English?

The one crucial step - study habits!

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Half term and mocks

As half-term is fast approaching, it means (for many students), mocks are coming!


So what can you do to help your teen prepare for their mocks?


First of all, put the mocks in perspective. Mocks are important, but they are not the 'be all end all'. If your teen does not do well in them, it is a great way to find out what they need to focus on before their real exams. Equally, if they do incredibly well, it is not an excuse to slack off before their summer exams, but a way to see what is working for them and set new goals.


Secondly, encourage your teen to create a realistic revision timetable. How?


I encourage my students to the following:


1) Block their time in Google Calendar.

This reduces the risk of procrastination and distraction, as they know what they're doing and when.


2) Use Trello to prioritise tasks.

This helps them to complete tasks that are going to be more worthwhile so that they do not get 'busy' doing less impactful tasks.


3) Start with the subject they need the most work with.

This is so they do not spend their time solely on subjects they like or find easy.


Make sure they have time to self-care and socialise, as their mental and emotional well-being is also important.


Try to make time to discuss specific topics. This is so your teen feels understood.


If you your teen does feel anxious, worried or concerned, do not just say, 'You'll be fine', as it can be seen as dismissive. Instead, acknowledge how they feel. Find ways together to help them feel better.


Here are a few ways you can do this:


Talk to peers and arrange study sessions, so they can support their friends and receive support;

Contact their school teachers, so they are aware of what is happening for your teen and can give them guidance;

Encourage your teen to journal so they can get their thoughts and feelings on the page; this helps to put things in perspective.


I hope these tips are helpful - remember half-term is a great time to get prepared, as well as to relax and unwind!

For more info and help with your child’s learning please contact:
Kellie McCord
Local Mums Online Tuition Editor

Uplevel Academy
Tel: 07507 216159 

Half term habits

Half-term is fast approaching. I am sure many are welcoming the stress-free time of not having to juggle work and home-learning. Kids have been looking forward to ‘no work’. However, there are still parents concerned that their child has fallen behind. Others may feel that, while their child is not behind, they have not been stretching themselves. And others are dreading what to do to occupy their child through another lock-down holiday. 

Now, all of these positions might seem like they are completely disparate, but in reality, they are all referring to the same thing: habits. What habits have you and your child got into?

In this blog, we are going to examine:

-  What a habit is;

-  How to form a habit;

-  How to maintain a habit.

But, before we can examine anything, let’s first address the feelings of falling behind, guilt and worry.

Regardless of how you are feeling, take a deep breath. Know that it will be okay. Instead of thinking about what has happened, focus on what you want to create now for yourself and for your children. By focusing on what is actually happening, you can take action. For instance:

-  Your child might be ‘behind’ in their learning, but does that mean they cannot ‘catch up’? No! It does not;

-  Your child might be sitting their exams and might be feeling demotivated and so don’t achieve their desired/needed grades, does that mean they cannot fulfil their dreams? No! They can resit and retake.

-  You have not been able to manage your work and helping the kids with their home-learning as you’d hoped to, so you feel like a bad parent, carer, guardian, is that the case? No! It means you were doing the best you can under the current circumstances. 

It is important that you get clear, so that you can create habits from a place of power, not fear; otherwise, you may find that you will choose to cultivate habits that are not sustainable and that are not really important to you and your child.

What is a habit?
We have all heard of habits. Bad habits, such as eating junk food, biting nails and watching too much TV. And, we have all heard of good habits, such as eating lots of fruit and vegetables, exercising regularly and reading daily. But, that does not define a habit. So, what is a habit? 

Many people believe a habit is when one does something often to the point where they can do it on autopilot. We judge our habits as bad or good depending on the results they yield. However, this is not strictly true. If you examine the etymology of ‘habit’, it comes from Proto-Indo-European gabh meaning ‘to give or receive’. This changed in Latin to habitus, which means ‘condition, demeanor, appearance, dress’, which refers to both inside (‘condition’ and demeanor’) and outside (‘appearance’ and ‘dress’). Then, in Old French, it adapted to habit meaning ‘characteristic attire of a religious or clerical order.’ English took up both the Old French and Latin meaning, so that habit means both a customary practice, as well as the clothing of nuns and monks. 

Now, if we consider the rich history of ‘habit’ we know that it is not just what we do, but it is our inner-condition, as well as our outer condition. For me, this is empowering. Why? Well, most people try to develop a habit. Yet, they resist it. They do everything to avoid making a habit. They then feel bad and the forming of a habit, which was meant to be good, becomes another way of self-criticising. By the same token, people form habits that no longer serve them and they keep it up, saying it is ‘a habit’. But, if we consider the true meaning of a habit:

- Something that impacts our condition - it should therefore make us feel good and inspire us;

- Something that we ‘dress’ in - it can be removed if it no longer serves us;

- Something to give or receive - it can help ourselves and those around us.

Knowing the true definition of habit allows us to form a healthy relationship with habits, so we do not use them against ourselves.

How to form a habit?
So, how do we form a habit? There are many answers to this question. But, it can be broken down into three simple parts:

1. Perform an action;

2. Perform an action consistently;

3. Repeat the above.

If it is that simple, why do we sometimes not stick to a habit? Anything new can be challenging, especially if the rewards are not imminent. Why? Because, if you are not receiving direct feedback on your performance; if you are not seeing the results, then you can feel disheartened. You might even begin to doubt whether you are doing it ‘correctly’. You might also question the validity of the habit. All of this leads to the judgement: this habit is not for me!

So, how can we break this cycle? We can break this cycle by replacing ‘habit’, which as we have seen is a loaded word, to two key concepts: commitment and dedication.

Commitment here means ‘
the pledging or engaging of oneself, a pledge, a promise’.

Dedication here means ‘
the giving of oneself to some purpose’.

If we are committed and dedicated, then the inevitable bumps and setbacks, will not stop us from doing the action. Why? Because, we made promised to engage ourselves and to a particular purpose. If we do not do it, unlike a habit, which if broken means the habit is not there, the purpose and promise is still there, so we can recommit and go again. It offers us the chance to reset and recommit.

To further help make the changes you want for you and your family, it is vital to go a step further and create measurements and milestones. Why? Well, how will you know whether you have ‘made’ it if you have nothing to measure? Plus, it gives you feedback, so that you can see results even if it is not the ultimate outcome you want. 

Note also, I have not said ‘goals’. This is deliberate on my part because, again, ‘goals’ are useful, but they can become a hindrance. Let me explain.

Imagine your child’s goal is to achieve a 10 out of 10 in their spelling. To do this, they state they are committed to practising their words for 10 mins’ daily. They are dedicated to it and will even try to use the words in their day-to-day lives too. 

Now, imagine the test day comes and they do not achieve their goal. They score 8 out of 10. How do you think they will feel if they have been focused on their goal? Heart-broken. Devastated. Like a failure.

They feel discouraged so they no longer keep up the daily practising of words. As a result, they lose out on all of the following benefits:

-  Developing discipline

-  Improving their memory

-  Learning new words 

It further ignores all the other achievements they may have accomplished. Perhaps they had previously scored less than 8 and so this is their new best. Maybe they have not stuck at anything for long periods of time before, so they have built up their resilience, or, maybe that is the score they have always achieved, but maybe they are going to have a breakthrough.

This is why I prefer to focus on the commitment and the dedication and not the outcome. Why? You and your child will fall in love with the process. Through the process is where the learning and appreciation comes. The outcome is great, but that is another measurement, it is not where the achievement lies. That is not to say that the outcome is irrelevant. My point is that it should not be an ‘all or nothing’ perspective. In fact, research by Phillippa Lally, University College London, in the European Journal of Social Psychology, discovered that even if a person misses “one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process.” This means that a setback does not mean that your efforts so far have not been working. It means that they are part of the process and you will still be able to form the desired behaviour and state.

If you are committed and dedicated, but you do not produce the results, you are less inclined to give up and make yourself wrong. You are too busy enjoying the process. Instead, you look at what needs to change. Maybe you need to interject something else. For example, the child spending 10 mins’ a day learning spellings using the ‘Look, cover, write, check’ method might want to consider making flashcards to make the learning more dynamic. Perhaps the end-goal is not longer relevant; perhaps your desired outcome has altered. For instance, one of my students wanted to achieve high grades in English because they needed the grade to enter Med School. Yet, when they stopped focusing on the goal and committed themselves to improving their English, they began reading a plethora of works from a wide range of authors. This ignited a passion that they did not realise they had and they decided to pursue a career in journalism. I am proud to say they now boast a fulfilling and successful career as a ‘Travel writer’. (I should state that this student achieved the grades required to attend Med School; English, their weakest subject, became one of their strongest).

So, you see, a goal is great, but it is not the be-all and end-all. Once a goal has been achieved, you need to discover a new goal. So, a goal is one of many measurements of the effectiveness of your commitments and dedication. With this in mind, instead of having ‘goals’, have milestones and measurements.

Let’s use the example of the child learning their spellings. Rather than fixating on a goal of scoring 100% in a test, instead have milestones, such as ‘achieving higher than my last term’s average for three weeks in a row.’ Have measurements, such as ‘not just spelling the words correctly in my test, but using them correctly in my work.’ By doing this, it not only helps to nurture the action, but it helps your child to see the benefits of doing irrespective of the results. Consequently, they will be more inclined to repeat the behaviour and action than to give up when things do not go their way. They are also more inclined to do more, which will serve them better in the long-term in their studies, as they have a greater sense of responsibility and independence. 

How to maintain a habit?

Now that we understand what a habit is and how to form one. How do we stick to it?

Well, first of all look at why you want to form this habit. For instance, maybe you want your child to read more. Okay, great. But why? Because reading will increase their vocabulary and improve their comprehension skills. These are great reasons. However, why would your child want to read more? Ask them. See what they say. Maybe they don’t want to read more. Find out why. They could be resistant as they find it boring and difficult; they might not see it as important and they might feel they read a lot already. Then what?

Well, go deeper for why it is important. Surprisingly, one of the biggest reasons parents tend to want their child to read more is because they, as a child, found enjoyment in reading, They therefore want to share this experience with their child. Yet, many parents themselves say they have no time for leisure reading. So, what can you do?

First of all, you could set a time in the morning to have 10 mins’ of reading at breakfast. You could discuss what you are all reading. If morning is not a great time, you could do it whilst the food is cooking. If you need to pay attention to the food, why not do it after dinner? You can then all ask each other questions about what is being read. If possible, you could all read the same book. It would have to be appropriate for everyone’s age and reading level. However, even if you have a child, who is reading at a lower level than their sibling, then you could still make it relevant and applicable to them by asking them questions that require deeper thought and analysis.

And if reading is something that is very much out of the question, you could play audio books instead. These are a great way to foster a love of story-telling and reading, as they expose the family to works. They also allow you and your family to do other activities. For example, when eating, play an audio book. You can pause it and discuss.

Ultimately, think of ways in which you can share the experience of reading with your child, so that your child will not only benefit from reading, but it will also do what you really want: create a closer bond. If you share this with your child, they might also be more receptive to the idea of reading more, as it would not come from a place of panic (reading is vital to not fall behind); it will not come from a place of ‘a means to an end’ (if you read more, you’ll do better at school). Instead, it will come from a place of genuine joy and enthusiasm. You will also find that you will be more inclined to nurture this ‘habit’, as you will be committed and dedicated.

Another great way to maintain a ‘habit’ is to create accountability. How? Well, you can have an accountability partner. For example, you could team up with another family. You could both start a book club whereby you are reading the same book and once a week; or, fortnight, you come together to discuss. If someone has not read, then they will be held accountable by the others. It is not a way to blame or shame, but to discover why the task was not complete, and what can be put in place to ensure the reading is completed.

You can also keep self-accountability by creating a sticker chart or tick sheet, so  that you can tick it off when it is complete. This is a great way to not only motivate yourself and your child to do the action, but helps to keep you on track, as it creates positive reinforcement, thus giving a sense of accomplishment.

Now, if you or your child do not complete the action. What then? Well, you do not want to punish or make wrong. Rather, you want to see why it was incomplete and what is needed going forwards to create consistency. However, when people do not complete an action, it can lead to the following train of thought:

-  I am not good enough;

-  I am a failure;

-  Everyone else did it and I didn’t;

-  I cannot do it.

The list goes on! Try the following exercise if this occurs:  add ‘but’.

For example:

-  I am not good enough, but I can get better.

-  I am a failure, but that is not true. I have failed at this, but does not mean I will always be a failure.

-  Everyone else did it and I didn’t, but I can do it next time.

-  I cannot do it, but I can learn how to do it.

This half-term instead of focusing on what you did or didn’t do, why not focus on what you will do. Use the time to cultivate and develop habits by making a commitment and dedicating yourself to doing it. Get accountable by enrolling a friend or family member; or, become self-accountable by using a chart. But, do not make yourself wrong! If negative thoughts creep in, add ‘but’ to disrupt them so that you can continue your commitment. And, finally, enjoy the process. The real learning and joy comes from the process, not the outcome.

So, this half-term, why not commit to something different with your kids? Commit yourself to something that you and your family are really dedicated to, so that you can carry it forward in the new term and beyond.


<How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world - Lally - 2010 - European Journal of Social Psychology - Wiley Online Library> 

Kellie McCord
Uplevel Academy
Tel: 07507 216159

Read local mums’ reviews of Uplevel Academy


Are 2021 exams really cancelled?

If you have been keeping up-to-date with the headlines, then you may think that GCSE and A-level summer 2021 exams have been cancelled, right? But, the reality is - it’s not that simple! Yes, exam hall exams are cancelled, but end of year, summer exams have not been cancelled. Instead, they are being replaced with teacher assessments.

What does this mean for your child?

Teachers are able to take advice from exam boards on what assessments might look, but ultimately it will be the teachers’ decision. Why? They know what their students have covered during the pandemic; they know their students personally and so know how much learning has been disrupted. They can then ensure that the assessments are adjusted with that in mind, while still ensuring that their students are rigorously tested, so they are able to move on in their careers - academic and professional - without being at a disadvantage. After-all, we want students to be tested fairly, not sit ‘easier’ exams, as it will not benefit them in the long-term.

So, what does that mean for your child?

It means that it is even more crucial that your child keeps up with their school work. Perhaps even more important is that your child does not just learn what is required of them, but deepens their understanding, so that they are able to apply their knowledge to wider contexts. Why? It is, in some ways unfortunate, that students’ past papers will not necessarily be as helpful as they were for previous years. This is because their exams will be different. Now, it is, on the one hand, a shame in that exam technique is important, and going through papers is beneficial in assisting students in mastering time management under pressure; understanding the questioning format of exams, and knowing how to answer the questions. However, on the other hand, it is highly beneficial for students because it means that their understanding of what they have learnt is perhaps deeper, since they will be using it in unfamiliar contexts.

So, how can your child prepare?

Well, teacher assessments can take many forms. They may adapt the exam boards paper to ensure it fairly showcases their students’ capabilities. Or, they might have controlled assessments. Controlled assessments already exist - they were established to replace coursework. They could look like any of these: 

- Exam boards mark the task.

- Teachers mark the work and the exam board moderate it to ensure it is fair and standardised.

- Students complete the task in class with provided resources. Teachers don’t help.

- There is a mixture of work being completed at home and under teacher supervision.

- Work can be completed either at home or under supervision. Some feedback is offered to help students improve.

- Exam boards set the task.

- The centre sets the task but the exam board give the marking criteria of what they expect.

- The centre sets the task and the exam board gives examples as guidance.

To prepare, then, your child needs to complete assignments as best they can and in the way they are set. If they are unclear, they need to notify their teachers, so the teacher is aware. It would also be useful going through the GCSE syllabus and mark scheme for their subjects, so they know what is expected of them. This is because teachers will want to ensure that students are meeting most of the criteria because it will serve their students in the long-term.

Overall then, it is not strictly true that exams are cancelled. It is therefore important to remind your child of this, as they may have become demotivated by the prospect of the exams being cancelled. Once your child has accepted this, they may become anxious and overwhelmed because not only will they face the normal uncertainty that comes with exams, but they will have the added unknown of the style of the paper, questions and assessment. Reassure them that the teachers will be working with the exam boards to ensure that any exam is reflective of the disruption caused by the pandemic, and that they will be aiming to ensure that the GCSE criteria for each subject is met, so that they can progress in their academic and professional career.

Still need help?

Kellie’s Tutoring is offering GCSE English Language Classes, commencing next week. This is a 12-week programme to guide students in their GCSEs so they are in control of their grade.


In this 12-week interactive, tailored programme, students will:

To find out more, and get control back over your GCSE English Language grade, click the link below:


GCSE English Language Classrooms | Kellie's Tutoring


How to improve public speaking?

Improve communication!

Public speaking seems to conjure the following image:

A person standing at the front talking to an audience. Or, in recent times, a presenter online talking to an online audience. But this is not public speaking. This is holding an audience captive!

To captivate your audience, not capture them, here are some great tips. However, before delving into this, why is this relevant to your child’s studies?

If your child is sitting the 7+, 11+ or 13+ exams, they will be interviewed. They will therefore need to be confident in speaking in a formal, intimate setting. If you have a teenager, they will have to deliver presentations, not just in English, but in other subjects, as oral presentations are great ways to see if a child has truly understood what they have studied. This is because they have to break down the information and piece it together in a coherent speech.

Furthermore, being great orators is also a fantastic way to improve creative writing.

With the above in mind, how do we communicate with an audience in-person, or online?

It is vital to listen to the audience. What does the audience want to hear? What does the audience need to hear? By focusing on what the audience wants/needs, it will prevent your child from talking at their audience. Instead, they will shift from ‘dictating’ to ‘being in communication’.

So, how can you listen to your audience?

Well, if your child is preparing for an interview. Look on the school’s website. What does the school value? What does the school seem to prize?

If your child is preparing for a class presentation, look at the mark scheme. You can always ask their school teachers how they will be graded to ensure both you and your child know what is expected of them.

How does this relate to creative writing?
Creative writing always has an audience.

Look at the following exam examples:

  • How does the life of your generation differ from that of your grandparents? (From 11+ exam);
  • Write a speech to your class in which you argue that violence is not the solution to conflict between people. (From a GCSE paper);
  • Write a speech arguing for the replacement of petrol/diesel fuelled cars with electric run cars. (From an GCSE paper).

Thus, to help your child to answer these questions, encourage them to research these types of audience by reading up on popular online magazines, articles and sites for teens, for environmentalists, politicians, to name but a few.

Ask your child what their message is. Many speakers go off on tangents, or speak on matters that people are disinterested in, or do not care about. Thus, by asking your child what is the point of their speech/presentation, it will help them to gain clarity on what they want to say. It may also get them to consider why it is important. In doing this, it will help them to think about – without realising it – strategies of how to convey their message (I will go into more detail about this in the next step).

How does this relate to creative writing?

It is easy when writing to start waffling. How can you detect waffle?

-        Unnecessary repetition

-        Mixed imagery

-        Going off topic/going off on tangents

By focusing on the message of the story, it will help keep your child on task.

What is the message of a story? The message is what you want your reader to take-away. For example, in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, its message is one of humility. Harry, the protagonist, is very humble. This makes him different from his family – they seem to believe they are better than him. He is different from Malfoy, who tries to dissuade Harry from hanging out with Ron, as he feels that he is a worthier friend. And he is the complete opposite to the antagonist – Lord Voldemort, who believes he is the best. By examining the characters, the plot and the imagery, the message becomes clear. It is therefore important to have a clear message, since it impacts all aspects of the story.

Clarity in the message paves the way for utilising techniques to convey the message in the most impactful way.

Although there is a plethora of techniques, here are a few that will enable your child to connect with their audience, thus making the message mean something to them:

-        Ethos: This relates to the authority of the speaker. Why should they listen to you!


Your child is giving a speech on why homework should be banned. They are told to imagine they are speaking to their entire school, including parents and faculty members.


Why should the audience listen to them?

Well, as a current student at the school they have first-hand experience of what the homework is like, thus giving them credibility. On the other hand, they might be seen as biased. So, they can mitigate by acknowledging the fact that they are a student, but they have done research that does two things:

1. Looks at how homework does not enforce learning;

2. Puts unnecessary stress on parents and teachers.


By researching and acknowledging the two other groups affected by homework – parents and homework – it gives them more authority.

-        Pathos: This relates to emotions. Why should your audience care about your message?

Using the example above of writing against homework:

Your child makes it relatable to the audience by using anecdotes (short stories), emotive language and exaggeration.


Homework not only causes untold mental stress on students, but it tears families apart. My friend Ben is one casualty of horrid homework. You see, his parents both worked long hours. When they returned home, they wanted to relax and spend time with their family. However, they couldn’t. They couldn’t because they had to sit and help Ben with his homework. Now, before you blame Ben, Ben would try. He would try to complete it all; nevertheless, like so many of us students, he couldn’t. As a result, it would lead to arguments: one parent would say let’s write a note to the teacher explaining that it could not all be done; the other parent would say let’s get up earlier in the morning to complete it. Needless to say, it contributed to unnecessary stress and tension in the home. Have you ever had this experience?

-        Logos: This relates to logic. Does what you’re saying make sense?

To help with logos, your child can use statistics, facts and cohesive features in their structure.


Using the no homework example:

by Adam Maltese (Assistant Professor of Science Education at Indiana University) Robert H. Tai, (Associate Professor of Science Education at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, and Xitao Fan, (Dean of Education at the University of Macau), has proven that the correlation between grades and homework is insignificant. What this means is that setting homework, does not improve grades. Thus, students would be better off completing their lessons and then using their free-time to advance other skills.


It is therefore great if your child begins to learn facts and information relating to different fields, so that they have a bank of knowledge they can draw upon.

If your child has to write a speech in an exam, they cannot research the topic. Your child can use their bank of knowledge; or, if they cannot remember, they can make it up. It must not be ridiculous. Here, the examiner will be looking at whether they know the techniques and whether they can apply the technique.


To become a better speaker/presenter, become a better communicator. Listen to the audience; craft a clear message, and use ethos, pathos and logos to bring the speech to life. Your child’s audience will leave better for listening to your child.

And, not only will your child’s speaking skills be greatly improved, but so will their creative writing skills, as they can apply this knowledge to imaginative writing.

If you want more tips, then check out this free family-fun event:

Creative Christmas Tales | Kellie's Tutoring

Creative Christmas Tales

Get your FREE tickets from Eventbrite

November 18

What is Science?

Science can be defined as a way in which we view our world based on observation, testing and application. According to the Science Council, Science is the “pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.”

Why would anyone want a career in science?

Science allows your child to make worthwhile, long-lasting contributions to the world. It is more than just an academic subject. Science does require research and study; however, it demands creativity, imagination and problem-solving. It therefore allows your child to utilise many skills that they may enjoy playing with.

A career in science is also much more varied than we perhaps first think. A career in science can take on the following forms:

•  Identifying alternative forms of energy that are less harmful to the environment;

•  Writing in science journals;

•  Working with governments to create public policies;

•  Marketing scientific services, equipment; or/and medicines;

•  Developing innovative scientific ideas;

•  Researching medicines, such as cures for cancer and developing vaccines;

•  Solving societal issues such as world hunger and global poverty.

The above are only a few of the career paths that studying science can lead to.

Click on Prospects link below to discover more exciting career paths:

Why is it important for us to encourage our children to pursue science?

It is important to encourage our children to pursue the sciences because there is a deficit in the UK. According to findings from STEM Learning, the shortage is costing £1.5 billion a year, as STEM businesses must take on temporary staff, invest in training and inflate salaries to attract people. What is more, there is a lack of diversity in those studying STEM subjects, as there are fewer women, fewer people from lower-income backgrounds, and fewer people from BAME communities. Therefore, STEM research and STEM businesses are missing out on crucial input from talented individuals, who could offer these fields so much.

With the above in mind, is therefore vital that parents, guardians, teachers and tutors encourage their children/students to pursue a career in science because many children, who might otherwise enjoy it, are being denied the exposure to STEM subjects.

How to encourage our kids at home?

You yourself may not have had a positive experience of science as a child. You may have found it dull and difficult, but that does not mean that you do not have what it takes to inspire your child in the sciences.

You might be thinking, “Well, it might be true that I can inspire my kids to take up sciences, but surely there are more impactful ways of doing it?”

Nothing could be further from the truth! Research has shown that individuals, who took up sciences, were encouraged by their family members either directly or indirectly. 

The following table from Pew Research Centre, lists some of the main motivators for individuals pursuing science:


Therefore, do not under estimate your role in fostering a love of science in your child. We can nurture our child’s curiosity and love of nature; we can take our children to science fairs and do fieldwork, and we can encourage them through positive reinforcement.

Perhaps a more powerful way to express this point is an anecdote that I heard a few years ago. A famous researcher was being interviewed about why he took up science as a career. The researcher said:

"When I was a child, I tried to remove the milk bottle from the fridge. I lost grip of it and dropped it, spilling milk everywhere. When my mother entered the kitchen, she did not scold me or lecture me in what I should have done. Instead she said: “Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you’ve made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has been done. Would you like to spend a few moments playing in the milk before cleaning it up?” 

I then played in it for a while. Afterwards, my mother said, “You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up and restore everything to its proper order. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a sponge, a towel, or a mop. Which do you prefer?”

I chose the sponge, so together we cleaned it up.

My mother then stated, “You know, what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big milk bottle with two tiny hands. Let’s go out in the back yard and fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way of carrying it without dropping it.”


I then discovered a way to lift, hold and carry the bottle without dropping it. From then onwards, I was never afraid of making a mistake.


What this anecdote illustrates, that we can inspire our children to take up sciences by the way we are with our children, and by the language we use when communicating with them. 

So, what can you do to inspire a love of science in your child?

Collect cardboard boxes

Old cardboard boxes are a playground of fun for your child! You could ask your child to use loo roll tubes and cereal boxes to make mazes. Here is an example of a home-made maze that I was in the middle of making when the kitten decided he couldn’t wait for the final product:


But, there are links below in the ‘References’ with more maze ideas for you!

Observe flora

When you are outside going for a walk, ask your child to take note of the different flora. Ask them, for example, to look at the differences/similarities between the leaves and blades of grass. Encourage them to write down their observations. Inspire them to postulate on why there might be differences/similarities.

Ask them to make lunch!

Ask your child to prepare lunch for a few days in a week. For instance, get them to butter two slices of bread. Perhaps they could use a plastic knife to spread the butter. They can note how easy it was for them to do. The next day, ask them to use a metal knife. Get them to write down how they found spreading the butter. The following day, ask them to use the back end of a spoon. Ask them how that compared to the other two forms of cutlery.

All of this might seem trivial, but what you are doing is nurturing an inquisitive mindset in your child. You are also making them their agent in their life, so that they are willing to experiment, to test their ideas without feeling like a failure.

Parents, guardians, teachers and tutors all have a significant influence on whether their children/students are inspired by sciences. To help foster a love and passion for the field, remember:

l  Use words of encouragement. Rather than be quick to scold them when a mistake occurs, ask them what they could differently and how they plan to ‘clean up their mess’;

l  Expose them to scientific works. Go online and see what experiments and field work you can find to help bring the sciences to life;

l  Experiment safely at home. If you do not have a chemistry set; or, a telescope, you can still conducts experiments at home utilising household items;

l  When you go for a walk or to the shops ask your child to observe their surroundings and to postulate reasons for what they see.

So, despite our own personal experiences, a career in science can be exciting, fulfilling and rewarding, as your child can work independently; or, as part of a team to bring about real world changes for their communities, societies and for the world. And remember, even if your child decides not to pursue a career in science, they can still use the skills they have honed to come up with imaginative solutions to problems; they can analyses and deduce based on evidence, rather than accepting what they hear or read at face value.



