How to support your child’s learning

Reading with your child and helping them with writing and spelling can really help boost their achievement. Basic mathematical skills are also worth practicing at home because they’re fundamental to your child’s progress. This page contains useful tips and links that can be used to support your child’s learning out of school.

Homework

Not only is a homework an opportunity for children to consolidate their learning at school, but it also gives parents a chance to become involved in their learning.

Good homework habits

  • Find a quiet place at home to use as a homework area. It needs a flat surface, a good light source and the right equipment, e.g. pens, pencils, ruler.
  • Be aware of modern teaching methods; examples of calculation strategies can be found in the Maths section below
  • Create a homework timetable and agree on when your child will do their homework
  • Discuss any homework tasks with your child and how they connect with what they are studying at school
  • Turn off the TV, but you could have music on if they find it helpful
  • Don’t give your child the answer in order to get a task finished; instead, explain how to look up information or find a word in a dictionary
  • Don’t let homework become a chore; keep it fun and make it a special time that you both look forward to

Promoting reading at home is an important way for parents to help their child. We recommend reading at home five times a week in all year groups using the school-provided book.

Reading tips

  • When reading with your child, make the experience interactive: ask questions about the story, pictures and what they think of the character
  • Expose your child to a range of texts, e.g. fact books, comics and newspapers, in addition to their reading book provided by the school
  • Use dictionaries together for difficult words; a picture dictionary can make exploring language more interesting for younger children
  • Keep an eye out for the themes that catch your child’s imagination, and follow them up with more reading
  • When you come across an unusual or funny-sounding word, help your child to find out what it means
  • Encourage them to pick up other books around the house to boost familiarity with ‘grown-up’ language
  • Encourage your child to write down thoughts on the books they have read by keeping a reading journal
  • Look for words in everyday life: read newspaper headlines, shop signs or menus in cafes
  • Let them see adults reading
  • Listen to story tapes

