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St Neots Tuition's Blog

March 17th, 2016

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Times Tables

Since the latest curriculum changes, pupils are expected to know by heart all their times tables up to 12 x 12.

From 2017, pupils in Year 6 will have to sit an extra test during the SATs period. This will be an online test of all their times tables.


We will continue to help our students in every way that we can with this. For some it will be easy, for others it will be less so, but we aim to make it as much fun as possible for all. We already use a timed on-screen activity as one of our times tables strategies. Pupils try to answer as many tables questions as they can in one minute on the computer, and earn stickers according to how many they get. The aim is to increase their score week by week. Although the government tests haven't been published yet, we hope that this will be great preparation.


There are of course many strategies that you can try, and many aps that may help.

This video is quite encouraging!

There's also a great app called ‘perfect times tables’

We also use many old fashioned pencil and paper resources!

Different approaches will suit different children, so keep trying until you find something that helps your child.


Please feel free to download and use the sheets below. You can download them as many times as you like in order to be able to practise them more than once. Any students bringing in a completed sheet will get an extra sticker, and a full set will earn a prize!

2 Times Table

3 Times Table

4 Times Table

5 Times Table

6 Times Table

7 Times Table

8 Times Table

9 Times Table

10 Times Table

11 Times Table

12 Times Table

July 6th, 2015

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Punctuation

‘Let's eat, Grandma!’ or ‘Let's eat Grandma!’

We've probably all seen that old chestnut, ‘Let's eat Grandma’. It's a great way to show students why punctuation is important in written English. Punctuation is there to guide the reader and to help them to understand your true meaning when you write. If you don't think it works, try reading a text with the punctuation taken out, or put in the wrong place.


Mark slung his backpack over his shoulder and ran the bus company. Had just introduced a new bus route over the cliffs. In the distance, Mark could see the sea sparkling with a smile. He paid for his ticket and sat down on the drivers lap. There was a newspaper with a bold headline, reading Burglar Caught in the back of the bus. A commotion started up, with two teenage boys arguing over the bridge. The bus travelled on until it pulled up at Mark's stop below the deep water in the canal. Fish swam in the murky depths turning down a side alley. Mark reached his front door and took out his key from the back lawn. The dog was barking a welcome and Mark was very glad to be home at last.


This one's quite entertaining, but then the writer did it on purpose! If you just put your full stops and commas in the wrong places, (don't get me started on apostrophes), then it's just plain confusing.

What's more, when young children read without remembering to pause at the full stops they can lose interest because what they are reading doesn't seem to make sense.

We all know it's important to punctuate our writing correctly, whether we're trying to get a novel published, applying for a job or replying to an email. But the simplest punctuation rule is often the hardest to learn, and the one that can persist right into high school. It's knowing where the sentences begin and end, and putting the full stops in the right place. It can be explained in terms of grammar, but the best approach is probably practice, with the guidance of a friend or parent who can check students' work for them.

You can download a small selection of the worksheets we use from our Printables page. Get those sentences sorted!

June 15th, 2015

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Handwriting

It's true to say that as adults we don't need to do quite so much handwriting nowadays. Most of our written contact is by email and text, and friends and work colleagues might never even see our handwriting.

However at school, despite the increasing use of computers, our children still need to write every day. Handwriting is in fact a vital tool for learning, from the reception class right through to A-levels. It is used for learning to spell, for making notes, for writing essays and for sitting exams.

We do see children here at the centre who are held back by their handwriting. Their arm or hand will ache, so that they are reluctant to write enough. Their handwriting may be slow, so they don't get the work finished, or they don't say as much as they could. Their work is difficult to read, so creates a negative impression of their ability either in class or in public exams. There is even an impact on learning to spell, as poor handwriting can make it difficult to develop a clear visual memory of a word's spelling.

At St Neots Tuition we give extra attention to handwriting for those students who need it. You can download and print some of our worksheets here: Writing the Alphabet, Fish for Handwriting and Larger Diagonal Handwriting.

There are some simple steps parents can take when working with their children at home, to make sure that students, especially younger students, don't get into bad habits that will be hard to break later on. Here are some tips.

  • Make sure the chair is the right height. The edge of the table should be at the level of the bottom of the student's ribcage, so if the chair needs building up, get some cushions!
  • The student might not be sitting bolt upright, but shouldn't be slouched over the paper either.
  • Check the student's grip on the pencil. The correct grip is called the Tripod: the weight of the pencil should be on the student's middle finger, while the pencil is held and controlled by the tips of the thumb and forefinger. If your child finds this grip difficult, talk to Liz at the centre for some suggestions to help.
  • The student's forearm should rest on the table-top.
  • Whether the student is right handed or left handed, the paper should be in line with the forearm, as shown in this video.

Neat and clear handwriting is a practical necessity for all students, but it can be more than that – it can be an art form too. Like any physical activity, you need regular practice to build muscles and coordination.

Good luck with the practising, and don't give up!

April 30th, 2015

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Why does grammar matter?

Does it bother you when people don't ‘talk proper’? When they say things like “I've did it” instead of “I've done it”? When they write “would of” instead of “would have”? Or are they being picky about something that doesn't really matter? Why do teachers correct these things? Actually, it's because they want to give you a big house with a couple of nice cars in the drive and all the foreign holidays you could wish for. But before we go there, I've got to let you into a shocking secret.There's no such thing as proper or “correct” English.

My Gran was from Lancashire. She spoke in a strong Lancashire accent and she'd say things like “Get thi gone” instead of “Hurry up” and “starved” instead of “cold”. But she was speaking English – just a different kind of English. And in her street they'#d have thought she was weird if she'd spoken any other way; so her kind of English was absolutely right for where and when she lived.

So is yours. Your friends would laugh their heads off if anyone suggested: “I say, chums, wouldn't it be ever so jolly if we mooched over to the ramps and demonstrated our skateboarding prowess to the fillies?” It would be English, of a sort, but completely the wrong sort of English for the time, the place, and the people.

All the many different kinds of English – legalese, journalese, computer talk, political doublespeak – are right for their time and place. And the people who use these different kinds of English aren't just using them to convey meaning: they're using them as badges, too. So when police officers say something like: “Would you mind stepping out of the car, madame?” (which, let's face it, no-one would say in ordinary life), they're not just telling someone to get out of their car. They're also saying: “I'm a police officer. I use this kind of very formal English to identify myself as a police officer, and you have to do what I say.”

So here's where the big house with the cars and holidays comes in. Standard Written English, which is what your teachers are using when they correct your writing, is exactly the same – it's a code. You might think that the difference between “your” and “you're” or “its” and “it's” or even “would of” and “would have” doesn't matter – that anyone who reads it, whether the wrong or the right version, knows exactly what you mean. And of course, you're perfectly right. But there's more to it than that. By using the right version – the right spelling, the right punctuation – you're saying: “I'm all right. I'm educated. You can trust me to fit in and do things the right way.”

Right or wrong, examiners will mark you down for incorrect use of Standard Written English. Your university application, your job application – they'll make you look second-rate if you haven't got SWE well and truly nailed. It's not a question of good English or bad English, “correct” English or “incorrect” English. It's just how things are: you have to crack the code if you want to join the club.

April 3rd, 2015

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Now for the nitty gritty!

Setting aside manageable chunks of time for study and revision and persuading the rest of the family to respect them was a good start. Now take control of how you will USE those chunks of time.

A very simple first step is to check your exam timetable and arrange your revision sessions in the same order. The idea is to make sure you come to each exam with your revision still as fresh in your mind as possible – it's not going to help much if your first revision session covers the material you’ll be facing in your last exam!

Next, set your goals and prioritise your revision accordingly. Be realistic about what grades you need and can achieve in each subject. If you don't get at least a C in maths and English you could be resitting them for the rest of your school career, so make sure you give them the time they need. But other goals are important too. What do you need to get onto your courses for next year? What grades are required by your chosen university? Have a look at the goal-setting print-out and see if it helps you.

Now look at each subject individually – and honestly. Ask yourself: what ground do I really need to cover? It’s a question only you can really answer. By all means ask your teachers where they think you're weakest and strongest; by all means ask your tutor! But in the end you're the one who's going to be on your own in that exam room, and you're the only person who knows what you can and can't remember. So before you dive into your revision, take the time to go back through your work and review your performance for yourself.

You'll soon know what you really need to concentrate on, but it might help keep you focused if you make a chart. Under each subject list the sub-topics you need to cover. For example, for maths it could be Pythagoras, percentage change, geometry, etc. You can use checklists from school, the contents page of a text book, or a study guide to help you. Grade each sub-topic with a scale that appeals to you – smiley face, frowny face, terrified face; green, amber, red; easy, possible, omg – whatever you like best.

Start your revision with the topics you're okay but not brilliant at – the ones you've marked frowny face/amber/possible. These are the topics where any improvement in your performance is going to count most. Then move on to the terrified face/red/omg topics – you need to have at least a basic grasp of these. Finally, the smiley face/green/easy topics are most likely to be those where you need no more than a last-minute brush-up.

Now to get down to it! Gather your resources around you: your school notes, a good study guide, your text books, BBC Bitesize, etc. It's always a good idea to start with your own notes because they'll help jog your memory about the classes themselves and what was said about each topic. You may need to use mnemonics to help you remember key facts or things you feel weak on. One very helpful trick is to write shorter or condensed versions of them as you go along, turning them into manageable chunks that you can memorise more easily.

Here's a video on taking Cornell notes which you might find helpful.

Other tricks that will help you remember might be to mark them with highlighters, write them on postcards, sing them to a favourite tune, write them on a colour-coded poster that you can stick to the wall – anything that makes them stand out in your memory.

