Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Twinkl Resources - an Overview

As I mentioned here Dorothy and her friends have been invited to review Twinkl Resources. This post is going to be an initial review of the site then Dorothy and friends will share their opinions at a later date!

Disclaimer:- This is an honest review of the Twinkl Resources website, the opinions and experiences are my own. I was not paid for this review but given full access to the Twinkl site to fully access all they have to offer and to facilitate a full and thorough review.

What Twinkl says:-
"Twinkl Resources is the trusted home and one stop shop for thousands of lovely, unique, printable teaching resources for Early Years, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, teachers, home educators, parents, childminders, nurseries and more.

Getting Going - Handy Tools
There are some "handy tools" to help you navigate the site and the drop down tool bar (below) links to the main site areas you are likely to use. "My Twinkl" was especially useful as it brought up recent pages I had viewed, resources and activities I might find helpful and pages others were interested in.

Resource Classification
Resources are grouped in several main categories:-
Early Years (Foundation Stage), Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, SEN, Parents and IPC - the International Primary Curriculum. The site is not only packed with resources to use directly with children - either at home or school, but includes clever display borders and similar aids that make all the difference to teachers pushed for time but wanting something special.

Design you own
If you are seeking something really specific Twinkl has the facilities and templates for you to design your own resources - so there is no excuse for not personalising your lessons! I thought this might be especially useful for younger children, or for those educated at home?

Twinkl Blog
There is a Blog where Twinkl keeps you updated on new resources, plans and events. I found this a good place to scan recent updates and discovered via this that Key Stage 3 is soon to be included on the site.

Twinkl also sends out regular newsletters to subscribers which are packed full of additional information. I know - because I received one this morning!

They certainly seem to have thought of everything, included self-registration avatar creation, a calendar with all the main dates in the school year to support teaching the curriculum and personalised suggestions for teachers and parents.

Key Stage 3
I was particularly excited to see the planned addition of KS3 resources, a challenging age range to support but such a crucial one before formal examination curriculums begin. Differentiated learning is a challenge in the senior classroom, particularly with the necessary and important inclusion of those with learning difficulties. My second son has Autism and is a very visual learner, he is extremely able but can only access the curriculum with appropriate support. Twinkl is going to be a useful addition to his school work to help him progress. Communication between school and home is not as straitforward, regular or clear at High School and I am not actually clear on the curriculum for each KS3 subject. I found it very helpful to have this clearly produced on Twinkl.

Additional Support
Twinkl has Resources for everyone. There are Maths Support games and sheets  created for Teaching Assistants in their support and intervention for those struggling with key areas of the Primary Maths curriculum (but could be used by anyone) and information on the new SpaG SATS requirement.

Twinkl Shop
If, after downloading your resources, creating your own and following the suggestions on the site you still want more, there is an online shop where you can purchase reward sheets, stickers, certificates etc. Twinkle really have though of everything.

As a former Primary School teacher I *WISH* Twinkl had been available to support my lessons! I am so impressed with the quality and quantity of resources and the simple, dynamic and effective way the site interacts with users to assist in their planning and preparation. it would have been such a valuable addition to my own, and school resources.

Using Twinkl
So, having successfully navigated my way around the site I set about using it to provide support teaching my daughter more on Fractions. I remember from my teaching days that the word "fraction" could instantly promote fear and panic, and simplicity is key. I typed in "fractions" to the search bar and this brought up a great list of possible resources, subdivided into the main categories described above.

The Fraction matching game looked a good place to start, with Halves and Quarters Worksheets to support her learning. I already have suggestions from school of areas she needs additional help, and this proved invaluable when searching through the resources. It might have been helpful to have a few pointers for areas different children might struggle with, but to be honest it's probably better to keep a slick,  easy to use site since teachers, parents and home educators usually have a rough idea of where their children are and how best to help them. If not, try the games first and see if your child needs any extra support. 

Once I clicked on the resource I wanted, I was delighted to see other linked suggestions pop up on the left, which made it so user-friendly. There was plenty on offer for my needs but  did think some extension work might have been handy for my son to keep him busy at the same time.

Overall I am incredibly impressed. I'm looking forward to using the resources I have downloaded to work with my daughter - and will update on our progress!

In Conclusion:-

Twinkl is a superb resource site (not a tuition site), and works beautifully in conjunction with teaching whether at home or in school. it is particularly well suited to Key Stage 1 and the lower end of Key Stage 2.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Liebster Award

Thank you to Angela at There and Back Again - A Mother's Tale for nominating me for a Liebster Award!
A Liebster Award is an award for bloggers, a way to say, "Hey, I like your blog!" It’s a bit like a chain letter, I answer 11 questions and then nominate more bloggers with less than 500 followers to answer my 11 questions, here goes!
You can read the answers to my questions here

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Coming Soon....

A Review of the Amazing Twinkl Resources. Dorothy and friends are absolutely thrilled to have been invited to review Twinkl Resources so we can tell you all about them and share our experiences and opinions.

"Twinkl Resources is the trusted home and one stop shop for thousands of lovely, unique,  printable teaching resources for Early Years, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, teachers, home educators, parents, childminders, nurseries and more."

