Clara James Tutoring


A cunning trick for multiplying 11 by double digits

A cunning trick for multiplying 11 by double digits

This is a trick I was taught by a lad I was working with. It is really simple yet really effective ...more

Creative Resources for primary children ,How do we learn &Education

June 17, 20241 min read

Make sure it's an appropriate explanation

Make sure it's an appropriate explanation

Just because it makes perfect sense to you, don't presume it will just as obvious to the other person. Think about the examples you use ...more

Become a tutor ,How do we learn &Education

June 14, 20242 min read

Adapting an old fashioned game to help your child with maths

Adapting an old fashioned game to help your child with maths

Transform 'Guess Who' into a fun math game! We replaced faces with numbers up to 100, including primes and squares. Guess the number by asking about multiples, odds, evens, and more to make it fun and... ...more

Creative Resources for primary children ,Education

June 14, 20242 min read

Supporting Neurodiverse Children as a Tutor

Supporting Neurodiverse Children as a Tutor

Supporting a neurodiverse child is like supporting any other. The label, if there is one will give us a direction to head in, but what is paramount is that we get to know them as an individual and as ... ...more

Become a tutor ,How do we learn Education &Franchise

May 16, 20246 min read

Crafting Your Tutor Profile: Stand Out in the Sea of Educators

Crafting Your Tutor Profile: Stand Out in the Sea of Educators

Imagine a family has decided to take the plunge and get a tutor for their child. It’s not something they’ve ever done before and they’re not sure what to expect or how to go about it. There are so man... ...more

Become a tutor ,Franchise

May 01, 20245 min read

What is a franchise?

What is a franchise?

A franchise is a ready-made business formula. It is a set of systems that have been proven and established to ensure their effectiveness. There are advantages and disadvantages to creating a franchise... ...more


April 09, 20244 min read

Happy New Year - Jan 2024

Happy new year!  

I hope you’ve had a brilliant break over Christmas.

I know some people have been on holiday, others have been enjoying family time at home. Either way, I hope it was fantastic.

Someone sent me a Christmas present just before the bog day, but I have no idea who it was from, so I can’t say thank you. I feel really guilty as it seems like bad manners, but it was just in a box from M&S with no message attached.

This year, I have committed to send out the notification when the monthly membership bundle goes live, but I am also going to send out an (initially) fortnightly newsletter with suggestions for revision / secondary school Math / English, then in the alternate week a newsletter with suggestions for the primary subjects.

If either of them isn’t relevant, please either let me know and I will ensure you just get the primary or secondary newsletter if you want it, or just click unsubscribe (but then you also won’t receive the email about when the bundle goes live).

My goal is to keep you more in the loop as to what is happening. For example, we occasionally put free courses on Udemy – we’ve just done one on angles – here’s the link if wanted. It was created to promote the topic book we have also created; we’ve also got revision planners for students that might be suitable for some GCSE parents.

At Christmas we also had some free times-tables colouring sheets which you may not have been aware of, so like I say, it may not be of interest to you, but if it is, at least you’ll be aware of it. I have 3 revision planners and 3 angles topic books to give away if you’re interested. Let me know and I’ll happily pop one in the post for you (or give it to you if I’m likely to see you…).

If you do have one, if you could give it feedback on Amazon (I’ll send you the link) that would be hugely appreciated.  

Happy new year for now and warm wishes,


Introduction to the 11+ email and the 11+ Math syllabus Jan 24

Hi,   I hope the week is going well and so is the new school term.  

When I sent out the email the other day saying about doing the Monday and Thursday emails for hints with primary English, Maths, and revision, I was asked if I could include the 11+.  

I’m only going to do this email fortnightly on a Wednesday if that’s ok, however, I was contemplating an 11+ membership group like the Clara James Approach with ideas and resources to help with the 11+, and or to create support books to help.

They would be set out like the angles one – taking you through each topic with a ‘how to’ then 3 activities to help consolidate what you/ your child has learned.  

If you think either of these ideas would be helpful, please do shout.   This email is very much an introductory one. If I start by giving you a couple of generic ideas you can use then give you the Math syllabus, we can then gradually work through that initially before looking at what is required in the other units.  

Here in Buckinghamshire the CPG are the most relevant to the exam, however, I would suggest that before you start buying the books, have a look on line as you can often download the papers for free.

Generic ideas:

A good knowledge of the times tables – you can find ideas to support learning them and resources in the Clara James Approach.

Encourage your child to read, it doesn’t matter what, a variety is great though as that will introduce new styles and language. It also supports grammar and spellings.

A few years back the ‘Find Wally’ books were popular. These are brilliant for supporting the non-verbal reasoning where you need to place close attention to the detail to find the differences in the patterns.

Sudoku is also a brilliant way to encourage looking for sequences and games such as Sets, or Rummikub are also great at pattern spotting (but also great fun – and addictive)!

As we go through each element of the syllabus, we’ll look at some more ideas, but I hope this helps for starters.

There are probably loads more ideas inside my brain, it’s just a case of finding them...  

Have a great afternoon and warm wishes,


11+ Syllabus for Math

·       Measurements of scale

·       Rounding

·       Volume

·       Mean, median and range

·       Indices and prime numbers

·       Percentages

·       Classification trees

·       Sequences of numbers

·       Number manipulation

·       Functions

·       Number sets

·       Remainders and their application in real world problems

·       Monetary Change

·       Navigation along a path using various concepts

·       Divisions

·       Dealing with tables

·       Shapes and their area and perimeter

·       Graphs and their direct interpretation

·       Lines of symmetry and rotational symmetry

·       Coordinates and maps

·       Fractions

·       Shading and Percentages

·       Pie charts

·       Algebra

·       Multiplication

·       Probability

·       Folding a net

·       Decimals

·       Distance, speed and time

.       Spatial perception

·       Negative number and magnitude

·       Exchange rates, numbers or objects

·       Image and number puzzles

·       Angles

·       Clocks and times

·       Additions

·       True or false statements

·       Ordering, permutations, and combinations.

English Literature - Quotes (Thursday 25th January 2024)


I hope you’ve had a good week.

I had a really kind email from Dina the other day saying how helpful these emails are.

I hope so. Her kind words meant a lot.  

A lot of students at Lord Bills in Thame, got their mock results back yesterday. I hope they went well. Please do shout if there was anything specific that caused a problem, I can then either chat about it in here, in case others have struggled with it too, or if I work with you, we can go over it in the lesson, or both.  

It’s probably too late to mention this now but, something I was listening to on an audio book in the car. Apparently, our bodies can’t tell the difference between fear and excitement. If we tell ourselves as we go into an exam or a test, that we are not scared, we’re excited, our minds will believe it and statistically we will perform better.

I thought that was really interesting, and a note worth hanging onto.  

I’ve been working with a few people recently on English Lit.

What we’ve been creating for each of the set texts and poetry is a grid, with the themes across the top and the characters down the side (with poetry, we’ve used the themes across the top and the poems down the side).

We’ve then completed the grid with key quotes. For example, last night I was doing Jekyll and Hyde with someone and in the box for atmosphere and Utterson we used: “still the figure had no face” as our example.  

Keep the quotes short so that they are easy to remember. But by creating a ‘quote bank’ like this it means we have a selection to choose from relating to both themes and characters, that can be cross referenced.

One lad I worked with last year (he did fantastically, he went from a 3 to a 9; full credit to him) had been told by his teacher that you need to start the paragraph with your topic sentence, then find 3 pieces of evidence (3 quotes) to relate to it. Then analyze each of those, as by having multiple pieces of evidence you don’t need to analyze them so deeply as the analysis is stretched further.  

In addition, when you are analysing the text refer to context, ideas, and perspectives. Actually, mention those words as that’s what the examiner’s looking for. Read the mark schemes because they will tell you exactly what the examiner is looking for to give you the marks.


I hope this was helpful.

Enjoy your weekend and warm wishes,


Times Tables - Jan 24



Last week I sent out an email saying I was going to try and commit to sending out an email at the beginning of each week on ideas to support primary school children, then later in the week about supporting secondary school children.

As a result, I was asked if I could also send out some ideas to support the 11+.

(Again, if this doesn’t concern you let me know and I’ll try to ensure that you don’t receive them).

I’ll send the 11+ emails on an alternate Wednesday as I normally have Alfie, my grandson on a Tuesday and the odds of getting much done with a lively 2-year-old for company…  

There will be some cross over between primary school and secondary school subjects, but at any stage there is something you specifically want me to help with, please do shout.  

So, back on subject, sorry…  

Times tables have always been one of the key subjects that I work on with, specifically primary aged children, but also secondary school children, and often the parents say they’re awful at them as well…  

I don’t suggest learning them in chronological order.

If you do, you’ll hit some of the much harder ones before you get to some of the easier ones.

Instead, what I suggest (and you’ve probably heard me say this before) is that you start with the 10’s, 11’s, 2’s and 5’s as they do in school.

Then deviate across to the 9’s as there are so many tricks to help you to learn them.

Then the 6’s or 7’s. Crazy I know!   But they are quite simple if you split them so that 6x8 becomes: 5x8 + 1x8 = 50+8 Or 7x8 becomes 5x8 + 2x8 = 40 +16 = 56.

From there you can pretty much work in any order.

The 12’s is also straight forward as we can split it into 10x + 2x which would give us the same answer as 12x.  

There are more suggestions on the times tables over in the Clara James Approach, or I have a sequence of emails which sends out once a month with suggestions on how to learn each of the times tables with some resources. If it would help, the link is here: Support your child with their times tables - The fun way! (

I hope that’s helpful and not just waffle.

Like I say if there is anything specific you would like us to focus on, please do give me a shout.  

Have a great week and warm wishes,  


Hand Writing Support


I hope you had a good weekend.


Something I am often asked about is supporting hand-writing skills.

At a young age this may relate to the hand muscles in the hands not yet being fully developed and I have a few suggestions that may help.

As the child gets older, you may want to find the support of an occupational therapist to provide some suggestions.


1.       Start big: I guess it’s a bit like parking a car. When you are first asked to park a car, you wouldn’t want to park in a narrow gap, you’d hopefully save that until you were more confident, more skilled. Handwriting practice is the same, using a big piece of paper is far better than trying to squeeze your imperfect shapes between two narrow lines. Even better, (if the weather is more forgiving) start by using water to paint on the side of the house, a patio or footpath). Use large movements and as these improve start to shrink it down to what is expected inside a school exercise book.  

