It's Summer! Which means that the children are at home for at least 6 weeks (here in the UK at least, further afield it can be even longer!). The sun is out and hopefully so are the kids (fully protected against that sun, I hope - those UV rays are dangerous). Children learn so much about life when they are playing with their friends. They learn gravity by falling out of trees. They learn negotiation and people skills by deciding what to do with their friends. They learn maths skills by spending their pocket money on all those sweets. The time children spend playing in the Summer break is invaluable.
But there is always that nagging doubt, isn't there? That feeling of, should they be doing some homework as well? If your child is above the age of seven in the UK, they have probably been given a Summer project, which may or may not be marked when they return to school in September (teachers are busy and in all honesty, these projects are usually not the priority for the new academic year). It is important to keep your child's learning ticking over though, as many children fall back a little over the six-week holiday.
"Summer learning loss by subject: maths - 2.6 months; Reading - 2 months*."
Clearly, this is not ideal. It's not that your child won't make up the lost ground, but how much better would it be for their achievement, confidence, and self-esteem to hit the ground running?
This is where my post comes in for this week. There are a few things you can do that are easily managed and not too heavy for the children.
Let Google do it!
(free, say 'Okay Google, speak to... multiplication tables; mental math)
If you have a Google Home (max, mini or hub), or if you have Google Assistant loaded on your smartphone, you can ask to 'Speak to Multiplication Tables.' This will load a quiz for your child to interact with. I've tried it myself and it's not bad. You don't get to select the times tables, so for younger children, this might not be the best option but for 8-year-olds and above, this is a great way to keep their brains ticking over.
There is also a mental maths game in which you can select varying levels of difficulty. I'll keep an eye out for others, they're not as easy to find as the Amazon ones (come on, Google, sort it out). If you know of any more, please add them in the comment section, or tweet them (@Mr_M_Musing).
You can pick up a Google Home smart speaker here, but they can usually be found on sale periodically, meaning a mini device (more than enough) has been available for a little as £30. Keep an eye out!
Alexa, what you got?
(free, ask Alexa directly)
Not to be outdone, Amazon have a whole host of educational content that Alexa will dutifully facilitate. Kids Math Challenge, Kids Word of the Day Flash Briefing, My Phonics, High Five Maths, Tables Quiz... the list goes on. Amazon have really thought about educational content for the little ones. Or, at least, they have some really good third-party app developers who have thought about educational content for the little ones. You can find a full list if you search for 'Alexa Skills' on the Amazon home page.
I don't have Alexa (an Amazon Echo with Alexa, if we're being pedantic) in my house (Amazon, if you're reading, I'll gladly accept one to review for educational purposes!), so I can't speak to the quality from experience but it will cost you nothing to try and it is something the children can manage independently.
If you would like your own Alexa-enabled device, click here. Or, for slightly fewer pounds, you can do the same thing with an Echo Dot
Just use the internet...
There are a lot of internet-based learning quizzes out there. One that I found for this post was this timed tables quiz (as in, a times-tables quiz that is timed). What I liked about this was that you had the option to choose which times tables you wanted to practise. Again, it is not the only one out there - a Google search (or a DuckDuckGo search, if you're feeling contrary) will reveal so many more. Obviously, I can't comment on the quality of each of them.
I can comment on the quality of Carl's Learning Place though. That one's mine. Following the link will take you to my website that contains multiplication tests (including questions involving division, fractions and word problems), digital escape rooms (more about those here) and something else I am providing for free over the summer...
I'll mark it for you!
Arithmetic revision is great and totally necessary but a child cannot learn through arithmetic alone. It is important that they also practise their writing, reading and practical maths application skills as well.
To help with this, I have added a page on my website (click here) called 'Summer's Cool'. This page has links to writing challenges and ideas and will grow as the weeks go by to include maths challenges as well. There is also a button for you to submit your child's work to me. I will MARK IT and give VIDEO FEEDBACK for FREE! I have been teaching in the top end of UK Primary schools for over ten years and I am currently the education and curriculum advisor to an education software company. I also do private tutoring. However, the Summer break is long and I really enjoy my job, so I have decided to open up my digital classroom to all of you.
Whatever your child has done, writing, maths challenges, a geography project... anything that you would like some professional feedback on, send it to me. It can be any file-type, it can even be just a photo of the work. All I ask is that you let me know your child's first name and their age (I'll also need an email address for the video feedback).
International readers (I know you're out there; I've check my analytics!), I am happy to mark your kid's work, too. It'll be from a UK Curriculum perspective but learning is broadly the same around the world (I just won't be so harsh on spellings!).
Like I said, I am doing this totally for free because I want to give something back. It also won't hurt for you guys to spread my blog around your friends, so please do!
I'll aim to review a different children's book each week and put it on my website (I'll link it here as well). It is so important that your children continue to read at least one book every two weeks. Also, try to shake up the authors a little bit. Reading is the backbone of all learning; if you can't read and understand what you're reading quickly and confidently, you will have trouble in pretty much every area of learning.
In the UK, the libraries are once again hosting their Summer Reading Challenge. This is great way to encourage children to not only read but also visit their local library (an endangered species in the UK). They will receive prizes each time they complete a book and a special certificate in September if they manage to get through 6. I cannot recommend it enough. Their website is pretty cool, too (here).
It's not just the children reading to themselves though. Do not underestimate the power of the bedtime story. It is a fantastic way to introduce children to books that are maybe a little too difficult for them to read independently, or to open them up to authors and genres they wouldn't necessarily choose for themselves. Do you have a favourite book from your childhood? Share it with your kid! It'll be all the more special to them because it is special to you. I know we're all time-poor, but it is worth the 10-minute investment.
If you're truly stuck, get Google or Alexa to do it but please, PLEASE, send them to be with a book; not with a DVD.
That's about it from me today - I have to pick up some paddling pools for my dog (don't ask). Again, please leave any questions or comments below - I'm thrilled that these posts are being read by people and would love to get know some of you!
If you want me to mark your child's work, the link again is here and, again, this is totally free. Just your child's work, their first name and age, and your email address (so I can send you the feedback).
Have a wonderful Summer break, enjoy the sunshine but remember to protect your skin!
Carl Headley Morris
@Mr_M_Musings firstname.lastname@example.org bit.ly/carlslearningplace