Tag Archives: Teaching

9 Really Fun Home School Activities for Lockdown 3.0

These ideas don’t take ages to set up, they don’t need lots of expensive equipment and you’ll definitely enjoy them yourself (when the kids have gone to watch Cartoon Network!)

I woke up with Whitesnake’s 1987 hit, ‘Here I Go Again on my Own’ stuck in my head. Following yesterdays anouncement of lockdown 3.0 in the UK, I decided to make a start on some fun home schooling activities for my younger two. My teen is already being inundated with work from her teachers, but we both know she’ll emerge from her tech cave to join in the chalking and science experiments. They always do!

So, here’s 10 ideas I’ve pulled from the likes of Pinterest to help ensure my kids to actually learn something, but also explore activities outside of Purple Mash and TT Rockstars. My younger kids are age 6 and 9, years 2 and 4 at school respectively. I try to find activities they can both do, and leave the targeted English, maths and science to the pack sent home from school. Basically, I’m trying to be the fun substitute teacher who lets them paint their hands with glue and do word searches!

Baking and cooking together teaches all kinds of great skills.

My advice, not that you asked for it, but my advice for homeschooling is don’t sweat it. Yes there will be days when they have square eyes from being on tech, there will be days when you assign Lego building as an educational achievement (well, it is) and some days you’ll get a full set of timestables done with dry pasta shapes before cooking it for tea. It’s all good.

Here’s 10 fun homeschooling activities to check out during lockdown 3.0

1 – Cotton Bud Painting

My little boy hates practising his handwriting. He practically has his own font, but it’s the one thing that gets flagged up at every parents evening. We’ve had a go at cotton bud painting to make it more fun and then made dot art pictures afterwards. All you need is a box of cotton buds, some paint and paper. More here.

2 – Me on the Map

My kids both enjoyed making maps of their local areas at school. I thought we would take on this idea, and see if they could identify where they are in the universe, never mind their own postcode. Paper, sweet wrappers, pens, highlighters, glitter, string, whatever. Make a map of your world together.

3 – Salt Dough Dinos

I LOVE salt dough, but playdough is just as fun to mould. We’re combining history and play here by making some salt dough dino prints. We’ll prob watch Jurassic Park afterwards too. More inspiration for salt dough creations here.

4 – Maths Pegs

Maths is a bit of a chore in our house and so anything that can make numbers more fun is a bonus. If you can get your hands on some wooden pegs, this is a great way to get to grips with times tables without needing the wifi code. Paper, pens and pegs. More info here.

5 – Scavenger Hunt

These scavenger hunt cards are so easy to make and you can choose to stay indoors or even take them out into the garden or the local park. Paper and pens is all you need. Set your kids a challenge to find something rainbow coloured, slimy, fluffy, green, hard, smooth, whatever. More ideas here.

6 – Taste the Rainbow

Did you know there so much more to a bag of Skittles than just eating them?! Science experiments with Skittles are a great crowd pleaser for little ones. It’s as easy as arranging the sweets in a circle on a plate and adding warm water for an instant rainbow. Alternatively, if you have some food colouring at home, check out this rainbow lettuce and celery experiment.

7 – Marble Run Maze

It’s day one and the kids have already eaten me out of house and home, which on the plus side means, I have loads of boxes and tubes to use. Get yourself some selotape, some boxes and scissors and make a marble run. You don’t even need marbles! Toy cars, frozen peas, bouncy balls, all work just as well. I’ve found that taping boxes to the walls often pulls the paint off, so I stick to the doors or fridge works best. More inspiration for your little engineers here.

8 – Historical Pick A Number

Do you remember making these ‘pick a number’ things in school (bottom left hand corner of the pic)? I have no idea when I learned, but I can still make them in my sleep! Why not mix up your kids history projects with a bit or origami? Great for history or English tasks, swap out the ”you’re cute’ messaging for comprehension questions, where did I live? What food did I eat? Name one interesting fact about me, what era did I live in? More on this idea, here.

9 – CHALK!

Chalk is the most versatile teaching aid of all time. You can pick up a pack of chalk for about £2 and teach your kids something from every aspect of the curriculum with it. Draw the solar system on your driveway, draw around each other and sketch in the bones, make an Urban Orienteering playground in your own garden, blend the colours to make art, draw a treasure map, write times tables down path, draw a frame and snap selfies, the possibilities are endless. More ideas here.

To all the parents and care givers taking on lockdown homeschooling, I wish you good luck! Let’s do our best.