2.       Jenga: I love this game and we’ve adapted it by writing numbers of the bricks so that we can practice number bonds or the times tables, we’ve also got grammatical terms on others so that we can also practice those. But the skill and care needed to remove the brick from the tower without it all tumbling is a great way to practice the fine motor skills which will in turn support handwriting.


3.       Colouring is another suggestion: keeping the colouring inside the lines is another skill that requires practice and patience. Again, the strokes used in colouring can further aid the shapes created when writing letters.  

4.       Sewing again requires the use of the fine motor skills needed for neat handwriting. You may just do a normal running stitch on a square of fabric, or you may decide to make something or use a more elaborate stitch. Either way I hope this helps.  

5.       Playdough and clay are other great early interventions to building up the muscles in the hands. The stronger and more developed the muscles are the more precise we can be with our writing.  

To be honest, anything that needs to be precise will help. Many crafts and building activities help.    

For some people, messy handwriting is always an issue.

There are a couple of members of my family whose handwriting I always struggle to read, yet they are so intelligent. It doesn't seem to add up. But my daughter says, if she doesn’t write quickly, she can’t remember everything her brain is throwing at her. Her brain works at such a speed.

I used to tutor a girl a couple of years back. I hadn’t realized her mum was an invigilator for the A’ levels at the school my youngest went to.

Not long after Hay sat her history the mum asked me if my daughter was doing her exams now.


Does she do History?

Yes. Is she called Angel?


She said, I thought it must be your daughter.

I have never seen anyone writing so quickly. I expected sparks to come off that page!  

There are many reasons why people have scruffy handwriting, sometimes it needs to be investigated and like I say, if you are worried about it, it might be worth while trying to get in touch with an occupational therapist.

Sometimes, practicing using the suggestions above will help.   Sometimes, like with Hay, it’s just one of those things that make them, them.  

I hope this has helped a bit.

Have a great week and warm wishes,


January 2024 - 11+ Vocabulary


I hope you’re having a good week.

Yesterday I had to take my lad, Jamie, to the airport. He’s off to Oman to run his next marathon. This time he’s doing it with friends from Uni. His last one, I’ve probably told you in in Bali last summer as he was living/ working in Sumatra. I went over to watch him run and spend a few days with him. Hand on heart I’ve never seen anything so inspiring.

People of all ages, sizes, levels of fitness. The look of pure pride and accomplishment as they cross the finishing line. I know I’ll probably never be fit enough to run a marathon, but I’ve set myself a goal to run 10k before my 50th next year. I’m a long way off but I’m definitely getting fitter, and it gives me an hour each day of me time, and I love it.  

Within the 11+ there is a high expectation that your child will need a broad vocabulary.

I must confess many of the words they suggest you/ your child may not be familiar with I’ve had to check and double check their meaning as they are not words commonly used in everyday language.  

There’s a list that can be downloaded on Google – I think you’ll find it if you search suggested vocabulary for the 11+.


What I’ve done is taken the list (I think there’s approximately 100+ words on there) and split them into smaller groups.

Then used that subgroup to create a snakes and ladders, word search, list that can be used for hangman or scrabble letters.

With scrabble letters what I do is have the list in front of us. We each choose a word but don’t tell the other person which one you’ve chosen.

Find the letters, given them a shake, and pass them to the other person.

They then have to try and figure out what the word is.

You can also check that you are both happy with the meaning of the word and google it if you’re not familiar with it.  

Again, it’s just trying to mix up ways of learning the syllabus so that you are creating more memories.

You can obviously use these ideas for weekly spellings or words that needs to be learned at higher levels (at GCSE you might find the themes involved in the play your studying, or short quotes, characters, etc).  

Have a great week and warm wishes,


Revising Math - 1st February 2023



How’s your week going?

Before I start talking about Math revision, I wanted to say thank you for the really kind feedback I’ve had about these emails from Dina and Daisy’s mum.  

I was thinking about Daisy’s mum’s email and thought that you could also put fractions on the bricks.

Create a random fraction and decide if you were going to add, subtract, multiply, or divide and then as you pull out the brick use that method to calculate the answer with your random chosen fraction. So, for example if we pick ¾ as our random fraction and we are going to multiply. The brick I pull out says 4/6, so I would multiply the top by top: 12, and the bottom by bottom: 24. Giving me the fraction 12/24, which could then be simplified down to ½.  

Very often when people get in touch about tutoring, one of the things that they say is that their son/ daughter doesn’t know how to revise Math. So, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts.

These can also be adapted and used for your 6 SATs, 11+, etc if relevant.  

One of the first things I would suggest is that you get a copy of the syllabus, I will put this together so that you can just download it for foundation and higher, I don’t know of anyone who does AQA Math, but if your child does, let me know and I will find their syllabus as well.

Along side this, I would put 4 columns: I don’t think I know this; I know this, I love this!  

The reason I wouldn’t put I don’t know this, is because as you first set out you could be disheartened by everything you apparently don’t know. And it could be that you do know it, you just didn't know that’s what it was called.  

This will give you a guide so that you aren’t always just revising the stuff you love. Having said that, the days you can’t be bothered, at least reaffirming your knowledge about those things is better than nothing.  

When you come to revise use a range of techniques so that you are creating multiple memories to help store the information. This will make it easier to recall when you come to need it.   Writing an explanation for someone else, teaching it to your parents, or siblings, or dog. Creating a YouTube video to explain it, even if you never put it live.

Making a power point, posters, etc. The list goes on.   Create an index for your revision/ explanations so that if you want to go over them again, you can easily find them.  

Watch the YouTube videos created by others and use them as a walk and talk. (Jamie and I did that a lot when he was studying for his GCSE’s as it was around the time, I started supporting GCSE Math and we would sit and learn and support each other).  

(We’ve also started creating our “Getting to Grips” books, so far we only have angles, but it includes an explanation and a range of games/ resources to help with understanding and learning them, it’s on Amazon if you’re interested, though I have a couple of copies here and whilst I have, can give you one if you would like).  

At the end of the day, note what you have done today to help you to pass your exams. Also knowing why, you want to pass is important.

Is it because you just want to endure another Math lesson again… or is it because you want to study Math at a higher level and need to do well now in order to achieve that.  

We all have different starting points and end goals. We all have a different reason why. But by logging what you’ve achieved today, it will help you to track your progress so you can see what you’ve achieved.  

This became a lot longer than I anticipated so I’ve used this theme for my latest Podcast. If you’re interested, you can find the link HERE  

I’ve also logged the previous emails on the website, so if you want to catch up with any of those, you can find them here.  

Finally, when I asked about a paper copy of the newsletter the other day (sorry, sometimes I waffle on and because I know what my brain is on about, I forget that others can’t read it and I’m probably making very little sense) is if you would like to received a copy through the post once a month with all the month’s emails in (plus a couple of other bits as well), let me know and if it’s of interest to enough people, I will definitely get it up and running.  

For today, have a great week and thank you for taking the time to read these, it means a lot.

Warmest wishes,


English Language Paper 1, Section B (AQA) - 8/2/24


I hope you’ve had a good week and looking forward to half-term. Are you up to anything?  

The other day I was asked about grade boundaries.  

I found this link for the Edexcel exams: 2306-gcse-9-1-subject-grade-boundaries.pdf (

And this one for AQA: AQA-GCSE-GDE-BDY-JUN-2023.PDF  

I’ve attached the link rather than just the subjects so that you can look for other subjects as well.  

Last night I was working with a lad on English Language paper 1, part B. The part where you write a piece of persuasive writing. 2 key things to remember are to spend time planning the answer so that it remains focused and doesn’t go off in a tangent.

The other thing is to use a range of language techniques such as oxymorons, metaphors, similes, etc as that will gain you extra credit. Without this, you will struggle to get a grade above 2 or 3.  

Last night what we did was look at the images from a range of past papers.

Most involved people. One was an empty room.

So, what we did was create 3 scenarios that could be used across the range of images:

Being in a crowd and not being seen

Being in a crowd and not wanting to be seen

Feeling like you are not seen.

We then created a range of phrases for each one that he could use across the board.

Although it’s not fool proof it does give something you can go into the exam with and adjust and build upon rather than having to think about it from scratch.  

Have a great weekend and enjoy half term. I’m not sure whether I will do the emails next week. I’ve set myself some goals: some which are quite small but seem like a lot of effort like washing the car. Others which inspire me far more, so although they are much bigger, I will be far more motivated to get on with such as improving the home page of the website and completing the Q&A for those who have questions about tutoring.  

Speak soon and warm wishes,


Download the 11+ papers for free

I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned, though I think I have, that you can download previous 11+ papers online for free, so you won’t need to buy them.  

In theory your child doesn’t need to know anything more than they would be taught at school, so most of the syllabus they should/might be familiar with.   I think the best idea would be to start with the basics: for maths this would be number facts and build on from there.

This will set a strong foundation in place.  

When thinking about English, start with spellings, punctuation, vocabulary, and grammar. Some children love reading. For others it’s a noose around their neck, but if you can encourage them to read a variety of resources you will be giving them a skill for life.

What you may do is create a challenge for them. If they read 6 books of either x number of pages, or 3 different types and write a book review for all 6, you will reward them with a meal of their choice, extra screen time, a trip to….  

With any revision I would present it as a reward for the work done, rather than a penalty for what wasn’t done.  

To support children with spellings and vocabulary I often play a game using scrabble letters.  

You take half the letters each. You then have to use every letter to create words. The words have to be correctly spelt, a minimum of 3 letters, they can’t be names, and they can’t be abbreviations. It sounds quite simple, but as you get to the end and you are left with an abundance of one letter and a z or an x for example, it suddenly becomes quite tricky as you have to rearrange the words you already have to accommodate them.  

If you play it, I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think.  

Have a good week and enjoy half term,  

Warm wishes, Dawn

FAQ image

Supporting Spellings: 12th February 2024


I hope you had a good weekend. Yesterday was another trip to Heathrow as J left for an 18-month contract in China, but we have spoken that I might go and see him this August run the marathon in Cambodia. At the moment, there’s a lot of if, but’s and maybes. But it’s my goal, my daily motivator.  