Dorothy Whisker's Diary is owned and written by a former primary school teacher who is excited at accessing the multitude of resources available on Twinkl - and Dorothy's friends are compiling lists of favourite topics and activities to have a go at. Twinkle has such a wealth of resources and ideas for teachers, parents, home educators and children across the Primary age range. At first glance Dorothy's friends picked the following out to try first:-

1) Editable World Cup Top Trumps
2)Mental Maths Challenge Cards
3)Bones of the Body Bingo

It is good to know that as well as the Twinkl Blog which is full of ideas, you can bounce your ideas and questions off others in the Forum.

Check back for further reviews as Dorothy and friends enjoy learning with Twinkl!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Ideas for Life at the Museum!

Today Dorothy and friends visited the Natural History Museum in London.

Little did we know - but this week the Natural History Museum was hosting "Universities Week", in which several universities were invited to showcase their latest research. Since this included scientific projects too, we managed to take in a bit of the "Science Museum" topics whilst still visiting just one place!

Even though Dorothy's friend was only eight it was completely fascinating. 

There was a crawling robot from the University of Leeds which had been inside the pyramids! Did you know those "ventilation shafts" inside? Well, they aren't ventilation shafts at ALL! They are sealed off at the end, and although they are so small not even a child could crawl through, there are hieroglyphics (Egyptian writing) along the passage - amazing!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Make a "Loomeez" elastic band bracelet with Dorothy!

Have you seen the new elastic band craze that is sweeping through schools this summer? Dorothy's friends have been really taken with them. Do search around for the bands and looms though because prices vary hugely. A "Loom" can be £14 (WHSmith's) or £3 (The Entertainer) and bands can be between £1 and £4 a bag!

There are several different types of loom, but this bracelet would be possible on all of them since you only need two pegs. One of Dorothy's friends even uses two pencils instead!

In the video below Dorothy takes you through the process of making this bracelet:-

Finishing off is simple. 
  • You need to do exactly the same process once more without adding another band, so you have only one band around each peg. 
  • Take one more band and careful remove the bracelet from the loom. 
  • Flatten the new band and push it through BOTH loose loops that you have just removed from the loom. 
  • Pass one loop of this new band through the other and pull tight. 
  • Attach the hook on an "S" clip to either end and wear it!

Once you have mastered the basics there are plenty of video tutorials on YouTube. Here are some other creations made with elastic bands!

Crafts on Sea

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Insect Hotel - Invertebrate Science Project

As part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum Dorothy and friends were set a Half Term challenge for Science. Since they were learning about Invertebrates they were asked to make a model of an invertebrate, or an insect (bug) "hotel".

What is an invertebrate?

The official answer is ....
"Invertebrates are animal species that do not possess or develop a vertebral column, derived from the notochord. This in effect includes all animals apart from the subphylum Vertebrata" Wikipaedia
Which sounds rather complicated.  A "vertebral column" is a backbone! Put simply all creatures without a spine or backbone are invertebrates. There is an excellent resource for children explaining this (and much more!) here. Do have a look!

So an insect, or "bug" is an invertebrate?

Yes, although there are many different kinds. Invertebrates tend to be symmetrical, which means if you drew a line down their length each side is a mirror image of the other. This is also true for vertebrates (animals WITH a backbone) but some invertebrates are a little different, like sponges or coral.

Some invertebrates have segmented bodies, where their bodies are literally divided into clear segments, or parts in which the insides are duplicated (copied) inside. Some worms - the "annelids" can therefore go on living when one body segmented is damaged!

In the "bug" world that includes ants, wasps, spiders and worms - the "annelids" and many more all have clearly defined body sections.

What makes an insect and insect?

  • Insects or bugs all have six legs, in three pairs. (Always, or they wouldn't be "insects". Spiders are NOT insects)
  • Adult insects have a body divided into three clear areas
  • Insects have antennae
  • Insects have external (outside) mouth parts

"What is a Bug Hotel"?

A "hotel" for an insect/bug is exactly how it sounds, somewhere for them to stay! It is usually a good place for them to hide and hibernate over winter, but be careful if you are checking them in the Spring as sometimes a solitary (just one) wasp spends the winter snug in your hotel too!

How do I make one?

There are no hard and fast rules, the Royal Horticultural Society has some suggestions here.
The best things to use are tubes, pipes, pin cones, anything that insects can crawl into. There is a very impressive one here on Wikipaedia showing a large one enclosed in wire. But it really doesn't need to be too complicated, unlike this amazing one a friend in South Africa found!

Here's How Dorothy made a simple Bug Hotel
  • Dorothy found a lump of wood, and sanded down the outside. 
  • Then her Dad drilled large bore holes (that means BIG holes!) 
  • They found a piece of bark to fix to the top. This can be glued with wood glue and Dorothy's Dad used a large nail to hammer the bark "roof" firmly on top.
  • Finally, Dorothy had great fun decorating the outside in the shape of an owl, as she hears one every night in her garden!
Dorothy hopes the insects will love staying in her hotel when the cold weather comes at the end of the year!

Alternative Project

One of Dorothy's friends decided to make a model instead with his friend. He made a Stag Beetle out of FIMO modelling clay, which you bake in the oven.

The wings were made from paper, glued on after baking and supported by wire which was inserted BEFORE baking. 

Linking up with "Country Kids" at Coombe Mill 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall