The ABC of Child Whispering P is for PLAY

Cute little girl is blowing a soap bubbles

We all know that children need to play but do we really understand why? Actually it is VITAL that children play and that we don’t over-schedule them so their play times are eroded.


  • develops creativity and imagination
  • improves fine and gross motor skills
  • builds emotional intelligence – especially empathy and resilience skills
  • is important to healthy brain development
  •  helps children to learn about their world and appropriate ways to interact

Play can take many forms and does not always need to be structured.

It is often during solitary play times that children think deeply and examine feelings and solve problems.

Intra-Personal intelligence is strengthened when children have plenty of time to play.

The following link will give you many ideas for ensuring your children are not PLAY DEFICIENT and grow into healthy and well-adjusted young people.


MAD writing procedure

MAD stanjpg_5935_Royalty_Free_Clip_Art_Happy_Pencil_Cartoon_Character_Holding_Golden_Trophy_Cupds for MODELLED AWESOME DAILY writing

We use many visualisations to increase the fluency and speed of children’s writing. This has been a very successful strategy and I have been trying to develop a different but as successful strategy that takes less time when we want to target specific topics, genres or spelling/grammar conventions.

MAD writing is the result and we have now used it with hundreds of children with great results!

The children enjoy it as it is fairly short, targeted and gives them great results.

They love to share their results!

This will not going to replace other forms of writing we do.

It is simply being implemented to increase writing fluency, understanding of sentences, paragraphs, grammar and to improve spelling. New topics are provided each week.

Approximately 20 mins is needed but I have often completed a lesson in 15 mins when short of time!


  1. Write up topic on board.
  2. Briefly discuss and model write YOUR response to this topic. (NOT children’s ideas) 5 mins
  3. Children read your writing aloud. 5 mins
  4. They write their own response  5 mins
  5. Edit and share 5 mins (only 2/3 can share)

Only write 2-4 sentences when you are modelling. Children might write more and they might “borrow” yours. Some children might want to copy yours completely. That is valid as you are a model.

Eventually they will have the confidence to do their own.


MON- My ideal weekend.

TUES – A terrible experience.

WED – What a surprise!

THURS- My favourite unhealthy food!

FRI- If I ruled the world!

SAT- The world stopped spinning and ………


Here is an example of a lesson where I used the topic MINECRAFT to stimulate children’s writing voices!

Please ask any questions regarding this procedure – and remember we have crafted a very practical one day course for teachers (ALL KIDS CAN WRITE) to demonstrate and explain all our writing strategies and teach you exactly how to apply each one! (Contact us for course details!)


Your child is only at level 23!

A view of a sad prisoner in jail
A view of a sad prisoner in jail

I have had to sit on this subject for 2 days as as it was connected to an incident that left me white hot with rage! All I could do was rant and rave with my colleagues who all agreed privately but pointed out they are often bound to work within this crazy system!

I worked with a perfectly normal 6 year old this week who is just beginning to sound out and recognise some words. He has a lovely sense of humour and is obviously a very active, creative child who will do well at school.

BUT he comes from a classroom where the levels may as well be inscribed on children’s wrists like those in POW camps! His parents were told the sad news- “Only at level 23!”

Up to level 23 in reading? What does this mean? Of course I know there are various prescribed lists of levels suitable for children with books that fit within these lists. Many of these lists are put together by publishers of particular reading schemes and teachers (searching for a sane, easier way of assessing) are grabbing at these levels and giving out comments such as “Oh dear! Your child is only at level 23- he should be at 30.”
Who said?
What about the fact that he has started his reading journey and now recognises all the single sounds, many digraphs and can sound out simple words?

What about the fact that he loves picture books, comprehends well and has great ideas for writing narratives?

Aren’t they things to celebrate for a 6 year old? But NO!

Because some children can master all their phonics at 5 years we now judge those who take a little longer.

This is utter madness and teachers know this deep down.
Evaluation is a complex process and cannot be pinned down to numbers like this.