Give these ideas a go and drop me a line with how they went, I’d love to hear your feedback. I’m on Twitter @katereillyjames or email me, katereillyjames@gmail.com.

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HNY 2021

New Year was truly lovely, but saying goodbye to 2020 has taken an extra 72 hours.

I celebrated New Years Eve with my boyfriend, lots of lovely food, cocktails delivered from a fab local bar and a kick ass playlist. We counted down on the door step, in the rain watching the neighbours firework display across the road. We clinked glasses, kissed, took some pics and went inside to resume kicking/heading balloons around and drinking champagne. It was perfect.

Happy New Year 2021

Waking up 6 or so hours later, it didn’t feel like a fresh start. It felt like Friday. A normal, run of the mill day in tier 3. We cleaned up. Okay, he cleaned up. We went for a wander along the waterfront and did some laundry. He napped. The whole weekend has felt much the same. We watched films, cooked, cleaned up, went for walks and covid tests, showered, etc. All very samey.

It’s now Sunday, and tomorrow feels like a brand new start. What is it about Mondays? The kids are home. Work emails have restarted, I’ve considered ironing some uniforms, although no one knows what will happen in terms of schools re-opening. Does anyone believe anything the government say anymore?

I’m ready for 2021. I’m excited. Nervous, but overall excited. I feel like I need to write. There are words and ideas swirling around in my brain, desperate for a creative outlet. A portion of this has been spent creating shorthand and portfolio study aids for my students during the festive break. Transcribing football press conferences, Oscar winners speeches and celeb interviews certainly breaks up the more traditional ‘ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming to this council meeting’ openers!

The prospect of travel, new career opportunities and a little personal growth is keeping my spirits up. My boyfriend and I had booked to go to Rome when lockdown 1 began. Travel plans grounded, we managed 4 fantastic days away in Scotland in the summer instead. This year I’m hoping I’ll finally get to see Thomas Keats’ final resting place, as well as the ancient architecture and delicious Italian cuisine!

Work wise – things are mega busy this month. My first cohort of journalism students sit their final exams in late January and fly the nest! It’s foot firmly on the gas until then, however, post 22nd January, I’ve no idea what will be. Will there be bank hours available? Will I be out of the job? Who knows? I am loving teaching but I understand that education isn’t an option for as many people, given the year we’ve had, and so application numbers will be down. Gulp.

I have kept my hand in. I was published with Explore Liverpool last month. Fellow Evertonian and all round fundraising legend, Phill Hayward has embarked on a year long challenge to support Wirral Mind. Naturally I want Phill to get as much support and donations as possible so we organised an interview and hey presto! You can read his story here.

Cambridge based publisher, Kettle’s Yard also published my poetry submission in December. Take a look at this collaborative piece, dedicated to NHS staff and key workers.

New Year Resolutions never work out for me. I lack discipline. It’s something that holds me back from achieving my ill thought out goals, and by January 3rd, I’m usually done. This time I haven’t set any goals, until January 3rd, so I’m already winning, right?

Inspired by the one and only Dawn O’Porter – whose excellent list of 2021 to-do’s had me nodding and smiling in agreement, this is where I’m going to be in December 2021.

1 – Yes! It’s a massive cliche, but I will be lighter, fitter and healthier. You can’t outrun/cycle a bad diet and being hot at 40 is rapidly approaching! Body overhaul time.

2 – Sleep more. I love my bed and this one sounds pretty easy, but in order to get more than 5 hours, I must be more organised. Double whammy. Sleep app redownloaded!

3 – Read more books. Another double bubble here, because in order to turn more pages, I simply have to put my damn phone down. I have no less than 14 books to read and it’s only January!

4 – Stop swearing. I would fit right in on any turn of the century docklands with my overuse of the f-word and co. It’s unbecoming and I will instead expand my vocabulary to be more ‘Susie Dent’.

5 – Write a book. I’ve been threatening this for years. I’ve attempted it a few times and lost confidence. Published in 2021 sounds good.

6 – Clean and wear my glasses regularly. It’s not rocket science. I can’t see. Don’t know why I make it so difficult for myself.

7 – Learn to play Z Cars on the piano.

8 – DON’T dye my hair. I have been going steadily silver for about 10 years. In August 2020 I decided to stop dying my hair. This is the longest I’ve ever gone and I currently have about 3 inches of white/silver hair. I’ve come this far. 2021 will not break my resolve!

So that’s it. Come December 2021 I will be a fit and healthy, white haired, well read, well rested, published piano playing author with clean lenses. Who’s with me?