Reading questions

Questions about locating and retrieving information
Fiction
  • Where and when does the story take place?
  • Who was the character that?
  • Show me in the text where you found
  • What is happening at this point, or in this part, of the story?
  • Find one or two things that the main character did in this part of the story
Non-fiction
  • Where can you find an important piece of information about?
  • Find two pieces of information that tell you about
  • What does this part of the text tell us about?
  • Which part of the text tells us about?
Questions about inference and deduction
Fiction
  • Why was important in this story?
  • Did any characters help each other in this story? How did they do this?
  • Tell me about what sort of person a character is from the things they did and said in the story
  • What do you think a character’s thoughts were at this point in the story? Use the text to help you think through your answer.
  • If you were going to interview one of the characters, which questions would you ask and why?
  • Which is the most interesting/exciting/funny/scary part of the story? Which is your favourite part? Why? Which part of the text shows this?
  • How did one of the characters change their ideas/attitudes during the story? What was it that brought about this change?
  • In this part of the story, what do you think the character feels about? How can you tell?
  • What do you think would have happened if?
  • Write or tell me about one important event that happened that could not be left out. Why was it so important?
  • Did any of the characters show their feelings? How and why did they show these feelings?
  • Why was a character angry/upset/pleased/puzzled in this part of the story?
  • If had not done , how might this have changed other events in the story?
  • What you think is going to happen next? Why do you think this?
  • Which part of this poem did you like best? Why?
  • How do you think this story will end? How should it have ended?
  • Can you tell me what word the poet might have used instead? Why?
Non-fiction
  • How do you know that?  Can you explain why?
  • How do you know that this text is trying to tell you more about?
  • Do you agree with the author’s opinion? Explain your own opinion using the texts to help you.
  • How do you feel about this topic? Why?
  • What is your opinion of? Can you support your view with evidence from the text?
  • What do you think are the important points the author is trying to get over to you as the reader?
  • Which do you think are the most important issues and why?
Questions about the layout and organisation of a text
Fiction
  • How has the author organised the writing?
  • Why does the author begin a new paragraph here?
  • How does the layout of this playscript help actors to read and perform the play?
  • Why are brackets used in this playscript?
  • How does the punctuation help you as the reader of this poem/playscript?
  • What are the main events that happen in this/each paragraph?
  • Can you find any repeated patterns in this poem?
Non-fiction
  • Why are particular words/sections within a text in bold or italics or larger print?
  • Why have bullet points/numbers been used in this text?
  • How does this text layout help the reader?
  • Why has this text been highlighted?
  • How does a diagram/picture/caption help you to understand the information on this page?
  • What is the purpose of the list/diagram/caption/sub-headings in this text?
  • Why has some of the information been presented in a table?
  • What is the main idea of this/each section or paragraph?
  • What would be a good heading for this section? Why?
Questions about the author’s choice of words and phrases
Fiction
  • How has the author used words or phrases to make this character funny/sad/adventurous/clever/frightening/excited/disappointed?
  • What does this word tell you about a character?
  • Which part of the story best describes the setting/characters/action? Which words and phrases do this?
  • Find and copy some words or phrases that show us that a character is special/helpful/adventurous/unsure/worried
  • Why is a good title for this story/book/chapter/play?
  • Do you notice anything special or unusual about the words the poet has used here?
Non-fiction
  • What do these words tell you about?
  • Which words/phrases/types of sentences are used well in this text?
  • Is this writer an expert?  How do you know?
  • Why do you think the writer chose to use these words or phrases to describe?
  • Why do you think the author chose as the title/headline/heading?
  • Find something that is not a fact but the author’s opinion
Questions about the writer’s intent and the reader’s point of view
Fiction
  • Did you enjoy reading the story/play/poem or not? Explain your answer by referring to the characters, events and how it made you feel.
  • How did the story make you feel? Why did it make you feel like this?
  • Why do you think the author chose this particular setting for this poem/story/play?
  • How has the author stated in an interesting way? How does this make you want to read on?
  • How do you feel when you read this poem? Which parts make you feel like this?
Non-fiction
  • What does the writer think about in this part of the text?
  • Why do you think the writer produced this article/leaflet/flyer/brochure?
  • How does the writer try to persuade you to?
  • Which information does the writer include to make you believe that?
  • Which words/points do you think are the strongest in persuading the reader to?
  • Why do you think the writer says?
  • Why do you think the writer included details about?
  • Which advert or text would most persuade you to buy or take part in? Why?
  • If was alive today, he/she would he be arguing for?
Questions about origin and cultural influences in a piece of text
Fiction
  • Read these two poems. What do they have in common? How are they different?
  • When do you think this story/poem was written? How do you know?
  • In which country do you think this story takes place? Why?
  • Does the setting remind you of a setting you know from another story or poem?
  • Do you know any other stories like this? Tell me why they are alike.
  • Do you know another story with similar characters? Tell me how they are similar.
  • Many traditional tales have messages. What do you think this story is trying to tell us?
Non-fiction
  • What kind of a text is this? How do you know?
  • When you have read these two texts, can you explain how they are similar, and how they differ?
  • Do you know of any other texts with similar issues or themes?

Resources

  • A printable copy of these questions
  • Oxford Owl: Supporting parents and carers with learning at home

All of our children enjoy a daily maths lesson, but an easy way to boost their skills and motivation is by showing them how useful mathematical skills are in almost everything they do.

To support their mental maths skills, you can help by regularly practicing times tables and division facts. Also practice simple addition and subtraction calculations, e.g. 45 + 45, and “what do I add to 3 to make 10?”

Practical maths

  • Measuring their height and working out how much they’ve grown
  • On car journeys, adding and subtracting with road sign numbers and number plates, and thinking about speed by dividing distance by time
  • At the shops, weighing fruit and vegetables, working out change, budgeting with pocket money, and working out the value of products by comparing prices and weight
  • In the kitchen, weighing and measuring ingredients, temperature and timings
  • Making 3D models and finding different shapes around your home

Memory activities

  • Make up a rap or rhyme e.g. “nine times five are forty five snakes alive”
  • Have a ‘fact of the week’ displayed in a prominent place
  • Speak in a different voice, e.g. low or squeaky
  • Put actions to facts, e.g. clapping or jumping
  • Make and display posters
  • Use everyday objects (e.g. buttons or lego) to illustrate groups and build on them to make multiplication facts
  • Create flashcards and play games
  • Run speed tests, e.g. how many can they get right in one minute? Can they improve on their previous score?

