Our summer online training webinars for early years and primary professionals have all finished and we are preparing our autumn offer in advance (very advance – the weather is sweltering and it is comforting to think of the chilly season ahead). Booking will go live for these sessions (and others, subject to tutor availability) soon, so please bookmark this page or subscribe to updates.
Pricing is per participant, invitations (Teams/Zoom) are sent to each participant for their sole use. All webinars include an additional 10-minute Q&A session at the end where the tutor can discuss specific queries relating to your setting or practice, relating to the topic covered.
We are also accepting suggestions for our online webinars, so please get in contact if you have any requests for us to consider – this is often the cheapest way for you to get bespoke training!
***Here is a collection of the resources originally collated on a Facebook post offering support to parents supporting their children’s learning at home due to the COVID-19 schools closure in the UK. It will be added to and updated every 2 days (with requests or new finds), so please subscribe to get updates.***
I have organised the links as they were, by subject, rather than by age or Key Stage (though it is noted where relevant, e.g. GCSE AQA material) as you know your child best and the purpose of these Learning Sparks isn’t to replace school, but rather to encourage learning!
As always, if you manage to do just one thing a day during the schools closure, let it be reading! Read far and wide, travel by page and explore new lands! Language and literacy are the trunk of the tree of learning and knowledge – without it, no new branches can grow.
Lessons and videos from the powerhouse that is TEDEd: everything from ethical conundrums, to the physics of ballet’s hardest move (fouetté), life cycles of recycled materials and more irreverent topics such as ‘Why are cats so weird?’
Games and videos on all subjects for pre-schoolers (EYFS) from Sesame Street
General knowledge from TED Talks (please note, individual speakers are not selected but apply to speak – so exercise caution, further research and critical thinking when listening to their ideas!)
SchoolHouse is offering resources on a range of topics including:
Explore More brings you engaging education resources, suitable for children of all ages. With a new story each week, take your children on a captivating adventure for learning. The first story is Troll Hunters!
Teach Your Monster to Read app is a phonics and reading game that’s helped children learn to read. The app covers the first two years of learning to read, from matching letters and sounds to enjoying small books.
Silly Soup (Kate version) activity: my favourite of the Phase 1 activities is Silly Soup. I use it for onset rhymes, alliteration (same starting letter – especially good if focusing on learning to listen to and discriminate between different letter sounds) and rhyming.
Collect up a variety of items that meet your aim (e.g. rhymes), a big spoon and a bowl. Get everyone who is playing to sit in a circle so they can see the selection of rhyming objects (e.g. rat, hat, toy cat, Lego sports bat) placed on the floor. Use the bowl and spoon as props to act out the song. Invite the children, in turn, to choose an object to put into the soup and place it in the bowl. Name the item and use its name frequently – e.g. “yes, it’s an orange cat. It’s a small cat.”
After each turn, let the choosing child stir the soup (or if a small group pass it round so everyone stirs on each turn, start with the choosing child) and sing the following song to recite the growing list of things that end up in the soup.
Sing the first part of the song to the tune of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’: “I am making silly soup I’m making soup that’s silly I’m going to pop it in the fridge To make it nice and chilly… In goes… a fox… a box… some socks…”
PhonicsPlay is offering free access during March 2020 (may be extended)
Response to a parent’s request to teach their child to read (in comments of post):
A few other tips if the aim is to prepare to read: – when you’re reading, keep a steady pace and use your finger to point to the words as you read (the first step in reading is learning that all those funny squiggles have meaning – not just the special ones that make up names!) – make up pretend stories together; whether that’s getting her to make up a narrative with some small world toys or dolls, or getting together a pile of toys and taking turns to pull out a different toy and add to your story (like the old paper folding “write a line and pass it on” thing we did as kids!) – talk, talk, talk: the bigger a vocabulary a child has, the easier it is to learn to read. Try giving her some really interesting alternatives for words she knows as she plays – a bit of a fancy commentary if you will! So give her some lovely describing words “what an ENORMOUS jump!”, “what a MAGNIFICENT drawing” etc. Children love a big word! – Let her choose a book and tell you the story. You can encourage this when you are reading by drawing her attention to the illustrations, sequences (“what do you think might happen next?”) and motivations (“how do you think the tiger feels?”) of the characters. Also, the understanding that illustrations can provide clues is very useful for early reading! – You could also try this ^ with drawings – get a really big sheet of paper and tell the story together as you draw. My cousin’s son loves this when we do it on his chalkboard – he’s told me stories about monsters getting locked up for eating pies off windows and brave girls who fight tigers. – talk about books you like, make talking about likes and dislikes part of the chat after finishing a story – role model reading/writing; for example, can she help you make a shopping list? Or write a letter to grandparents? Use big, spaced letters and sound out the letters as you write. – ^Similar to above, you could make a story book together. Children are often fascinated by adults scribing for them – and might ask “what’s that word?” – hunting for special letters, can she find the letter “P” around the house, in books, on DVD boxes, etc.
– songs and rhymes are also really important (you can’t read a word if you can’t say a word!), they’re ideal for having fun with words and sometimes older children delight in changing the words (e.g. the classic “Twinkle Twinkle chocolate bar, my dad drives a rusty car!”) to songs they know really well.
– I Spy is a cracker of a game, when children are starting to recognise and differentiate between the different starting (onset) sounds of words. Try to always choose a word with a clear first letter – no silent “k”s or “ph” sounds!
Emotional well-being conversations: visual boards to help talk about Coronavirus
Postcards of Kindnessis a lovely group which promotes the sending of postcards, letters, drawings, etc. to care home residents across the UK.
Talk about meaningful writing! This is also an opportunity to talk to children about life and ageing, as they may have questions (if their own grandparents do not access residential care or they do not see their grandparents for whatever reason). (Also covers citizenship).
Sir Linkalot is offering free access codes to all during the COVID-19 schools closure. Also available on Android.
StoryLine Online – celebrities reading children’s books, everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Rami Malek!
The Kaligo app is a digital handwriting exercise book (age 3-5+): designed to teach children how to write using a stylus and tablet, built on an AI machine learning platform. A self-paced approach enables children to progress at their own speed according to their own ability, whilst AI Machine learning provides real-time corrective feedback.
TinyBop ‘The Earth” app: I love this app by TinyBop. It is highly interactive and encourages children to explore coastal erosion, earth’s composition (from crust to core), green energy, make volcanoes EXPLODE, and look at how the earth has changed over time.
Ospreys, puffins, peregrines, owls and more! Watch wildlife on webcams provided by Wildlife Trusts across the British Isles. Webcams allow an unrivaled view of intriguing behaviours: from courtship, nesting, and hatching to a peep into the first few weeks of a chick’s life. Be warned – it’s addictive viewing!
Visit the Natural History Museum in London, from your sofa. This VR tour (recommend using a tablet or laptop rather than telephone to see the detail) lets you stand next to Dippy (the Diplodocus) and examine key exhibits without needing to leave the house!
First News Education (who promote learning through global news) is offering free, current issues of First News newspaper (PDF), activity sheets, and an extended 6-week trial of their iHub.
White Rose Maths is offering free video maths lessons from EYFS children right up to Year 8! Just follow these four easy steps…
Click on the set of lessons for your child’s year group
Watch the video (either on your own or with your child)
Find a calm space where your child can work for about 20-30 minutes.
Use the video guidance to support your child as they work through a lesson
Try the matchbox challenge: find a matchbox or a very small container. Challenge yourselves to fit as many things they can find, from the garden if you can or around the house if you don’t have a garden or outdoor space! This is a super activity to about size, shape (rotating to make more fit!), number, textures, colours, numbers, etc.!
Girls Who Code Clubs are FREE programs intended to get girls ages 11-18 excited about coding and computer science.
Minecraft is making its educational worlds free to access until the end of June (12 lessons). They include tours of the International Space Station and the inside of a human eye. The worlds offer creative writing and puzzles as well as build challenges. For example:
puzzle games to teach students how to code and think like programmers
a tour of Washington DC’s most historic sites, including the White House, the Pentagon and the Lincoln Memorial
a game about generating power from alternative energy sources, such as wind and nuclear.
Home economics (essential life skills!)
Children love to help around the house – here are some ideas of different things to do at different ages. From a young age, children will relish the responsibility and sense of ‘helping’ – even if it is just helping to wipe their high chair tray!
Real-life cooking videos set to music from Mob Kitchen, showing a range of recipes including hearty meals for a group to store cupboard hacks.
Gordon Ramsey delivers a lesson on how to cook the perfect scrambled eggs.
BBC Good Food has thousands of recipes and their YouTube channel makes them highly accessible for children, especially useful when demonstrating techniques such as folding in flour.
An essential life skill depending on the availability of bread in your local shop currently – baking bread! The simplest recipe has just 4 ingredients: flour, yeast, water, salt. Lots of lovely physical skills required to knead and fold the bread – perfect for developing muscles for writing AND keeping children busy!
Jamie Oliver has launched a Keep Cooking and Carry On series which focuses on recipes and dishes for these unique times! His easy-to-follow, super-flexible recipes include lots of useful swaps. “Let’s celebrate freezer faves, big up the store cupboard and get creative with whatever we have to hand.”
Pop to Italy and learn to make pasta with Nonna Nerina live!
Netflix is also offering classic documentaries Planet Earth II and Blue Planet I and Blue Planet II – both cover a wide range of topics, such as geography, ecosystems, science, natural history and biology. Perfect conversation starters to talk about the environment and conservation – as well as showing us the wonders of the world and why they are worth protecting.
DigVentures is delivering digital archaeological fun online! Communicate with real archaeologists and see real artefacts and dig sites.
Aurora folklore from the European Aurora Service. This a great starting point for children to think about any stories they know about the night sky, or to make up their own. For MARVEL fans, this has excellent links to Norse mythology – including the mighty Thor, wise Odin and tricksy Loki!
NHS Eat Well promotes staying healthy – through good diet and appropriate exercise
Cbeebies’ Waybuloo demonstrates yoga for the youngest children (more episodes on YouTube)
Get outside in the garden! Have you got chalks to make marks? A tree to climb? A magnifying glass or binoculars for examining insects and spotting wildlife? Can you learn the names of leaves or practice cartwheels?
Lots (150) of sensory learning activities to challenge children’s senses, muscles, balance, spatial awareness, proprioception (where your body finishes and the rest of the world begins) and more!
Drama, music and dance (also PE)
Get The Globe’s plays here! For authenticity, you can watch while standing up and throw snacks at your screen if you don’t like the performance.
Child Mind Institute: “We know parents are struggling to balance work, child care and self-care while keeping worries — both your children’s and your own — under control. You don’t have to do it alone.”
A note on educational apps (from gov website): Choosing an app for your child – the FEED test. There are lots of apps that say they are ‘educational’, but you’ll want to reassure yourself that’s the case and that they are right for your child. The FEED check may help. Fun – Will your child enjoy the app? Will it keep their attention? Educational – Is there a clear educational aim? Do you know what your child will learn? Will it keep them learning and allow them to progress? Engaging – Will it help your child if they get stuck? Will it give them feedback and let them know when they’ve got challenges right? Design – Is it attractive and easy to use? Is it inclusive and does it avoid gender and racial stereotypes? Can an adult change the settings? Is it safe, with links to the internet and adverts protected behind a parental gate?
A-Level/University Level (or very keen secondary students!)
Open University:discover topics such as ’60 second adventures in thought’, ‘project management’ and ‘bon départ: beginner’s French’
Kialo Edu, the tool used by educators world-wide to teach critical thinking and facilitate thoughtful classroom debate. Kialo Edu is a free version of Kialo, the world’s most popular argument mapping site.
