26 May 2008

Are the School Holidays too Long?

Everyone in the UK is used to us having an academic year that starts in September with three terms (September-December, January-March/April and April-July) of 10-14 weeks with a half-termly holiday week in the middle - October, February and May, two weeks holiday at Christmas and Easter and a six week summer break, but The Institute for Public Policy Research has said studies suggested pupils' reading and maths abilities regressed because the summer break was too long. Instead, the think-tank said the school year could have five eight-week terms, with a month off in the summer and two weeks between the rest of the terms. You can see more details here.

I'm not sure where I stand on this - I can see the point that a six week break is a long time if children are left to 'stagnate' but this is assuming that children only learn at school and we know from experience with pre-school children and those who are home educated that learning can occur anywhere at anytime.

There are always books, educational toys and games available to support children's learning in fun ways during holiday times and although the article suggests that children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not get the same opportunities during the school holidays I think that better advertising and targetting of the 'free' activities / resources that are available to everyone through libraries (both the traditional type offering books, DVDs and computer programmes plus toy libraries where you can borrow toys, games and other play equipment), plus local councils often run subsidised playschemes and activities during the summer holidays.

Another practical reason for needing a six-week summer break is family holidays, if the Government are going to continue their crack down on parents taking children out of school for family holidays reducing the 'window' in which families can take a holiday will mean that the 'peak' holiday price will increase, employers will have to juggle more employees wanting exactly the same two weeks off to go away and children will spend less time at home learning about local atractions and taking part in local activities.

Lastly I'd be concerned that having a ten week block without a holiday break would be exhausting for younger children. They are often becoming ill and tired towards the half-term / end of term especially when it is an eight week half term so parents may end up spending the whole of the 'holiday' weeks looking after an exhausted / ill child - not much fun for anyone.

What do you think?

25 May 2008

Spring Competition Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered Littlesheep Learning's Spring Competition to win a set of 10 in the Bed Song Mitts - it certainly seemed popular.

The answer to the question "What number is shown on the dice?" is Five

And the lucky winner is - Ruth from Chesterfield.

Look out for more Competitions coming soon.

13 May 2008


It doesn't take many words to demonstrate how tricky the English language is when it comes to spelling; try: accommodate, commitment, bureaucracy, diarrhoea , psychologist for starters. Then there are all the words with similar sounds spelled in different ways for example, the 'eez' sound (breeze, cheese, knees, fleas, tease, these, seize) and the words spelled the same way but sounding different, for example the 'ough' letter combination (bough, cough, dough, enough, though, through).

Spelling is not just a case of identifying sounds in a word and being able to relate them to letters, though this is a big help in many cases.

Being a good speller also involves:
  • breaking words into component parts and writing each one correctly
  • remembering some spelling rules
  • being able to see the word in your head and 'read it off'
  • learning some 'word families'
  • having good visual recall and being able to tell if it 'looks right'
There are many ways to help children learn to spell:
  • encouraging them to 'have a go' if the word they want to use is regular: 'Well let's see, there are five letters in that word let's put five dashes on this bit of scrap paper. I'm sure you know what the first letter is..'
  • supporting them to build up the word as appropriate; the middle bit is often the tricky part − fill in this part for them if necessary
  • praise for trying 'that's nearly right, well done'
  • providing the word straight away if its irregular and can't be 'built up' eg 'two'
  • give a visual model of the word rather than just spelling it out verbally , then encourage him to do LSCWC (Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check) to help them remember the word next time
  • encourage children to look at the words carefully − 'take a photo' in your head; notice its shape and any double consonants, or any small words inside the bigger word
  • say it aloud − using a mnemonic for tricky words can help
  • identify word families; for example, fight, light, might, night, sight, tight
  • make use of word banks, use a (spelling) dictionary / word book or other dictionary and look it up
  • play word games for example, hangman, wordsearches, crosswords or games such as Pass the Word

08 May 2008

3 - Stories, Songs and Rhymes

Welcome back to our number rhyme series - so far we've had 1 - Hickory Dickory Dock and 2 - Two Little Dicky Birds.

Three is a bit more tricky as most of the counting songs are to five or ten, however three is a popular number in fairy tales with Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and the Three Billy Goats Gruff to name but a few stories that include three. So here are some ideas linked to those popular tales.

As with one and two, practice counting - 1,2,3! Again play with
number bean bags , foam / magnetic numbers and number flashcards / number fans to help children learn to recognise the number and practice drawing / painting or chalking the number three. The number three also is great to start sequencing numbers, and investigating other properties / adjectives; for example big, medium and small.

The Three Little Pigs

Activity Ideas

  • share the story of the Three Little Pigs
  • building with a variety of materials
  • make a three houses collage, sticking on straw, sticks and printing bricks
  • make pig masks using paper plates
  • play with Three Little Pigs puppets and act out the story
  • huff and puff like the big bad wolf and practice blowing games - blow football, blow painting or just blow whistles!

Songs and Rhymes

  • Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf (Frank Churchill and Ann Ronell)

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Activity Ideas

  • share the story of Golidilocks and the Three Bears
  • make porridge
  • investigate sizes - small, medium / middle sized and big - sort them and match them
  • playing with Goldilocks and the Three Bears puppets to act out the story

Songs and Rhymes

  • When Goldilocks Went to The House of the Bears (listen here)

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Activity Ideas

  • share the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • go for a walk and find a bridge to 'trip trap' over
  • investigate sizes - small, medium / middle sized and big - sort them and match them
  • play with Three Billy Goats Gruff and act out the story

06 May 2008

Happy Birthday Littlesheep Learning

We hope that you had a good Bank Holiday weekend - we certainly enjoyed the sunshine!

Yesterday Littlesheep Learning celebrated it's 3rd birthday and to celebrate we have three special offers for you:

For THIS week only you can SAVE 10% by using the code 'happy', or you can claim FREE POSTAGE by using the code 'birthday', plus with every order over £15 (after discounts) we'll send you a FREE GIFT.

So hurry and place your orders today - all these offers end on Monday 12th May.