For more cardboard box ideas:



November 10
What to do if your child has a stammer?

With COVID-19, it has brought a lot of education to the online domain. However, what if your child has communication difficulties?

Stammering affects 1 in 12 young children; 2 in 3 children will out grow their stammer (when they will cannot be determined), and 1 in 100 adults stammer.

What is stammering?

Stammering can take three forms:

1. Repeating sounds or syllables of a word;

2. Making sounds longer;

3. Words getting stuck and not coming out.

It can therefore be nearly impossible for a child with a stammer to engage with online learning. They may not be able to communicate as quickly and as effectively with their teachers and friends. Due to feeling more self-conscious and anxious, they may stammer more.

What can parents and guardians do to support their child?

Remind schools, educators and online learning providers of your child’s needs. By reminding them, they will be able to ensure they tailor their approach to their needs. 

But, what can you do with your child?
Remind them that it is not their fault and that there is nothing wrong. There are many people, that have professions that entail high levels of communication skills, who stammer.


·       Samuel L Jackson

·       James Earl Jones

·       Bruce Willis

·       Emily Blunt

·       Nicole Kidman

·       Marilyn Monroe

And, though not an actor/actress, one of my personal heroes:

·       Elvis Presley

Why is it important to share personal stories? It helps children to realise that there are others, who have been in similar situations to their own, and have not just gone through it, but thrived because of it.

To further help boost your child’s confidence, encourage them to use online platforms to speak to their friends and relatives. By doing this, you help to reduce the anxiety and negative feelings surrounding online speaking.

During the lesson, encourage your child to use chat boxes and other written tools if they are finding it challenging to speak. Perhaps you could also give them a sound effect on their phone; or, a visual cue so they can get their teachers attention. So, your child does not feel different, you could perhaps speak to their teachers/educators and other parents, and see if they would be willing to adopt a visual cue; or, sound effect to get the speaker’s attention during online lessons.

Most online platforms come with visual cues. Zoom and Google Teams have a ‘raise hand’ feature; Skype has emoji faces. They all have chat boxes, allowing your child to type rather than speak if they prefer.  So, before online lessons, encourage your child to play around the platform, so they feel confident and at ease with its features.

The key thing is to be patient with your child. Listen to what they are saying, and do not interrupt them and fill in what they are saying. Instead, give them the space and time to say what they want. In doing this, it helps them to realise that you feel there is value in what they are saying.

Overall, empower your child with their stammer by focusing on what they are saying, not how they are saying it. Speak to your child’s teachers, schools and tutors to ensure they are aware of your child’s needs. Ask them what they are doing to actively make your child feel at ease during lessons, especially online lessons. Go through online platforms and tools to ensure your child is confident in how to use its features to communicate with the speakers. And, finally, give your child lots of positive reinforcement by being patient, relaxed and attentive with talking to them.

October 14
What should my child be reading?

You may have a child preparing for their English GCSEs, their 10+, or their 11+ exams, so what should they be reading?
Your child may enjoy reading, but do they gravitate towards the classics, such as Charles Dickens, or Shakespeare? Perhaps your child is a reluctant reader, and so won’t pick up a book at all, what do you then?

A little and often.

Rather than forcing your child to read – because you cannot – encourage them to read a little, and to read a variety of works. 

What does that look like?

Many parents worry that their child, if they have to read, will choose books that are ‘easy’; they will choose comics and graphic novels. There is nothing wrong with this. Rather than focusing on what they are reading, focus on how they are reading. For example, ask them questions about what they are reading.
Blurb from Wolverine and Punisher:

                                                Which are better, claws or guns?

Find out in this brutal collection of Wolverine/Punisher fights – and begrudging team-ups! From their first throwdown in the heart of Africa, there’s no love between these two stone-cold killers, whose combined body count is off the charts!

You can use this as a springboard for analysis. You can look at it in terms of grammar, syntax and meaning:

·       What word-class is ‘better’?

·       What does ‘claws or guns’ mean?

·       What sentence type is ‘Find out in…’

·       What tone is created? How is it established?

·       What themes are present?

·       How does it make you feel?

By focusing on the analysis, it helps your child to look at works in a critical manner. It therefore allows them to apply what they know to different texts in the exams. This is essential, as there might be an extract that they find challenging to understand. However, they can have confidence in their skills.

Overall, it is not what your child is reading, but how they reading. Focus on exposing your child to a variety of texts instead of forcing them to read an entire book. This will build their awareness of different genres, different modes and different perspectives.

October 8
Go Red For Dyslexia
Are you going red for dyslexia on the 8th October?

Why red?
Dyslexia was once stigmatised as being a learning disorder synonymous with lack of intelligence, and an inability to learn. Red, similarly was stigmatised, due to red ink being used to mark children’s work. If you saw red strewn all over your book, you knew you made mistakes that were of urgent concern.

But, let’s face it! Red is a brilliant, bold, vibrant colour that is used to symbolise love. So, to celebrate neurodiversity, red has been used to mark the 8th October by ‘Succeed with Dyslexia’.

So, what is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is defined as a learning disability. People with dyslexia find it challenging to read, as they find it difficult decoding words. This because people with dyslexia process language differently. Research from Harvard University has identified differences in the brain. Two key differences are that people with dyslexia tend to have:

- Less grey matter in the left part of the brain. This is thought to cause problems with linking sounds with words.

- An area of the left hemisphere bigger than the same area on the right hemisphere.

What are the signs of dyslexia?
We have most likely heard of the sign: words being jumbled up on the page. However, there are many more signs:

- An aversion to reading;
- Delayed speech

- Difficulty deciphering letters in speech;
- An aversion to learning the alphabet;

- Difficulty processing information;

- Retention of information.

If you suspect your child is dyslexic, it is important that you speak to someone. If your child attends school, talk to their teachers to see whether they notice anything. You can also ask to speak the school’s SENCO.

If you home-school your child, talk to your GP. They will be able to offer you advice.

Here are three great websites that can support you:

IPSEA is charity that supports parents with children with learning disabilities, including Dyslexia.


British Dyslexia Association have lots advice and support on the assessment process.


The BPS have a list of registered educational psychologists that can assess your child.

Dyslexia is a gift
Do not be afraid to get your child diagnosed if you suspect that they may have dyslexia. Why? It empowers you and your child. How? Everyone’s brain is unique. We are learning more and more about our brains through neuroscience. If your child is dyslexic, their brains are wired differently. By understanding this, you can empower yourself and your child, as you can then tap into the different ways in which your child learns and processes information.

People with dyslexia are typically gifted with:

- Greater visual processing skills:
- Creativity;
- Problem-solving skills;
- Seeing the world differently.

There are many notable people with dyslexia.

Benjamin Zephania, a poet, lyricist, writer and musician is one of the many notable examples of a talented, successful individual, who used their dyslexia to their advantage. If you have not read or experienced his works, then please check him out!

Here is a link to his poignant article on growing up with dyslexia. He, unfortunately, grew up in a time when it was not widely known, and when there was still a lot of stigma.


Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist and genius, is testament to the fact that dyslexia does not equate to a lack of intelligence! Dyslexia was a gift to Einstein; it enabled him to think outside the box and to come up with solutions in the scientific world.

Here is an article which breaks down Einstein’s dyslexia:



How to support your child?
If you suspect that your child has dyslexia, here are some tips in which you can nurture your child at home:

- Break down information. Do not give your child a list of things to do. Instead, break it down into manageable parts;

- Use different coloured paper to work on. Blue paper seems to help many children with dyslexia. You can also change the background colour on computers when your child is using it to work on;

- Use coloured overlays. You can buy physical overlays; or, you can have some fun and put them in a pair of goggles for your child to use;

- Read along with audio-books;

- Break down words into syllables as much as possible to give your child many opportunities to hear the different sounds;

- Give your child lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement.

Celebrate neurodiversity this October 8th by wearing red! Let’s remove the stigma of dyslexia (and red ink) by being bold!
And check out ‘Succeed with Dyslexia’:


Links for paper and overlays:

Blue paper

Coloured overlays

September 23

Decisions or actions: What determines success?

We often think actions determine success, right? We often hear the following:

- The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. - Lao Tzu

- The Universe doesn’t give you what you ask for with your thoughts; it gives you what you demand with your actions. - Dr. Steve Maraboli

- Action will delineate and define you. - Tomas Jefferson

- Only actions create change. - Simon Sinek

These are all right, to some extent. Actions are important. However, they are NOT the only factor that determines success. In fact, decisions are vital. Decision-making is seen as a passive exercise. But, they are not. Contrary to belief, making a decision is an active process.

Let’s look at the etymology of decision.
It comes from the Old French, décision, meaning “act of deciding”. This comes from Latin decisionem, meaning “to reach an agreement”. And the root word of ‘decision’ is decide. This comes from the Old French, decider, and Latin, decidere, meaning “to cut off”. It literally means you cut off any other option and pursue one. 

By looking at the etymology of ‘decision’ it is thus clear that it is not a mere passive process, but an active one. In my opinion, it is an incredibly brave one.

What has decision making got to do with learning?
If your child does not make the decision to learn, then they won’t to be frank. Why? Because they are not mentally actively involved. They may take action, but this is like lip service. As parents, carers, guardians and educators, we want our children to make the decision to learn.

How can we can encourage our children to make decisions in their learning?
To make this mental process tangible, let’s explore a real life example. You want your child to sit the 11+ exam; however, they are a reluctant reader, how do you get them to read?

First of all, you do not get them to read. You do not encourage them to read. You ask them to make the decision to read. The trick is they make the decision to read freely without coercion; or, bribes. So, how do you this?

First of all, get them to list all the reasons why they may not like reading. Some of the most typical excuses are:

It’s boring.

I’m tired.

I’ve already done work today.

- It’s too hard.

- I don’t like reading.

Whatever their reason, do not argue with them. Instead, invite them to look for what they can do to solve their issues with reading by asking them why.

This flow diagram will illustrate the point:


The story is too slow; it describes everything!

The words are too difficult to understand.




- Scan the text for words you do not understand and find their meaning before reading the text.

- Try and find a genre that suits your tastes by looking at online book reviews; asking friends with similar tastes what they recommend. Try audio books! You can then listen to the words and follow.

I just don’t like reading.


Encourage your child to find the solutions for themselves. If they find it difficult to come up with something, rather than just telling them what you would do, try this exercise:

- Ask your child to write out all their reasons for not wanting to read;

- Cut their reasons out;

- Ask them to rate their reasons by putting them in order of the most important reason to the least important reason;

- Write out a set of solutions;

- Cut the set of solutions;

- Ask your child to match up the solutions with their reasons against reading.

Why do this? It avoids you getting into confrontation with your child, since you are not telling them what to do. No one likes to be told their wrong. No one likes their opinions being invalidated. No one likes to be told what to do. You therefore stop all of this by giving them power and control to find the solutions and to decide what solutions to put with their reasons.

Perhaps the most crucial reason is, as stated above, you are actually fostering in them decision making skills, as they have to make a decision about what solution goes with what issue.

Highlight the value in making decisions
Highlight the value in making decisions by showing your child the consequences of their decisions. What does this mean? It does NOT mean punishing your child. It means showing them that their decisions have consequences.

How? By being consistent and following through. For example, you and your child have discussed and decided on a study plan. If your child decides that they are not going to study during that allotted time, then give them a consequence.

You could say:
"If you choose not to study at the agreed time, then you will not be able to have your free time later on. Tomorrow, you’ll get another chance to have your free time.” 

It is vital that you follow through, so they know there are consequences. Some parents may feel guilty, but there is nothing to feel guilty about. You are teaching your child a valuable lesson: in life their consequences for our actions.

Equally, reward, but do not bribe. If your child is working hard and deciding to study, reward their efforts. Regardless of the outcome, give them praise and rewards. The reward can be as simple as: “Since you have been working hard and have been studying, as agreed, then you can stay up 30 mins’ later past your bed-time.”

Why is this important?
It teaches your child that there are positive consequences for their decisions. It encourages them to make better decisions. One quote that, I believe, encapsulates this point is C.S. Lewis:

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.”

Why? Because if we decide consistently to do what we know is right; or, what we know will serve us, then it will lead to great action. This will lead to impeccable habits. Before you know it, things that seemed difficult and elusive become the norm. You are then in a better position to make more decisions.

To conclude:
Empower your child to make decisions to study by giving them the opportunity to find solutions to their issues. Give them clear, measured consequences that highlight the impact of their decisions. 

And, as Buddha states: “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow. Our life is the creation of our mind.”

Actions are important; however, remember that our decisions are actions of the mind. Without them, we would not take the first step of any journey, let alone the first step of a thousand mile trip!

Make the decision now to empower your child today by fostering decision-making skills for better study habits.

September 15
9 Minutes exam stragegy for success

Many teens are feeling anxious, apprehensive and agitated. They feel completely unprepared for their GCSE finals. And do you know what the biggest fear is?

No time!

Lockdown put a stop to face-to-face learning, leaving many teens to tackle material alone at home. Then, the summer holidays commenced! Coinciding with this, strict lockdown measures were eased, allowing many isolated teens to meet up with their friends for the first time in months. As a result, many teens are aware that they did not put in consistent work over the summer.   

Now back at school, teens are not feeling absolutely at ease, since some schools have declared that they will be moving forward their mock exams. Rather than sitting the exams after the Christmas holidays, students will sit the exams before the Christmas break. This has left many students feeling hopeless.

Following this 9 mins’ strategy, you can create an action plan that will set you up for the best chances of success. Why 9 minutes? We have 9 months until June – when the first GCSE exams will commence.

Step 1: List all your GCSE subjects.

Write down the grades you want to achieve. Beside this, write down the grades you are currently working at. Also write down your predicted grades. By doing this, it will help you prioritise your revision.

How will this help you prioritise your revision?