**FEEL FREE TO SHARE – LIST IN COMMENTS IS PUBLIC** And so the world has begun homeschooling/digitally educating children en masse. If you need assistance with understanding something that has been assigned for your child or if you need more resources, please let me know. I am a teacher and will be more than happy to help answer questions. We’ve already set up a high school study group for students in our family and I’ve got stacks of learning resources/activity ideas for children aged 0-8 – I’m sure we can find a way to make it digital! (I’m also a dab hand at turning Disney films and BBC documentaries into relevant learning 😉) #BetterTogether📚💛👩🏼🏫👩🏼💻
— Read on m.facebook.com/story.php
All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.
Martin H. Fischer
I was reminded of this quote on a trip to Canada in February. The enthusiasm of children out in the deep snow reflected my own (snow-deprived living in East Anglia) excitement to get outside and play! I especially wanted to try out frozen bubble blowing (with temperatures forecasted to be -11 or lower).
Later in the trip, we visited the Royal Ontario Museum where children were exploring a woodland scene (see photo) – noticing tiny details and making links with their previous real-life experiences in the woods.
As practitioners we can cultivate our own curiosity and inquiring nature, to role model those effective characteristics of learning and communicate (without sometimes jaded adult eyes) that the world is indeed fascinating! When I returned to work, I was able to show children a time-lapse of a bubble freezing beautifully in real-time. The awe and wonder (and subsequent conversations about how we could do it again) reaffirmed the notion that working in early years is a little bit magic.
It is so important to recognise parents as children’s first and most enduring teachers – we may be experts on child development but they are the experts on their own child! Together we have a far more profound impact than working in separate silos.
A recent example was a blog post I published for my nursery talking about a sunflower activity the children had been enjoying. It referenced the prior learning (investigating decay in the autumn term), encouraged families to watch a time lapse of a sunflower growing together and reminded them of a facility we offer to print photographs from home for children to share. As the children had planted two sets of seeds (one for home, one for nursery) it created a tangible link. Our children absolutely love sharing their home experiences with their friends and staff – they eagerly tell me how big their sunflower is (“it’s almost as tall as daddy..!”) and tell me how they’re helping it to grow (“water, but not too much – just right!”). Parents also join in these conversations – sharing their expertise (we have a few green-fingered carers who know far more about effective growing than we do!) and telling us funny tales about little people remembering at bedtime that they haven’t watered their sunflower so going out in their pyjamas and wellies with a watering can.
Learning and understanding: perspectives and experiences
This kind of continuity between home and setting has also been supported by our “What Does Your Day Look Like?” book. We created a sheet with prompts to enable our pre-school children and parents to share what their world looks like – from the special routines they have when they wake up to what mummy and daddy’s lunch times look like when they are at work (a tricky concept for little people that is sometimes tied up with anxiety – what does “going to work” mean? What does “work” look like – is it a place or an activity – or both!?).
The prompts are open-ended so parents and children can decide what is the most important for each section. Staff completed example ones to get the ball rolling – some chose to draw their day, some used photos, some used text. We made the examples diverse to showcase no one way is best or preferred. Completed pages go in to a special A3 book of experiences – children are able to return to review this book (similar to their “All About Me” photo albums) with their peers or Key Person.
This is also lovely if they’re having a tough day and are feeling a bit wobbly; being able to say “that’s mummy’s lunchbox, she’ll be having her lunch now too – just like you. After lunch, mummy will collect you because you’re going to the park – see, just like the photo?” is a lovely bit of reassurance and containment to help remind children of the day’s routine (now, next) and that mummy is doing similar things elsewhere, but will return.
By valuing children’s lived experiences – in all their wonderful diversity – we hope to celebrate and champion their perspectives and ways of being. This also links to the funds of knowledge research that I feel is vital for early years practitioners to empathise and make meaning for children within the educational setting.