Sunday, 9 May 2021

Children's Books Reading Round-Up: March - April 2021

 A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll (Knights Of)

I've been a bit behind on this one as it has been around since June last year. In fact, I've had a copy sitting on my shelf for a while and my daughter had already read it and enjoyed it. Oh, and everyone else on Twitter had been raving about it and Elle McNicoll only went and won the 2021 Blue Peter award for best story with this amazing little book. It tells the story of Addie, an autistic girl who decides to campaign to have a memorial to women who were tried and executed as witches in her Scottish village. In the so-called witches she finds a kinship - perhaps they were just different and were persecuted for it? With lots of eye-opening moments, Elle McNicoll portrays what life can be like for several different neurodiverse children and young adults (one of Addie's big sisters is autistic too), celebrating what Addie is capable of because of how deeply she cares. On a personal note, I found Addie's parents to be inspirational - something for me to aspire to!

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll can be found on my Read By My LKS2 Daughter book list on Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/read-by-my-lks2-daughter

The Elephant by Peter Carnavas (Pushkin Press)

I wasn't sure what to expect with this one as on the surface it looks like a story for very young children (KS1) - and it is, but it has depth and beauty that will have something to say to readers of all ages. It reminded me a lot of My Dad's A Birdman by David Almond - which is a very good thing in my books. Olive's mum, an adult reader will surmise from the outset, has passed away, and her dad is grieving. In fact, he is grieving so much that his grief is the size of an elephant - an elephant that Olive sees following her dad around everywhere he goes. Olive decides that she can and must help her dad to become happier again - a huge undertaking for a child - and thankfully her granddad steps in to help her to achieve this, pointing out that she can't manage the task alone. Together, they work to bring some moments of happiness in to her dad's life. No spoilers, but the ending is lovely and very satisfying as an adult who was concerned for Olive's wellbeing throughout the story.

The Elephant by Carnavas can be found on my Children's Fiction - Reading For Empathy book list on Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-reading-for-empathy

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve (David Fickling Books)

I battled against myself with this one - with a publishing date of September I felt that I shouldn't read it until nearer the time. But, being a massive Philip Reeve fan, I couldn't leave it sitting on the shelf any longer. Was I disappointed? Why would I be? This is Philip Reeve and he is a master storyteller! Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep is very different to his previous series of books (Mortal Engines, Fever Crumb, Railhead etc) as it isn't futuristic/post-apocalyptic sci-fi - this time its folksy fantasy set possibly in Edwardian times, but on a remote island in a fictional archipelago of the United Kingdom. There are too, in this story, some aspects of horror, slightly reminiscent of some of H.P. Lovecraft's creations - not the racist bits but the mysterious submerged kingdoms, the strange beings that frequent the shores of the island, and the eerie sense of disquiet that surrounds so much of the action. Having said that, there is a great warmth to this story which is essentially an exploration of what it means to belong to a family as Reeve weaves his cast of richly developed characters into the plot. Given that Philip said himself that things have changed since the proof copy and that the final thing will include a map and chapter header illustrations, I might just have to read it again when everyone else can get their hands on it too.

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve can be found on my Children's Fiction 2021 book list on Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-2021

Can You Whistle, Johanna? by Ulf Stark, Illustrated by Anna Höglund, Translated by Julia Marshall (Gecko Press)

Can You Whistle, Johanna? was chosen as a short read whilst in between books, not wanting to commit myself to anything longer, and I'm really glad I did. Apparently, this book is a bit of a hit in Sweden where a televised version is shown every year, and I think I can see why. Despite the deception (a boy is persuaded by his friend to find himself a grandfather at a local retirement home) this is such a heartwarming story of intergenerational friendship. Berra meets Old Ned and, along with Ulf, they become great friends, sharing experiences and memories, and essentially enriching one another's lives. With a refreshing openness and honesty, this book tackles aging and death alongside its message that fun, fulfilling life is for people of all ages but that we must enable one another to achieve it.

Can You Whistle, Johanna? by Ulf Stark can be found on my Children's Fiction 2021 book list  on Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-2021

Animal Farm by George Orwell, Illustrated by Chris Mould (Faber)

Obviously a book that's been around some time, and one I've read, or had read to me, before. This year it was republished by Faber, only this time chock-full of Chris Mould's lively illustrations. Is it a children's book? Apparently so, and of course it can be read entirely without any political interpretations, however, as an adult I certainly enjoyed it on a new level, trying to match events to my scant knowledge of the Russian Revolution but also pondering the UK's current political landscape too. Chris Mould's illustrations certainly bring this much closer to being a book that today's children might pick up and enjoy, particularly those who are familiar with his illustrations of, say, Matt Haig's books or his version of Ted Hughes' The Iron Man. Energetic in style, the images do a brilliant job of mirroring the descent of the farm's utopian veneer, with Mould particularly nailing the facial expressions and body language of the animal subjects. I'm really glad I re-read this this year, and I'm really thankful for the new version - Chris really makes this new version a visual treat. 

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll (Knights Of)

I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to read this one before publishing this blog post - my reading of late has been taken up more with books about how to better parent an autistic child. However, a lovely rainy Saturday during which my children were miraculously entertained by magnetic balls and screens meant that I got the chance to read the second half of this in one go. And I have to say I was absolutely bowled over by this book. Cora, the main character, is autistic, and this fact is absolutely integral to the plot, this is not just a book about an autistic person. It's actually a sophisticated sci-fi, unnervingly oh-so-slightly dystopian story during which the reader will gain a whole load of insight into what being neurodiverse might be like. Not only is Cora autistic, but Adrien, her best friend, has ADHD. Show Us Who You Are is almost completely different to A Kind Of Spark (although there are some similarities, the main one being the MC's desire and ability to stand up for what is right), marking Elle McNicoll out as a superbly skilled writer, and if she wasn't already, one to watch as she continues to write and publish. In this book she achieves deeper depths and higher heights, smashing the mould of the growing trend for diverse, representative books which focus mostly on highlighting the plight of a marginalised group. Here we have a book that truly shows that diverse characters can and should be seen in any role in any genre and that actually the story is all the better for it. I actually can't praise this book enough.