You have to get to KNOW a child to evaluate them. Not only do you apply baseline testing, you have to observe, figure out their thinking patterns and watch them in action.

When we make these fast judgements we are lowering our standards as educators and behaving like teaching machines.

The results are sad kids with low self-esteem who already hate school at 6! At 6? Crazy!

I know some teachers are pushed to place kids against very questionable ranking scores but this causes unbelievable harm for children and parents.

We can do much better than this!

Now when I assess children and ask them how they think they are doing at school, they answer me like this,
“Oh Vicky- I am only at level 15.” When I ask them what that means they haven’t a clue and neither have I.

Let’s get back to solid, on the floor observation, talking to children, identifying learning styles, finding what they can do, running records and closely monitoring phonological awareness, word identification and fluency. I tell kids when they have problems and I make up plans to help them rather than giving out some meaningless score! We are teaching children- not machines!
What is happening is stupidity of the first degree and I cannot stand back and watch what is happening with a closed mouth.

Come on educators- speak your minds and parents- DEMAND to know exactly what these levels mean and why your child should have to be a carbon copy of some “idealised” robot child!

FIND THE FUN by Kelli Gander, Guest Blogger

Find The Fun

You can’t argue wPreschool childrenith Mary Poppins, who we all know is ‘practically perfect in every-way’ and there is more than one lesson to be learned from the timeless tale she has to tell. This one, for me as an educator, is the most important of all.
In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
you find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game
This has become my teaching mantra and I endeavor to ‘find the fun’ in every lesson that I teach. Imagine if kids got excited about the times tables, eager about spelling, enthusiastic about parts of speech! Learning does not have to equal boring, we just have to find the fun for our students.
How do we do this? The same way that Mary Poppins did, with a game! Games not only provide the hands on experience that children need to be effective learners but also makes even the most boring concept a whole lot more exciting.
A simple pack of cards becomes a speed game to make number bonds to 10 or a spirited competition to multiply the face values. Older children use them to learn about adding, subtracting, regrouping and multiplying. Younger children use them to sort, match, do shape work and learn 1-1 correspondence. Games do not need to cost you money either, there are so many fantastic sites where enthusiastic and dedicated teachers post and share their amazing, free ideas, on how to create that ‘element of fun’.
A treasure map is a perfect way to teach children about prepositions. Lego is an awesome way to learn about volume and measurement and you would not believe what can be done with a paper plate in terms of fractions and equivalent fractions!
We often do this naturally with younger children but our older ones do not outgrow this need for ‘fun’. In actual fact, the sometimes dry topics that are curriculum essentials, would receive much greater benefit from applying a ‘games based’ approach.
So step away from that smart board. Put down those worksheets and open your mind to games. We know it worked for Huckleberry Finn, when he managed to cleverly persuade his friends to trade him small treasures for the privilege of doing his work! Just find that element of fun and snap! The job’s a game.

IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD OF LOVE. . .by Guest Blogger Joanne Sundra

Think about the first steps you took as a child. You were a baby when you first started walking and even though there were a few wobbles and you fell over more times than you stood up, your parents clapped and cheered. They smiled and encouraged you to keep trying.
Reading music and singing and clapping a rhythm is the same. Children are instinctively perceptive and will often listen to music to identify familiar melodies and rhythms. Music then grows out of an attempt to make sense of the world around them. Parents can encourage their child’s listening and focus by setting the scene with a favourite song so the child is able to instantly recall the sequence of events in the story. Children just beginning to read will often join in with singing their favourite song, even making up the words as they go…
When teaching children their ABC’s, learning occurs best when set to music. Music is everywhere, from memorable tunes in television shows, to background music played in and children learn to associate the beginning of their favourite television programme with the first chords of the song.
Young children are naturally wired for sound and it is so important that parents harness this ability by allowing children to experiment with rhythm, notation and sound. Overturned pots and pans, ladles and soup stirrers magically become musical instruments for the afternoon before returning to their more traditional, somewhat boring, role as dinner utensils by 5 o’clock. Mirrors and hairbrushes have the power to transform into a veritable stage-setup at bathtime, only to find their powers once again harnessed to the top of the tallboy by bedtime.
Music creates happiness like no other medium can. Whether it is singing into a shampoo bottle, dancing like no one is watching, acting out a play for Grandparents Day, or simply belting out a tune to bring a smile to mum’s face on Mother’s Day, music is a whole concept that fosters play, fun and laughter.
Greater mindfulness, improvement in memory skills, better experimental writing, reading with purpose are all skills being introduced and honed through the application of music. If music in the home can create a fun relaxed environment for harmony, cooperation and bonding, then play on!