Well, start with the subjects you are struggling with. It is easy to work in the field that you enjoy and that you are succeeding in; however, it will not help you to revise effectively if you start there. Instead, by focusing on areas you find challenging, you will have done the heavy lifting first. Therefore, you will gain momentum, as you will know that the worst is over with. You can then look forward to the topics you enjoy the most! 

Step 2: Mind map your why!

Why do you want to achieve the grades you have written down? Do not say vague, generic vague statements, such as:

·       To succeed;

·       To get a better job;

·       To make money.

Instead, be specific and personal to you! For example, I want to achieve a grade 7 in Science because I would like to be a vet. This is because I love animals and I want to be part of a community that helps to, not only cure their ailments, but that educates their owners on how to care for their pets.

Focus on how achieving the grades will make you feel. What will it look like when you obtain your desired grades?

Step 3 Define exam terms.

Go onto the exam boards’ websites and find their exam key words. Then, define them, making sure you understand what they mean and how to answer them. 

Write the key words down with their definitions in a notebook. Use coloured pens/pencils to make it easier to read. You could even colour code your work! For example, if one of the keywords is ‘evaluate’ you could highlight it in light blue or use blue ink. Then, terms, words and phrases relating to evaluation, you keep using the same highlighter or ink.

Step 4: Get organised!

Open up a free account with Trello. Create a revision with a specific checklist, so that you know exactly what you are going to do.

Step 5: List topics.

Go onto the exam boards websites’ and note down the topics covered in each module. You can then break down the topic into its main components: the main ideas, the main concepts, the key quotes and the key facts. You can then create a checklist for each topic.

For example, if you were breaking down literature. One of the topics is the social-historical context of the works. You then divide this for your 20th C, 19th C and Shakespeare texts. You then zoom in further by looking at beliefs, religion, education at the time, gender and so forth.

Once you have your 9 mins’ plan of action created, you can then start revising strategically.

0 – 3 months

Learn the material by reading the content from textbooks, recommended books and worksheets. Make notes on what you have learned. Do some quick test questions. You can also record yourself reciting the information so you can play it back to yourself. 

3 – 6 months

Summarise your notes. Use different coloured pens. Do mind maps of the information. 

6 – 9 months

Create flashcards from all your notes, so you have concise, quick-fire testing resources. Do timed, practice assessments. Go through the mark scheme to ensure you know what the examiners are looking.

Top Tip

If you are doing 12 GCSEs, then you only need three months to spend one week on each subject!

For the first 3 months, focus one evening a week to one subject. For example, if you are doing Math, then spend the evening going over the Math concepts. The next day go over another subject.

In the next 3 – 6 months, use interleaving learning. This means move from one topic to the next. It is more challenging and effortful, but it has been proven to help retention of information.


Here is the link to a great cite to help create a mind map/mood board.


I prefer to do it by hand, but it is up to you. What works for you!

Here is the link to Trello:


Here are the links to the exam boards:






Want feedback on your boards? Get in touch! Sign up to Kellie’s Tutoring email list.


August 25th
How to beat the ‘Back to School Blues’?

You and your child/teen may be filled with excitement, elation and joy at the prospect of returning to school. Others might be feeling apprehension, dubious and a little anxious. Whatever you and your child/teen are feeling, it is important to accept yours/their feelings. There is no right or wrong; good or bad. By accepting how you feel, you allow yourself and your child/teenager to express them rather than bottling them up. In doing this, it then allows you and child/teenager to take ownership of your/their feelings. This in turn allows you to choose how to respond, so that you do not allow yours/their feelings to control you.

Once you and your child/teen have accepted with your/their emotions, it is helpful to begin to foster ‘Back to School’ habits. How? By following three steps:

1. Routine

2. Role Play

3. Communication

1. Routine
Over the summer, it is easy to get out of routine. There is nothing wrong this. But now that it is the last week of summer, it is crucial to begin to ease your child/teen back into routine. Start by sending your child/teen to bed a bit earlier. Wake them up a bit earlier. In doing this, it is not a shock to system when they must wake up earlier for school. 

To help them adjust to sitting for longer periods, encourage them to do more tasks that require concentration. For instance, doing puzzles, colouring and reading are good ways to nurture sitting and focusing. You could also develop their listening skills by creating a game, such as an outdoor assault course; or an indoor task of dressing their teddies. However, the child/teen is blind-folded, and they must listen to their teammate to complete the task. Switch over, so that your child/teen can give instructions. In doing this, it helps to develop communication skills of active listening, encouraging teammates and articulating themselves.

2. Role Play
One of the biggest issues that kids have expressed (both child and teen) is that returning to school is going to be weird. And to be perfectly honest with you, it is going to be weird. They are going to have to sit alone at a desk. They will not be able to share equipment. Many will have to bring in their own lunches and sit at their own desks to eat. Therefore, it is vital that you make it familiar to them, so that they can adjust to the changes implemented by their school. 

To achieve this, talk to their school. Ask their school what changes have been made so you can prepare your child/teen for the new procedures. Then, role play it in the home. If possible, set up chairs apart. If you do not have enough chairs, use cushions instead. Be creative to make it fun and less daunting.

3. Communication
Communication is key to beating the ‘Back to School Blues’. Talk to your child/teen, asking them open-ended questions to illicit detailed responses. You can do this before they attend school and you can do this after their return to school. If you feel they are not coping, talk to their school immediately. Talk to other parents and your child’s/teen’s friends to gauge where their peers are at. If you are concerned, talk to your GP. This is because the government have made it compulsory for kids/teens in England to return to school, which means that fines will be issued if your child/teen does not attend school. It is therefore imperative you talk so that you do not add more stress to yourself and your child.

Think outside the box when it comes to communication! Although people are surprised that anxiety has declined amongst teens since lock-down, I am not. Consider this: kids/teens have been at home with their parents. Families have been forced to slow down and spend more time together. School have had to slow their pace too and have focused on rewarding effort rather than just the results. As a result, teens feel less pressure and feel more support. What has this to do with communication? Well, under the new government rules, children’s/teen’s classes are going to be like their ‘school family’ in terms of how they operate. They will be spending most of their time together; they will be in their ‘bubbles’ together; they will self-isolate together. So, try to reach out and communicate. You can do this by creating family WhatsApp groups. Perhaps you could set up a weekly, or fortnightly Zoom call between parents. By keeping in touch, you can support one another, and you can continue the family feel outside of school closures. 

Remember, to beat ‘Back to School Blues’ be creative! Start getting your child/teen back into a routine by making subtle changes now in the last week of summer. Be in communication with your child/teen’s school, including other parents and kids. Start up support groups online and on WhatsApp to keep in the loop. Do role plays at home to ensure your child knows what will happen when they get to school, so that the ‘weird’ becomes familiar, and so they feel safe.

Most importantly, although the government has stipulated that wearing masks in English schools will not be compulsory, it does not mean that you cannot encourage your child to wear them in school. If you and your child/teen prefer to wear a mask in school, then communicate this with your child’s/teen’s school. They will respect your wishes. After-all, if you and your child/teen do not feel safe, how will your child/teen get the best from school?

August 18th
How to move forward from GCSE and A-level results

In this video and vlog, we are going to explore how you can empower your teen to move forward with their exam results by looking at:

1.    What is so;

2.    How to take responsibility;

3.    Other successful people, who didn’t achieve their expected grades;

4.    What routes are open to them.

1. What is so.

Many teens may feel relieved that their teachers’ grades will be used for their final results. Yet, there are others who may still feel disappointed,dismayed and disheartened. Whatever your child is feeling is perfectly acceptable. Allow your child to go through their emotions. But, do not feed into it. What I mean by this, is do not use language that feeds into story and that is full of judgement. Instead, objectively break-down what has happened (almost like a surgeon dissecting). You can do this by doing the following:

-  Saying/writing down the course they were on.

-  Saying/writing down what grade they wanted.

-  Saying/writing down what grade they needed to go on to do what they wanted.

-  Saying/writing down that their is a global pandemic.

-  Saying/writing down that they did not sit the exam.

-  Saying/writing down the grades they have achieved.

Breaking it down helps you and your teen to see that everything else is what we put on it. We add meaning to the things above. We can do this by saying, ‘You did well’. Or, ‘You did badly’. Neither one of those statements is what is so.

After going through the break-down ask your child what they would have done had they sat the exam and not met their own expectations. Would they have re-sat their exams? Would they have gone on to another training program? Would they have gone to employment? Doing this helps your teen to see what is important to them. After-all, no one likes ‘losing’. By ‘losing’, I mean not doing as well as one hoped.

2. How to take responsibility.

Your child may feel like a victim. Who can blame them? The decision not to take the exams was not theirs. They were on a two year course, culminating to a final exam to determine their entire grade, and they were unable to sit their exams through no fault of their own. It is easy to see why many teens may feel powerless and that they have been treated unfairly. However, this is not empowering and it does not move your child on. 

To encourage your child to move from victim to victor, ask them to take responsibility. Responsibility has become a loaded term in society. It is often misconstrued as taking blame, but that is not the case. Being responsible means being accountable for one’s actions, which means taking ownership of one’s actions, and choosing how to respond rather than simply reacting.

3. Other successful people, who didn’t achieve their expected grades.

Your child may feel like things are happening to them. They may feel that no one understands them and that their world is crashing down. Remind your child that they are not alone and that there are many people who have gone through similar experiences. Here are three examples:

-  Clare Balding (English journalist, broadcaster and author) failed her Latin and History A-level. She also messed up her Cambridge University interview. She decided to take a two year gap to study and to indulge in her passion of race-horsing. Nervous in interviews, she took up coaching in interview technique. After two extra years, she re-sat her exams and went for another interview at Cambridge University. She was accepted.

-  Tinie Tempah (rapper) wanted to be an accountant. He achieved 2 Bs and a D grade. Not having the grades to follow his dreams, he chose to go into employment. He sold double-glazing, which helped to fund his passion in music. Had he not had that initial set-back with his grades, he may not had success in music.

-  Dr Mark Lythgoe (PhD neurophysiologist) achieved 3 Fs and an E. His parents cried at the news. However, Dr Lythgoe didn’t doubt his abilities; he has said that “failure was [his] closest friend’, but he kept on going. At 37, he received his PhD and is now one of the most renowned doctors in his field. 

Looking at all these anecdotes, it should not only inspire you and your teen, it should clearly show that an exam grade does not determine one’s future. The only person who can decide that is your teen.

Equally, it is important to note that there are many examples of people achieving exam success and not fulfilling their dreams.

4. What other routes are open to them.

There are many options available to teenagers after their GCSEs and A-levels.

Here are four great links to help you and your teen sit down and look at what they want to do now to have a happy, fulfilling life:

After A-levels


After GCSEs


Overall then, it is understandable that teens may feel disappointed, dismayed and disheartened. But, that is not an excuse to sensationalise their pain. Instead, break down what has happened. Look at what is so, so you and your teen can move from victim to victor. Remind them: they are not alone. You and your teen can take heed in how different communities in society banded together for exam results. It serves to highlight how people want what’s best for young people and for society.

Then, look at examples of people who have been where your teen is at. What did they do to empower themselves to move forward.

Finally, look at what your teen can do now!

Enrol in the Summer Challenge!

We all love a competition, don’t we? We have Sport’s Day, the Olympics and online tournaments, to name a few of the ways in which we test ourselves. So, why not encourage your child and teen to get involved?

There is something for everyone! We have challenges aimed at 6 - 12 year olds and 13 - 18 year olds.

Now, before unveiling the challenges, I have a confession: these challenges were initially awful. I mean splendidly awful. They had restrictions, such as: ‘Keep with the summer theme’ and ‘Write a description or a story with summer playing a key role’. I asked for feedback from children and teenagers - and they gave it to me straight! 

One of the most powerful pieces of feedback came from my friend’s daughter. She stated that it was the summer holidays and she had a right to have a rest from school work. She also said (in no uncertain terms) that she hated writing and so did not want to write a story or a description.

Receiving this feedback, I looked at the challenges. What I had done was create work! So, I thought, what was it that I wanted my children and teens to do? I wanted to create a platform for children and teens to come together in a nurturing community and express themselves. I wanted them to express their opinions, to unleash their imaginations and to have fun! 

I therefore didn’t tweak the challenges. I completely re-vamped them! Starting with WHY, the challenges took shape and have had a phenomenal impact. Children and teens have been sharing their hobbies, their opinions and their creative sides, as they want to serve others.

Globally, children are facing similar life challenges: disruption to learning, disruption to routine and disruption in their family lives. By coming together in expressing themselves, they can create a shared space that transcends geographical, cultural and financial bounds. Their words can impact others. 

With this in mind, children and teens have created blogs, vlogs, poems and stories. I have been blown away by their passion and originality. I have received: blogs on baking and reptiles; poetry on swallows and a trip to the seaside; and a magical-horror story!

So, don’t miss out! Encourage your child and teen to take part, as it will build a community that challenges its members in a nurturing environment. And, who knows: maybe their work will inspire someone else…


Kids Challenge (6 - 12 years old)



Teens Challenge (13 - 18 years old)



Submit work: contact@kelliestutoring.com



August 4th

Summer Studying for 11+, GCSEs and A-Levels

In this blog and vlog, we are going to explore:

1) Reasons why to study over the summer;

2) Ways to study over the summer. 

After reading the blog and watching the vlog, you will know ways to motivate your teen to study over the summer. You will also know the best methods of revising efficiently over the summer.

Reasons why to study over the summer.

It is vital to remind your child/tween why they are studying. They may reply it is to pass an exam. It might be to please you their parents/carer/guardian. Try and dig deeper. How? By asking them:

-  Why is it important for you to pass the exam? 

-  What does it mean for you to pass the exam?

-  If you pass the exam, what will it look like?

 - How will you feel when you pass your exam?

 - Why is it important to please me?

- What does it look like to please me?

- How does it feel when you please me?

 Then, ask them:

 - What will happen if they do not pass their exam?

 - How will it feel not to pass the exam?

