Category Archives: Primary

The what, why and how of teaching spelling, starting with phonics

Kate Robinson explains the rationale behind her new book, A Creative Approach to Teaching Spelling:

When a child struggles to spell, the ripples of impact are far-reaching. For readers of such a child’s writing, deciphering can be arduous. For the child themselves, the experience of writing can be stressful and debilitating. This was certainly my experience as a young child who found it hard to spell.  Every thought strains towards remembering or guessing spellings, or towards adapting language choices. It becomes hard to hold onto meaning if you are constantly grappling with how to spell each word. Fluency is stifled and self-confidence takes a battering.

When we help children to spell, we are helping them towards a complete freedom of written expression with which their full intellectual capacity can be unleashed. In a world where personal, social and political power are so closely linked to communication, this freedom, or lack of it, can have immense consequences for individuals.

When the right approaches are offered, most children can become successful, confident spellers. Yet even the best spelling programmes currently available lack the full range of focused, stimulating approaches that many class groups need, leaving some children unengaged and floundering. With A Creative Approach to Teaching Spelling, I want to address this by enabling teachers to offer a more finely tuned, responsive and dynamic range of approaches.

Introducing and building on the very latest research, A Creative Approach to Teaching Spelling offers multi-sensory, fun and engaging strategies, games and activities that address a broad spectrum of barriers to spelling. You’ll find ball games, card games, treasure hunts, movement, craft, drawing and writing games. These games and activities help children to build phonic skills as a key strategy for spelling. They also develop a wealth of further strategies including recall through association, word analysis, visual techniques and fine and gross motor movements.

A Creative Approach to Teaching Spelling allows you to quickly and easily enhance established programmes. Alternatively, it will enable you to develop responsive, engaging spelling programmes of your own that meet the specific needs of the individuals and groups of children that you are working with.

Finding the right way to help a child to spell can change their life forever.



100 Ideas for Dyslexia

Shannon Green and Gavin Reid explore the thinking behind splitting the best-selling 100 Ideas on Dyslexia into two books for Primary and Secondary teachers: 

We have been involved in dyslexia and teaching for many years and between us we have experience across the full age range.  For us, it was natural that the popular 100 Ideas book on Dyslexia should be separated into 2 books: 100 Ideas for primary and 100 for secondary.  Both sectors offer significant challenges in meeting the social, emotional and educational needs of young people with dyslexia.  Although some of the strategies are generic across the age range, such as ‘mind maps’ and ‘mnemonics’ and paired and reciprocal reading, there are many other approaches and strategies that are specific to each of the sectors.  It was natural therefore to create this division.

We have introduced a new section in the Primary book on nursery and early years. There is no doubt this is a crucial area as getting it right at this stage can pave the way for more successful interventions later on and a happier outcome for all – children, parents and teachers.

There are specific challenges inherent in secondary school, which often have an achievement and examination focus.  The nature of secondary schools can be off putting for the young person with dyslexia and therefore we have included a section on self-esteem and motivation.  We have also focused on effective learning, which includes strategies that can be used across the whole curriculum. This includes becoming an independent learner and also ideas on study skills, note-taking and revision strategies as well as time management.

Having said that, we also appreciate that secondary schools are very much subject orientated and we have included strategies for English, History, Geography, Maths, Music, Drama and Art, General Science, Biology, Additional language learning, Physical Education and Food Technology and Textiles.    We hope that these ideas will provide insights into how to deal with dyslexia at secondary school while also acting as a springboard to both develop their own ideas and to disseminate information on dyslexia across the whole school.

We have endeavored to incorporate explanations and a rationale for the ideas in this book as we appreciate that the book will be used by experienced practitioners and subject teachers who may have less knowledge of dyslexia.

From our experience, a ‘dip in’ and accessible book is always welcomed by the busy teacher and we hope that will be the case with these two new 100 Ideas books.  We are extremely grateful for the positive feedback we have received in person and through emails from teachers who have found the previous editions of 100 Ideas extremely useful.