Resources

  • Figure this! Maths challenges for families
  • Grid Club: Channel 4’s educational website with loads of fun activities and games
  • Primary Games: Simple maths games which are fun and help children to practice maths all areas of the numeracy curriculum

Handwriting

Help your child to see writing skills not only as fun, but as something important and to be proud of. It’s easier to get into good handwriting habits early on than to correct later. Teachers will model how to form letters correctly, so that children can eventually acquire a fluent and legible handwriting style. These skills develop over a long period of time.

A child’s ability to form a letter correctly is a separate skill from phonics. Holding a pencil needs considerable co-ordination, and practice in making small movements with hands and fingers. Games that help co-ordination include throwing a ball at a target, skipping, throwing a Frisbee and bouncing a ball. Cutting, tracing, threading beads and completing puzzles all help with hand-eye coordination. It is also important that children hold a pencil properly as they write. The ‘pincer’ movement can be practiced by using tongs, tweezers or pegs.

Grammar and punctuation

A helpful list of grammatical words and their definitions

  • Abbreviation: a shortened version of a word or group of words, e.g. PTO (please turn over)
  • Accent: features of pronunciation vary according to the speaker’s regional and social origin
  • Acronym: an abbreviation which is made up of the initial letters of a group of words and is pronounced as a single word, e.g. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
  • Acrostic: a poetic form which is organised by the initial letters of a key word, either at the beginning of lines, or with lines arranged around them, e.g. Wind
    Whistling wildly blowing
    In a rain
    Northern round
    Direction and round
  • Active and passive: many verbs can be active or passive. For example, bite
    • The dog bit ben (active)
    • Ben was bitten by the dog (passive)
    • In the active sentence, the subject (the dog) performs the action. In the passive sentence, the subject, Ben, is on the receiving end of the action. The two sentences give similar information, but there is a difference in focus. The first is about what the dog did; the second is about what happened to Ben.
  • Adjective: a word that describes somebody or something. Oldwhitebusycareful and horrible are all adjectives
  • Adverb: give extra meaning to a verb, an adjective, another adverb or a whole sentence. Many adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective, e.g. quicklydangerouslynicely, but there are many adverbs which do not end in -ly. In many cases, adverbs tell us
    • How (manner): slowlyhappilydangerouslycarefully
    • How often (frequency): onceneverregularly
    • Where (place): herethereawayhomeoutside
    • When (time): nowyesterdaylatersoon
    • An adverbial phrase is a group of words that functions in the same way as a single adverb. For example: by carto schoollast weekthree times a dayfirst of all.
  • Agreement (or concord): in some cases the form of a verb changes according to its subject (so the verb and subject ‘agree’)
    • I am/he is/they are
    • I was/you were
    • I like/she likes
    • I don’t/he doesn’t
  • Alliteration: a phrase where adjacent or closely connected words begin with the same phoneme, e.g. one wet wellington, free phone, several silent, slithering snakes
  • Anecdote: a brief written or spoken account of an amusing incident, often used to illustrate a point
  • Antonym: a word with a meaning opposite to another, e.g. hot/cold, light/dark, light/heavy. A word may have more than one word as an antonym e.g. cold and hot/warm or big and small/tiny/little/titchy.
  • Apostrophe (‘): a punctuation mark used to indicate either omitted letters or possession, e.g. I’m (I am), they’ve (they have), we’re (we are), who’s (who is/has), he’d (he had/would), it’s (it is/has), my mother’s car, Joe and Fiona’s house, the cat’s tail
  • Appendix: a section added to a document which offers non-essential or illustrative information
  • Article: a, an, the
  • Audience: the people addressed by a text; the term refers to listeners, readers of books, film/TV viewers and users of information technology
  • Autobiography: a life story of an individual written by that person; generally written in the first person
  • Auxiliary verbs: verbs that are used together with other verbs, e.g.
    • We are going
    • Lucy has arrived
    • Can you play?
    • In these sentences, goingarrived and play are the main verbs; arehas and can are auxiliary verbs, and add extra meaning to the main verb
  • Biography: a life story of an individual written by another author; generally written in the third person