 - Will it feel worse knowing that you did not give it your all?

By asking these questions, it helps you to find out what it means to your child to pass their exam. You can then ask them what they think is needed to pass their exams. This allows them to take control of their revision.

** Note, it helps you to identify pain points that your child may have with exams. It gives you the opportunity to reassure them that if they do not pass, you will not be angry or upset. It also allows you to see how your child feels about under-achieving for not doing their best. ** 

Ways to study over the summer

Lock-down might be sweeping the globe; however, it does not make revising over the summer. Consider this for your child/teen:

Warm sunshine bursts through their windows, making them itch to go outside to the park to a socially-distance hang out. Now that restrictions have eased, they can now go to their friends’ gardens to have BBQs, to play games or to chat. Or, perhaps they have been cooped up inside. Lethargy has set in, so now they want to sit at their desks and watch Netflix or Amazon Prime; they can chat just as easily over the phone or laptop, so see no reason to go out.

Studying over the summer is difficult. Sun and socialising are prime during the holidays. Even though there is a global pandemic, it does not make it any easier! In fact, with lock-down rules easing, you can now meet up with friends in parks; or, go to friends’ houses for socially-distanced BBQs. Your child/teen may therefore want freedom more than ever! You may feel, since lock-down, they have not done much studying. Yet, they may feel differently: they may feel that they have in fact done more, especially in comparison to their peers!

Arguing with them about how much they have done; or, not done is futile.

Remind reasons for wanting to pass the exam. 

Instead, remind them of their reasons for wanting to pass their exams. Then, ask them to create a plan that they will execute. Get them excited about their future by looking at Secondary Schools if they’re going through the 11+. Look at Colleges and Universities, if they want to continue their academic journeys. Go over job profiles that inspire them. In doing this, it makes the results tangible; they get excited and they start to visualise what their life might look.

Recently, a child that I am working with for the 11+ sent me an email saying, “Do not expect me to do homework over the summer. I will be playing with my friends.”

My first reaction was admiration at his boldness and at his self-awareness. I could have told him that he needs to do his homework or he would fail his exam. But this would have been negative. I would be imposing my fears on him. I could have told him that his parents have hired me to work with him and they expect him to do his homework. However, this would have been making the exams important to his parents. It would have also been blaming them for the homework. It would also undermine our relationship, as it loses sight of him. Due to us building a rapport, I knew what was important to him. I therefore replied that I would invite him to consider why he does not want to do his homework. I knew that he did not have school homework and that his parents were only asking him to read daily, so he did not have a lot of academic work to do. I then invited him to consider why the homework was set. Finally, I asked him to think about the school he wanted to attend. We had spent time going through the website, so that he could see what the school were looking for, and to see what excited him about the school. 

He then replied asking me for the links to complete the homework. By not making him wrong, and by reminding him of what is important to him, he made the choice to do his homework!



Make it fun!

Encourage your child/teen to use different voices to revise. Play with different accents and tones to recite information. They can then record themselves and then play it back.

What voices can they use?

They can try and narrate it in David Attenborough’s voice. Or, they could use one of their favourite musicians. If they enjoy singing, they could sing the revision material. 

Study smartly, not hard

Support your child/teen in making a revision timetable. Making a timetable is a great way for your child/teen to organise their time, so they know what to do. 

Plan your work; work your plan.

Remind your child/teen of this. To help them implement this, set the bar. Make plans and stick to them, so that your child/teen can see how it makes your life easier.

‘To-do’ list and ‘Complete’ list.

Do not just settle with a plan! Make a ‘To-do’ list and a ‘Complete’ list. You can put it on a post-notes into two columns, like the following:


This ensures that your child/teen is being productive and not just being busy. It also helps to reduce stress, since they feel that they are getting through their work; they can see it.

Make it applicable to real life.

Remember, it is the summer. Your child/teen is primed to want to have a break. Revision does not have to be done in a traditional manner of sitting at a desk. Instead, look for practical ways in which your child/teen can implement the skills they need for their exams. How?

Encouraging them to do meaningful tasks, such as competitions and summer schools. It is true that many have been cancelled, but there are still some online.

If you cannot find one that you and your child/teen are enrolled in, then try to create opportunities for them to apply their knowledge by perhaps creating an online study group. This will allow them to discuss concepts and to work through problems. This helps to replicate real-life situations, as in labs and workplaces, people work together. It thus helps to bring the studies to life.


Studying over summer for the 11+, GCSEs and A-levels can be less stressful by reminding your child/teen of WHY. Why are the exams important to them. Create a revision schedule that not only has the days and times of study, but also the chunked-down topics that need to be revised. Then, create a ‘Complete’ list, so that your child/teen gets satisfaction in knowing they have done a task. Liven up revision by using different voices to recite the information and by creating real-life opportunities for your child to apply their knowledge.






July 28th
Should my child study over the Summer?

In this blog and vlog, we are going to explore the following:

1.      Reasons for and against summer study;

2.      What research says about summer schooling;

3.      Encourage a growth mindset.

Are you debating about what to do over the summer holidays with your children? Perhaps you have enrolled your child in a ‘Summer Study Program’, but are now regretting your decision. Or, maybe you have decided a ‘Free-For-All’, allowing your child to do whatever they want (even nothing!)

When it comes to studying over the summer, we seemed to have a developed a culture of polarised opinion: it is all or nothing. Some children will not be receiving any break, as they continue their studies in a tuition centre. Or, they are encouraged to study six hours at home, like they would at school, five days a-week, so there is no holiday. Exhaustion, anxiety and careless mistakes soon sets. Resentment begins to build, leading to melt-downs, moaning and malicious war-of-words.

Other children are left doing nothing! Aimlessly, wondering around the house, grazing out of boredom, some children will be secretly glad when the summer holidays are over. Some children will have their eyes glued to screens: phones, iPads, TVs, computer games - anything electronic. Lethargy, frustration and forgetfulness sets in, leading to melt-down, moaning and malicious war-of-words. 

How can we avoid over-working or under-working our children during the summer?

1. Reasons for and against summer study.

Pro Summer Study

- Autumn Exams are looming: 7+, 11+, GCSE re-sits; or, final year studies with GCSE and A Level finals approaching.

- Child struggles with learning, so it gives them a boost.

- Lock-down disrupted learning, so need to catch up with school work, or with home-learning work.

- Child is ahead and want to maintain this advantage.

Anti Summer Study

- Child worked hard and is in need of a break, as they are tired, anxious and burnt out.

- Warm, sunny weather means children should be outside playing.

- Parents need a break from home-educating.

- Child is ahead and finds learning easy, so they do not need to do anything ‘extra’.

What’s interesting is how similar both lists are. Can you see what the fundamental similarity is?

Both come from a place of fear. 

Fear that my child has studied too much, or too little; fear that my child is behind, or fear that my child will not have fun; fear that my child will fall behind, or fear that my child will be bored as they are ahead. 

Parents, whatever side of the fence you are on, are united by the fact that you want what is best for your child. It is not that parents wanting their child to study over summer do not value play and fun. And it is not that parents wanting their child to relax and not study over summer do not value learning and studying. Parents on both sides want their child to be happy, well-adjusted and to thrive in their learning. 

So, before we can look at what we could be doing over the summer, what does the research show?

2. What research says about summer study.

We have over a century’s worth of research on this hotly debated subject of summer studying. From [White, 1906[ to recent studies by [Shinwell and Defeyter 2017], the results are resounding conclusive. The long summer holidays does cause children to forget what they have learnt. Children perform worse at the start of the Autumn term in Standardised tests than they did at the start of the summer.

Why is this?
Well, it is as the old adage states: “If you do not use it, you lose it.” Knowledge taught in term-time will be lost if students do not practice it.

Yet, you have probably heard that once you learnt how to ride a bike, you never forget. You may indeed have experienced this yourself. You’ve not ridden a bike for a few years, but then are on holiday and rent a bike. Perhaps to your surprise, you’re not only riding it, you’re zipping around on it like when you were a child! Then, why is it that our children forget over summer? 

This is because we have two types of memory: declarative and procedural memory.

Declarative memory: This is conscious memory. It is memory that you know you know. You can actively draw upon it. There are two types of declarative memory:  episodic memory and semantic memory.

-  Episodic memory relates to our experiences. It can be considered the ‘episodes’ of our lives, as it is memories relating to events we have experienced.

-   Semantic memory relates to our knowledge. For example, capitals of cities, dates in history, meaning of words, to name a few.

Procedural memory: This is considered unconscious memory. It’s things we know that we do not have to actively think about. An example is riding a bike. You may have learnt to ride a bike at 5 years old. As an adult, you are still able to do it, without thinking about it.

What does this mean for our children’s learning?
It means that unless children use their semantic memory, the chances are they will not retain what they have learnt throughout the year.

3. Encourage a growth mindset.

For most people, when we think of ‘Summer Study’ it conjures up rows of desks, a chalk board and mountains of books. Children sit quietly listening to an instructor - though it is most likely to be hunched over a laptop - making notes. Or, children are at home in their bedroom at their desk silently studying.

However, this ignores one crucial point - ‘Summer Study’ does not mean replicate a school environment. If you home educate, you most probably have a routine or structure, and ‘Summer Study’ does not mean sticking to this either. ‘Summer Study’ means nurturing your child’s curiosity; allowing them opportunities to learn about topics that they might not otherwise be able to, whilst still practising crucial concepts that they have learned. 

How do you do this?
I’ll start of by saying what it is not doing. It is not dressing up one activity as something they’ll enjoy whilst ‘really’ doing something else. For example, if your child likes dinosaurs, it is not about printing a Math worksheet with pictures of dinosaurs and working through it (I am not undermining this - it can be useful to do, but not for what I am talking about here).

It is about promoting a growth mindset. A growth mindset is knowing that your abilities can be developed. A fixed mindset is the belief that abilities cannot be developed. 

How does this relate to ‘Summer Study’?We can promote a growth mindset by allowing our children to practise their knowledge in real-life settings, thus allowing them to move past their limited beliefs. For example, if your child feels they are ‘bad’ at reading and they dislike Comprehension tasks, then getting them to do more of this over the summer will most likely lead to more of the same. However, if you encourage them to attend a book club, they will most likely move away from their fixed-beliefs, as they have more opportunities to discuss books with a wider range of people.  If you cannot join a book club, start one at home. You can do it as a family. Each family member takes it turns in choosing a book to discuss. You can even hold family and friends book club meetings online. Not only does it serve to help with their literacy learning, it helps to nurture a genuine pleasure in reading, as the discussions are dynamic, alive and rich. People can talk about how moments from the story impacted them; how words made them feel, and what they wanted to happen. 

For Maths, you may find it more challenging to integrate this into your daily or weekly lives. Therefore, you might need to actively re-visit concepts. Even so, it does not have to be endless drills daily. Indeed, research from [Cepeda et al, 2008[ found that adults could retain concepts if it was revisited every 11 days. Thus, you could revises a Math concept every 3 - 5 days to ensure your child recalls the information. To promote a growth mindset, do not praise your child on the basis of how many questions they answered correctly, but rather praise their efforts. By doing this, they will see the value in trying and become aware that just because they cannot do something immediately, does not mean they cannot in the future if they practise!

Encourage your child to take up something novel. If your child has not done dance classes before, offer them the opportunity to take it up. Not only will this nurture in them the ability to get out of their comfort zone, they will have fun. You could also ask them to write a review of their experiences for the dance club, so that other people can try it. To help your child with their review, you could ask them to look at other reviews so they can get a better understanding of structure and language. If there is a particular style of dance they like, they can look it up and find jargon (specialised words within a field) to help be specific and detailed with their review. All of this, not only enhances their reading and writing skills, but also their researching skills. It thus reinforces concepts and content from what they have been learning at school or in home-learning.

Take trips to zoos, museums, aquariums and amusement parks. Family trips are excellent experiences for children of all ages. When looking around, rather than just going through it, get stuck in! Ask your child questions about what they are seeing and doing. Research from Jant et al, 2014,  Conversation and Object Manipulation Influence Children's Learning in a Museum. Child Dev revealed that when parents asked open-ending questions, children were more inclined to remember facts about exhibits than if their parents had not.

What if your child has a learning difficulty?
If your child is a SEND learner, they may have struggled with particular concepts. It is then worthwhile spending a few hours a week going over these.

What if your child, however, is about to take an important exam, such as 7+, 11+, GCSEs, IGCSEs, or A-levels? The above are all still great tools to engage your child in the concepts that they will need to pass their exams for the 7+ and 11+. However, you may wish to add an hour or two a week to going over exam papers to ensure they are familiar with the test paper. You may also consider hiring a tutor; or, attending a group session to brush up on skills. Again, however, this should be an hour two a week, and not every day to replicate school; or, home-learning hours. 

However, you may also want to consider more specialised clubs or groups. For example, if your child is doing their GCSEs, you may want to enrol them in workshops, talks and hands-on summer camps. They may need more structure to ensure they cover the breadth and depth of their studies. Even so, effective study methods will ensure they still get a break and fun. 

***Effective Summer Revision will be covered in next week's blog/vlog ***

‘Summer Study’ is fun! It is not building a classroom in your house; or, the continuation of home-learning schedules, it is giving your child opportunities to explore their world through the lens of discovery. Engage with them when on family outings, so they can get stuck in with the family activities. Allow them to try new classes or activities, so they push back the boundaries of their experiences, and broaden their horizons. 

And, remember, if your child does have an exam; is a SEND learner; or, has found learning concepts challenging, then a few hours a week of tuition might serve them well. It should not be used as a way of jimmying more work or ‘school-style’ learning into your child’s holiday. Instead, it should come from a place of growth mindset. Their efforts should be praised, so they know the value comes from what they are doing, not the result. In doing this, they will be more inclined to try, as they know that if they try, they will succeed.