All parents watch with baited breath as their children begin their school careers and all hope for academic success and a life-long love of learning. We watch closely for the signs that the our child is truly reading and in many ways the first words read feel like a sort of “literacy magic” is being woven around our children. We relive our own school careers as we watch and nurture this learning process with our little ones.

There is much parents can do to help children prepare for success at school. It just takes a little planning and forethought to use the more “teachable moments” that occur naturally in our days.

In order for children to learn easily and maximise progress in literacy they must be at a specific stage of “readiness” for formal learning skills. Their bodies, minds and maturational clocks must be ready to begin.

In order to successfully learn early literacy skills, children need to develop phonemic awareness. This is simply the understanding that the English language can be broken into phonemes (the smallest units of sound). Parents can use a “silly, sound language “when talking to children to help develop auditory discrimination and help children hear all these parts. They can break their spoken instructions to children into units of sound so children clearly understand that all words are made of sounds.  E.G. M-e-ll-i-ss-a     p-l-ea-se    g-o   a-n-d   f-i-n-d    a  t-oy    f-or  b-a-b-y   -i-m!  Use this broken up speech often to emphasise the sounds in words. You can also ask children to give a sign such as a soft clap each time they hear a special sound e.g. “b” while you read them a story. These simple activities can have a profound effect on future decoding and spelling skills.

Reading stories often to children helps children switch on their inner “mind’s eye” and get ready for the imaginative component of reading and writing. We know that children who listen to stories improve their “linguistic store-houses” and this also flows over into comprehension and writing. As children listen to stories they add words to their spoken vocabularies, make mind pictures and start to comprehend narratives and thee ways they work. They also improve listening and comprehension skills.

Memory training is important for early readiness skills. Children need to develop their auditory and visual discrimination before successful reading and writing skills can take place. Auditory memory skills can be developed by insisting that children repeat instructions and then carry them out. Whenever you ask children to do a series of actions e.g. Get your school bag, pack your homework and go out to the car-ask your child to repeat the instructions. After a few months of this repetition they will automatically begin to repeat the instructions silently and it will facilitate your child’s ability to follow instructions at school.

You can also play memory games such as concentration with sight words or “I looked in my Grandmother’s trunk and I found a_______________” The next person says the same and adds one item and so on.

Children have to learn that repetition-although at times tedious and boring, is the key to basic skills such as spelling and multiplication tables. Children are helped with these skills by being able to perform a physical action such as bouncing a ball or jumping on a trampoline while practising the learning.

Visual memory skills are essential for effective reading skills and can be developed by asking children to compare pictures, look for differences, play flashcard games such as Snap and match up flashcards around the house. E.g. You can put signs on common objects –This is the fridge or bathroom-and children can match up their flashcards. This simple activity will really boost beginning reading skills and acquisition of sight words.

A knowledge of the alphabet is so important and has been demonstrated to be one of the key indicators that children are ready for formal learning. This can be developed by children saying the alphabet in different voices-loud/soft and maybe jumping/hopping as they say them. Ask children to trace the letters in bright colours, model the letters with plasticine and draw the letters in the air.

Both fine and gross motor skills are very important when children begin school. For successful printing to take place fine motor skills need attention. Allow children to cut, colour, paint and manipulate equipment and thread beads. It is a good idea to establish a “creativity box” full of recycling materials for making things and general enjoyment. Make sure you  include scissors, scraps of paper, materials and paints, crayons and markers.