  • Blend: the process of combining phonemes into larger elements such as clusters, syllables and words; also refers to a combination of two or more phonemes, particularly at the beginning and end of words, e.g. st, str, nt, pl, nd
  • Blurb: information about a book, designed to attract readers, usually printed on the back or inside flap of the book’s jacket; it informs the reader about the genre, setting, etc.
  • Calligram: a poem in which the calligraphy, the formation of the letters or the font selected, represents an aspect of the poem’s subject, e.g. a poem about fear might be written in shaky letters to represent trembling
  • Character: an individual in a story, play or poem whose personality can be inferred from their actions and dialogue; writers may also use physical description of the individual to give readers clues about a character
  • Chronological writing: writing organised in terms of sequences of events
  • Cinquain: a poem with a standard syllable pattern, like a haiku, invented by Adelaide Crapsey, an American poet; five lines and a total of 22 syllables in the sequence 2, 4, 6, 8, 2
  • Clause: a group of words that expresses an event (she drank some water) or a situation (she was thirsty); it usually contains a subject (she in the examples) and verb (drank/was)
  • Colon (:): a punctuation mark used to introduce a list or a following example; it may also be used before a second clause that expands or illustrates the first, e.g. He was very cold: the temperature was below zero
  • Comma (,): A comma is a punctuation mark used to help the reader by separating parts of a sentence. In particular we use commas
    • To separate items in a list (but not usually before and)
      My favourite sports are football, tennis, swimming and gymnastics
      I got home, had a bath and went to bed
    • To mark off extra information
      Jill, my boss, is 28 years old
    • After a subordinate clause which begins a sentence
      Although it was cold, we didn’t wear our coats
    • With many connecting adverbs (e.g. howeveron the other handanyway)
      Anyway, in the end I decided not to go
  • Comprehension: the level of understanding of a text
  • Inferential: the reader can read meanings which are not directly explained; for example, the reader would be able to make inferences about the time of year from information given about temperature and weather, and from characters’ behaviour and dialogue
  • Evaluative: the reader can offer an opinion on the effectiveness of the text for its purpose
  • Conjunction: a word used to link clauses within a sentence, e.g. in the following sentences, but and if are conjunctions
    It was raining but it wasn’t cold
    We won’t go out if the weather’s bad
  • Connective: a word or phrase that links clauses or sentences; connectives can be conjunctions (e.g. butwhen, because) or connecting adverbs (e.g. howeverthentherefore)
  • Consonant: letters of the alphabet except a, e, i, o and u
  • Couplet: two consecutive lines of poetry which are paired in length or rhyme
  • Dash (—): a punctuation mark used especially in informal writing (such as letters to friends, postcards or notes), e.g.
    The presents were under the tree — I was amazed how many there were!
  • Dialect: a dialect is a variety of a language used in a particular area and which is distinguished by certain features of grammar or vocabulary.
  • Dialogue: a conversation between two parties, which may be spoken or written
  • Digraph: two letters representing one phoneme, e.g. ch /ur /ch
  • Direct and indirect speech: there are two ways of reporting what somebody says: direct speech and indirect speech.
    • In direct speech, we use the speaker’s original words (as in a speech bubble). In text, speech marks (‘single’ or “double quotes”, also called inverted commas) mark the beginning and end of direct speech, e.g.
      Helen said, ‘I’m going home’
      ‘What do you want?’ I asked
    • In indirect (or reported) speech, we report what was said but do not use the exact words of the original speaker. Typically we change pronouns and verb tenses, and speech marks are not used, e.g.
      Helen said that she was going home
      I asked them what they wanted
  • Double negative: in non-standard English, a double negative may be used, e.g. We didn’t see nobody or I never took nothing; such double negatives are not acceptable in standard English
  • Draft: a preliminary written form of document; a text may develop through a number of drafts before reaching final draft stage, at which time it may be published
  • Edit: to modify written work, either one’s own or another’s, in preparation for publication
  • Ellipsis: the term used for three dots (…) which show that something has been omitted or is incomplete
  • Empathy: identifying with a character in a story, or a historical figure; the ability to see situations from another’s point of view
  • Epic: a poem or story relating the adventures of a heroic or legendary figure, often related to national identity, as Odysseus or Arthur
  • Etymology: the study of the origin and history of words
  • Exclamation: an utterance expressing emotion (e.g. joy, wonder, anger, surprise) that is usually followed in writing by an exclamation mark
  • Exclamation mark (!): a punctuation mark used at the end of a sentence to indicate strong emotion, e.g.
    What a pity!
    Get out!
    It’s a goal!
    Oh dear!
  • Fable: a short story which is devised and written to convey a useful moral lesson; animals are often used as characters, as in Aesop’s Fables
  • Fiction: text (characters, setting and events) which is invented by a writer or speaker; in some cases, one of these elements may be factual, e.g. the setting may be a real city or area, or the text may be based on a historical event
  • Glossary: part of a text, often an appendix, which defines terms the writer thinks may be unfamiliar to the intended audience
  • Grapheme: a written representation of a sound that consists of one or more letters, e.g. the phoneme can be represented by the graphemes s, se, c, sc and ce, as in sun, mouse, city and science
  • Haiku: a Japanese form of poetry; a haiku has three lines and 17 syllables in total, in the pattern 5, 7, 5, e.g.
    Loving, faithful, fun
    Trusting and loyal and true
    Chocolate-brown Suki
  • Half-rhyme: words which almost rhyme, e.g. polish/relish and pun/man
  • Homograph/homonym: a word that has the same spelling as another, but a different meaning, e.g.
    The calf was eating
    My calf was aching
  • Homophone: a word that has the same sound as another, but a different meaning or spelling, e.g. read/reed, pair/pear or right/write
  • Hyphen (-): a punctuation mark used to join the two parts of a compound noun, e.g. golf-ball and proof-read; it is much more usual for such compounds to be written as single words (e.g. football, headache, bedroom) or as separate words without a hyphen (e.g. golf ball, stomach ache, dining room, city centre)
  • Idiom: an expression which is not meant literally and whose meaning cannot be deduced from knowledge of the individual words, e.g. You look a bit under the weather this morning
  • Kenning: a compound expression used in Old English and Norse poetry, which names something without using its name, e.g. a mouse catcher is a cat; Anglo-Saxons often used kennings to name their swords, e.g. death bringer
  • Legend: a traditional story about heroic characters such as King Arthur, which may be based on truth, but which has been embellished over the years; it also refers to the wording on maps and charts which explains the symbols used
  • Limerick: a five-line comic verse following the syllable pattern 8 8 6 6 8, with the rhyme scheme A A B B A; early limericks, such as the nonsense verse of Edward Lear, repeat line one as line five, but recent verse does not always follow this model
  • Metaphor: a way of describing something as if it were really something else, e.g. the moon is a giant golfball in the sky
  • Mnemonic: a device to aid memory, for instance to learn particular spelling patterns or spellings, e.g. Big Elephants Can’t Always Understand Small Elephants, or There is a rat in separate
  • Modal verb: the modal verbs are
    • Can/could
    • Will/would
    • Shall/should
    • May/might
    • Must/ought
  • Morpheme: the smallest unit of meaning; a word may consist of one morpheme (e.g. house), two morphemes (e.g. house/s or hous/ing) or three or more morphemes (e.g. house/keep/ing or un/happi/ness)
  • Myth: an ancient traditional story of gods or heroes which addresses a problem or concern of human existence; may include an explanation of some fact or phenomenon
  • Non-chronological writing: writing organised without reference to time sequence; typically, writing organised by characteristics and attributes, for example, a report on a town might be organised into population, situation and facilities
  • Noun: a word that denotes somebody or something; in the sentence My younger sister won some money in a competition, sister, money and competition are nouns. Many nouns can be singular (only one) or plural (more than one). A collective noun is a word that refers to a group, e.g. crowd, flock, team. Proper nouns are the names of people, places and organisations; these normally begin with a capital letter, e.g. AmandaBirmingham, MicrosoftIslamNovember
  • Onomatopoeia: words which echo sounds associated with their meaning, e.g. clang, hiss, crash, cuckoo
  • Opinion: a belief held by an individual or group for which there is insufficient evidence for it to be accepted as fact