Ultimately this helps the teacher, the parents and of course the student him/herself and can make the sometimes challenging ‘educational track’ more accessible and more pleasurable for young people with dyslexia.


Riding the Storm

James Hilton, author of Leading from the Edge: A School Leader’s Guide to Recognising and Overcoming Stress, reminds us that it’s important to switch off from work over the school holidays:

In the run up to Sports Relief, I have been following the trials of a number of celebrities, including ‘The One Show’s Alex Jones and Formula One’s Suzie Perry taking part in BBC’s ‘Hell on the High Seas’.

Tasked with sailing a 65- foot yacht around some of the trickiest waters in the UK, they had a clear route and plan in mind. However, forces beyond their control came into play, in the shape of predicted gale force winds. This, combined with sleep deprivation, severely affected the celebs, but they finally emerged victorious raising around a million pounds for some very worthy causes.

Working in education, external forces frequently knock us off, what we know to be the best course. The ability to deal with stress often lies in a sense of feeling in control. The difficulty is that, so many of our targets in our professional lives are dictated to us. The solution? To try and regain some control by setting our own personal targets – regaining some mastery of our own destiny.

So with Easter nearly upon us, two important things for one of the most dedicated and hard-working professions in the world.

Firstly, the ability to switch off from work is crucial to staying resilient. Some of us find it easier to relax than others. If you find it hard, then work on distracting your mind instead.

Secondly, set yourself a personal target that you are in control of. Read that book that you have been meaning to get round to, see that film, join an evening class.

Teaching is one of a few professions where you can always do more but this Easter – try and relax and set your own targets and you will feel so much better – I promise you.

Ride the storm – never let it engulf you!

9781472917348 Leading from the Edge

Teaching Primary French and Spanish

Angela McLachlan, author of Teaching Primary French and Teaching Primary Spanish in the Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics series with Amanda Barton, explains how these new titles can reassure and encourage anyone to get started with primary languages:

We were really excited when we heard about the new Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics series about a year ago, and were keen to create something for languages that new or more established teachers with little or no experience of teaching languages, and whose language skills are rusty, could use to make a strong start in the classroom. French and Spanish are the mostly commonly taught languages in primary schools at the moment, so we started there.

One of the challenges when writing a practical, ‘hands-on’ primary languages book is the absence of a National Programme of Study that addresses learning a9781472920683-Frenchcross individual year groups in the 7-11 age range. In other curriculum areas, very specific concepts and content are outlined in detail for each year group, so that teachers can plan and map progress in learning from the very beginning of that age range, all the way through to the point where children leave primary school and embark on their journey through secondary education. One implication of this is that there can be very wide diversity in the kinds of programmes of language-learning that children receive, particularly in England. So we thought about the kinds of language, lessons and activities we’ve taught or seen that primary children most engaged with, and were able to use regularly throughout the school day and across the school year. We finally decided on 12 initial areas of learning, with a single chapter focusing on each area of learning, but ensuring that progression in learning was embedded across the chapters, with clear links between them.

Each chapter is based around three sequenced lessons that centre around a given area of learning, and each addresses specific aspects of the Programme of Study for Languages in England. That said, these areas of learning are relevant for primary classrooms pretty much anywhere, so teachers working in other parts of the UK or beyond will find the lessons just as relevant. Although each lesson is structured around a very basic 30-minute framework, we’ve suggested ways teachers can extend the learning, and make it more appropriate for the particular year group they are working with. There are lots of ideas for how to align learning with other curriculum areas, too.

For those who do not specialise in teaching languages, a crucial element for us was to be very specific about both the language the practitioner needs to make the most of the lessons, as well as the core language that pupils are to engage with and hopefully learn. We’ve also given guidance on how words are pronounced, and it’s a good idea tosupplement this with hearing the words themselves. You’ll find that many words in the online dictionary also come with an audio file, which is enormously useful for pronunciation practice – and within the chapters themselves, we’ve suggested a range of websites and online resources that include audio content.