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll can be found on my Children's Fiction - Reading For Empathy book list on Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-reading-for-empathy

The Beast of Harwood Forest by Dan Smith, illustrated by Chris King (Barrington Stoke)

Pete, Krish and Nancy appear once more in another short but action-packed adventure from Dan Smith. This was another book I picked up knowing I had I would be able to take in the whole story in a short time. School residential stories have an evergreen appeal and they are ripe for a bit of spookiness. Very quickly Dan Smith evokes the necessary aura for a midnight exploration to go badly wrong. With nods this time to comic book capers (I'm thinking Captain America and The Incredible Hulk), The Beast of Harwood Forest taps into some WW2 vibes whilst ensuring that those Stranger Things vibes continue to resonate throughout. Without wanting to give too much away, this high interest/low level reader has a super-satisfying ending - it really is a marvel that a story can be told so well over so few pages. Helping with this are Chris King’s perfect illustrations which, as you can see from the cover, are spot on for the comic book vibes. Inside the pictures are greyscale and Chris works with tone so well that they suit the spooky content to a tee - I am so glad the publishers choose to have these books illustrated. Barrington Stoke books are a must-have for every library, and its books like these that showcase perfectly what they set out to achieve (which you can read more about here).

The Beast of Harwood Forest by Dan Smith can be found on my Children's Fiction - Supernatural & Spooky Tales book list on Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-supernatural-spooky-tales

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

The True Purpose of Year 6

What is the true purpose of year 6?

Whilst writing a blog post about how the true purpose of year 6 isn't preparing for year 7, I got to asking the the above question.

This year and last, due to Covid, year 6 children and teachers have had what has historically dominated their year taken from them: the year 6 SATs. Except that's not what they're called, is it? They're actually KS2 tests which take place in year 6 and therefore their tyranny over the final year of primary school is unjust.

And so, with no further discussion, we will write off preparing for and conducting SATs as being the true purpose of year 6.

If you've read my previous blog posts regarding transition to secondary school you'll also know that I also reject the notion of year 6's true purpose being a year of preparation for year 7.

So, if it isn't about SATs and it isn't about transition, what is the true purpose of year 6? Here are just a few thoughts to answer the question:

  1. Teaching new content - first and foremost let's not forget that year 6 has its own curriculum, and it isn't exactly light on content. The main focus of year 6 should be ensuring that their learning journey continues. The fact that there are no SATs this academic year means that this learning can be focused on the curriculum rather than the test content, and should ensure that the learning continues right to the end of the year and that there is no post-SATs slump.
  2. Consolidating previous content - and before new content can be taught, the reality for year 6 teachers is that previous content must be recapped, retaught and in some cases taught for the first time before they can teach the year 6 curriculum. Much of this content will be essential as they move forward beyond year 6 so it is an important part of the year.
  3. Closure - for children in primary schools (as opposed to middle or all-through schools) year 6 is their last year of a 6-8 year journey, often completed all within the same school. Year 6 is a good year for rounding off the primary experience on a high, not only consolidating curriculum content but some of the other 'soft' skills that they have been developing during their time in primary. It's a time when some children say goodbye to childhood friends as they go their separate ways and so some relationships need that closure too.
  4. Reaching the top - there is something about being the oldest in the school that is almost a rite of passage. And with great power comes great responsibility - children who have been part of school life for several years have an important role to play. Year 6 children of great use when it comes to showing people round, tidying away the nursery toys and being playground buddies to younger children, and this responsibility is good for them too, developing them into more than just arithmetic and grammar machines and providing them with some real life skills.
  5. Maturity - year 6 is a natural time for children to navigate their changing bodies, emotions and relationships whilst in a more familiar, safe setting. It's also a great time for children to be treated as those who are more mature - familiar adults who have seen them grow up are often able to have enhanced relationships with these children as they see them as who they really are: vastly developed human beings, as compared to how they were back in the early years.
  6. Being the best - this is similar to the last two points, but brings in the idea of independence and autonomy as well. As mentioned in point 2, children have already learned a lot during their time at primary school and year 6 is a great opportunity to use and apply all that they have learned, having the responsibility released to them as much as is possible. Year 6 is a great time for children to feel like they can give their all to every project, every piece of work and every opportunity - it is this spirit of independence that will set them in such good stead for secondary school (although they will need to learn to transfer this independence to other areas of school life once in year 7).
Finally, I am most interested in your views on the true purpose of year 6 - I would love to add to this blog post with ideas from others because I am certain there are more aspects of year 6 which could be considered as part of the year group's true purpose.

Put a comment below or send me a tweet on Twitter and I'll add some ideas below!

From @HRWK_Magazine: What Should I Do If a Child Has Finished Their Work?


https://hwrkmagazine.co.uk/archives/4182

A common question, but countless potential solutions. I explore how to use time effectively when a student has finished their work earlier than anticipated.

You all recognise the scene: a line of children stretching from your desk to the classroom door and then doubling back on itself, snaking its way between desks and chairs, children waiting patiently (alright, not always patiently) to have their work seen and to receive their next instruction. To be honest, many of you will have solved the problem of the eternal queue, but the question remains:

What should I do if a child has finished their work?

Read on here: https://hwrkmagazine.co.uk/archives/4182

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

True Transition Begins in September

Life begins at 40 (apparently) and transition begins in September.

In our first 40 years, we don't think to ourselves that we are preparing for the next 40 years. We get on with life and live in the moment (relatively speaking). This living, in most cases, does prepare us for the next years of life (most of us do plan ahead), however the sole purpose of the 40th year is not to ready oneself for the 41st year (although I'm sure there is some mental preparation to do in order to embrace 40). You don't become 40 until you complete your 40th year - I'm not sure anyone spends 39 pretending they are 40.

The above should be true for transition too.

Primary school, done right, should prepare children for secondary school, however it is not the sole purpose. Year 6 might require some mental adjustments in order to be ready for the concept of being in year 7 but it shouldn't be the year where all the actual changes take place. Year 6 should not be year 7 a year early - year 6 has its own purpose too (not SATs and perhaps the true purpose of year 6 is another blog post for another time).

As I've hinted at above, there are aspects of transition that can take place prior to the starting date - the day they walk through the door of their secondary school - and there is quite a lot of information out there already to help year 6 teachers and parents with this (see Emily Weston's blog post, Transition Talks magazine and Liz Stevenson's blog for good examples). After all, it is important that our year 6 children are mentally ready - optimistic, resilient, excited, ready for a challenge - before they arrive at 'big school'.