  • Palindrome: A word or phrase which is the same when read left-right or right-left, e.g. madam, mum, dad, eve, pup or straw, no, too stupid a fad; I put soot on warts
  • Parable: a short story told to illustrate a moral lesson or duty
  • Paragraph: a section of a piece of writing. A new paragraph marks a change of focus, a change of time, a change of place or a change of speaker in a passage of dialogue; it begins on a new line, usually with a one-line gap separating it from the previous paragraph. Some writers also indent the first line of a new paragraph. Paragraphing helps writers to organise their thoughts, and helps readers to follow the story line, argument or dialogue.
  • Personification: a form of metaphor in which language relating to human action, motivation and emotion is used to refer to non-human agents, objects or abstract concepts, e.g. the weather is smiling on us today or Love is blind
  • Persuasive text: one which aims to persuade the reader. A persuasive text typically consists of a statement of the viewpoint, arguments and evidence for a view, together with some arguments and evidence supporting a different view, and a final summary or recommendation.
  • Phoneme: the smallest unit of sound in a word
  • Phrase: a group of words that act as one unit; if dog is the word, the doga big dog or that dog over there are all phrases
  • Portmanteau: a word made by blending two others, e.g. swear + curse = swurse, picture + dictionary = pictionary, smoke + fog = smog, breakfast + lunch = brunch
  • Prefix: a morpheme which can be added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning, e.g. inedible, disappear, unintentional
  • Preposition: a word such as atoverby and with; prepositions often indicate time (at midnight/during the film/on Friday), position (at the station/in a field) or direction (to the station/over a fence)
  • Pronoun: words that take the place of nouns; there are several kinds, including
    • Personal pronouns: I, meyouhehimsheherweustheythemit
    • Possessive pronouns: mineyourshishersourstheirsits
    • Reflexive pronouns: myselfherselfthemselves
  • Proofread: to check a piece of work thoroughly before final publication
  • Proverb: a saying, which may have changed little over time, which states a belief about the world, e.g. the early bird catches the worm, too many cooks spoil the broth and the grass is always greener on the other side
  • Question mark (?): a punctuation mark used at the end of an interrogative sentence (e.g. Who was that?) or one whose function is a question (e.g. You’re leaving already?)
  • Recount text: a text written to retell what happened for information or entertainment
  • Reference text: an informational text organised in a clearly defined way, e.g. alphabetically, and used for study purposes
  • Rhetorical question: a question which does not require a response
  • Rhyme: occurs when words share the same stressed vowel phoneme, e.g. she/tea, way/delay and subsequent consonants, e.g. sheet/treat, made/lemonade, as well as final unstressed vowels, e.g. laughter/after
  • Riddle: a question or statement, sometimes in rhyme, which forms a puzzle to be solved by the reader or listener
  • Segment: to break a word, or part of a word, down into its component phonemes, e.g. c-a-t
  • Semi-colon (;): a punctuation mark used to separate two main clauses in a sentence, e.g. I liked the book; it was a pleasure to read. This could also be written as two separate sentences: I liked the book. It was a pleasure to read. Semi-colons can also be used to separate items in a list if these items consist of longer phrases, e.g. I need large, juicy tomatoes; half a pound of unsalted butter; a kilo of fresh pasta, preferably tagliatelle; and a jar of black olives
  • Simile: the writer creates an image in readers’ minds by comparing a subject to something else, e.g. as happy as a lark
  • Skim: read to get an initial overview of the subject matter and main ideas of a passage
  • Suffix: a morpheme which is added to the end of a word, e.g. -ed, -ing, -es
  • Syllable: each beat in a word; words with only one beat (e.g. cat, fright, jail) are called monosyllabic; words with more than one beat (super, coward, superficiality) are polysyllabic
  • Synonym: a word which has the same (or very similar) meaning as another, e.g. wet/damp; it avoids the overuse of a word and adds variety
  • Synopsis: a brief summary or outline of a paragraph, chapter or book
  • Syntax: the study of sentence structure, i.e. how words are used together in a sentence
  • Tense: is a verb form that most often indicates time; English verbs have two basic tenses, present and past
  • Trigraph: three letters representing one phoneme, e.g. igh, dge
  • Verb: a word that expresses an action, happening, process or state; it can be thought of as a ‘doing’ or ‘being’ word

To be completed.