Beginning to develop an understanding and appreciation of the countries and cultures in which French and Spanish are spoken is an integral part of developing competence in, and love for, the languages themselves. Chapters one and two offer lots of facts about languages in general, and French/Spanish in particular; we’ve chosen ‘fascinating facts’ that we’ve had great success with ourselves in the past, with children really keen to talk about their ‘favourite fascinating fact’, and to continue their exploration to discover more.

There are several resources available online to get you started with your lessons; other resources we suggest for each lesson can be prepared quickly and easily, with step-by-step instructions for how they might work best.

We’re looking forward to seeing the books in print, and hope that they go some way to reassuring and encouraging non-language specialists to get started with primary languages!


The Bloomsbury Curriculum Series: 



Lottie Lipton: Amateur Detective and Archaeologist Extraordinaire

Lottie Profile Pic

Dear Mystery Lovers,

We all love a mystery, don’t we? Whether it’s discovering a four-thousand year old treasure or finding out who ate the last slice of bread in the house (it’s usually my Great Uncle Bert), we love to delve into a story and work out its secrets.

Which is where I come in!

The name’s Lipton. Lottie Lipton. Amateur Detective and Archaeologist Extraordinaire!

I’ve solved lots of mysteries and discovered tons of secrets, usually right under my nose in the British Museum. That’s where I live with my Great Uncle Bert and the caretaker, Reg. Oh, and Sir Trevelyan Taylor of course, but he’s a rotter and a stinker so we don’t talk about him. Mysteries and strange things keep happening and I’m the only one who can sort it all out.

For instance, once Sir Trev wanted to get rid of all the books in the museum, so I set out to search for The Scroll of Alexandria. If we found it then the books would be protected. It took some doing, I can tell you, and you can find out how it all went in the new book by my biographer, the esteemed Mr Dan Metcalf.

Another time, Uncle Bert had a real Egyptian mummy in the museum and I mistakenly set free the shabti, the little statues that were supposed to serve the mummy in the afterlife. They were mischievous little things! Mr Metcalf has written the whole story in The Egyptian Enchantment!

I love solving mysteries and if you do too, then you’ll find that my adventures are littered with codes, puzzles, riddles and clues for you to solve. They’re also packed full of facts; living in a museum I can’t help but pick up a few interesting tidbits here and there, and Uncle Bert is a mine of information.

I’ve got to go now – Reg is going to teach me how to fire one of the ancient crossbows from the weaponry collection (Shhh! Don’t tell Sir Trev!). I’ll leave you with a little code of your own to solve…


Lottie Lipton


P.S. I’m going to leave you with a code. Can you guess what it is? Tweet me at @BloomsburyEd or email childrenseducation(at) if you think you know!

Jgnnq htqo vjg Dtkvkuj Owugwo! Hqt oqtg eqfgu, tgcf oa dqqmu pqy!


P.P.S.  Here is when you can get your hands on my new adventures:

9781472911872 Lottie 2

9781472911902 Lottie



Happy Halloween from the Bloomsbury Education team!

This weekend is all about the spooky pumpkins, the trick-or-treating and ghostly goings-on! If you’ve already mastered the pumpkin carving and exhausted the decorations in your local shops then here are some activities and stories to get you through the Halloween weekend. There’s even a competition to win some truly haunting story collections!

Creepy Crafts
Have some fun in the kitchen with these ideas from 50 Fantastic Ideas for Celebrations and Festivals.
Shrunken apple heads Ice hand and puffy paint

Spooky Stories
Try reading these five terrifying tales with your children. From the scary vampire haunting an old manor to the boy who swaps places with a buzzard, these folk tales from around the world are perfect for ages 7+.