Finally, don't overdo it! Stay disciplined: if you've given yourself a half-hour chunk per topic in each two-hour session, stick to it. Then you can give yourself a small reward – a biscuit, say – and get a psychological boost by ticking off that topic on your revision chart. If you're still stuck at the end of your half-hour, make a note to ask for help, and move on.

The same rule applies to your two-hour sessions, ie: stop after two hours! You have a life to live, household chores to do, friends to see. The great thing about discipline and concentration is that they help you stay calm and happy, and those are the keystones of success!

GOOD LUCK !!

March 20th, 2015

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How to organise your time for revision.

Easter is almost upon us – and the Easter break is a fantastic opportunity to pack in some heavy-duty revision before – gulp – the exams!!!! So don’t waste it. Use the time. But that doesn't mean you have to go into isolation and have your meals passed to you under the bedroom door. Here’s the secret: get organised!

You've already made yourself a space where you can get down to work. What do you need to organise next? Your time.

It's a weird thing, time. There's never enough of it when you need it, and there's too much when you don't. But time can be beaten! Time can be tamed! This, friends, is what businesspeople call “time management”.

Start by keeping a time diary, just as people starting a diet keep a food diary. You can download the one on the website or create your own. Choose two or three different days, and keep a log of exactly what you do and how long it takes. Be absolutely honest – e.g. 10.05am got out of bed; 10.52am actually made it downstairs. And be detailed: include time spent texting, gaming, on Facebook, in front of the TV etc.

Step two is to use the Activity Summary to estimate how much time per week you spend on each activity and to judge for yourself what you could cut down on and what you think you should increase.

Step three: choose two 2-hour time slots per day for your revision. I would suggest 10 am to midday, and 2pm to 4pm. Over the next two weeks treat those two daily sessions as sacred, and make sure everyone else does too. There'll be time for texting, for TV, for seeing your friends, for helping around the house. But those two two-hour sessions – they're your future.

Space organised, time organised – you must be beginning to feel like Doctor Who!

Your next challenge is to decide on the best way to use this new-found time for maximum effect. We'll go into this in more detail in the next blog. For now, I'll just say be honest with yourself, and take control of your own learning!

Next time – Audit your learning: what do I need to learn, and how can I do it?

March 12th, 2015

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Hello to everyone out there who's getting ready for some serious exam revision soon.

And an even bigger hello to everyone who knows they should be revising, thinks they ought to be revising or is sure they're going to get round to it soon, probably! I remember that problem very well. I've sat (and got good grades in), more exams than I can count, and I still struggle to get going. ‘Procrastination’ is one of the most fearful words in the English language. In case you don't know, it means ‘putting off until later’. It's very hard to battle against, but over the years I've collected a few weapons and I think it's time I shared them with all you students who are fighting hard against the urge to stay in bed or just watch one more teensy little tv programme before you get out the text books.

Over the next few weeks we'll be looking at different ways of helping students focus on their work, and the obvious starting point is organising their working environment to minimise the distraction factor of all those home comforts

Weapon number one: Get yourself a base camp.

Make it somewhere that you want to be. I have tried two approaches, and both worked well. The first, when I was revising for A-Levels, was to get the bus into central Leeds and go to the huge city library in the town centre. Once there, there was nothing else I could do except revise. No noise, no tv, no kitchen. There were also lovely oak lined booths with huge desks, where I could sit and feel very important. Obviously, you can't all go to Leeds to revise, but you could look for a public library with a quiet study area.

A more immediate solution, which I hope is open to everyone, is to set up a base camp in your house. So where, exactly? Some students work at a table in a downstairs room but for most, their bedroom is the obvious choice. And it's probably the better option: there will be fewer people coming and going, and you won’t have to pack up all your study materials at the end of each work session

The trouble with the bedroom, though, is that it's got a bed in it, and sitting cross-legged on a bed, laptop on knees and surrounded by books and papers, is not the best way to study. It hurts your back, and also carries the obvious added risk of unscheduled snoozing! What you need is a desk. A decent-sized desktop allows you to organise your study materials, but more important than that is the psychology of it. A desk is quite obviously intended for work and nothing else; and when you plonk yourself down at it you go into work mode.

No-one’s saying it's that easy though. Before even thinking about studying I had to make myself want to go and sit at that desk. So, I put on some music I liked, lit a scented candle, made a coffee and put out a couple of biscuits, (or more…) Once I had lured myself to the work station thus, I was able to open the books and get started.

Finally, a word about TV: no, no and once again, no! Music is okay provided it's both quiet and slow – 60bpm, according to recent research, actually helps you to focus; anything over 100bpm interrupts your concentration. So Bach, fine. Death Metal, definitely not.

Why not print out your work station plan, sort yourself out a good base camp today and get started. Step number two will be posted shortly.





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