Saturday, the business turned 12 years old.

It doesn’t seem possible that 12-years ago, the kids were at their dads for Sunday dinner, and I sat down and wrote my first ever profile as a tutor.

I had no idea what was expected. I just knew that if anyone I knew found out what I’d done I’d feel so embarrassed because who was I to start a tutoring business. I was going through a divorce, I’d got 3 kids below the age of 4 by the time I was 25, my degree was through the Open University: someone had told me that they hadn’t realised it was possible to do a degree in changing nappies. Another had told me that I didn’t have the confidence or ability to work in a classroom or to finish my degree, yet here I was, claiming I knew what it took to be a tutor!  

Now here we are 12 years on. The kids are adults and Clara is engaged and a mum. I am both more confident than I have ever been. The business has grown into something I am so proud of. The people I have working with me are amazing and I know it wouldn’t be what it is today without the support I have had from them.

Enough waffle and traveling down memory lane...

Over the past few days, I’ve spoken to a few parents about spellings. Not just spelling a word in the first instance but also retaining it. So that’s what I’ve just spoken about on the podcast. If you’re interested, here’s the link.

But in a nutshell, my advice is to make the process colourful, creative, and interactive to engage different parts of the brain.  

One method is using multiple colours when writing words – a different colour for each letter and varying fonts can help create distinct visual cues.

Drawing related images next to words further strengthens memory by adding context. For active learning, painting with water on outdoor surfaces or using chalk can be effective since it involves larger movements.

Using materials that are temporary like chalk or water means mistakes aren't permanent, which can alleviate pressure. Interactive games also enhance learning: playing Hangman helps children think about letter order; scrambling magnetic letters for them to rearrange teaches word structure; creating coloured-in word searches practices pattern recognition; Battleship-style games with grids encourage strategic thinking while identifying spellings; and 'Lily Pads,' where jumping counters onto words reinforces quick recall.

The goal is fun engagement so kids want to participate. The more they practice in varied ways, the stronger their memories become – leading not just to short-term success but long-lasting spelling retention. I hope these tips prove helpful! Have an amazing day or week ahead.

Warm wishes, Dawn  

PS. I’ve released this month’s bundle into the Clara James Approach. It focuses on the 6x table. I hope you enjoy the games. This month’s Q&A will be next Monday at 9am if you can make it. If you can, let me know and I’ll send you the link.   Have a great week and enjoy half term,      

FAQ image

Frequency Polygons

Frequency polygons are something that have been asked about a lot recently. I think for many people they came up at the end of the foundation maths mock paper at Christmas, and the beginning of the higher paper.  

The 3 main things to remember when plotting a frequency polygon are:

1.      Label the axis if it hasn’t been done for you.

2.      Draw your point halfway between (if the class interval is 0 smaller than x which is smaller than or equal to 20, you would put your point at 10, then at the given frequency, I hope that makes sense).

3.      The other thing to remember is to join your points but don’t close the first and last point (i.e. Don’t make it into a solid shape).  

I hope that makes sense, if not, shout and I’ll do a video as it’s easier to explain things verbally than it is when you’re trying to write it.

FAQ image

Substitution and the 11+ 21st February


I hope you’re having a good start to the day, even if it is miserable when you look out of the window.  

I wasn’t sure what to write this morning, so I researched commonly asked questions about the 11+ as inspiration.

What is the 11+ exam and when is it, appeared to be two of the most commonly asked questions.

So, the 11+ exam is an exam that is available to children in some counties around the UK, which providing they pass will give them access to the grammar school system. It is held in September, within weeks of the schools returning from the summer break.  

As with most exams, I would suggest that slow and steady wins the race. It is a huge commitment by you and your child. One of the things I would do (I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before for the 11+ or just GCSE’s), is make a note of 1 thing you have done each day to help you to pass the exam. So, for example, it maybe nothing more than: I have read 10 pages of a book to help me to improve my spellings, grammar, and vocabulary.

Or I wasn’t sure what substitution was, so I looked it up and I now know that it is when you replace a letter in maths with a numerical number. I think I understand it but will do some practice to make sure that I do.  

I hadn’t intended to write this, but Substitution is probably easier than it sounds. They will give you a question containing letters, then they will give you a value for each of the letters.

An example might include: ab

a = 2 b = 4 c= -8

When 2 letters are positioned next to each other like this, we simply multiply them together.

So, knowing that a is worth 2, and b is worth 4, the question we need to answer is: ab = 2x4 =8

We can then make our example slightly harder by adding 16, so ab+16 a = 2 b = 4 c= -8 because the letters have the same values as before, we know that ab =2x4=8 So, ab+16 will simply be 8+16 = 24  

We can then make this example slightly harder by calculating, ab + 16 2c a = 2 b = 4 c= -8

When a question is presented with the first part drawn on top of another part of the question with a line between, we divide.

How many times does the bottom number go in to the top number.

So, if we once again break this down into steps:

We already know that: ab+16 = axb+16 = 2x4+16 = 8+16= 24

The next part that we need to look at is 2c. c is -8, so we’d need to multiply 2 by ( -8) = 2x-8 = -16

So, now our question is 24 -8 24 divided by -8 = -1.5

That’s it. It’s literally just a case of swapping letters for numbers.

I hope that made sense.  

Have a great week and warm wishes,


Revising English Lit: Poetry 22nd February 2024


I know it is very British to talk about the weather, but I hoped you didn’t get soaked a second ago. Looking out the window as I type this, it went really dark, and the heavens opened. It absolutely poured down!  

3 things.

Firstly: thank you so much for the kind reviews we’ve had over the past couple of days. The kind words really mean a lot. A true and genuine, thank you.  

Secondly: a couple of people have asked about supporting handwriting in older children. The mum of a lad I work with is an Occupational Therapist, so I spoke to her about it after our lesson last night. She’s going to go through her resources and see if she can find anything that can be passed on that will help.  

Thirdly: Last week I mentioned the GCSE revision workshops over Easter.

The response was that one for the higher paper would be more beneficial. So, pushing myself completely out of my comfort zone, I’ll do a 3-day workshop for the foundation paper on Wednesday 3rd April through to the 5th from 10-12, then 12:30-2:30.

Then one for the higher paper from Wednesday the 10th through to the 12th, with the same times. It will be online and £180 for the 3 days. There will be just 4 places in each group.  

I was talking to someone a couple of months back and she was saying how hard it is for the students to learn all of the poems for the English Lit exam, in addition to learning quotes from the set texts as well.  

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I wouldn’t try and learn the entire poem. It would probably drive you insane trying to maintain all of that, plus everything for the other subjects as well.  

What I would do, is create a table with the poems down one side and the themes across the top. Then find a couple of quotes from each poem for each theme. By doing that if you are asked to compare, say the power of man in ‘My Last Dutchess’ to another poem, you will have (hopefully) in your mind, ideas of relevant quotes (I would probably go for London, in this instance).

It saves an awful lot of work.

When revising the quotes, I would also suggest that they include a range of colours and preferably images as well to make them easier to recall.

I know that means it will take longer to create, but it will hopefully make them easier to recall when you need them in the exam.  

Have a great week, stay dry and thank you once again for the reviews.  

Warm wishes,


Make sure it's an appropriate explanation... 26th February 2024

Hi, I hope you had a good weekend.

Saturday, I had 8 lessons. Yesterday I had 7. I think it was during lesson 6 I realised that my face hurt.

The reason: I had spent so much of the day smiling, it ached.

When you are working and that is your complaint, I think you realise how lucky you are to do what you do. I’m not saying every day is like that. But yesterday was one of those days.  

Several times last week I thought, on Monday, I’ll talk about that. Now it’s Monday and my brain has gone blank, completely blank.  

I’m going to approach this from a different direction today. I think one of the key things we need to remember is that just because it makes sense to us, and it seems like a logical explanation, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to the person we’re explaining it to.  

A couple of years ago I worked with a lad who is Autistic. He was in his late teens at the time and although this is an extreme example, I think it demonstrates my point…   We were working on fractions.  

As I normally do, I explained that if we had a cake, cut it into two identical slices, and I ate one of those slices, I would have eaten 1 out of 2 slices (1/2).

Ok, we were ok so far.

Then suggested that if we cut it into 4 identical slices and I again ate one of those slices, I would have eaten 1 out of 4 slices (1/4).

Ok, this still made sense, and we were both happy with the logic.  

I then suggested that we cut that cake into 8 identical slices, and I again ate one of the 8 slices. I would have eaten 1/8.  


If we cut the cake that small, it would crumble.

True, I hadn’t thought of that.

My logic, my explanation was perfect in my mind and full of flaws in his.

For the rest of the hour, we didn’t get past the issue of the crumbs, so we had to leave it and come back to it at a later date.

For me, a lesson learned.  

Fractions are taught from primary school right through to the end of GCSEs and no doubt beyond at varying levels of difficulty.  

So, an understanding of the basics will always be useful so that you have something firm in place to put the following harder aspects on.  

Normally, we would look at what a fraction is. Then adding fractions that have the same denominator (bottom number). Then subtracting fractions again with the common bottom number.

Life gets harder once the denominator changes and actually, if you are confident with your times tables, multiplying them or dividing them is actually an easier next step.  

But for today, I don’t think that explained much at all, except that we need to remember that just because it makes logical sense to us, it may not to those we are talking to…  

Have a great week and speak soon,  


Punctuation: Monday 4th March 2024

Good morning,

I hope you had a brilliant weekend.

We had our staff birthday dinner, and I got to talk to Dina, one of the tutors. She really is a fantastic woman. When you listen to her talk you marvel at how much she knows. I am so grateful to have people like her working with me.  

From talking to her, I also decided to make today’s email about punctuation.

Punctuation seems to be an unnecessary evil, or an optional extra to many children when they are writing…  

There are a few games that we play that focuses on this, but rather than waffle on for ages,

I’ll stick to just 3.  

1.      Jenga

2.      Round the board game

3.      Lily pads   Jenga,

I’ve spoken about Jenga before as it’s a game I love. But I’ll quickly recap just in case.

On each brick of the Jenga tower write a punctuation mark.

The level of difficulty is at your discretion, and some of them will probably need to be repeated. Once you’ve built your tower take it in turns to remove a brick. Once successfully removed, you need to WRITE a sentence using that specific form of punctuation. The person who causes the tower to fall, looses.  

Round the board game.

I think I must have been in an awful mood the day I created this game!

You both start in the bottom left corner where it says start. You then roll the dice and move the appropriate number of spaces around the board writing sentences using the appropriate punctuation as you go.

You will notice that next to the start button there is, what looks like a zebra crossing.

You must land on there to win. If you miss it, off you go around the board again.

You can’t repeat the same sentence more than once. To be honest, the game is evil. Trying to land on that square is like trying to find a pin in a haystack. But it’s fun, and don’t get me wrong, that does add to the sense of enjoyment.  

Finally, Lily Pads.

(I probably ought to do a punctuation bundle in the Approach if I haven’t done so already).

You need to cut out roughly 12 lily pads (circles) with a punctuation mark on each. Each player then needs 2 counters each.

Do you remember the game ‘Tiddly-Winks’?

You flick your counter in this game in the same way that you would in that one. Hoping that you land on a lily pad. I used to use the frogs from Christmas crackers but could never find ones that jumped rather than doing a dramatic flip onto their back.

Again, each time you land on a lily pad, you write down a sentence using the form of punctuation that is written there.

The person with the most lily pads at the end wins.  

Have a great week and speak soon, Dawn  

FAQ image

11+ Compound Words: 6th March


I hope the week is going well.  

I thought I’d mention compound words today.

They are basically the creation of placing two words next to each other to create a new word with a new meaning. I guess examples of this could include:

dish+cloth= dishcloth,

car+park = carpark,

or book+mark =bookmark.  

These are different from adding a prefix (something like un, il, or pre) suffix (-ing, -er, ly) to a word which wouldn’t have any sense by themselves.  

Games that you might use to practice these could include


Have a list of words that when paired up could create a compound word. Pick 2 words from the list, draw the line for each letter and the other person has to guess the letters that complete your compound word.  

You may also create a pairs game.

Cut some compound words up and place them face down on the table. The first person takes 2 and if they fit together to create a compound word, they keep them and have another go. If not, they place them back and the other person has a go.  

These are some of the more tricky ones, I think. Can you guess what they might be:  

Me                                     an

Be                                      an

Hum                                 rest

For                                    an

(Actually, now I’ve written them in isolation of any other examples they’re actually quite easy!)  

Would a place where you can access 11+ resources be useful? It will take me a couple of months to complete it, but if it’s something that you think would be beneficial, I’m more than happy to give it a go.  

Let me know what you think.  

Have a great week and speak soon,  


Mark Birch: 7th March 2024


How’s your week going?

It doesn’t seem possible that the GCSEs are only a couple of months away.

We have just 2 places left in the Higher Paper Maths Revision Workshop. If you want more details the basics are here: or feel free to pop me a message.  

I was helping someone with their homework the other evening. We did the maths, but she had also been told to watch a video for English. I suggested that was probably not something she needed my help with, but she asked if we could so that she could cross it off.  

It was an analysis of a scene from Macbeth by a man named Mark Birch and it was brilliant!

It broke the scene down into an affective analysis at the same time as being a simple explanation.  

He had done these videos for other set texts as well such as Romeo and Juliet, Jekyll and Hyde, etc.  

I appreciate dissecting Shakespeare probably doesn’t fill many teenagers with joy, however, if they are learning one of the books he covers, I would recommend watching them. If nothing else, it will provide an alternative view of the text that they may have missed before and watching YouTube doesn’t involve too much effort.

(You might enjoy it as well).  

I’d never heard of Mark Birch before Monday, but I think I’m going to learn a lot from him!  

Have a great weekend,  

Warm wishes, Dawn

Getting started with what to write... 11th March 2024

Good morning,  

I hope you had a brilliant weekend and enjoyed being pampered yesterday for Mother’s Day.

I’m heading off to Essex in a little while for a 4-day training course, so this may be the only email this week. Please can I ask a question. If you were looking for a tutor, what would you want to know? I’m trying to update the website and answer any questions people may have before they get in touch.  

I’m possibly embarrassed to admit that I often learn as much from the children I work with, as they learn from me. During lockdown when we had to change to zoom, one of the lads I worked with at the time, taught me just about everything I know about using zoom and doing online lessons.

On Saturday, a lad was explaining the benefits of AI to me, how it supported him and how his parents use it in their business.  

I’ve sat here staring at the screen for about 45 minutes now wondering what to write. Not knowing how to start. And finally, the brain has kicked in…

If I was working with someone else and they said that I would literally say, write something, anything, we can always tweak it later, or change it completely if we need to. Writing the first word is the hardest part.

Sometimes we would have a picture and before we start to write anything we would think of as many words as we can to describe the picture, either implied or otherwise. From here we have something to work with.

Sometimes it’s easier to not have the picture but to instead think about a location. What can you see, hear, smell, etc? Write it all down. We don’t need to use it all but it might give us some inspiration. For some children structuring a sentence might be an issue.

Here, I often play ‘Silly Sentences’.

Write down a selection of sentences, for example:

The large brown dog ran quickly.

The old orange parrot squawked loudly.

The healthy yellow banana sat silently.

You get the idea.

Then cut all the sentences up so that you have piles of articles (The) adjectives (large, old, etc) and another pile of adjectives describing the colour, then the nouns (the actual thing), followed by the verb (the doing word) and finally the (adverb) how you do the thing.   Muddle the words in the pile up and take one from each pile. Write down your sentence putting in the correct punctuation.

Normally the sentences are quite silly: The large orange banana squawked loudly! Sometimes they make sense. Some children don’t like the ones which are silly and insist on changing them so that they do. Others quite enjoy trying to create different combinations.  

I’ve done it. Once I started writing it got so much easier and the words started to flow.

Have a great week and warmest wishes,  


Multiplying and Dividing Fractions: 14th March 2024


Sorry this is late this week.

I’ve been away on a business training/networking event in Exeter and just got back this afternoon.

The first day I didn’t think I was going to get as much from it as I did last year. Yesterday, is potentially going to change everything. A few years back I spoke about franchising the business, but never had the confidence to follow it through. Yesterday, after a conversation with the lady who was running the event, she has convinced me to go for it. We’ve adjusted the price to £3k, with a £100 monthly training / licence fee. She also suggested that I offer a £250 ‘thank you’ to anyone who recommends someone who then follows through and becomes a franchisee. It’s terrifying, but it’s also exciting.

Enough about me. I hope you’ve had a good week too. Nearly the weekend, then it won’t be long until the Easter holidays! (And then exams…)  

Algebra and fractions seem to be 2 words that traumatise people. So, I thought (not in order to traumatise you) I’d give you a quick low down on multiplying and dividing fractions.  

Multiplying is probably the easiest. You literally multiply the top two numbers together, and then the bottom two.

So, 2    x  5

3      10  

2x5 = 10 so that goes on the top, the numerator.

3x10 = 30, that goes on the bottom, the denominator.

This could then be simplified:



Make both numbers 10 times smaller to give you: 1/3

Dividing is almost as easy accept there is one extra step.

This time the first thing you do is flick the second fraction upside down, and then multiply them together:

2    ÷  5

3      10

This will become:

2    x  10

3         5  

2x10 =20

3x5 = 15 Giving us: 20/15.

Both numbers divide by 5, so we could simplify it down to 4/3 which is the same as 1 1/3.

If you want me to go over ‘simplifying’ or explain either of these in more detail with more examples, shout and I’ll do a video.

Exactly the same format is used if they are algebraic fractions, so you might have:

2a   x 3c

5b     4c

2a x 3c = 6ac

5b x 4c = 20bc

Giving us the answer 6ac


Which in this instance simplifies to: 3a/ 10b (Because the c is on the top and bottom, they eliminate each other when the final fraction is written but you have to show them both in your workings).  

I hope all of this makes sense.

Please shout if it doesn't or if there is anything else that you would like me to talk about.  

Have a great weekend, tomorrow Alf (my grandson) and I, share our birthdays so I’m taking the day off to spend with my youngest before going to see Alfie and his mum and dad in the evening (when they get back from a day at the farm).

There is nothing I like more than spending time with my kids. But enough waffle for now.   Have a great weekend and speak/ see you soon,

Warm wishes,


Common Denominators - 18th March 2024


I hope you had a good weekend.

Yesterday I was at someone’s house, and she asked how last week went. I told her that I’d decided (After a telling off) to push the franchise. Her response was so kind, ‘because you’re amazing?’ No, because I need to get over myself… Harsh but true.  

I was working with another family in the afternoon, and she was saying that her son had been doing fractions for his homework and she’d had to look up what an integer was.

So, I hope this (very short) glossary helps:

Integer: whole number

Denominator: the number at the bottom of the fraction

Numerator: the number at the top of the fraction

Common denominator: when the numbers at the bottom of the fraction are the same.  

If you have common denominators and you are asked to add the fraction, it becomes as simple as just adding the top numbers together, the bottom numbers stay the same.

It’s a bit like saying, I have a cake cut into 8 pieces (that’s the bottom number, the denominator).

You take 2 pieces and I take1 piece. The number of pieces we each take are the numerators. So, how many pieces did we take altogether? 2+1 =3

So, our answer will be 3/8 Three out of the 8 pieces have been taken.

It’s the same with subtracting. If we again have a cake that has been cut into 8 pieces, By the time I get to the table, you have again taken 2 pieces, so we have 6/8 pieces left.

When the cake was whole, we had 8 pieces, you took 2, this left us with 6 out of the 8 pieces, which as a fraction would be written as 6/8.  

I then come along and take1 piece. (The number of pieces we each take are the numerators).

So, how many pieces that are left now is 6/8 – 1/8 = 5/8.  

I hope that makes sense and I’m not just waffling.

Have a great week and speak soon,


Practising the 11+ exam papers

Good morning,

How are you?

How’s your week been so far?

I had Alfie yesterday morning and we went to soft play in Hayle Leys in Aylesbury. He loves it, there’s a big role play area upstairs which is fantastic and requires a lot less energy from me than the play area downstairs. Love it!

I’ve mentioned before that you can download the past papers online for free. You can buy the books, but it seems like an unnecessary investment. But what I suggest is that when you download the paper you also download the answer sheet, so that you, your son or daughter can get used to seeing it and completing it and they’re not suddenly confronted with something completely new and alien to them on the day.  

Initially when you’re working through the papers what I would do is use them as a means of highlighting any areas that need extra practice.

Don’t worry about timing, that can come later. Just initially pick out any of the questions that you can’t yet do. Make a list and then for the following few revision sessions, focus on things that are in your list. Once you’ve completed the list, or a good way through the list have ago at another paper and so on.

If timing is an issue, you may choose to initially start with games where you are timed so that you can get used to pressure in a more relaxed way (I think that is one of the least logical things I have ever written but I hope it makes sense).  

Have a great day and I’ll see you soon,

Warm wishes,


Circle theorems: 21st March 24


How’s your week been?

As I pulled up to someone’s house last night, I must have run over a tiny stone that left a huge impression on my tyre in the way of a hole… I sat in the car for 4 hours waiting for the RAC, then at just after 9:30 I had a call from them saying it was too late to fix it tonight so they would arrange a taxi home for me and then could bring me back this morning to fix it.

My pleasure at hearing this information was less than minimal…

I normally carry a book with me at all times. My kids leave the house and go keys, wallet, phones. I leave and go, keys, purse, book, audio book. Doesn’t have the same ring to it and yesterday I left in a hurry and didn’t have my book with me which was really annoying.  

Anyway, I will stop ranting about it eventually!

We have just 2 places left on the higher maths workshop over Easter.

Today, I will start to plan out the content, though I have a fairly good idea of how it will be structured.  

Circle theorems are definitely something that people seem to struggle with. I think it’s not because they are difficult, but because there is so much to remember.   There are 7 theorems to learn for the GCSE, which in a nutshell are as follows:

1.      When a line leaves each end of the diameter and joins at the circumference, the angle where they meet is always 90 degrees.

2.      Two radii which have a line across the bottom to form a triangle will create an isosceles triangle (because the radius is always the same distance from the circumference no matter where it is drawn in the circle, meaning that the base angles will always be the same).

3.      If you have a 4-sided shape with each corner touching the circumference, the two opposite corners will add to 180 degrees.

4.      Where the tangent (a straight line that touches the outside of the circle) touches the radius, it will again be 90 degrees.

5.      A line taking off the edge of a circle is called a chord. If you have triangles anywhere in the circle which reach the circumference and use this same chord as their base. The angle at the circumference will always be the same.

6.      Alternate angle theorem. This is apparently the hardest one to learn. Imagine a triangle in a circle which has one corner touching the tangent. (Life is so much easier when I can draw these and show you what I mean!) The areas outside the triangle are called segments. The angle that touches the tangent it equal to the angle in the opposite segment at the circumference. If that makes sense, I will be shocked!

7.      Finally, an angle at the circumference is always half the size of the angle at the centre.  

If none of that makes sense without diagrams/ video, please do say and I will happily create it and attach it to next times email.  

But for now, I have chattered enough. I’ve got big plans for today since I couldn’t get to Clara’s to look after Alfie this morning.  

Enjoy your day and speak soon, have a good weekend,


Letter Sounds: 25th March 2024

Good morning,

I hope you had a good weekend.  

Saturday, I drove down to Gatwick to collect Hay after a holiday to Cyprus, we also have a new lady, Tessa, who is going to be joining us, which I am really excited about, apart from that all in all, it was a fairly uneventful weekend.

Work feels like a 1000-piece jigsaw. We found the edges when we first started, our values and our ethos, now the image is slowly coming together, and the pieces are fitting into place far more easily. From the lessons to the tutors, to the franchise, everything just feels right at the moment.  

A couple of years ago I used to work with a couple of people, and both were focusing on the sounds of the letters: one was young and was still trying to grasp them, the other was dyslexic and struggled to recognise them.   When you are working with the initial letter sounds, one of the things we used to do was create a page which had 4 or 5 things all starting with that same letter (and ideally sound).

Each of the images needed to be coloured in by them, then as we progressed I started writing the words under the images and they would copy it in large colourful letters, then I would just put the first letter and they would complete the word.

We also used the same principle for pairs games, fishing, word searches, hangman, etc. We would (very occasionally) play eye-spy trying to find words starting with the letters we had been practicing. ‘Busy’ pictures with items hidden starting with that letter can also be affective.  

Just some ideas.

Have a great week and speak soon,


An Inspector Calls: 4th April 2024


I hope the week is going well

Yesterday I did the first of the Easter GCSE workshops and I think it went well. Next week is the higher paper for which we still have 2 places, and I am considerably more nervous about it, though less so now that yesterday went well.

It seems unimaginable that there’s only just over a month until the GCSEs start.

This year has gone so fast!

Many year 10’s seem to have tests after Easter including one on an Inspector Calls.

I am yet to learn to like this play.

When revising for an Inspector Calls, one of the things I suggest you do is to create a quote grid. Draw a table 6x7, then along the left-hand side write each character’s name in a box: Sheila, Mr B, Mrs B, Eric, The Inspector, Eva Smith/ Daisy Renton. Then across the top write a theme in each box: social class/ wealth, description, responsibility/ learning, change, and guilt.

Then go through and find at least one quote per box (Shelia and change, or Shelia and guilt). By doing this you are creating enough quotes so that if you are asked about a character, you have quotes which should hopefully be useful. Again, if you are asked about a theme, you will have quotes that you will be able think back to.

What you need to remember is it’s not enough to remember the plot and who says what. The majority of the marks will come from the analysis. Why did the characters say/ do this? What impact does this have on the audience? How does it affect our opinion of that character?   It’s a bit like have a toddler that repeatedly asks ‘why?’  

I hope this helps. Use plenty of colours when your revising, it will help you to remember it.

Enjoy the rest of the week and speak soon,


11+ Hidden 4-letter word 10th April 24

Good morning,  

I hope you’re enjoying the holidays still.

I ought to be more organised and keep a list of what I’ve written about, so I don’t repeat myself. I apologise if I am…

Today is the first day of the higher GCSE maths workshop and I’m trying to convince myself that I’m excited rather than nervous.  

There’s a section within the 11+ where you have to find a hidden 4-letter word. It is basically spread between 2 words:  

Me and my brother are going to the park.  

When you’re trying to solve these problems, I would suggest not reading the sentences, but instead looking at the letters. You might want to cover the words so that you are seeing just the word endings of one word and the beginning of the next to see if you can spot anything.

For example, with the following sentence:

I wrote the sentence, then we edited it together.

I and wro doesn’t form a word, so move on.

Ote and t joined together, still doesn’t provide me with a word.

Neither does teth.

Ethe? No.

However, as I move down the line and get to we edited it together, the we+ed = weed.

This provides me with the word.

At first it’s hard not to read the sentences, but looing at the letters, treating it more like a word search will make it far easier for you.

Below are some I wrote a while a go for you to try.

Good luck and enjoy your Wednesday.

Warm wishes, Dawn  

Find the hidden 4 letter word:  

1.    “I thought she might be angry!”

2.   I need to keep my shoes clean, so on an evening I always do it before I go to bed.

3.   If you want to meet, be at the corner for nine.

4.   The boy was having a wash.

5.   We’ll go odd numbers first, then even numbers.

6.   He attended the game with his dad.

7.   The bus had an upper floor.

8.   They were best friends now.

9.   The shark fin disappeared into the water.

10.    The new puppy ate his slippers.      

Surds: 11th April 2024


Less than a month until the start of this year’s GCSEs!

How are you feeling?

Yesterday morning in the first day of the higher paper GCSE workshop we did surds.

Understandably, not many people like surds…  

A surd is basically a number that when you square root it leaves you with a decimal.  

But the key step to a surd is to simplify it first.

So, for example, if we were looking to simplify √63: Start by writing down all of the factor pairs of 63:


(2 won’t work)

3 x21

(4 won't work)

(5 won't work)

(6 won't work)

7 x9  

Seen as 7x9 is the only pair that involves a square number, we will go with that pair.

Square root the 9 and place that to the left of the surd sign, then sit the 7 underneath giving you the answer: 3√7  

Once that bit is conquered, you can look at adding and subtracting surds.

If you were asked: √63 +√28 we already know that √63 is 3√7, so we just need to simplify √28.

The factor pairs of 28 are:




4x7 is the pair with the square number.

So, square root the 4 to give you 2, and place that number on the outside of the surd: 2√7.

This gives you the question: 3√7 + 2√7

3+2 =5,

the 7 stays the same,

so the answer to our question is 5√7.  

To subtract, the philosophy is the same except you take one from the other instead of adding.  

When you multiply surds you multiply the number on the outside by the number on the inside, so in another example we might have 3√2 x 5√7.

3x5 = 15, this goes on the outside 2x7 = 14, so this goes on the inside  

To divide the principle is the same except instead of multiplying the numbers you divide.

It obviously gets harder. Like many things in maths, it lulls you into a false sense of security then turns around and bites you!! But I hope this makes the initial steps seem easier to contend with.  

Enjoy your day and warm wishes,


Squares and square roots


How was your weekend?

I hope you got the chance to enjoy the sunshine whilst it lasted, though I am sure it won’t be long before it’s back.

Last week on a couple of occasions I concentrated on square numbers and square roots with people.

Getting the idea that a square number is the answer when you times a number by itself, for example, 5x5 (25, the answer) is the square number seemed to be fairly easy to grasp.

However, getting the square roots seemed much more complicated to work out. (The square roots are the numbers which create the square number. So, the number I have multiplied by itself to create the square number).  

Reading that back I quite understand why that might seem like a monumental challenge!

An alternative way to describe it might be a square root of a number is a value that, when multiplied by itself, gives the original number.

For example, the square root of 9 is 3 because when you multiply 3 by itself (3 × 3), you get 9. Similarly, the square root of 16 is 4 because 4 × 4 equals 16. When you see the symbol √, it represents the square root. So, √25 equals 5 because 5 × 5 is 25. It's a way of finding out what number was multiplied by itself to reach the number under the square root symbol.  

But even that is enough to hurt your brain. What I would suggest is that you create a 100 square.

A 10x10 square with the numbers written in.

Then colour in 1, 4, 9, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100.

These are the square numbers.

Now to work out the square root you can just trace the lines where they intersect, and the first number written there is the square root of the number-coloured in. (If you want me to send you a 100-square over I can, but I’m not sure how to attach it to this mailing system).

When children have started to learn about factor trees, we can use those to work out the square and cube roots of numbers, but I think that’s not introduced in most schools until year 7, so I won’t complicate things today.

But again, if you want me to explain, let me know.

Enjoy your day and warm wishes,


Supporting year 6 SATs


I hope you had a good weekend. Did you get up to much?

Yesterday morning I went for a swim which I really enjoyed. Although I did 30 lengths it’s a social thing as much as anything. I was chatting to someone in the steam room, and he was saying that he’s doing a parachute jump in a couple of months. Recently I have worked harder at pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but I think that would push me too far. I’m too much of a coward for that!  

Next month the year 6 children will be doing their SATs, and the pressure is once again on. Last year I did a workshop on supporting your children with SATs. The plan was to record it, but I forgot to press record, so re -recorded it afterwards.

If it would be helpful to see it here’s the link:

I can’t remember what I talked about now and I don’t like watching myself back, but I hope there is something of use in there.  

Enjoy your week, if there is anything that your child is learning that you would like me to explain, please do say.

Warmest wishes,


(PS. If you know anyone who might be interested in a Clara James franchise, if they sign up and go through the training, there is a £250 thank you for you for recommending the franchise to them. So if you do know a disgruntled teacher, a teaching assistant, or just someone who is looking for a change or a new challenge in life and this might be for them, please do suggest they get in touch).  

24th April 24: 11+ Number Word Codes


I hope the week is going well.

Yesterday I learned that practice makes perfect. I was with Alfie, my 3-year-old grandson and he talks constantly, half the time he is trying to manipulate you into letting him get away with something he shouldn’t be, his phrase of the moment is: “but my mummy said…”

He talks fluently and constantly. I’m sure when anyone does something that consistently, you might drive those around you insane, but you can’t help but become great at it. You have to love him, but there is never a moment of peace!

I’ve been asked if I could explain the 11+ number-word sequences.

They normally look something like this:  


8214      1368      1932

You’ll then be asked what the code would be for another word. In this instance, the code we are looking for is the word last.

(I’ve borrowed this code, it’s not one I’ve created myself).  

The first thing I would do is look to see what the words and the codes have in common.

So, for example there are 2 words that start with ‘S’ and 2 codes that start with a 1. In addition there is 1 word that has an ‘S’ as the second to last letter, and 1 code that has a 1 second from the end:

1                  1      1


8214      1368      1932  

At the moment we can presume that S= 1.

Looking through the words, we can see that 2 of the words have an ‘E’ in second place and 1 has an ‘E’ in last place. If we try to match the ‘E’ to a 2, this might work as we have ‘west’ with an E before ‘S’ and we also have ‘SALE’ with an ‘E’ at the end.

We’ll try it, we can always change it if needed:

1                21      1    2         2


8214      1368      1932

S= 1 E =2

If this is going to work, my next guess is that West = 8214

Because we have the es lining up in the word with the 21 in the code

1             8214     1    2         2

SLOW    WEST    SALE      RENT  

If that is right, we now know that

W = 8 and ‘T’ = 4

1      8     8214     1    2         2  4


8214      1368      1932  

I now have SLOW that starts with 1 and an 8, and a code 1368, so I’m going to presume that these fit together:

1368       8214    1    2         2  4


8214      1368      1932

That would mean L =3 and O =6 I also have SALE which starts with a 1 and a 2, and the code 1932 which contains a 1 and a 2, so I’ll put those in to try:

1368       8214    1932         2  4


8214      1368      1932

We don’t have numbers to represent the letters ‘R’ or ‘N’ but that doesn’t matter as they’re not in the word we need to decode: LAST.

Looking back we can see ‘L’ lines up with 3

‘A’ lines up with 9

‘S’ lines up with 1

‘T’ lines up with 4

Therefore, the code for LAST is: 3914.  

Solving these problems is a bit like a jigsaw, you have to see which parts fit together, then as 1-piece fits into place often another piece will reveal itself. I hope this has helped.

Have a great day and if there is anything at all that you would like to see in these emails, please do let me know.

Warm wishes,


The efforts of reading... 25th April 2024

Good morning,  

I hope it has been a good week.

Last week I tried to explain factorising double brackets (factorising quadratics). I think it blew some brains – I apologise for that.

A lot of the kids I work with often state that they don’t like reading.

They wish they did because they know it would help them with their spelling, vocabulary, grammar but it just seems like such an effort after a day of school, homework, or whatever else. So, it’s always put off until tomorrow. And as they say tomorrow, rarely ever comes.  

I think we often think that reading must take the form of a book. Maybe something classical. Perhaps not Dante’s Inferno or Withering Heights, but something notable.

Honestly, a range of blog posts, magazine articles, newspaper reports will do the job just as well. Especially as in English Language Paper 2 you are probably going to be asked to write a speech, a newspaper report, a magazine article, etc so experience of the language used in these, their layout, and presentation will be potentially more useful in that context.  

I’d also recommend audiobooks especially if you sit the exams this summer and you are wanting to cram before then. There will be a limited number of books you’ll be able to read in that time, but if you put the speed of an audio book on 1.5x you’ll be able to expose yourself to far more books and it won’t need to be the chore that reading potentially could be.  

If you do want to pick up a book to read, I was recommended “I Must Betray You”. You will need your tissues. It’s written from the perspective of a teenage boy in Communist Romania. It was recommended to me by another mum after her daughter had read it. It was a really good thought inspiring book. Thee sort you struggle to put down.

I also enjoyed Animal Farm by George Orwell if you’re not doing it as one of your set texts. The first time I read it, I was 18, sat on the beach with friends in Crete waiting for the transfer back to the airport to come home. It can be read and interpreted on many levels which is perhaps part of its appeal.  

If you have any other books, I can recommend to those I work with I’d love to hear them.  

Have a great weekend and warm wishes,  


Funny pictures - 29th April 2024


I hope you had a great weekend.

Yesterday evening we went to Clara’s for dinner. She’s a good cook, in fact unlike me, all three of the kids are.

We often play a game I call ‘Funny Pictures’.

Do you know the game where the first person draws a head at the top of the piece of paper, then you turn it over and the other person draws the body. The paper then gets folded over and the first person (or the third person) draws the legs and feet.

You then open the piece of paper, and you are presented with a really random picture of a person/creature/alien.  

Once we have created the image, I then have a set of instructions numbered 1 to 6.

The first might be something along the lines of write a sentence containing 2 adjectives to describe the image.

Number 2 is to say what he likes to do using an adverb.

The third is to state a prepositional sentence to explain where he is.

Number 4 declares we need to write a sentence using a common noun.

5 is a simile.

6 declares we must use alliteration to describe him.

The order in which the sentences are written are dictated by the roll of a dice.

At the end we read our sentences to the other person.  

The idea is that the image and the instructions give us a starting point for what we must write. It also gets us thinking about what each of those instructions are.  

It seems to be a game that goes down well. If you give it a go, I’d love to see your quirky images (they don’t need to be the work of an artist, just a quick sketch) and the sentences you write.  

Have a great week and warm wishes,

Dawn  FAQ

A week until the GCSEs start! 2nd May 2024

A week until the GCSEs start!

Not long to go. Good luck!

We also have the year 6 SATs happening in the next week or 2 and year 9’s and 10’s are also finishing their end of year exams. Weeks, months of expectation and build-up and suddenly their finished.


When my lot were doing their exams, I said to them that no matter what they achieved if they could walk into the exam hall knowing they had done their best, there was nothing else anyone could ask of them. No matter the results, we would be proud of them.

But this is a stressful time for the kids, and you, their parents. Supporting a child through their GCSEs is hard!  

It’s made even harder if they aren’t motivated, maybe because they don’t feel they will pass anyway. They see you as a nag, rather than as a help.

When they say they are revising, trust that they are. Give them space.

Maybe I come across as naive in saying that, but especially with Clara I learned the more I interfered, the more I nagged, the more resistant she became. But let them know that if they need help, you are there for them.

I can remember one evening with Clara when she was revising for her German speaking exam laying on the bed singing together what she had to say. Neither of us can sing, I can’t speak a word of German I was just reading words from a page. It must have sounded horrendous! But it worked, she remembered enough of it to get a C overall.

Revision doesn’t need to be about reading from textbooks and making notes (though I must confess as a true nerd of a child, I used to love doing that. A walk to the village library on a Friday evening to get the books I would need for the weekend, then I would have them all spread out around me, and I would find what was relevant and make notes, upon notes, upon notes).

One lad I work with says he is playing a game online with his mates and they’ve named different parts of the game after aspects of an Inspector Calls. Because of the game and his frequent interaction with it, his has his quotes down to a T.

He’s impressive.

A girl I used to work with use to create illustrations and mind maps. I think I mentioned before, J made all the quotes he needed for his English Lit exams into images. For example, for the quote from Macbeth: Is this a dagger I see before me? He drew a dagger, an eye, the sea, a bee, the number 4, and a picture of him.

The effort, thought, and concentration needed to create them worked and I still remember many of them and I just walked with him on dog walks testing him.

Another lad I work with has created his timetable using ChatGPT, something I’d never have thought of but is a really fantastic idea.

Suggest to them that they write down and record what they have learned, achieved. That way they will be able to look back and see how far they have come, what they have accomplished, use it to drive themselves forward.

Be there for them. Exams are stressful. They’re stressed, their teachers are stressed, you are inevitably stressed!

Work through it together.

Last year the charity that Hay works with put out a report on supporting children through exams, I’ll ask her if she still has the link and pass it on for you if you’re interested.

Show interest in what their doing, not just with their exams but with their life in general. It’s important that they maintain a balance, no one can work 24/7 without burn out.

The year I did my GCSEs we went on holiday to Turkey shortly after. We were on a Gullet cruise off the coast of Bodrum. I think in part it was the gentle movement of the boat, but I went to bed one evening and woke up 48 hours later. I was exhausted. I had worked so hard to try to prove to myself that I was as intelligent, as capable as my brother. I was done, I was shattered.

Ask what you can do to help, whether it’s nothing more than not nagging or printing out past papers for them to work through, making meals or letting them off their dishwasher duties, work together.

Make sure they have everything that they need, especially the day of the exams. May be make a list in advance, include the things like calculators that aren’t needed for every exam and could easily be forgotten in the stress of the moment.

Be a support, a shoulder to cry on, someone to be screamed at, shouted at so that they can release their emotions. They don’t mean it and you probably know they don’t mean it. Keep the channels of communication open, let them know you’re there for them.

My goal to prove to myself that I was as clever as Jase wasn’t realistic. As an adult I’ve come to learn that there are very few people as clever as he is. Like I said earlier, put the emphasis on effort, not on the results. Regardless of the outcome, let them know you are so proud of them.

Celebrate with genuine happiness and pride.

These suggestions are nothing more than what I have learned through my experience of doing my GCSEs many, many years ago, working with my 3 when they did theirs, and talking to the kids and families that I work with.

But amongst it all, I hope you find something that helps.

Good luck, I have my fingers crossed. Each and everyone of them deserves to do so well.


FAQ image

No longer 'Guess Who'

Good morning and happy bank holiday Monday.  

Yesterday I was working with a lad on the 11+.

I had my lesson planned our and his resources in his folder but as I was about to go into his house, I noticed the ‘No Longer Guess Who’ game in my boot and decided to grab it just in case.  

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this game before. I used to play it a lot as a child when we went to a friend’s house so impart, I think I associate it with childhood memories and them.  

Anyway, what I have done is taken out all the faces and swapped them with numbers. The numbers include prime numbers, even numbers, square numbers, odd numbers, numbers in the 3x table, numbers in the 5x table, etc. up to 100.  

Now instead of trying to guess the person the other person has; you must guess the number by asking a series of questions. “Is it odd?” “Is it a 2-digit number?" etc.

If I say it’s odd, they need to put down all the even numbers. In theory the number left standing at the end is the number the other person has.   It’s good fun, and an enjoyable way of practicing number values such as odd, even, prime, square, multiples, etc depending on the stage your child is at.  

I won’t chatter on for too long, you have a Bank Holiday to enjoy.   Have a great day with whatever it is you’re doing, warm wishes,


A quick revision idea (& surds)


Today’s the day!

The first day of the GCSE exams, good luck to everyone who is sitting them this year.

A girl I was working with the other day says she has the play of Romeo and Juliet playing quietly in the background when she revises. She was saying that she can’t be bothered to ‘learn it’ but by doing that she’s started to remember the quotes and familiarise herself with the storyline which I though was a brilliant idea.  

This week I think I realised quite how old I am. Hay has arranged for us to go and see Keane at the O2 tomorrow night. When they were kids, we used to listen to it over and over in the car. Keane or occasionally Travis for a change before going back to Keane again.

At the end of most lessons I’ll say well done, have a good evening, enjoy the weekend, etc and often they will ask if I’m doing anything. Normally I just go, ‘no, just working’ but this weekend I was able to say ‘Yes, I’m off to see Keane’.

Most just looked at me as if to say should I know that person, someone asked if it was my …brother?

A band we listened to which felt like yesterday is probably nearly 15/ 20 years ago. Where has that time gone!  

I was chatting with another girl the other day who has just done her end of year tests and she apparently had spent ages revising surds, but only 2 questions came up on the subject. It was pointed out that I hadn’t actually done a video on surds and that I should.

She wouldn’t watch it as she had already learned them, but I should do a video.

So, that is on my to-do list but in the meantime, the basics of most surds is simplifying them.

Going back to the beginning, let me suggest that you are asked to simplify √63

Start by writing down the factors of 63. I normally do them in pairs:

1 x 63



Now pick the pair that contains the square number.

In this instance 7x9

Square root the 9 and put it to the front of the surd: 3√

And put the 7 inside: 3√7  

That’s √69 simplified.  

That is also the basics for adding and subtracting surds.

So, if I’m asked to work out √69 + √175

I can start by simplifying the √69: 3√7

At GCSE level at least the number behind the surd is always the same when asked to add or subtract.

So we can either write down the factors of 175:




The pair with the square number (7x25) also happens to be the pair that contains the 7.

So if you’re not sure, try dividing 175 by the number you already have behind the surd for the other part of the question and see what you get.  

We now have 3√7 + 5√7   3+5 = 8 and the 7’s stay the same.

Our answer is: 8√7  

I’ll do a video and explain it properly, but I hope that in a nutshell that makes sense.  

Good luck once again and enjoy the sunshine!

Speak soon, Dawn        

FAQ image

Punctuation Practice - 14th May 24


I hope you had a brilliant weekend and got the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine. It really feels like summer has arrived.

On Friday, Hay and I, went to see Keane at the O2. She’d arranged for us to have dinner first in a restaurant overlooking Tower Bridge, then on to the concert. My knowledge of concerts is limited (Robbie Williams in Paris is my only other experience apart from a couple of tribute bands), but Hay goes to them quite frequently and said this was one of the best she’d been to, and I can well believe it.

The day, the whole experience was incredible.  

Good luck to all those who are doing their SATs this week I gather there is the SPAG test today.

The other day I mentioned funny pictures and how you each take turns to draw the picture, then a roll of the dice determines the order you write the sentence about the character using either alliteration, proper noun, adjective, etc.  

I was playing it with someone yesterday and it struck me you could play the same game but with punctuation to instead of a grammatical technique.

So, 1 might be a full stop.

2: an exclamation mark

3: a question mark

4: A comma

5: speech marks

6: An apostrophe  

Again, the sentences would need to be based on the image you drew, but it might be a way of making it more appropriate to some children.  

I will probably create that today.

If you play it, let me know how you get on and if you enjoy it.  

Have a great week and good luck to all of those taking exams,  

Warm wishes,


Analysing text: GCSE English Literature


I know I normally send the email out on a Thursday, but I wanted to get this in before tomorrow’s English Lit exam (Sorry I should have sent it before Monday’s...)

Last year I was working with a lad from the Grammar school and his teacher suggested that when you’re analysing the text, instead of trying to give a deep piece of analysis on one piece of evidence, give 3 pieces of evidence for each point and spread the analysis across those three points.  

In addition, when you write the analysis ensure you write about the perspective, ideas, context of the point you are making as this is what the examiner is looking for so it will help you to tick the relevant boxes so to speak.

Also, when you write, write in a academic/ formal tone rather than the friendly tone you would adapt if you were writing to your friends.   I hope this helps, I’ve done a quick 3-minute video to try and explain it but if you have any questions, please do ask:  

Good luck!   Speak soon, Dawn

11+ practice: completing the sequence


I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks.

In the 11+ there’s a series of questions where you are asked to state which is the missing square. They give you a pattern made up of 4 squares and ask you which square would correctly continue the pattern.  

Sometimes these are quite straight forward, it will be nothing more than rotating the shape slightly each time.

At times, there might be two changes. For example, they might be reflected and then the position in the square changes slightly, so that it moves slightly further back from the one in the reflection or slightly closer. Although the gap may be insignificant it shows more when you look at the images two or three squares apart.

A common change is often related to the colour of part of a pattern. It might be formed with white, black, and grey beads. Watch out for the movement of the beads as they may move up or down, left or right each time in a certain order. What initially looks like a random display of dots, does have logic to it.  

Rotating cubes are another firm favourite it seems. You are shown the same cube from 4 angles. You must decide which image is the same cube from another angle. This seems to be something that some people can do, others struggle. Whilst you’re practicing them, I would probably suggest either putting stickers on dice to replicate the image shown or creating your own paper cubes and seeing which one’s work.

Are their any patterns that can be spotted?

You will probably notice that if the patterns are separated by 1 other on the net, they will never sit together on the cube making it potentially possible to eliminate some of the options.  

As you progress the patterns get slowly harder to spot but the means of solving them stay the same. Look at the position of the different colours, look at the quantity of different squares, spots, etc. Look at the number of sides, look at the position of the parts. Look at the size: do they get bigger or smaller?

It sounds difficult (and yes, they often are, the more you look at them, the more they seem to taunt you) but in all honesty the logic changes very little each time.

Just watch out for the basics and eliminate those as options first and you will hopefully find the answer fairly quickly.  

Good luck, have a great week and warm wishes,


Adding Fractions

Fractions seem to be something that confuse a lot of people.

In their simplest form they seem fairly harmless.

They lull you into this false sense of security. Then they reveal their true colours!  

Adding fractions when they have the same denominator (bottom number) is straightforward. The bottom number stays the same, you just add the digits on the top.

So, 2/5 + 1/5 = 3/5

The same applies when you need to subtract: 2/5 - 1/5 = 1/5  

Then once they have convinced you of how nice they are, they turn out to be quite spiteful!  

If the denominator differs, we need to make them the same before we can continue. We have 2 options.

Option one:   2/5 +7/10  

Because 5 is a factor (a number that goes into another number without leaving any remainders/mess behind) we can just double the 5.

We would then need to double the 5 as well to keep the fractions equivalent.  

This would give us:   4/10 + 7/10   Now we can add the top numbers together and keep the 10 the same giving us 11/10.  

However, sometimes they will give you something much harsher!  

They might present you with something like:   4/5 + 2/3  

The first thing to do is to multiply the bottom numbers together so that we have a common denominator.  

5x3 = 15  

At this point I normally rewrite the question but just put the 15s at the bottom of the fraction. Nothing else:

  + =

15    15     15  

Because I multiplied the 5 by 3 to get to 15, I need to multiply the 4 by 3 as well to keep them equivalent.

This would give me 12. I can now place this on top of the first fraction:  

14 + =

15    15     15  

Now because I multiplied the 3 by 5 to get to 15, I must multiply the 2 by 5 as well. 2x5= 10 This now sits on top of the second fraction:  

14 + 10 =

15    15     15  

Finally, keeping the 15 the same, I can add the 14 and the 10 together to get my final answer: 24/10  

I rewrite the fraction first with the new denominator so that I’m not tempted to add them together as well.   This was very much adding fractions in a nutshell, but I hope it helps.