However, if you're with me so far, we surely must agree that actually the greatest part of transition work must happen once those year 7s are through our doors at the beginning of September (or the end of August for the keen ones).

When I asked both primary and secondary staff on Twitter What would you expect a new y7 child to be able to do independently when they arrive? the answers were many and various:

However, many answers from secondary staff appeared to me to be focused on the expectation that primary children should arrive knowing how to do some very secondary-specific things. Here are some examples:

  • Read and understand a timetable
  • Pack the correct books and equipment for each day
  • Transition between lessons in different rooms in different parts of the school 
  • Have the habit of checking the time themselves and being on time
  • Understanding how to access lunchtime arrangements
  • To know when and when not to ask for help
  • To know when and when not to ask for permission (e.g. to get out of their seat, to take off items of clothing, to go to the toilet)
  • Be used to a different number of break times and lessons
These expectations, focusing on children's ability to organise and manage the school day despite it being very different to what they are used to, were the focus of many answers. Such expectations will vary from school to school and will even vary from teacher to teacher within each secondary school -children go from learning one school's expectations, and one teacher's expectations, to having to learn a new school's expectations plus 15 different teachers' expectations of the above (even where schools have the most consistent approach to routines, systems and expectations there are bound to be personal differences - see some of the other answers in the Twitter thread for examples of this).

Many such expectations were mentioned seemingly as something which could be talked about at primary school during year 6 so that in year 7 they know exactly what to do.

The problems with this are several-fold:

  • A conversation, no matter how many times it is had, will never trump experience. The only real experience children will get of the above is once they arrive in year 7.
  • Year 6 teachers are often dealing with children heading off to multiple secondary schools - as a result they can only really speak generically about what their class might be facing come September. 
  • Often, or nearly always as is probably the case, year 6 teachers will not have specific knowledge of the routines, systems and expectations of even just one secondary school.
  • Conversations happen at a minimum 5/6 weeks prior to the children actually setting foot in their secondary school - there is a lot of time to forget during that time, especially since the information is highly theoretical and is attached to no true experience.

Of course, there is more that primary schools could do, beyond a conversation. For example:

  • Transition days provide a chance for children to experience a real day in a secondary school, however on those days very few of the above expectations are in place: they don't have to pack a bag full of particular books, or bring the right equipment, or wear the right uniform, or find their way around the school using a timetable and a map. Perhaps transition days could expect more of the above, however doing that may serve to deep anxieties around starting secondary schools rather than put minds at ease - which I do believe should be one of the main purposes of a transition day in the summer term of year 6.
  • The current trend seems to be that primary schools replicate as much of secondary school as possible during year 6: different teachers, different rooms, timetables, a change in pedagogy or classroom environment. However, with all the best will in the world there are many practical limitations to these efforts (building size, staffing etc) and the net result in reality is still this: they have not yet set foot in a secondary school and have not yet had to do full days, full weeks and full terms in what, to begin with, is an unfamiliar environment with potentially alien routines, systems and expectations. In a primary where children are given something intending to represent a year 7 experience, there are still many aspects of primary life that will not replicate secondary life completely (lunchtimes for example). Besides, I would still argue that this approach is the wrong way round, hence my previous blog post and the title and content of this one.
  • Covid seems to have brought about the production of video material which in some ways does away with the aforementioned issues of parents and year 6 teachers not knowing enough about the particular expectations of each secondary school. Video content available online means that children and parents can learn more about secondary life from the comfort of their own homes. This is a positive move, however, as before, does not replicate fully the lived experience that can only be gained by starting secondary school for real.

The fact is that whilst primary schools can go some way to help year 6 children to be secondary-ready, the real bulk of the transition work needs to be done by secondary schools once the children are in year 7. 

September is the time to introduce the new expectations, systems and routines and the key is to be supportive in how they are introduced, following a gradual release of responsibility model. Expecting the finished article in week 1 of year 7 is unrealistic, and kindness and empathy will be required in how new year 7 children become familiar with the new expectations, systems and routines.

And it won't just be a matter of weeks, either. In order to truly embed much of this new secondary-specific practice, children will need months to acclimatise. As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, schools must be aware of the cognitive load that all the newness will put on the brains of these 11- or just-12-year-olds. I know that even as an adult starting a new job in a new school it has taken me months - terms, even - to get to grips with new expectations, systems and routines, even as a deputy head. In fact, each different part of the year brings slight changes to some of the routines and throughout the year there can be constant subtle changes to get used to.

Those of us who work in secondary schools really need to see year 7 as an entire transition year, and we must treat the children with the necessary care and understanding as they learn the ropes. And, as I've also written before, if the expectations are lowered in terms of such practicalities, there is more chance that expectations can be raised when it comes to the all-important curriculum learning that needs to happen in year 7. Plus, if teachers are less stressed out about whether or not a child has read a timetable correctly, packed the right books or tied their tie correctly because they understand that embedding these things will take time, they will have a happier time of it too - no more annoying year 7s.

More from my blog on transition:

Making Secondary Schools Primary-Ready

Three Characteristics of a Supportive KS3 Curriculum

Working Towards a Middle Phase in an All-Through Academy: Potential Logistical Changes for Years 7 and 8

Click the image below to book free tickets for the TransitionEd conference, which I will be speaking at alongside many other wonderful people:


Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Friday, 2 April 2021

Middle Grade Reading Round-Up: February - March 2021

Murder on the Safari Star (Adventures on Trains #3) by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman, Illustrations by Ellie Paganelli (Pan Macmillan)

The third in the series, and I was ready for everything this one had to give. Hal and Uncle Nat once again meet a cast of colourful characters (some of whom you might feel like you know already) in this (dare I say it) enjoyable whodunnit for children. I think it is a fairly brave move to have a murder in a children's book, and the events of the story should rightly raise some discussion points. The book, although an intriguing mystery in an exciting setting (complete with all the animals you'd want from a safari through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia), is a good starting point for discussing good and bad, right and wrong as well as how different people might respond to death. Leonard and Sedgman have really nailed the format in a child-friendly form and those who've kept up with the series will be beginning to be adept at picking up on the clues needed to be sleuthing as they read.

'Murder on the Safari Star' is available now and features on my Children's Fiction 2021 list at bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-2021

Space Oddity by Christopher Edge, Illustrations by Ben Mantle (Chicken House)

A book about life and the things that matter, all rolled up in a story about a boy who discovers he is part-alien. The last book I read by Edge was The Longest Night of Charlie Noon which I felt was aimed at a slightly older age group than Space Oddity - this new one could easily be managed by 8 or 9-year-olds. Apart from being a twist on the classic abducted-by-aliens narrative from the old days of Sci-fi this book is actually a sweet ode to human creativity. Whilst acknowledging that people have done a lot of damage to our planet, it also celebrates the beautiful things that we have created. Of David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' Jake's alien dad says: "...songs... tell us what it means to be alive. This was the most beautiful song I'd ever heard. And a human being had made it. I thought if they were capable of this, then maybe they weren't as primitive as we though they were." Every child who has ever felt embarrassment at how weird their parents can be will relate to this brilliantly-told story.

'Space Oddity' is available now and features on my Children's Fiction 2021 list at bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-2021

Melt by Ele Fountain (Pushkin Press)

Two stories intertwine in the cold, unforgiving Arctic as a subtle message about climate change and human irresponsibility is passed on to the next generation. Bea is a city kid, tired of moving around with her dad's job and suffering bullying at yet another new school. Yutu lives in a remote Arctic village with his grandmother who holds to a simple, traditional way of life. After Yutu decides to try and prove himself as a hunter out on the tundra, and as Bea crash-lands a plane as she flees her father's attackers, they are brought together in the freezing environment and theirs becomes a race for survival. Those who have read and loved Bren MacDibble's books, or Nicola Penfold's 'Where The World Turns Wild' will love this, as will those who have read 'Viper's Daughter' by Michelle Paver ('Melt' is a like a modern-day version). In the mold of a classic adventure story, complete with bad guys but with a truth that must be uncovered rather than a treasure to be discovered, 'Melt' is a testament to friendship, determination and all-important know-how.

'Melt' will be published on 29th April 2021 and features on my Children's Fiction 2021 list at bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-2021

City of Rust by Gemma Fowler (Chicken House)

Sci-fi again, but set in what I assume to be a post-apocalyptic world, ruined by human wastefulness. So far have humans gone with their refusal to reduce, reuse and recyle, that they have taken to flinging their trash into space. However, the poor of the earth are resourceful, and there's plenty they can do with the rubbish, so long as the Junkers can get it down to them. We meet Railey and Atti, her bio-robotic gecko in Boxville, where they are star drone racers. What they don't know is that they have been training for years - training to save the world from the revenge of those who hate the way of life in the Glass City. Fowler's creations are a treat for the imagination and although Karl James Mountford's cover is absolutely stunning I'd also love to see some artistic representations of the world we are shown in 'City of Rust'. In an original adventure, perfect for fans of Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines and Railhead books, Gemma Fowler spins a tale of loyalty, ingenuity and derring-do whilst making an important statement about the potential consequences of materialism.

'City of Rust' is available now and features on my Children's Fiction 2021 list at bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-2021

The Chessmen Thief by Barbara Henderson (Cranachan Publishing)

Historical fiction - probably my favourite genre. Even more so when it is medieval historical fiction. This, set in Norway, the Hebrides and the Orkney Islands in the 12th century, is a Norse tale after Henry Treece's Viking books for children. 'The Chessmen Thief', an imagined origin story for the famous Lewis Chessmen, paints much of the culture in a positive light, including the influence of Christianity. Henderson paints a vivid picture of life for slave boy Kylan as he pines for his mother whilst plotting and scheming to make his escape. The descriptions of people, place and actions great and small are so evocative of times gone by and it is easy to feel that one is there, among the people, able to smell the sea air and feel the excitement brought about by the creation of these innovative and exquisite pieces of craftsmanship. This book is a fantastic addition to the growing number of titles focused on the Viking age, this one made more rare by not focusing on activity post-1066.

'The Chessmen Thief' will be published on 29th April 2021 and features on my Children's Fiction 2021 list at bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-2021

The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke by Kirsty Applebaum (Nosy Crow)

If M. Night Shyamalan wrote middle grade fiction, then he'd write something like 'The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke'. Kirsty Applebaum has already mastered the art of making a reader feel unsettled for the whole duration of a book, and in this one she does it again. Bringing folk tale aesthetics to the modern world, Applebaum spins a supernatural story of life and death. What makes this stand out from some other children's books that might be categorised similarly, is that very little suspension of disbelief is necessary: only does the reader need to allow themselves to accept that Lifelings, people who can prevent others from dying by giving up some of their own life, are indeed real. This brilliantly-spun yarn provokes many moral questions and is a great device to really get children thinking about self-sacrifice and serving others. And once they've read it, get them to think about how clever the title is.

'The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke' will be published on 6th May 2021

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Three Characteristics of a Supportive KS3 Curriculum

The curriculum in key stage three can be one of the aspects of the year 7 experience which most supports the transition from KS2 to KS3. In my all-through academy, the redevelopment of year 7 and 8 in order to better support transition has begun with a revamp of the curriculum. Here are some of the principles we considered as we carried out this work:

A Key Stage 3 Curriculum

  • Should be aspirational and supported in this by logistics
  • Should not focus solely on the learning of facts, but also on the organisation, use and application of facts
  • Provides another opportunity to extend aspects of the primary experience

Should be aspirational and supported in this by logistics

Year 6 children, despite being like rabbits caught in the headlights at times, are not devoid of knowledge, skills or ability. Year 7 is not their first educational experience and therefore it figures that they know stuff and can do stuff already. Sure, the primary and secondary curriculum don’t really join up that well – as acknowledged by its creators – but that’s not really the children’s fault, is it? It is the job of primary and secondary schools to work together to ensure this gap is bridged.

Part of what inhibits this gap being bridged is the fact that Year 6 staff have a dual goal to work towards with their children: helping the children to become secondary-ready and helping them to be SATS-ready. Although I suggest that secondary schools should be more primary-ready (I like that I’ve heard of a school who call their year 7s ‘year 6.5’ to begin with), I do concede that primary schools can be doing things to help year 6 children to be secondary-ready, but SATS get in the way.

Another inhibition in this is a lack of knowledge from both primary and secondary of each other’s curriculum. To this there are two strands: one strand is that teachers are unlikely to have an in-depth understanding of the National Curriculum for anything other than the phase they teach in and the other strand, which is much more understandable, is that teachers are unlikely to have any knowledge of the specifics that are taught in either the secondary schools they feed or the primary feeder schools. Obviously, this is where much work needs to be done both on national and local levels with more training and collaboration clear necessities.

However, even if this work is non-existent or in its infancy, it is possible to aim high with the secondary curriculum. It is most likely that a great many year 7 children have been given the chance to think deeply about a wide variety of matters, that they have been exposed to some high level material in several subjects and have had high expectations placed upon them in varying social and academic situations. Whilst this might not be true for all, it will be for some: a knowledge of feeder schools, including how and what they teach, and to what standard, would enhance the transition for children with regards to what their prior knowledge and skills might be like.

Whilst it is often the case that content needs to be revisited, and in some cases taught for what appears to be the first time, it is worth considering how the brand new secondary school experience might be impeding a year 7 child’s ability to recall prior learning. In stressful situations even the greatest minds struggle to remember things that ordinarily, in less pressured times, they would be able to recall with ease. When year 7s come to a brand new building (a huge one at that), with new peers (and sometimes a lack of old peers), new adults, new rules, an increased expectation of independence in certain matters (getting to school, getting to lessons, following a timetable, bringing correct equipment) and so on – all that stuff that makes secondary so daunting for some year 6/7 children – it might just be that their ability to both recall previous learning and undertake new learning is affected adversely. The cognitive load of starting secondary school is potentially huge.

If this is the case, then surely it would help new children if logistics were changed to allow for the most important thing to take place: learning. Secondary schools might see children settling in better during year 7 if there wasn’t such a wholesale change to the way they do school. Remove particular expectations (don’t lower expectations) regarding some of the above ‘newness’ and use the mental capital gained to focus on learning.

By doing this, year 7 children will be able to engage in debates about the main protagonist in a novel. They will be able to carry out complex calculations. They will grasp new scientific concepts. They will learn new geographical terms. They will be able to use their prior knowledge of historical periods when learning about new ones. They will be able to organise and play team sports. If they aren’t worrying about which lesson is next, what the teacher will say when they find out they’ve forgotten their protractor and so on, they will be able to concentrate on their learning better. If a school is serious about removing these kinds of barriers, they will have to assess and recognise the potential obstacles that are particular to their school and their students.

Should not focus solely on the learning of facts, but also on the organisation, use and application of facts

In the majority of secondary schools, children come from many primary feeders and therefore come with a wide variety of differing curriculum experiences. Some will have learnt about the Tudors, some won’t – the primary National Curriculum is open enough to allow this to happen. Some will have covered aspects of the KS3 curriculum already, and some won’t. This is a source of concern for secondary teachers, one which can often lead to the easier route of planning with the assumption that children haven’t had the necessary prior learning.

This approach certainly means that a teacher won’t be disappointed if children don’t already know something, however it means that some children can become demotivated. Children have an understandable aversion to feeling like their current knowledge and skills are being overlooked; most children like to be challenged and to feel like they are learning something new, or doing something new with what they have already learned. Just as we adults hate sitting through a training session about something we can already do, children can react negatively to being taught the same things over again.

So a curriculum for year 7 needs to be developed with three things in mind:

  1. Stress brought about by great change may be masking the fact that they do actually have the necessary prior knowledge.
  2. Children from different primary schools will have learnt different things
  3. Not all children have the same level of prior attainment, even those coming from the same primary school

What should this curriculum focus on? Of course it should focus on the delivery of knowledge and skills, the balance between the two will be subject-dependent. However, in order to cater to the above three considerations, it should do more than that. It should also focus on the organisation, use and application of facts.

If a curriculum goes beyond the learning of facts, then it can better cater for the variety in prior learning. Whilst some children in a class might need to major on just learning the facts because they are entirely new to them, the children who already know the material from primary school can get on with organising, using and applying the facts. Without going into too much detail (because there is probably a book’s-worth of stuff to say about all that that might encompass), this organising, using and applying boils down to doing something with what they know beyond writing it in their book and storing it in their minds ready to be recalled at a later date.

Framing a unit of work or even a single session with a question that must be answered is a quick way of doing the above. Having a concept-based unit of work where children must think about how particular pieces of knowledge are linked to a given concept could provide opportunities for children to organise facts. Designing units of work that encourage children to draw together knowledge from multiple disciplines provides the scope for children to build schema. Planning sessions and units which require children to make links between the knowledge they have learnt and current events, their own experiences and things that matter to them can provide scope for learning beyond fact retention. Creating a logical sequence of units where children are expected to make explicit connections between prior learning and current learning allows children to do more than just learn the current set of facts or practice the currently taught skills.

The above approach does mean that in any one classroom the depth at which children are accessing the material may differ from child to child, however it does allow for more children to be receiving the level of challenge that they need. Planning a sequence that takes children from learning facts and then on to organising, using and applying them doesn’t have to be an onerous task although it does mean that a traditional three-part-lesson might not always be the order of the day and that groups of children will have varying starting points in each lesson.

It is at this point that I yet again acknowledge that I really need to blog about the development of our own KS3 curriculum!

Provides another opportunity to extend aspects of the primary experience

This point is entirely contextual – specifically based on the experience that year 7s have had in their primary school. When considering how, alongside more primary-like logistics and expectations, a secondary curriculum might give KS3 children a smoother transition from primary learning to secondary learning, it will be necessary to survey feeder schools to gather more information on their curricula.

In our all-through academy the primary curriculum is cross-curricular, particularly in the arts (including English) and the humanities – maths and Science (for the most part) are taught discretely. We have been developing a year 7 and 8 curriculum which bears more resemblance to this approach than it does to a more typical secondary curriculum where subjects are taught separately (again, more of this to come in a future blog post).

The above brief description of our KS3 curriculum may be totally irrelevant to some secondary schools though, where their feeder primary schools teach each subject discretely with no cross-curricular links. Many secondaries will be receiving children who have varied experiences of how their primary curriculum was set up. Moving to a cross-curricular curriculum in KS3 where this is the case may not extend the primary experience at all.

However, at primary school, the majority of lessons in the majority of schools are taught by the same teacher who knows the whole curriculum for the year (something which will probably never be replicated in secondary). Having a KS3 curriculum with deliberate, in-built explicit links would allow multiple teachers to be more aware of the broader picture of everything that the children were learning, meaning that they had a curriculum overview more akin to that of a single primary teacher. Having several teachers of different subjects who know about the whole curriculum is potentially a better next step for year 7 children than having several teachers, none of whom know much about what they will be taught in all their other lessons.

And curriculum is only one step away from pedagogy. It’s difficult to think of one without the other, especially for teachers who have to take the school’s curriculum and work out how it should be taught. Secondary schools could consider their KS3 pedagogy, adapting it to both reflect the primary experience and to prepare for the KS4/5/HE/FE experience: it doesn’t have to just be one or the other, it could form a distinctly different bridge between the two.

Again, context is important – different primaries have different pedagogy and there is no particular way that all year 6 children will have been taught. However, there could be more digging to do here – if primary schools have taken on the whole concept of making children secondary-ready, it is likely that children in upper key stage 2 have already been weaned off things like outdoor learning and more playful experiences. Just because this has already happened, doesn’t necessarily mean that those ways of teaching shouldn’t be present in secondary schools. If secondary schools were willing to employ such pedagogies for their younger pupils, it might then impact back on the pressure that primaries feel to conform to such ways of teaching.

It would seem that a primary lesson will often look quite different to a secondary lesson. There isn’t necessarily any right or wrong in what might be seen as a stereotypical lesson in either phase – each phase could learn things from the other, I’m sure. Some cross-phase observation and conversations between teachers would help to develop ways which KS3 teachers might teach to ensure that their teaching is age-appropriate and not just an attempt to teach 11, 12, 13 year olds in the same way one might teach an older teen.

Whether it is in its design or delivery, the KS3 curriculum can and should support the transition from year 7 to year 8.

Further reading from my blog:

Making Secondary Schools Primary-Ready

Working Towards a Middle Phase in an All-Through Academy: Potential Logistical Changes for Years 7 and 8

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Making Secondary Schools Primary-Ready

We talk a lot of making sure that year 6 children are ‘secondary-ready’. But what if we’ve got that all wrong, or at least partly wrong? What if we actually need to make secondary schools ‘primary-child-ready’?

As a primary-trained teacher who has spent the majority of my career working with UKS2 children, I understand why this is the focus: there is nothing year 6 teachers can do to change the secondary experience – all they can do is change the year 6 children.

In my current role as primary deputy head in an all-through school I have had the privilege of being able to go beyond that, though. I have been able to work with my secondary-based colleagues to work on how we can make our secondary provision more ready for children who are only 5 weeks older than they were when they left primary school.

Starting back at the end of August, it is quite easy to acknowledge, despite the best efforts of primary teachers (in over 30 feeder schools, in our case), that these year 6 children, having been used to the primary experience for the entirety of their time in education, cannot be completely ready for the huge sea change that is secondary school.

Sure, their teachers may have explained timetables, room changes, having their own equipment, typical sanctions, the fact that the building is bigger, lunchtimes and all the increase in independence that is required to tackle all these things, and they may have gone so far as to reflect some of these aspects in their own practice, but without experiencing these things day in day out, inside a secondary school, primary children will not be fully secondary-ready.

They may be emotionally and mentally ready – and this is the true work of the primary school in making children secondary-ready – but even the most well-prepared, excited, practically-minded, optimistic, confident 11-year-old can be flummoxed by which room they’re in next, where that room even is, who is teaching them, which equipment they need, and where on earth the toilets are en route to their next lesson. They may have moved up with a whole gang of their friends and feel super-secure in their relationships, but throw a load of new children into the mix – including great hulking year 11s, and that’s enough to throw anyone, even the most confident, friendly adult who walks into a brand new social situation can struggle.

But it isn’t just primary schools who perpetuate the idea that the only thing we can do to ensure a smooth transition to secondary is make children secondary-ready. It is secondary schools too. And, I really do hesitate to say this as it is very easy to point the finger from the other side. As already mentioned, primary teachers can do very little to alter the secondary experience for year 7 children, but secondary schools have all the power to do so.

With a little thought, some willingness to change the status quo, and probably some collaborative working between primary and secondary staff, secondary schools could really make all the difference. No longer would they have to rely on a plethora of primary teachers to make a whole cohort of year 7 children secondary-ready. If year 7, and perhaps even beyond, was viewed as a time to gradually immerse children (for they are still children) into the ways of secondary school, then that initial culture shock of moving from primary to secondary could be eradicated.

There are many ways this could take form, but there is a general principle to be adhered to, one that many of us a familiar with with regards to learning: reduce the cognitive load.

Coming to secondary school for the first time is overwhelming – overfacing as we say here in Yorkshire. It is a lot of newness. If the number of new aspects of school life are reduced, and children are allowed to focus on acclimatising to a limited number of changes, then they are more likely to feel less overwhelmed and more capable of success in particular aspects of school life.

Then, once certain aspects of school life have become more automatic and embedded, additional changes can be slowly introduced over time so as to build up to a full complement of the necessary aspects of secondary school.

The question for schools is then: which aspects of secondary school life do we want to help acclimatise year 7 children to first?

Each school will probably have a slightly different answer to that question depending on their context, although there are probably common answers: learning, routines for learning, relationships might be some of those common answers.

At our academy we have decided that we want to build relationships and ensure that learning is prioritised, and, as such our first project was to develop a new KS3 curriculum which in some ways reflects the style of curriculum year 7 and 8 children will have been used to at primary school (I intend to blog about this in the future). We have also planned to make lots of logistical changes which support these aims, which I’ve outlined in another blog post.

The changes that we have made, and plan to make, are consistent with the above concept of reducing the cognitive load that comes from making the leap into secondary school. It won’t be the case that the whole of their secondary experience will be like that of their year 7 and 8 experience, but that things will change more gradually as they get older, helping them to become secondary-ready over a longer period of time and accepting that much of secondary-readiness can be developed once they are actually at secondary school. Our approach accepts that year 7 doesn’t have to be a mini-year 11, but that it can be just a few small steps on from year 6, which in terms of child development, it is.

The point of this blog post is not to say this is how to do it, but to say that things could be different, and that if they were, children might transition into secondary school better and in the long term their secondary career could be improved as a result of a more supportive formative experience.

I think I would go so far as to say that things should be different, too: that transition should involve more than a project a few weeks before and after the summer holidays; more than an open evening and a transition day; more than some data being handed from one school to another. It will take a lot of time and effort but if it means that year 7 children get a better deal, and that it has a long-lasting effect on their time at secondary school, I think it is worth it.

Further reading: 

True Transition Begins in September

Three Characteristics of a Supportive KS3 Curriculum

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

(School) Work is Wellbeing

School work, and work, is, or at least can be, a positive contributor to a child or adult's wellbeing.

Often, when wellbeing is spoken of, it is referred to implicitly as some kind of antithesis to working: you can either be doing something which constitutes work (whether that be your day job, life admin, being a parent etc) or something which constitutes wellbeing (insert your own personal example here).

But, as always, the dichotomy is false and unhelpful. If I were to draw Venn diagram to represent work and wellbeing, there should be an intersection: a place where the two meet in the middle.

And this should be true for adults and children alike.

Theory from Deci and Ryan suggests that threeinnate needs must be met in order for humans to achieve a sense of wellbeing: competence, autonomy and relatedness.

All of these needs can be met in the work or school environment.

The need to feel competent

When an adult feels like they have a purpose, that they are useful and that they are doing something worthwhile, this need has a better chance of being met. Work is one such environment where it is possible to feel these things. Of course, work isn’t the only place – lots of people undertake other projects and pursuits which can meet this need as well.

When a child’s work is correctly pitched, and when they know they are learning new things and getting better at things they could already do, this need to feel competent will be met.

The need to feel autonomous

Work has the potential to provide adults with a sense of autonomy – not in all jobs admittedly, but certainly for many teachers there is the chance to plan and teach lessons the way you want them, for example. Again, many of an adult’s other pursuits can also provide the feeling of autonomy.

One of the important aspects of learning is that children are brought to a point where they can practise what they are learning independently. Many schools’ pedagogy takes into consideration the idea that children can have an element of choice in their learning, particularly in the earlier years.

The need to feel relatedness

Being at work provides so many opportunities for relatedness – of course, it does depend on how well you get on with your colleagues. Often in schools there are plenty of opportunities for collaborative work which relies heavily on relationships so it isn’t just the fact that we see people at work, but that we work with people at work, too.

Whether children work collaboratively in school or not, being at school, as with the adults, provides great social opportunities. Even the fact that children are together in a classroom, learning the same things, can engender a feeling of relatedness through the shared experience they are having.

Hopefully, just those brief examples are a reminder that, in the same way that quality first teaching is part of a school’s safeguarding offer, work and school work is part of a school’s wellbeing offer to the staff and children.

When considering the return of all staff and children into physical school buildings on the 8th of March we are right to think about their wellbeing. However, we must not forget that part of what will engender wellbeing in staff and children is the work that they do.

Wellbeing isn’t only served by lovely experiences, mindful colouring, off-timetable teaching and the like; wellbeing is more holistic than that. And I know that you know that – my point is just to remind you that it is OK to prioritise work for both staff and children, and that work in and of itself isn’t always detrimental to a person’s wellbeing.

Work is good for us – we are built to work in one way or another – and if we have a healthy relationship with work, it can actually serve to improve our wellbeing.

And, if any of us, staff or children, are suffering as a result of work, then the above three innate needs can be used to diagnose where changes might be made to the work that we are doing. The answer isn’t simply no work or less work; the answer really is better work – work which better helps to meet our innate needs.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Book Review: 'Front Desk' by Kelly Yang

'Front Desk' by Kelly Yang has already done its thing in the US, and now the excellent folk at Knights Of have brought it to the UK. As such it's already been reviewed plenty of times and has racked up 18,000 ratings on goodreads.com, averaging at 4.41 - all entirely deserved.

'Front Desk', a middle grade novel based partially on the author's own real life experiences as a child pairs the scariness of the immigrant experience with the optimism of a child. In parts the events are very bleak as systemic inequalities are exposed, albeit through the eyes of a young teenager who still has the power to hope for more. Indeed, Mia does more than just hope and this is a story of proactivity and camaraderie, one which celebrates the power and necessity of diversity.

Despite gut-punch moments - when Mia's parents receive the hospital bill after her mum is robbed and beaten, for example - 'Front Desk' is a joyful story, the reader always buoyed by Mia's resilience and fortitude. Her work ethic and ability to problem-solve are inspiring and, although tough to read, children will cheer Mia along through every adversity that she overcomes.

It is true, however, that some of Mia's solutions rely on dishonesty, and this should be discussed openly with young readers of the book. But, more important should be conversations around the harsh treatment of migrant workers, not only in the US but in the UK also. As well as an enjoyable read, this book could also serve as a call to action for children to find out more about the difficulties that people face when they move to a new country in search of employment. Mia and her family, as well as the 'weeklies' (the almost permanent residents of the motel), put a human face to the issue which will help children to understand and empathise with people in a similar position to that of Mia's family.

'Front Desk' is also a loud celebration of how working together, regardless of ethnicity, financial circumstances or age, should be, could be, the driving force behind society. In a world where so much of the media seems to be divisive and reductive in its messaging, it is a breath of fresh air to read something that gets it so right: with a little kindness, understanding and collaboration, things get done! And with a surprise ending that I didn't see coming, I'm all ready to read the next book 'Three Keys' which Knights Of have published simultaneously.

'Front Desk' is available on bookshop.org and is featured on my Stories From America booklist: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/children-s-fiction-stories-from-america

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Book Review: 'The Graveyard Riddle' by Lisa Thompson

Ever since reading Lisa Thompson's first book 'The Goldfish Boy' I've been a fan of her ability to draw humour, mystery and real life together into something that children absolutely can't wait to get their hands on. In fact, in our house, she is one of only a few authors who the majority of us have read: Lisa is up there with JK Rowling in terms of how many of us have read her books!

'The Graveyard Riddle' picks up where 'The Goldfish Boy' left off, this time focusing a little more on Melody Bird as the main character. Again, Lisa deftly includes details of life's difficulties as the backdrop to the story: Matthew is still going to therapy for OCD, Melody's parents are splitting up due to a secret her dad has been keeping from them and the house has to be sold, meaning that Melody has to leave her home. Jake is being bullied by their neighbour and teacher and he is struggling with his behaviour at school - elsewhere in the book quite serious mental health issues are tackled too, as well as neglect of children. 

Although this all seems quite heavy, you'll know if you've read her previous books, that the author treats each issue carefully, sensitively, and in a way that children can relate to. In fact, if children have experienced similar things I think they would be comforted by seeing themselves in a book, and children who haven't experienced these things will have the chance to develop empathy for others who have.

But 'The Graveyard Riddle' isn't at all just a vehicle to tackle the above. Over and above that it is just a cracking mystery story, and one which really gets the reader guessing and then second-guessing themselves.

Melody meets Hal hiding out in an old plague house in a part of the graveyard that she's never visited before. Hal brings Melody into his mission: to apprehend the dangerous criminal, Martin Stone, and together they solve riddles and stake out the graveyard, spying on him as he visits. However, when Melody has to let Matthew and Jake in on what's going on, doubts are raised: is Hal really who he says he is? What is he really doing in the plague house?

'The Graveyard Riddle' is a great read for children and adults alike: Lisa is skilled at writing that dual-layer narrative that Disney does so well, ensuring that there is plenty to appeal to all. In fact, one great angle to this story is the interplay between adults and children: something which isn't always present when children are the protagonists.

Full of heart and warmth, this middle grade mystery is an easy and compelling read, perfect for children in Key Stage 2 and certainly not at all unsuitable for Key Stage 3 children either. And if you're a parent looking for a good read aloud, or a teacher wanting to stay in touch with children's literature, then 'The Graveyard Riddle' is the perfect title for you.

The Graveyard Riddle by Lisa Thompson is available on bookshop.org and features on my Read By My UKS2 Daughter list: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/read-by-my-uks2-daughter

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Beyond SPaG: Advice For Parents When Writing With Children At Home

Hoping for a more positive response, I tweeted the above after seeing a journalist hunting for authors who were 'surprised/angered by what their children are learning about grammar, English etc during home schooling or how they are being taught to write?'. And positive response I got. By all means, click on the above tweet and explore all the answers at your leisure, or stay here and read a summary of the advice that was shared.

Before launching into the advice though, I think it would be wise to give a bit of context. During partial school closure during lockdown, teachers have been providing a remote learning experience for children who are at home. This remote learning provision, however good, cannot mimic exactly the normal ways of working in a classroom that teachers have developed; it has had to be an adapted provision. As such, it would appear that many teachers have felt that SPaG-based activities have been easier for children to complete at home; the teaching of the creative aspects of writing relying more on teacher interaction.

So, what this blog post sets out to do is provide you, a parent at home, with ways of working with your child that will help you to help your children with creative writing rather than SPaG-focused English learning. The ideas below should allow you to work with your child in a way that mirrors more closely the work that their teacher would normally do with them at school.

Reading

Many people pointed straight to reading as the first step in helping children to write. Books can inspire children and they provide a model of what a good piece looks like so they make a great starting point. The theme of reading will reoccur throughout the advice under other headings.

Imagining

Children already have great imaginations - the task for parents is to channel this imagination into their writing. People shared ideas about how to prompt children to imagine things to include in their writing:

Inspiring

An extension of imagining is using pre-existing things to generate new imaginative ideas. If it is proving difficult to capture ideas from your child's imagination then they might just need a little prompting and there are innumerable ways to do that, here are just a few:

Experiencing

Further inspiration for writing ideas can come from the experiences that your child has - it could be everyday experiences, remembered experiences or you could do something a little different to prompt their writing. Whilst experiences are limited during lockdown, getting outdoors should provide some inspiration, especially if whilst out you activate their imaginations with some 'what if' type questions e.g. 'What if this tree were the home to an army of ninja spiders?'

Talking

Writing is about the written word but before the written word there was the spoken word. The spoken word is the best starting place as it provides an opportunity to play around with language, revise ideas and collaborate. Make talk an essential step prior to writing.

Imitating

Imitation can come in many forms and children can attempt to imitate all kinds of writing. You could also work on imitating language that children hear via other media forms: audio books and TV shows, for example.
Practising

Not everything has to be a fully-blown story or piece of writing. Short bursts of writing can be a great way to develop children's writing skills and their enjoyment of writing. Keep these fun and inspiring and your child will most likely happily have a go.

Planning

Planning isn't always the most exciting part of the writing process for children, but it can be made more enjoyable. Much of this can be done orally (see the Talking heading) and can be recorded in a number of fun ways (see the Recording heading).

Recording

Once all the ideas have been thought of, there's the sticky issue of the mechanical part of transcribing all the fantastic things that children have come up with. Some of this advice revolves around writing without concern for SPaG, other ideas are to do with where children write and there are even suggestions around transcription-free writing:

Reviewing

Even in school this bit can be difficult for teachers and children - often children need a break after writing before they are ready to return to what they have written, so bear that in mind. However, it should be possible to work through what has been drafted to make improvements.
Celebrating

This is so crucial in the writing process for children - if you want them to write for enjoyment then they need to enjoy what they have written. Seeing other people enjoying their work is a great motivator too so sharing is essential! Send a copy to Granny, read it over Zoom to Uncle, drop a copy round to a neighbour - the options are almost endless and are bound to cheer someone up!
Publishing

Having a purpose for writing is also a motivating factor - one that might be considered right at the very start of the writing process, rather than as an afterthought. If children know their work will be shared, published or entered into a competition even the most reluctant writer can be spurred on in their writing.
Other Resources

Thankfully, this blog post isn't the only source of advice in this arena. Several excellent experts have produced resources to help parents help their children with writing at home:

Supporting Children Writing At Home: https://writing4pleasure.com/supporting-children-writing-at-home/

Three Steps To Writing from SF Said: http://www.sfsaid.com/2017/01/three-steps-to-writing.html

It’s A Kid’s Life – Lockdown by Kerry Gibb: http://kerrygibb.com/its-a-kids-life/kids-life-lockdown/

Writing Prompts from Beverly Writes: https://www.beverleywrites.com/blog

5 Ways to Engage Reluctant Writers with Creativity from Now>Press>Play: https://nowpressplay.co.uk/engage-reluctant-writers-with-creativity/

Homewriting Workshops from the Candlewick Press YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEqVZlLgos-WN7boUH8tsFWNihT745u9u 

Michael Rosen's videos: https://www.michaelrosen.co.uk/videos/