Here is Goblins and Ghosties:

Two stories from Serpents and Werewolves:

We’re running a Halloween giveaway over on our Twitter page @BloomsburyEd where you could win copies of Goblins and Ghosties and Serpents and Werewolves if you retweet our spooky photo.
Halloween competition prizes

And finally…

We arrived this morning to find our current favourite book looking a bit ghoulish!
Teacher Toolkit pumpkin!
Happy Halloween!

Spelling for Literacy. Andrew Brodie

Andrew Brodie author photoOver the past year I’ve had to face a major challenge in updating the very popular Spelling for Literacy series.

The original series was published in 2001 and consisted of five books: one for Years One and Two combined, then one for each year group in Key Stage Two. The five books contained over three thousand words altogether, grouped in sets according to phonic blends or specific spelling patterns. Selection of words for the forty sets in each book was based on lists that were available at the time – high frequency words and words contained in the National Literacy Strategy Spelling Bank and in the National Curriculum as it existed then.

The latest version of the National Curriculum again specifies lists of words but also shows clear statutory requirements regarding phonics and the spellings that represent particular sounds. As well as these it provides non-statutory example words together with spelling rules and guidance, including exceptions to the rules!

In looking at the original Spelling for Literacy books alongside the latest version of the National Curriculum I was pleased to find a reasonably good match. But it was only reasonably good rather than perfect and my task became clear: I had to ensure that Spelling for Literacy was updated so that teachers could have the confidence of knowing that it would cover the requirements completely.

To reflect the increased demands on pupils’ learning of spelling, there are now six titles in the new Spelling for Literacy series. Here is a quick look at the new editions:

“It truly is the best job in the world.” The Teacher Toolkit launch.

Teacher Toolkit launch partyTo celebrate the publication of Ross Morrison McGill’s brilliant new book, Teacher Toolkit, we hosted a launch at Bloomsbury HQ in Bedford Square!

Ross is the most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK (@TeacherToolkit), with a staggering 112,000 + followers. Teacher Toolkit is his second book to publish with Bloomsbury, and as you can imagine has been highly anticipated by his dedicated army of followers!

Launch party Friends, family, colleagues, teachers, authors, journalists, publishers, and competition winners all assembled to raise a glass to Teacher Toolkit. The room buzzed with the sound of educational professionals sharing ideas, stories, and ambitions. Among them was Ty Goddard, founder of The Education Foundation. Addressing the launch attendees in a moving and empowering speech about the shocking dropout rate in the teaching profession, he spoke passionately about the issue and said:

“This book is part of a growing movement of British teachers; it comes from the movement and is part of the movement. It is about how you survive teaching; top tips; practical; really honest, frank and passionate.”

A recent YouGov poll reported that 53% of teachers are considering leaving the profession in the next two years which means that keeping new teachers in the profession has never been more important!* This is the central aim of Teacher Toolkit and therefore, as the title suggests, it is packed full of teaching ideas and advice, that will help to reduce their workload with handy tips about all aspects of day to day teaching, but will also make them laugh!

Speaking about his own journey from the classroom to publication, Ross summarised what his book aims to achieve:

“This book is for every teacher who has been bullied; those forced to take redundancy and for the thousands of teachers who leave the profession within the first 5 years. Hopefully, it will entice teachers who have left the classroom, back into the profession, and to encourage others who have just started out, to stay in the classroom. It truly is the best job in the world.”

Next, thank yous were said, gifts were given, wine flowed, conversation continued, and Ross was presented with an enormous cake edition of the book!
Teacher Toolkit book coverScreenshot 2015-10-08 16.24.21 Screenshot 2015-10-08 16.24.55
As the guests began to trickle out, juggling numerous copies of the book (purchased for themselves, friends, family and co-workers), there was a wonderful feeling of solidarity – of teachers supporting teachers. Certainly, the evening demonstrated that Teacher Toolkit is a resilient, intelligent, innovative, collaborative, and aspirational book – so let’s tell everyone about it!