Here’s a short clip if it helps:

Compound Words: 22nd May 24

Good morning, Have you anything planned for half term?

I hope the weather improves a bit from what it is right now.  

What I started working on the 11+ with children a few years ago I was introduced to compound words.

They are basically 2 words that join to create a new word.

On a basic level they might be something like:

hay+stack = haystack,


However, as is to be expected the 11+ likes to through in some much less obvious ones:  











If you want a challenge, feel free to have a go at these ones:  

Hum                                  wing

Be                                       an

Me                                     on

So                                       at

So                                       an  

I won’t ruin it by giving you the answers here, but if you want them, let me know and I’ll let you know.  

We often play them by using things like pairs, splitting the two words, laying them all out on the table in front then taking it in turns to pick up 2. If they join to make a compound word, keep them and have another go. If not, place them back and the other person has a go.

The one with the most pairs at the end is the winner.

Have a great day and a great half-term.  

Warm wishes,  


Proportion - 23rd May 24


Good luck to everyone doing their English Language paper today.

I’ve probably left it a bit late again but as I drifted off last night I remembered a few months ago I did this, if it’s of any help:  

The other day I was working with a lad doing proportion.

Proportion can be a pain to get your head around initially.  

On a basic level a direct proportion question maybe something like this: If 3 books cost £15, how much would 5 books cost?

The equation that you need to use is y=kx

The k is the amount that never varies, the y in this instance is the total cost, and the x is the number of books.

So, if we substitute in what we know: 15=k3

The first thing we must do is work out the value of k so divide both sides by 3.

15/3 = £5

One book cost us £5.

Now we know the cost/book, we can multiply it by the number of books we want to buy which in this instance was 5:

£5(our k or cost/ book) x 5 (the number of books we want to buy)= £25  

An Indirect (or Inverse) Proportion Question might take the line: If 4 workers can complete a task in 12 days, how long would it take 6 workers to complete the same task, assuming they work at the same rate?

This time the equation we must use is y=k/x This time the y is the number of days, and the x is the number of workers.

So, again if we substitute in the numbers that we have: 4 = k/12 To find the time it would take one worker (our k) we need to multiply12 by 4. Meaning 1 worker will take 48 days.

Now if we want to know how long it will take 6 workers, we go back to the original formula but substitute 48 for the k, and 6 for the x (number of workers) Y = 48/6

Which means y = 48/6 = 8 It will take 6 workers 8 days to complete the job.  

I hope some of that made sense. Good luck once again to those doing their English paper today.  

Enjoy the bank holiday,  

Warm wishes,


The 5-minute-challenge Snakes & Ladders Game

I hope you’ve had a good weekend I can’t believe we are coming into the final half of the summer term. Where has this year gone!

This past week or two I’ve pretty much said goodbye to most of the GCSE students I’ve been working with. I was thinking about it the other day as I left a lad’s home for the last time.

Some of the kids we work with we get to know over a period of several years, I’ve known families through marriages, divorces, births, and sadly one girl I worked with lost her mum during the time that I worked with her.

Although you’re not tutoring them anymore, it’s strange you never forget those you’ve worked with.

One of the first lads I ever worked with, our goal was to extend his vocabulary. Yesterday, I was playing the 5-minute-snakes-and-ladders game with someone, which is basically a mash up of the 5-minute challenge and snakes and ladders.

In the 5-minute challenge you have a list of 12 categories, and 5 minutes to try and think of 3 words that fit for each category: with adjectives starting with C, countries starting with C, 3 farm animals, etc.

In the snakes and ladders version instead of having 5-minutes we just had the categories written on the squares of the board, each time you land on a square you need to think of 3 words in the same way, but you’re not against the clock.

I don’t know how many times we landed on ‘warm weather’ (3 alternative ways to describe warm weather) but each time we did, the challenge got greater as you’re not supposed to use the same word twice.

We laughed and laughed some more as our brains started to break under the pressure.   If you have a go, I hope you enjoy it.

Have a good week and warm wishes,


English Language Paper 2


It’s the last day of the GCSE English exams, a huge relief for many, I think!

Good luck to you all.

I was doing a paper with someone the other day and the question we were looking at was along the lines of: A day at the British seaside is a great day out for all the family.

Write an article for a broadsheet newspaper saying to what extent you agree.

That wasn’t the exact wording, but it gives you an idea.

We discussed the options and decided that possibly a long anecdote reflecting back on a day at the beach, embedded with facts and figures, rhetorical questions, etc. would probably be the best and easiest way to do this.

With any article, letter, speech, etc ensure you set it out in the appropriate way. A letter needs the addresses and the date (though they can obviously be fictional), an article needs a headline that will capture the reader’s interest.

All of them need a strong, powerful opening to capture the examiners interest and reassure them that you are worthy of the grade that you are aiming for.

Good luck, I hope today, and the rest of the exams go well.

Keep me posted with how you get on.

Warm wishes,


Another 11+ verbal reasoning post...

Morning, How is your week going? Yesterday was my lad, Jamie’s, birthday. I spoke to him briefly and he was saying 2 years ago he was working in Sierra Leone helping organise the Street Child Marathon. That triggered something in him. In December of that year, he ran his first marathon in Jordan. A year ago, he was living and working in Sumatra, Indonesia. He spent his birthday in their capital, Jakarta. He spent this birthday living and working in China. He has now run 5 marathons, each in different countries, the last one being at the weekend in Myanmar. His goal is to run another 5 marathons in a different 5 countries before his 28th birthday next year. Hay turns 25 tomorrow and is celebrating it at a much slower pace.   There’s a section of the 11+ within the verbal reasoning questions that states:   In this question, one letter can be moved from the first word to the second word to make two new words. The letters must not otherwise be rearranged and both new words must make sense. Find the letter that moves and mark it on the answer sheet. The answer is u: when removed from the word ‘pound’, we get a new word ‘pond’ and when added to the word ‘or’ we get a new word ‘our’. The letters have not otherwise been rearranged and both new words make sense.   A task like this is best achieved with a confidence in spelling and vocabulary. Both come naturally to some people, for others it will be far more challenging. However, I would suggest that obviously reading is always advantageous to most things in life, introducing new words, demonstrating grammar, spelling, punctuation. However, I think I’ve mentioned the game we’ve played before with the scrabble letters? Each person takes half of the letters each. You must then use all of your letters to create words. They need to be a minimum of 3 letters and no names or abbreviations, unless it has a name with a meaning such as dawn or angel, but Jamie or Clara wouldn’t be allowed.   This starts of fairly easily and initially you will probably wonder what the challenge is, however as you get to the end and you are left with an excessive amount of ‘e’s or ‘p’s or ‘q’s or something, you will start to turn grey and pull your hair out…   If you want to take it up another level, what you could do, is once you have used all of your letters to complete your words, try taking a letter from a word to leave a word, but then add it to another to create a new word as these questions suggest. You mustn’t rearrange any of the other letters they need to stay in their original order. Their may be times when it’s not possible, but have a go, see what you can manage. You may need to work as a team on this final part. Good luck and if the next time I see you your hair is thinner and greyer, I’ll be able to guess why 😉   Have a good week and speak soon,   Dawn          

Encouraging reading with jokes 10th June 2024

Do you have a child who is reluctant to read?

A few years ago, I worked with a lad who struggled with reading so we used to read from joke books. We would play the dotty board game with the 3-colours.

We each chose a colour, for the purpose of this you can be red, I’ll be green. Yellow can be the forfeits. As you move around the board, if anyone lands on a red, you read, if anyone lands on a green, I must read. If anyone should land on a yellow, there is a forfeit such as roll again, the other person reads, read again, move forward 3, etc. (These are each determined by the roll of a dice.  

By using a joke book it meant that the amount of reading to be endured was limited to just a couple of lines each time make it more bearable. It also meant some of the jokes generated a smile making it seem less traumatic experience…  

If you are struggling to get your child to read, a joke book might be worth a go, just because the reading is presented in such small, generally achievable sections (though you may need to help with some of the words) and a good joke does make it hard not to smile…  

Simple and compound interest

That’s it, the GCSEs are nearly done. The finishing line is within touching distance. Good luck with the last few, then with the anticipated results day. I think some of this year’s year 10 students are already starting to feel the nerves. Some year 10’s have another maths exam coming up, interest is something on the list that a couple have asked about, so I thought I’d do a quick recap now.   There are 2 forms: Simple interest: Clara invests £300 for 4 years in an account where she will earn 5% simple interest. How much will be in her account at the end of the 4 years?   £300 = 100% of the value  (divide by 100 to find 1%) £3 = 1% (multiply £3 by 5 to work out what 5% is) £15 = 5%   With simple interest, each year they will give her another £15. If she keeps the money in the account for 4 years, they will give her 4x £15 (£60).   If we add this on to her initial investment of £300, we can work out the amount that is in her account at the end of the 4 years:   £300+£60 = £360   The other interest type is Compound interest.   This time the amount of interest is calculated as a percentage of the money that is in the account.   So, if J invests £300 for 4 years in an account where he will earn 5% compound interest. How much will be in his account at the end of the 4 years?   This style just has one basic formula to learn:   £300 x 1. 05 4   We start with the £300 this is the initial investment. We then multiply by 1: because it is an investment, he will get the initial investment back as well as the additional interest. The 1 signifies the whole initial investment. The .05 is the percentage rate. It is .05 because we are multiplying by just 5% rather than 50%. (If it was 2.5% we would multiply by 1.025) Finally, the power of 4 represents the 4 years that he will be investing the money for.   If we type this into the calculator we should get the answer: £364.65 So, in this instance J receives a slightly better return on investment than Clara.   That really was a simplified version of interest, but I hope it made sense.

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Tutoring memories: February 2024

Hi,  I hope you’re having a good half-term.

I spent an hour out in the sun washing the car yesterday and really enjoyed it. It had felt like I had half the mud from the Buckinghamshire roads stuck to the side of it, and although it’s by no means perfect it’s a LOT better than it was.

About a year ago I went to someone’s house for the first time and the dad was outside washing his car as I pulled up.

Without thinking I said he could do mine as well whilst he was at it. I meant it in jest, but he did it for me and I have never seen it look so clean. It was pristine. It was like new. I was so grateful.  

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