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The Stopwatch

I’ve inherited a stopwatch. It’s not a beloved family heirloom, it’s a mark of personal progress and I’m feeling the pressure with every second.

September 2020 brought around a whole bunch of surprises. Namely a new path in my journalism career. Having spent sometime during lockdown, indulging in a number of community arts project, I accepted a job offer in the medical sales/beauty industry. I quickly realised that lips, nips and tucks were most definitely not my thing and after agreeing to produce a media strategy for the company, we parted ways amicably.

Nest came the summer holidays, which in reality were nothing more than an extension of the previous two months the kids had been off school. Eat Out To Help Out was launched and we were able to get out and about more, thanks to the good weather and more people wearing masks.

As September loomed, I was worried about affording uniforms and school shoes and winter coats and birthday celebrations, hoping my part time charity job would keep me afloat.

A conversation with my former journalism lecturer lead to a Zoom call, and a flurry of Whatsapp messages and eventually an interview, complete with ‘You’re on mute’ hilarity.

I’ve officially gone full circle. I began my professional journalism career with an NCTJ Journalism Diploma at The City Of Liverpool College, and now here I am, teaching shorthand and Essential Journalism to the next cohort of budding reporters. It’s an incredible honour and they’re a great group too.

I’m now 9 weeks into the job and I’m still loving it and still as overly optimistic about education as I was back in the summer. My students are bright, determined and showing real promise of walking into the industry with portfolio’s bursting with published work. It makes me really proud to have played a small part in their journey. A journey which takes just 18 weeks on the fast track NCTJ course. The days fly by. Between classroom taught lessons, industry work experience and days spent out filming and interviewing, blink and it’s Christmas.

I came into work today, ready to teach a fun filled afternoon of Teeline Shorthand. I was rummaging around in my desk drawer for a white board marker that worked and came across a black box. I’d not noticed it before. I can only assume it’s been there the whole time and I’d paid it no mind.

Inside is a polished, silver stop watch. The very stop watch which ticked away hour upon hour of shorthand practise when I was a student in this very classroom. The sight of it used to give me shivers. Clicking the start/stop button brought all my memories flooding back. The discovery of the stop watch made me a little more sympathetic of my students’ and their battles with shorthand. It’s a real skill, one that takes hours of consistent practise and no bullshit excuses.

We’re hurtling towards a jam-packed exam schedule, which naturally raises the stress levels for all involved, students and staff. We’re also hurtling towards Christmas and hoping for normality. Or maybe you’re looking towards New Year and hoping 2021 will bring relief from the lockdown, Covid and stress? I know I am.

If only we could just stop the clock for a moment, and breathe.

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Back to School

My kids go back to school tomorrow, and this September, I’ll be right behind them, heading for the classroom. I’ve only gone and bagged my dream job!

When I was at school (hundreds of years ago), I wanted to be a teacher. I did my year 10 work experience at my school – I interned for the PE department because it was my favourite subject. I loved the idea of playing a part in students’ development and watching them learn and master new things with your guidance.

Somewhere around age 17, I lost the thirst to learn. I knew university wasn’t for me. I was partway through my A-Levels (PE, English Lit, English Language, Psychology) when an opportunity to go home (Sydney) and work at the Olympic Games 2000 came up, I grabbed it with both hands. Bags packed, I was out of school and all ideas of education and teaching we’re left on the tarmac.

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20 whole years later, I’ve done it. I’ve finally got myself a teaching job. I’m absolutely delighted to say I’ll be joining the staff at The City of Liverpool College and I will be delivering the NCTJ Journalism Diploma programme. It’s the very course I graduated from back in 2016 and the very course I have championed to anyone interested in a career in journalism.

Since the vacancy came up online, I’ve thought of nothing else than delivering shorthand training and supporting journalism students with opportunities to expand on and polish their portfolio’s, ready for the world of work. I can’t wait to get started.

It’s inevitable that the new job has made me stop and think about my previous career decisions. It’s entirely possible that, had I have knuckled down at 17, gone to uni, got my PGCE, that by now I could be enjoying 15 years worth of educating others. But that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, right?

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So this September, there are four pairs of shiny new shoes (okay, mine are Nike’s) on the stairs, four new water bottles lined up ready for the first school day, and three students rooting for their momma on her first big day.

It’s going to be fairly chaotic for us all going back to an educational setting. Whether it’s the kids, teens, or adults. I hope your youngsters enjoy seeing their friends again, you settle into a routine quickly, and you’re all safe and well.

Happy New School Year!

Miss James

 

 

 

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