July 14

How to choose questions in exams

In this video and blog we are going to explore:

1.    What exactly is an “optional question” in an exam;

2.    Why are students unsuccessful when they choose their own questions;

3.    How to empower your child to select questions that are right for them;

After reading this blog and watching the video, you will be able to support your child in confidently choosing questions that they will not only be able to answer, but will showcase their true abilities, earning them the grade they truly deserve.


Due to COVID-19, OFQUAL are considering offering more optional exam questions for Geography, History and Ancient Studies. The idea is to give students more choice in their exams. By doing this, students can choose questions that they can answer successfully – in theory!

Even without the suggested changes, children are currently faced with optional exam questions, as shown below:


Example of GCSE-style questions:

You are going to enter a competition.

Either: Write a description suggested by the picture:

Or: Write a story that begins with the sentence: ‘The fog smothered the entire landscape, creating a deafening silence.’

Example from 11+ papers

Yet, research has shown that when presented with options in exams, students choose questions they think they will perform well in. However, in reality, they often choose unsuccessfully. Why is this?

Before we answer why students often do not select successfully the best questions for themselves in optional exam questions, it is first imperative to examine what “optional questions” are in exams.

1. What exactly is an “optional question” in an exam.

Now, technically an exam is one big “optional question” in that not all course material is covered in an exam. Exam boards will create questions based on the course content, but inevitably some elements will not be covered. Students are therefore expected to answer all the questions that come up. To do this, they will need to revise all the material.

With “optional questions”, it means that students do not have to answer all the questions. Instead, they can choose a question that they feel they will answer better.

For example, these questions are from the AQA GCSE History Paper:

Section B

Answer either Question 2 or Question 3 which begins on page 18.

Question 2 The Nazi Rise to Power

2 (a) Why was the Munich Putsch important? [4 marks]

2 (b) Study Source F in the Sources Booklet. Using Source F and your knowledge, explain why the Weimar governments became unpopular before 1924. [8 marks]

2 (c) ‘The main reason Germans voted for the Nazis was because of the economic Depression.’ How far do you agree with this interpretation of why so many Germans voted for the Nazi party in the years 1930 to 1932? Explain your answer. [12 marks] [SPaG 4 marks]


Question 3 Culture and Propaganda 3

(a) Why was Weimar culture important? [4 marks]

3 (b) Study Source G in the Sources Booklet. Using Source G and your knowledge, explain the cult of the Führer. [8 marks]

3 (c) ‘Nazi propaganda was most successful in entertainment and the arts.’ How far do you agree with this interpretation of the success of Nazi propaganda in the culture of Germany after 1933? Explain your answer. [12 marks] [SPaG 4 marks]


For these questions, you can see that the style of the questions are the same. They both begin with ‘Why’ questions, then move on to ‘Study’ sources, culminating to an evaluating-style question “How far do you agree”. Therefore, on the face of it, students should be able to decide what question suits them best, as it surely would depend on on the content. Question 2 is about ‘The Nazi Rise to Power’, while question 3 is about ‘Culture Propaganda’, so students need to only choose the topic they know best – simple. But, is it?

Remember, students are in timed exam conditions. Thus, the pressure is on! Students need to make a swift decision to ensure they are able to answer the questions fully. Therefore, students might be swayed by the topic they enjoy more. Yet, enjoyment of a topic does not necessarily mean they will do better in that question. Furthermore, it depends on the sources. How well can the students obtain information from the given source to answer the question. They may like the topic in question 2, but may be able to ‘read’ the source in question 3 better.


2. Why are students unsuccessful when they choose their own questions.

We can see that choosing a question in “optional questions” in exams, requires more than simply choosing a topic that the student knows best. Instead, to successfully select a question from the options, students will need the following skills:

·      Being able to assess the level of the question: some questions are ‘easier’ to answer than others;

·      Being able to evaluate what the question is asking them;

·      Being aware of their own abilities and knowledge.


3. How to empower your child to select questions that are right for them.

Knowing the skills required for the “optional questions”, empowers you to create opportunities for your child to exercise these skills, so they are able to apply them in the exam. How can you do this?

Let’s break down the skills required to successfully choose in “optional questions”, and see how you can nurture this in your child.

The ability to assess the difficulty of a question.

First of all, get into your child’s or teenager’s world. By that I mean, what do they enjoy? If they enjoy reading, encourage them to notice differences between books they were reading a year ago to now. How do they know they level is different? They may notice the vocabulary is more challenging. Perhaps they notice the themes are more mature.

If your child enjoys video games, ask them what are the differences in the difficulty modes. How do they know if it is on an easier setting? They may notice the style of game play is different. Or, they may observe the number of villains in the game.

Perhaps your child loves to cook. You can then ask them to look at different recipes. Some recipes are considered ‘easy’, while others are considered more ‘difficult’. Ask your child why they think the recipes are given the label ‘easy’ or ‘difficult’. They may think the difficulty of the recipe is determined by the number of ingredients needed for the dish. Alternatively, they may believe it is because of what is required in the preparation of the ingredients.

By encouraging your child or teen to assess things in real life, they will be able to put the skill to their work. You can further bridge the gap by looking over old school work; or, work that is below their age. For instance, if your child is sitting the 11+, have them look at 7+ exam questions. If your teenager is about to sit their GCSEs, have them look at the old KS3 SAT papers. Encourage your child/teenager to notice the differences between the papers. Also ask your child/teenager to look for similarities. How are they similar?

To further help your child, especially at GCSE level, ask your child to compare the Foundation and Higher tier papers in the core subjects. Go through the Mark Schemes, as well as the question paper. That way they can see what is expected of them. This helps your teen regardless of whether they are sitting Foundation or Higher tier, since the skill of assessing the question is required in both papers. It will not only serve them for the “Optional questions”, but it will also help them with their core questions, since the paper becomes increasingly more challenging. They will thus have a better understanding of what is required of them.

The ability to evaluate what the question is asking them.

To help your child better understand what the question is asking them, it is useful to familiarise yourself with the exam boards style of language used in exams.

If you go on the exam boards website, they will have a glossary of their key words.

Here are some examples:


Art and Design









OCR have an overall guide to their exams:








The ability to know their strengths and weaknesses.

Children and teenagers may not be aware of their strengths and weaknesses as they may not have reflected on their skills. Furthermore, students often relate their abiltiy and apptitude with their enjoyment of a subject. For example, your child may dislike Math, but be very good at it. Yet, when you ask them if they are good at Math, they may believe they are not simply because they do not enjoy the subject.

Moreover, students may believe they are not good at something because it requires a bit more thought. For instance, I have many students tell me they are terrible at creative writing since they find it difficult to get started. Moreover, they think they are terrible writers because they find the prospect of there being no clear ‘right or wrong’ answer, like in Math or Science, daunting. Nevertheless, despite their protests, when I read their work, I am absolutely delighted at how awfully good it is!

So, how can we encourage children and teens to effectively and accurately reflect on their strengths and weaknesses?

To begin with, you can ask your child or teen to write a summary of a task they completed. If they were doing a Geography case study, for instance, you could ask them to write down what they think they had to do. Afterwards, you can ask them to write down what they think they had to know to answer the question. Finally, you can ask your child to rate how they found the task.

You could also get your child or teen to self-mark their work. Ask your child or teen to estimate the overall grade they think they have earned. Then, using the mark scheme go over the work with them. See if their marks correspond with the mark scheme. If not, examine where the disparities lie. Was your child/teen too harsh in their judgement? Or, did they consider themselves better than what they currently are in a topic?

Finally, you can ask your child’s or teen’s teachers to give specific feedback in units in the course content. By doing this, both you and your child or teen, get greater insight into what your child needs to work on.


To summarise, “optional questions” in an exam can be highly beneficial to students, if they are familiar with the skills required to successfully choose a question that will enable them to perform their best. It is thus imperative that parents, carers, guardians and educators develop the following key skills:

·      The ability to assess the difficulty of questions;

·      The ability to evaluate what the question is asking them;

·      The ability to know their strengths and weaknesses.

Remember, just because your child or teen likes a subject or topic does not necessarily mean they are good at it. Equally, just because your child disdains a topic does not mean they are not good at it. It is therefore vital to encourage your child or teen to self-mark. In doing this, they will be able to see for themselves their true appitude.

Furtheremore, speaking to your child’s or teen’s teachers and tutors can also provide invaluable insights into your child’s or teen’s abilities, as they will be able to provide feedback on class work (or work work submitted online); ongoing assessments and homework.

Perhaps to make it more interactive, you can ask friends or relatives (of the same age as your child or teen) to peer mark. This enables your child to evaluate and assess how well their friend/relative has performed in an assessment or task. By doing this, they will develop their critical awareness. Moreover, they will also receive feedback, which may help to dispel any false images they have of themselves.

Kellie McCord
Kellie’s Tutoring
Email: kelliestutoring@gmail.com
You can access more videos from Kellie’s tutoring Youtube channel here


July 6
What will happen to GCSE exams in 2021?


In this video blog we are going to explore:

-  What the government has proposed for the GCSE summer 2021 exams; 

- The pros and cons of the proposal; 

- How you can have your say;

- How you can support your child. 

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will be empowered to support your child as they prepare for their GCSE finals.

What the government has proposed for the GCSE summer 2021 exams
Since school closures, students have missed out on four months of teacher-led learning. Even students who typically home-learn may have experienced disruptions in their learning as a parent may have been forced to work from home, making the study environment more challenging. Meet-up groups and extra-curricular activities that home-learners utilise have also been shut, preventing the variety of resources that home-educators usually have access to.

Regardless of whether your 14 - 16 year old child attends school or home-learns, both will be facing the uncertainty of what their summer 2021 exams will look like.

So, what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on learning? 

To make the summer exams as fair as possible, OFQUAL (The Office of Qualifications and Examination Regulation) have come up with the following proposal:

- Cutting down material covered in exams;

- Delaying commencement of exams for after the summer half-term (after 7th June);

- Increasing teaching time by cutting practicals and field work;

- Increasing exam question options.

Now, you may look at the proposals and think they are reasonable and logical. However, they raise a lot of questions, such as the following:

Is this sufficient action?

Does it put disadvantaged children at a greater disadvantage?

What about home-educated children?

Is this diluting down the qualification?

The idea is to ensure high-quality exams that give each child the best possible chance of showcasing their abilities, without watering down exams. This is perhaps the most crucial point. After-all, tinkering with the exams to make it fair on children now at the expense of making it more difficult for them in the future, would defeat objective.  

The pros and cons of OFQUAL’s proposal

Government proposals:

Cutting down material covered in exams.

It levels the playing field by giving teachers the opportunity to consolidate what students have been taught. Thus, their depth of knowledge for topics covered will be enhanced. 

Students who have covered more material might be at an advantage, since they will still be able to draw on this. Furthermore, deciding what to cut from a course designed to be years, may prove challenging. More crucially, ensuring that what’s cut does not disadvantage students progressing onto their A level course.

Delaying when exams commence.

Pushing exams back may allow more material to be covered. Equally, it allows students more time to revise and consolidate their knowledge.

Pushing exams back may give the false impression that it is enough time to make up for contact teaching hours that have missed. It also gives less time for examiners to mark papers, thus increasing the risk of human error.

Increasing teaching time by cutting practicals and fieldwork.

Allows for students to focus on the theory and so deepens their understanding of core concepts.

Students may have insufficient practice with lab work, field work and projects, making it more challenging for them later on.

Increasing exam question options.

Students have more choice in their exams. They can select a question they are familiar with and so will be able to apply their knowledge more appropriately.

Weaker students may find it challenging to select a suitable question. 
All students will be unfamiliar with the new exam style and so may find it more difficult to complete.
The duration of exams may increase, thus making it a challenge for all students to maintain their stamina and complete the paper.

Perhaps the three biggest concerns from altering any of the summer exams are:
1) Changes in the exam papers and exam structure may increase anxiety in students taking the exam;

2) Changes in the structure of the exam paper may throw students as they have had no opportunities in sitting the new exam-style paper. Consequently, students may not be able to manage their time appropriately.

3) Changes in exams are subject to a greater risk of error, as the papers would not have been as rigorously and thoroughly gone over.

Both educators and researchers believe that changes to exams may put academically weaker students at a disadvantage. This is because students find it difficult, when presented with more exam question choice, to choose a question that they know well. They therefore tend to select questions that are more challenging and that they are not so familiar with. 

Students with SEND may also be at a disadvantage. For instance, some students with SEND may be given extra exam time. If exams are made longer, SEND students may face exams up to three hours long. They may not have the stamina to complete the papers adequately.

How can you have your say? 

To have your say, go to the following website: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/QTD27I/

How can you support your child?

To support your child, it is helpful to:

Ask them for their views.
Your child will have their own opinion on the matter. It might therefore be useful to go through the government’s proposals and see what they think. Perhaps your child can help you fill out the survey and so have their say in their exams.

Reassure them that everyone is in the same situation.
All children have been impacted by the current situation. Therefore, no one is going to penalise students. Remind your child to have some compassion for themselves and for others at this time. Reassure them that if they do not achieve their best, they will be able to resit their exams at a later date.

Practice exam skills.
Exam papers may alter; however, it is still vital to practice exam skills. What this means is, rather than focusing on the particular exam paper, focus on the skills required to complete the exam. This might be breaking down questions and deciphering what is being asked. It may also be about practising completing timed tasks. To further give them confidence, set them a task that utilises their knowledge, but in a different form. For example, if they are studying Geography, they would have covered urban living: crime and pollution. Ask them to write a letter to their local MP persuading them to make changes to their city (or to a city of their choice). In doing this, they can apply their knowledge in Geography to an English task. It may reassure them that they know the topic and that they are able to use their understanding of the topic and apply it to different situations.

Liaise with schools, course leaders and exam boards.
Teachers and educators are greatly sympathetic to the year 10’s situation. Speak with them about what they propose for your child. If you have specific concerns, let them know so they can offer their support and expertise. 

