Vlog 2 – Understanding the Brain and how it affects learning.

Here you go, my second video blog talking about the Triune Brain and how different parts of the brain control our emotions and how we engage in learning. Understanding this will help you to appreciate that some ‘stroppy teenagers’ may come with a story you may need to appreciate and understand. 


Charting progress to boost self confidence and esteem.

It is sometimes difficult to convince a child or young person that they really are doing well and making progress in school. Being able to appreciate the ‘bigger picture’ is a concept that is hard to grasp and the only way to truly convince young people they are doing well is to find a way to illustrate this clearly. There are many ways that you can demonstrate progress in a child friendly way. On a simple level we can relate this to saving money using a piggy bank whereby progress is clearly seen by a gradual increase in coins deposited.


Progress stops being made if coins are not continued to be added or regression occurs if money is taken out. The bottom line here is that progress shown in this way is very tangible and visual and can be used as a motivator.

The same principle can be applied to illustrating progress in social, emotional and academic areas of school. Adding sweets to a jar or colouring bars of a totaliser each time a positive behaviour is observed can offer more frequent rewards and avoid issues of delayed gratification. Academically progress can be shown equally as well. The image below demonstrates this.


So long as results are collected and plotted it is easy to show progress over time. Take the first bar chart for example. This was something I used with an A Level group who were preparing for their AS examination. Preparing for an exam involves practice using past examination papers and mark schemes. The graph shows progress over 7 past papers that were sat, marked and re-sat in the period leading up to the exam. As the results were plotted on the graph, students could see how much more success they were achieving and how at the point leading in to the exam they were achieving 78-80% correct. Having used so many past papers, they also confidentially recognised the format of 95% of the questions answered on the day of the exam and stress levels were greatly reduced.

The line graph illustrates an improvement in reading speeds collected over time using http://www.spreeder.com as shown in my blog post about improving reading speed. Any graphic showing an upward trend will be pleasing to see from all angles and can be used to reassure and motivate young people.

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A quick tip to improve reading skills.

Few people realise that many young people (and old!) do not have a reading age that is in line with our chronological age (the age you are today). Reading comprehension (the extent to which you understand what you read) is vital for ensuring young people are able to access lesson materials. One skill that may affect the ability to understand text is the speed at which a young person is able to read. The more efficient the reader, the more fluent and therefore the better the level of understanding is likely to be compared to someone who reads slowly.

‘But how do I know how fast my child reads and how do can speed be improved’? I hear you ask.. This is easy. Check out www.spreeder.com . It’s a free online speed reading tool and is one of the best finds I have stumbled across. It’s great for many reasons but more so because it’s free. Here is what the tool looks like. Simple design and simple to use. Just click Spreed and off you go. But be careful! This tool is set to a default of 300 words per minute which is fast. If you click on the settings tab at the bottom right, you can change this to start with something less swift. Maybe start at 80 wpm and keep increasing until you feel out of your comfort zone. When it becomes easier, simply increase the speed some more.

spreeder 1
 The beauty of this tool is that you can also copy and paste your own text into the box so that you can ensure that what is used to practise with is either of interest or of relevance. It therefore means that this tool can be used for any age and ability (added bonus!!) If this is done regularly reading speed will improve over time and comprehension will too.

spreeder 2


Such a simple way to make a big impact. Keep a record of the young person’s achievements using a chart or graph and let them see their progress grow and grow as the weeks pass.

Happy Spreeding!



Blog days.

Hi all. Hope everyone is well and enjoying the few blogs I’ve posted so far. I just wanted to share the fact that I have decided Tuesdays will be blog days for me. Come back for a brand new blog every week. I’ll post other things in the meantime but the main blog topic will be Tuesdays. This week I will be talking about Multiple Intelligence Theory and what this means for students, parents and teachers. Don’t forget to follow me on twitter https://twitter.com/learnessential.

Bye for now. 

Getting to know you!!

One of the best strategies I have employed as a pastoral leader and Special Educational Needs Co-ordination is probably one of the most logical. In fact, thinking about it, most of what I do in school is about common sense. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an expert problem solver, just an experienced one and my learning is based on the rich experience of the students I have had the pleasure to work with. I have always maintained that building a relationship with the young person and their family from the outset is vital to ongoing success. It’s useful to know what the ‘hooks’ are with the young people we work with. Knowing how we can focus the work we set on the interests and strengths of the students rather than devising mundane generic tasks will always help motivation. It’s important to get updates from parents so I invite and encourage regular communication. I look to the parent as the expert when it comes to the young person and the information I gather is key. Any school worth it’s salt will welcome communication from parents so please don’t wait to be contacted by your child’s school. Be proactive and arrange a meeting to share information you might not think is relevant but could actually reveal little gems of information that can unlock massive future potential. Why not make a real impact and send your child’s school a postcard telling them of your som or daughters latest successes or achievements from home?

Summer Escape: A Teacher’s Guide to Using Time off as a Means to Becoming a Better Educator

nice article.

Discover Thought

Summertime… A time for Teachers’ to practice a different set of 3R’s: Reflect, Rejuvenate, and Respond!

Plain and simple, time off and away from anything helps give another perspective, which supports authentic reflection that can help rejuvenate the soul and inspire a better response. Teachers are not exempt from this rule. That said, let’s take a look at how the summer or time off coupled with mindfulness can later impact student engagement,flexibility, and professionalism (wikihow) with regards to general instruction (Domain 3 and 4 of the Danielson Framework), thus reflect, rejuvenate, and best respond to what life brings.

Generally speaking, student engagement is defined as students on task, but more importantly it also includes helping the students be intellectually active while working though challenging content. The easiest way to help students engage is by creating a structure and procedure that includes a beginning…

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