In the infamous Action Jackson’s words:

“This book is the book that is going to revolutionise the minds of our teachers, showing them that they can fulfill their mission of inspiring our kids to dream big and never give up.”  Action Jackson, Youth Success coach and founder of The Fix-up Team


Progress in dyslexia awareness. Dr. Gavin Reid

portrait_gavin_reidAs it is Dyslexia Awareness Week it is good to reflect on the progress that has taken place in this area. Successive campaigning over a long number of years by groups such as the BDA, Dyslexia Action and the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre has resulted in dyslexia having a voice at all levels – in government, local education authorities and at school level. Some years ago dyslexia was seen very much as a specialism in the UK and therefore intervention was in the hands of a few highly trained and skilled professionals.

Since then there has been a widespread movement towards creating more awareness of dyslexia at all levels. As a result, a greater number of schools now acknowledge that dyslexia is a whole school issue and therefore it has an impact upon staff development.

From my own perspective as a trainer and an author I find that I am now frequently asked to do presentations on dyslexia to the whole staff in a school. Additionally, I find that the attendees at presentations that are organised by regional groups tend to be more diverse than before, demonstrating that clearly more and more professionals from different sectors of education are becoming more aware and more involved in dyslexia. The BDA are also accrediting increasing amounts of quality professional courses in dyslexia.

It is for that reason that books such as 100+ Ideas for Supporting Children with Dyslexia have been successful. Teachers now have a greater awareness of dyslexia, and a clearer understanding of the needs of children with dyslexia. The book provides them with strategies that they can slot into their every day teaching, and they now have the knowledge and understanding to appreciate the rationale behind the ideas.

We (Shannon Green and myself) have taken this further in the new editions of our book, which will be available in a primary version and a secondary version. We feel that these sectors do have different needs and in the secondary edition we have focused on specific approaches for different subjects, as well as general cross-curricular suggestions.
100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Dyslexia100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Dyslexia cover
These books have been very successful and the development of the awareness of dyslexia has certainly helped to pave the way for books such as ours which teachers can pick up, understand the rationale behind the ideas and implement straight away in the classroom. We are eagerly anticipating the publication of 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Dyslexia and 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Dyslexia next year.

Teacher Toolkit is one week away! Holly Gardner

Teacher Toolkit author pictureToday it is one week until Ross Morrison McGill’s second book publishes. The office is buzzing with excitement that tomorrow we will see the finished product for the first time and fizzing with energy as we finalise the details for the launch next week on publication day.

It’s all very exciting!

We are very proud that the most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK has written a book for us. Ross is an absolute star and his new book is not going to disappoint. As well as being packed full of ideas and anecdotes, the page layout is quirky and original and very different to anything we have done before… Have a look in our book sample to see for yourself!

You will see it includes a brand new-look #5MinMarkingPlan and there is a new-look version of the hugely popular #5MinLessonPlan in there too. And there is also a brand new, never seen before 5 minute plan that we know is going to go down a treat – you’ll have to wait until you get your copy to see what it is though!

You may have noticed we have been having a bit of fun on Vine this week as well, recreating one of the many fabulous illustrations that the book is filled with created by the talented Polly Norton. Try and guess which one we are re-creating here:

Yes – our Vitruvian Teacher gets everywhere – watch out for him in more videos as we continue the countdown to publication! Look at him here – this is his one week till publication day dance!

Teacher Toolkit animation

Also this week on our Twitter account we revealed our competition to win a pair of tickets to the book launch next Thursday. All you have to do is follow and retweet us! If you haven’t done it already and you want to come and visit us at Bloomsbury HQ to raise a glass to Ross and get a free signed copy of his book AS WELL as to meet the man himself – get retweeting now!

As we countdown the last seven days until you can get your hands on a copy of Teacher Toolkit we will be sharing more exclusive content and videos, but for now I am going to leave you with our beautiful interactive cover illustrated by Jean Jullien. Scroll over the cover to find the six links, including an exclusive video from the brilliant @Actionjackson.