It may also be appropriate to speak with specific exam boards, especially if you home-educate. However, do bear in mind, schools have put forward their predicated grades for the current year 11s, and so the exam boards may not be able to respond fully. Also, the deadline for the survey is the 16th July. Without the official government outline for exams, teachers and exam boards may not know precisely what is happening. I know it is frustrating, but be patient.

Overall then, it is imperative that you complete the survey to have your say!

 Reassure your child to keep working consistently and diligently. If circumstances change, like the current year 11s, and teachers are forced to predict grades, then having a portfolio of work will go in their favour.

If your child does sit the exam and does not achieve their desired grade, there will be opportunities to re-sit exams. In Autumn, Math, English and Science re-sits are possible. Some exam boards have exams in January, so students could, potentially, sit some of their non-core subjects in January 2022.

No matter what happens, be compassionate. And remember: everyone is in the same boat.

June 29th

Moving from a failure mindset to a success mindset

Shifting our mindset from failure to success

In this video and blog, we are going to explore:

What ‘fail’ means; 

How successful people use failures to succeed; 

How to shift yours and your child’s mindset from failure to success. 

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will no longer see exams as the be-all and end-all, but rather as a stepping stone for academic, professional and personal growth.

What does ‘fail’ mean?

One of the most pervading attachments parents and children have with regards to the amount of work completed and whether to attend school or not, relates to exam success. Exams are important. They test a person’s knowledge in a specific field. They also offer opportunities for students to apply their knowledge, so that they have the necessary skills to apply it to real-life work settings. 

So, what if they fail an exam?

Well, it is important to examine the word fail. What does fail mean? Exploring the etymology of this word is powerful in unpacking the attached meaning we are all guilty of harbouring.

From modern-day to past:

Anglo-Norman failir “to make a mistake”

Old-English abreoðan “to destroy/perish”

Latin fallere “to trip, cause to fall”

Proto-Indo-European root bhal “to deceive”

What do you notice?

The meaning of ‘fail’ takes on a more drastic tone; it becomes almost life-threatening. But why? A fail is a mistake. We learn from mistakes. If an exam is failed, it can be re-taken. Employers and Universities accept retakes.

Here are the official reports from Oxford, Cambridge and a few Russell Group Universities on their stance on re-takes:






So, if employers and Universities accept that ‘failing’ occurs, why is there such stigma surrounding it?

How successful people turn ‘failures’ into success
Jack Ma, a self-made billionaire, who is a co-founder of Alibaba, an investor and a philanthropist, ‘failed’ Primary School twice, Middle School three times and his University Entrance Exam three times. He was also rejected by Havard ten times!

Adding to his academic failures, Jack Ma was rejected by KFC and the Police force. Can you imagine how Jack Ma felt? Did he allow these failures to stop him? No! 

After failing his University Entrance Exam, he finally earned a place at Hangzhou Teachers College. After graduating, he taught English. He absolutely loved teaching and his students adored him. Why? Because Jack Ma was unafraid of failing. He had been there, done that so many times that he not only had the t-shirt, he had the jumper, trousers, socks and even the logo on his work bag! 

Instead of instilling in his students the binary opposite: you fail or you succeed, he instilled his belief that: “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

How refreshing is that? Can you imagine if you empowered your child with the belief that failure is not the end of your academic career. That failure is not something to be ashamed of. That failure does not mean you cannot do something. But, instead instilled in them that failure is a ‘stumble, a fall’ and that you have a choice: to keep going; or, give up.

So, how can you move your child’s mindset from failure is ‘bad’ to failure is simply a lesson?

How to shift yours and your child’s mindset from failure to success. 
Ask your child what failure means to them. By understanding their beliefs and attitudes towards failure, you can help to shift their mind by showing them that the meanings and attachments they have towards failure is created by them. The good news is then that they can re-create what failure means.

How can you do that?

Nurture patience 
As Jack Ma says: “The very important thing you should have is patience.” Instil in your child patience. Encourage them to wait. For example, if you are at a restaurant (or in the current situation - at home) waiting for food and your child complains: “I’m hungry” or “I’m bored”. Do not give into them by offering a snack; or giving them something to do. Instead, remind them of what they are waiting for and how satisfying it is going to be if they wait for it. 

Perhaps the best way to teach your child patience, is by modelling this behaviour. If you find yourself getting impatient, then your child will pick up on this. Try and catch yourself when you are feeling impatient so that you do not allow it to spill over in your actions or words. That way, your child can see that being patient has it rewards.

How does this translate into studying and school work? Well, perhaps your child is not grasping a concept that their friends have mastered. They begin to feel disheartened. Patience can help your child to persist as they know that they will be rewarded. Remember, patience does not mean being passive. For instance, if I am waiting for an important email, I can be impatient and continuously hit refresh on my emails and mutter under my breadth. Or, I could get on with my housework, which would be more constructive. For your child, who is struggling, rather than being impatient, they could attempt other resources to develop their understanding. Patience paves the way for persistence which will ultimately set them up for success.

Perhaps a great example of how patience and persistence can lead to growth and success is the UK medical exams. Medical and Health Care professionals are often admired for their intellect, so it might be surprising to discover that many medical students fail their exams. Research has shown that students who re-sit their exam after failing perform better and are, perhaps, better physicians for failing. This is because they have greater relatability to people having gone through a set-back of their own. It also means they have to revisit material, and so deepen their understanding of the concepts. Thus, if one of the most prestigious professions in the world accepts failures as part of learning, then why can’t we?


Develop a game playing attitude
I was working with a 12 year old boy, who was preparing for the 13 + exam. He had told himself that he ‘failed the 11+’. He had proof that he had failed the exam by his rejection letter from the school of his choice. This had made him fearful of exams, as he felt that he may fail and then get rejected. Consequently, he would always hold himself back; rather than attempting a task, he would be cautious and tentative. Even more heart-breaking, he would constantly doubt himself and look for reassurance.

Before I could work with him on the 13 + exam, we needed to unravel the story he created about what the 11+ meant. To do this, we altered the language he used to describe it. Rather than saying, “I failed the 11+ exam”, I had him say the truth of what happened: “I was one mark off the pass mark that year.” By doing this, it helped to reduce the emotional impact. He no longer saw his experience as a catastrophic failure, but rather as a learning opportunity.

When we then approached the 13+ material, I would make it into a game. I would have him note all the words in a passage he did know. Initially he thought this was ridiculous, since I made him include words that he considered obvious such as ‘the’ and ‘I’. However, we would zoom into these words by identifying the following:

Do you know how to use it?

Have you seen it before? Where?

What is the denotation (Dictionary definition) of the word?

What is the word class?

Does it have any synonyms (words with similar meaning)?

Does it have any antonyms (words with the opposite meaning)?

In doing this, it filled him with confidence, as it reassured him that he knew more than he realised. It further primed him for success, as he was looking at ways he could apply his knowledge to things he did not know… yet! 

We then looked at words in the passage he did not know. Rather than looking at it as a negative or as a way of highlighting his deficiencies in vocabulary, I framed it as an opportunity to learn something new. By tapping into curiosity and playfulness, it enabled him to see his ‘failure’ in not knowing a word, as an opportunity to discover something.

When it came to his exam, I encouraged him to enjoy the exam by reassuring him:

That they have given him the opportunity to sit the exam, so they clearly think he is capable;

That not everyone can sit the exam, so the fact that he is means it is a fantastic life experience that not everyone has;

That it is an opportunity to show off what he knows;

That he has the opportunity to learn something new.

In doing this, he felt relaxed in the exam room. When he finished the exam, he actually enjoyed it! He had never come across the passage before, which made him excited as he had the opportunity to read something new and something that he would not have chosen himself.

I am proud to say that he passed the exam! However, the pass was not the true success, the true success was the confidence he regained; the resilience he developed, and his new found love of learning. All of this, enabled him to do his best.

Tragically, due to his family’s financial situation, he was unable to attend the school that he had sat the exam for. However, the boy was not demoralised. Instead, he felt confident that he would succeed no matter his environment because he would not give up. Equally, his parents were pleased, as they could see their son had a new found zeal for learning.

Overall then, this is a great opportunity to assess yours and your child’s attitude towards failure. What stories and meanings are you attaching to ‘fail’? What stories and meanings is your child placing on ‘fail’?

We build up exams to be the be-all and end-all, but the reality is that they are not. With COVID-19, all the GCSE exams have been cancelled. GCSEs are often used to scare teenagers by telling them that their futures are determined by the outcome of their exams. Yet, due to the virus, all the exams are cancelled. Instead, their work, their mocks and their in-class participation is being used to give them a mark. Surely, this shows that exams are important, but if they are ‘failed’ (as in this case they have ‘failed’ to be sat), there are other avenues to academic, professional and personal success?

To help your child move from a failure mindset to a success mindset, nurture their patience and create a playfulness in what they do. After all, if they do not give up, then they cannot truly fail. 

June 23rd
To send my child to school or not to send my child to school?

In this video and blog, we are going to explore:

Whether to send my child to school or not

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will be empowered about your choice to send your child to school. 

For many parents, COVID-19 has opened up a debate for parents: should I send my child to school or not. Government guidelines have altered so that Primary School children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are able to attend school. We are also seeing more and more schools offer more places for children. Secondary Schools are also starting to open up with students attending a few days a week. This has caused many parents great anguish as the question is not really whether I should send my child to school or not, but rather is it safe for me to do so. 

Whether to send my child to school or not
First of all, rather than feeling guilt over your choice, recognise that it is your decision and there is no judgement. The government are there to provide a service, and so they are offering a service to Primary School children. It is up to you whether you utilise that service. So, rather than looking at it from a moral perspective, look it from a pragmatic point of view - does it work. 

For some parents, sending their child to school creates workability, as both parent and child feel that there is structure, routine and some school work being completed. For some parents, sending their child to school creates dread and worry. Or, if you have other children, who are unable to attend school, it may not be practical to allow your child, who is eligible, to attend.

Look honestly at what is workable for you and then go with that. It is also worth noting what attachments you have formed around the decision. 

Here are some of the most common meanings parents attach to sending their child school:

- If I send my child to school, and they contract COVID-19;

- If I send my child to school, and they feel alienated as their friends are not attending school;

- If I send my child to school, it might be overwhelming as they cannot hug or be near their friends;

- If I send my child to school, they will receive a better education than being at home;

- If I send my child to school, other parents, family members and friends will judge me for being selfish and putting my child at risk;

- If I send my child to school, my other children will feel left out;

- If I send my child to school, my day will be disrupted due to the new schedule form the school, which is a challenge since I am working from home.

Here are some of the most common meanings parents attach to not sending their child to school:

- If I do not send my child to school, I am shielding them from COVID-19;

- If I do not send my child to school, they will not receive a better education, as they will miss out from being at school;

- If I do not send my child school, other parents, family members and friends will judge me for being selfish;

- If I do not send my child to school, they will miss their friends more;

- If I do not send my child to school, it will continue to make home life difficult, as it is challenging juggling work and home-schooling;

- If I do not send my child to school, they may feel alienated, as their friends are attending school.

The most common reasons for and against sending children back to school overlap. This is not surprising when what is being engaged is our primal brain. The primal brain is responsible for survival, drive and instinct. 

So, how can you reach a decision that serves you, your children, your values and that is workable? By looking at workability. Make a list of all the reasons for and against sending your child to school. Remove any judgements or attachments. By doing this, you will be able to create workability. 

Ideal day

To further help you reach a decision about sending your child to school or not, create your ideal day. What would your ideal day be? If possible, ask your child to do something similar. 

Example ideal day sending child to school
My ideal day would be to wake up early at 7am and come downstairs and have a family breakfast. After this, we all get ready. My children are dressed in their smart school uniform. I get dressed for work. We then all leave for a lovely stroll in morning air to school. 

Arriving at school, I am reassured that the school have taken provisions to create a safe, friendly environment for my child. I can see that by reminders to wash hands and to stand apart. There are markings on the ground to ensure that the rules are adhered to.

Example ideal day not sending my child to school
My ideal day would be to wake up early at 7am and come downstairs and have a family breakfast. After this, we all get ready. Since my children are no longer attending school, they can wear whatever comfy clothes they like. I then set them up with the first task of the day - reading. A variety of books and e-books are on the table for the children to choose from. While they are doing independent reading, I am getting on with my morning work meeting.

When creating your ‘ideal day’ it is important to be as specific possible. By doing this, it helps you to see what is needed to create your ideal day. For instance, if safety is at the forefront of your mind, then you can speak with staff at the school and ask about the measures in place to keep both staff and students safe. If you know any parents at the school, you can speak with them to hear their opinions. We feel more comfortable about a decision when we have feedback from people we trust. Therefore, gauging the perspective of a parent (and their child/children), who has sent their child to school (or plans to), you will be left feeling more confident with your choice. 

It is also important to note that during the whole pandemic, key-worker children have been attending school. If possible, ask them for their experiences. This may also help to assuage fears.

Ask my child
If your child is of an age where they understand what is happening, ask them for their input. It might be revealing for you to see their concerns on the matter. For most children, when asked if they want to return to school they reply they would because they miss their friends. Even children who are not keen on school say they want to go back because they prefer classroom learning over online learning. Equally, some children do not want to return to school because they enjoy their extra freedoms they have from being at home. They also prefer the autonomy of home-learning, as they are able to complete work quicker than at school, and have greater choice in what they study.

It is therefore worthwhile engaging your child, where appropriate, as it may help you to further create workability for you and your family.

It is not about guilt; it is not about morals. It is about what works for you, your child and your family. To help you make a decision, follow these steps:

- List all the reasons for and against sending your child to school

- Create your ideal day and take steps to create it

- Ask your child for their input

Overall, remember, whatever choice you make, you can change your mind. If you send your child to school and decide it is not working, you can notify the school. You will not be penalised under the current government legislation. If you choose to keep your child home, but then decide you want to send them to school, you can speak with the school to see if it is possible for them to return.

June 16
How to encourage your child to write?

In this blog, we are going to explore the following: 

1. How to motivate reluctant writers 

2. How to encourage children to expand their answers 

3. How to ‘magpie’ ideas

1. How to motivate reluctant writers

Your child might be a reluctant writer. When they hear the word ‘write’, they suddenly feel tired, need the bathroom, need food/drink, their hand hurts or - conveniently - lose their pen/pencil! 

Or, you might have a child who is more than happy to do Comprehension questions; however, when it comes to creative writing their mind goes blank. 

What do you do?
First of all, children might be reluctant to write because they are out of practice.  Therefore, rather than focusing on quantity, focus on quality. Encourage them to write a few lines that are truly amazing. It might not seem much but remember it is a process; it is a marathon, not a sprint. As Aristotle stated, “Excellence is a habit.” So, make writing a habit, not a chore.

Now, although it maybe an excuse that their ‘hand hurts’, it might also be true.  Your child may not be writing as much as they used to and so their hand may feel tired; or, they may have aches. Encouraging your child to do finger and hand exercises may help to build up their strength and hand muscles, making writing easier. Playing with ‘Play-dough’ and using pegs can help to improve their hand and finger strength.

You may also want to consider their stationery and desk. Pen and pencil grips can assist your child in gripping their pen in a manner that does not hurt or create tension. You can also explore different types of pens and pencils and see what your child feels most comfortable with. Having a writing slope can further help your child when writing, since they do not have to hunch over. It may also help to reduce stress and pressure on their wrist due to the height adjustment.

For some children, they need a real purpose to write.  So, make writing practical. Rather than doing the same work, why not create real life opportunities for them to write? 

Here are some ways to create meaningful, practical writing opportunities:

- Ask your child to write the weekly shopping list;

- Ask your child to write a daily menu for the family;

- Ask your child to write a review of their favourite film (you can show them other people’s reviews and actually post it on their behalf);

- Ask your child to write a review of restaurant they visited (again show them real life examples and then actually post their review on the site);

- Enter a writing competition

***Note, the reviews might be online, but explain to your child that most people write their reviews by hand so that they can review it before posting it online. Furthermore, since your child is under-age, they cannot have an account themselves; therefore, if they write it by hand, you can then upload it for them to the site. ***

You can also lead by example. How? You can show your child how writing carries more sentiment by writing a note or a letter to your child so they can write back. You can also write to relatives and friends and have your child see what you are doing. When you get a reply, you can share the experience with your child - how it made you feel valued and what it genuinely means to you.

If you are feeling creative, you could write a story, poem or song for your child. This is not only a great way to encourage your child to write, but it is an opportunity to bond with your child, as you can tailor the piece of writing to them. What better way for your child to experience the true value in writing than experiencing it for themselves!

One of my students was a reluctant writer. Over the Christmas holidays, she had an ‘elf on the shelf’ visit her. Young, she believed in the magic of the elf. She was therefore elated to receive a letter from the elf. She then became engaged in writing to the elf, as she found the elf’s letters amusing and exciting. Since it encouraged her to write, the elf extended his stay until February! Taking on the voice of your child’s favourite toy or character might be the incentive they need to write.  

2. How to encourage your child to expand their answers

We experience the world through our five senses - sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. In English, writers will incorporate sensory imagery to bring their works to life for the reader. 

The 5 sensory imagery used in writing are:






Therefore, encourage your child to engage all 5 senses in their writing. To do this, make it tangible by using familiar objects. For example, ask them to consider what their favourite toy looks like. Pay particular attention to the shape and colour. To help widen your child’s vocabulary of colour, look on paint websites. Not only do they have a variety of colours, but they also have niche, specific colours that will help your child to have greater specificity in their descriptions.

Here are some questions to help your child engage with the visuals their toy:

What shape is it (INSERT PART)?

Is it big/small?

How does it compare to (INSERT COMPARISON)?

Is it pleasing or displeasing to look at?

Here is a great website for description of colour:


Next, encourage your child to explore the sound(s) the toy makes. If it is a stuffed bear, play some bear sounds and ask the following questions:

What is the volume of the sound?

What is the quality of the sound?

Is it pleasing or displeasing to the ear?

Does it sound like anything else?

What onomatopoeia (words that phonetically resemble the sound e.g. Grrrrr, woof or bang!) can you use to create the sound in words?

Here is a great website on sounds:


Then, explore the smell of the toy. Again, consider the following questions:

Is the smell pleasing or displeasing?

Does it remind you of other smells?

What would you like it to smell like?

Here is a great website on smells:


Taste might be challenging. I am not recommending you encourage your child to lick their toys! However, you could ask your child what their toy likes to eat and describe it. 

Here is a great website on taste:


Finally, ask your child to consider the tactile elements of their toys. 

Here are some questions on touch:

What does it feel like?

What is the texture?

Is it pleasing or displeasing?

Is it how you imagine it to feel when you look at it?

Is it warm/cold?

3. How to ‘magpie’ ideas

It is unethical to steal someone’s ideas. However, when encouraging your child to write, it is absolutely fine to ask your child to adapt their favourite stories and to even steal words or phrases. This is effective as it gives your child a framework for their own writing. It also encourages your child to explore the effects of different words and images, thus developing your child’s understanding of different styles and genres.

For example, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven, is a great poem for children to adapt. It opens:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door.

First, ask your child questions about the passage, such as:

Where is set?

Is it cold or hot outside?

How does it make you feel?

What sounds are present?

What do you think the room looks like?

What words, images or phrases stand out?

Next, ask your child to ‘magpie’ any words or phrases. For instance, they might

like ‘weary’, ‘dreary’ and ‘quaint and curious’. 

Then, ask your child to use the opening to write the opening for a sunny day.

For example,

Once upon a midday cheery, while I played, energetic and happily,

With my friends in the park. We soon forget about our homework.

You can also do this with song lyrics, poems, TV and films scripts, speeches, articles - anything! It is a fun exercise that children love!


In summary, if you you have a child who is reluctant to write, it might be worth considering:

The physical aspects: different types of pens/pencils; grips and aids for their pens/pencils, and a sloping desk;

The purpose of writing: create opportunities for real meaningful tasks that require writing;

The way in which we experience the world - use the sensory imagery (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and tactile) to bring their writing to life;

The way your children can ‘magpie’ words, phrases and ideas from works without plagiarising;

The way your children can ‘magpie’ from works by playing with the words, images and structure

June 8

What is positive marking?

In this blog and video, we are going to explore:

- Defining positive marking

- Why positive marking is important

- How to positively mark

After watching the video and going through the blog, you will be able to mark your child’s work in a manner that leaves them feeling satisfied, empowered and motivated to do more. They will have invaluable feedback that will allow them to take actionable steps to improve their work.

We all require feedback. It serves the purpose of:

- Improving performance

- Measuring how what is done meets the criteria of the task

- Empowering someone to take steps to find out more

In school, students receive marks for their classwork, homework and assessments. To make the marking meaningful, teachers have been encouraged to not simply tick and cross, but to give feedback so that students can read the teacher’s comments and know what to do next time. 

Defining positive marking
To define positive marking, it is important to look at what it is not in order to get clarity in what it is.
Positive marking is not:

- Making trite positive statements that have no value

- Identifying only what is correct and missing out the mistakes

- Reams of written feedback

- Demoralising and belittling

- Comparing siblings’ work, other children, or yourself when you were their age

Now that we know what positive marking is not, what is positive marking then?

Positive marking is giving positive feedback that allows the child to know how well they have done in accordance to the learning objectives (the point of the task). In turn, this allows the child to identify their weaknesses, so they can take steps to improve. The marking and feedback itself will leave the child feeling empowered and motivated to take the next steps.

Why positive marking is important
No body likes to be wrong; no body likes to feel undervalued. This is why positive marking is crucial. It allows you to nurture the development and growth of your child, without shaming them or hurting their self-esteem.

So often parents look for the flaws and mistakes in the child’s work that they forget the impact of their words. Again, going back to values, what is valuable in this moment? The child, not the work. What is valuable in that moment for the child? It may seem like the work, but it is the parent’s approval and feedback that is of great importance to them. In participating in the marking and feedback process, it offers you the chance to connect with your child, as it is an opportunity to give your child attention and concentrate on what they have been doing.

How to positively mark
We can therefore positively mark our children’s work by following:




By doing this, the tone of the feedback opens and closes on a positive, uplifting note. The Principle of Recency states the last information received is more likely to be remembered. Therefore, your child will feel good, and as we learnt from the previous modules, feeling good is linked to concentration. Thus, by giving positive feedback, you are priming the child for the next task.

As well as following commendation, recommendation and commendation, it is vital that the marking and feedback is tailored to your child. To do this, we can scaffold the feedback by being:

Being specific means making positive statements that are unique to the work, rather than general statement that are applicable to anything. 

When giving recommendations, it is crucial to focus on a single point. This allows your child to hone in on that weakness and then take steps to improve. If you overload them with too many recommendations, they may feel overwhelmed and so may become resigned to do nothing.

The final piece commendation should be supportive so that your child is left feeling satisfied with the marking process and is motivated to progress.

Following this scaffolding process, along with the commendation, recommendation and commendation structure, it will not only allow your child to advance, but it will also give them confidence and pride. They will also build resilience as they are able to take feedback and constructive criticism. 

You may also want to consider encouraging your child to reflect on their work themselves. You can ask them what they felt they did well in; what they think they need to improve in; reflect on how they found the task generally, and then what they would do next time. This will provide you with feedback on how the child perceives themselves, their abilities and their work. You can thus see if your child has low self-esteem, lacks confidence or underestimates themselves. You may also identify a preferred learning style; or, passion for a subject or topic. This can then inform your way of approaching homework and studying. It also helps to encourage your child to take responsibility for their learning and work.

Positive marking outside academia
It is worth noting that positive marking and feedback is not only for academic work. You can tell your child at the end of the day what is working and what is not working, following the structure and scaffold of positive marking. For instance, if your teenager or child followed their routine, you can say how that worked and the impact it made. If, however, your teenager or child did not do something, you can give feedback on the effect of this, but still adhering to the structure and scaffold feedback model. Perhaps it means adjusting the routine; or, just asking your child how they felt and what they think needs to be put in place.

You can also encourage your child to journal their day: what they enjoyed the most; what they liked the least; what would they like to do next time, and how they felt about the day generally. If your child or teenager does not like writing, you could encourage them to be creative: to do a piece of art-work or to build a model that reflects their thoughts, feelings and attitude. For teenagers, it may be difficult to engage them in this, so it might be that you simply have a conversation with them. This should not be weighted and heavy, but light and fun, so maybe do it over dinner. Or, maybe do it whilst spending some time with them. Do not do it whilst they are playing games or Face-timing a friend, since they want to focus on what they are doing in that moment. Consider how you would feel if your child demanded your attention whilst you were talking to your friend or doing something you enjoyed?

Positive marking is an invaluable tool for you and your child. When you mark your child’s work, it offers you the opportunity to create closeness and connection, as the child can see that you are paying attention and concentrating on their work. It is therefore crucial to tailor what is said to your child’s work, with no comparisons to anyone or anything else, so they feel you truly ‘see’ them and do not feel shame.

Adhering to commendation, recommendation, commendation, leaves your child with a positive experience so they are more inclined to take new challenges. Coupled with this structure of positive feedback is the scaffolding: specific, singular and supportive, which ensures that the feedback is concise, manageable and actionable, so that it is not a wasted exercise.


Specific + Singular + Supportive = Satisfaction + Success 

How to implement positive marking?

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Putting into practice positive marking
This piece of work was completed by a 12 year old. His task was to write a story with the title: The Secret. He had to write 500 words. This piece is clearly lacking; however, focusing on what he has not done will be demoralising and demotivating.

Instead, this is the following feedback giving utilising the commendation, recommendation, commendation structure with the scaffolding of specific, singular and supportive:

Well done for completing the homework. I know it is the Easter break and you probably do not feel like doing work, so great job in doing it. You have a clear sense of what the espionage genre entails as you have clearly used tropes (ideas, language and imagery relating to a style) for this style. For example, ‘secret agent’, ‘undercover’ and ‘took cover’.

To improve, consider what stories you like to read. How does the writer make it clear and interesting for you to enjoy the story? Paragraphs are crucial in making your writing accessible to your reader. Moreover, it allows you to develop your story so there is more detail. Do you remember the rules for paragraphs? If not, may I recommend you revise how to use paragraphs and then use them in your story. This will help you to break down your work and allow you to go into more detail.

Overall, well done for completing the task. You have some great ideas that will be engaging once you have used paragraphs to develop them further. 

June 2

Concentration and values

In this video and blog, we are going to explore:

Defining values

- How our values impact our children’s levels of concentration

- Ways we can expound our values in our children’s learning

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will be able to identify your values and see how they impact your child’s learning, so that you can then actively choose what values to expound. 

We all have values. These are what guide our actions and help us to determine what to do when situations arise. For example, if you find £50 on the floor, you may hand it in to the police station rather than pocketing the money, as you value honesty and integrity. If you have an argument with a co-worker, and it is their birthday, you may still send them a card and give them the gift you bought them, as you value kindness and friendship.

It thus goes without saying that we want to instil values in our children. However, it begs the question: how do our values affect our children’s concentration?

Defining values
To ascertain how our values impact our children’s concentration, it is important to define what we mean by values. 

Looking at the etymology of ‘values’, it comes from Latin valere meaning “be strong”, which altered over time to the old French valoir meaning “be worth”. Thus, values can be defined as something we feel strongly about and what we deem worthy.

Since we have seen that concentration is strongly linked to how we feel, it is therefore little surprise that our values have an integral link to levels of concentration.

How our values impact our children’s level of concentration
When encouraging our children to complete their homework or to study, we often lose sight of the child; we place greater importance on the task. This is not what we mean to do, as we value our children more than the work itself, it is just that we see the work as valuable for our children’s future, and so focus on that. 

So, how can we ensure that we place value on our child rather than the work? Firstly, if we want our child to pay attention and concentrate, then we must give our child the appropriate attention. What does that look like?