Appropriate gross motor skills are crucial to learning. Children need to have the requisite balance skills to successfully sit at their desks and not continuously back and forth search in for a centre of balance. Take your children to parks and playgrounds to help them develop these all important skills. Well developed balance skills will help your child to be able to sit and listen well and concentrate.

They also need to be able to cross their midline with facility and so simple exercises where your child touches their left hand to their right knee, right hand to left knee (this can also be done while skipping, and forwards, backwards and on a small trampoline), will develop these essential midline crossing skills.

Do remember that if children are showing tendencies to be left- handed, it is imperative you do not change this. Children can develop directional difficulties and speech and language problems if they are forced to change handedness. Do remember that many of the greatest thinkers in history have been left-handers and that there is a strong possibility of very strong creative skills being developed by these children.

Eye muscles need to move efficiently. Children cannot read if they cannot move their eyes successfully from right to left, and be able to copy from the blackboard-focusing and re-focusing as they complete a copying exercise. If children are not encouraged to play outside and use their eyes for looking near and far, and spend a great deal of time watching TV and playing electronic games, then these skills may not be well developed. Tracing a “lazy eight” in the air will help a great deal with this. Ask children to imagine a big, fat eight laying sideways in the air (like an infinity sign) and then trace around it, starting from the middle and going up to the left. You can also draw large “lazy eights” on scrap paper for children to trace around in bright crayons.

Listening skills need to be at an appropriate level. It is vitally important that children can listen to instructions and carry them out in an exact fashion.  You can help this by talking to your children every day at the dinner table and ensuring the TV goes off at family meal times. Families that converse properly and really listen to each other, really help young children to learn the importance of listening. Listening to music and singing simple songs will help listening skills to develop.

Awareness of rhyme is important. Read nursery rhymes and nonsense rhymes regularly. This will increase the children’s sense of rhythm and rhyme- two important components of the early reading process.

There is an emotional component to the development of early literacy skills. Children know how you feel about their reading and will want to make you feel happy. They sense parental anxiety and then become stressed and even more unable to reach the high standards you may be setting. It is important to realise that all children have an individual maturational clock that ticks away until they are completely ready for the literacy process. Displaying anxiety and disapproval will only hold your child back and further delay their success. Trust the process, enjoy your child’s early attempts and celebrate every success together. All children learn in different ways and rates so do not compare them to their siblings and above all-soak them in books and model the literacy process yourself. Let your children see you reading regularly and perhaps writing in a personal journal. If they know you value literacy, they will also feel the same and the wonderful, magical literacy journey will begin!

By Victoria Carlton


Begotten not Forgotten

sacredWe visited a very traditional Church this morning and I became aware of the soothing nature of the old words and prayers. Words like “begotten” jumped out and touched all sorts of emotions and memories. I listened to the beautiful organ as it was expertly played and the tones plus the words of the hymns (some written centuries ago) and wondered. What is it about liturgy, ritual and tradition that we love? The gleaming brasses and lovely altar rails were like a quiet reminder of something more peaceful and whole than the frantic scramble of my preceding weekday existence!

As we knelt to receive Holy Communion it felt as if the whole place was light and full of love and we were connected with centuries of people before us and those to come. Maybe I was just in a particularly receptive mood but the message for me was clear.

Human beings need rituals and traditions. They heal and comfort us and lend some pattern and routine to our often crazy days. The words from sacred texts seem to have a power like no other and I experience this also when visiting other sacred places of worship.

I often visit our local Buddhist temple and experience profound peace when there and when working in Singapore we love to meditate in the Sri Vinaygar temple or listen to the call to prayer in Arab St (a sound that always resonates right through me and makes me want to fall on my knees.)

Children have such an innocent and naïve approach to spirituality. They love to visit holy places and have a deep understanding and simple faith often denied to us. And yet, in this secular world all too many parents deny their children any of these sacred visits and experiences. Children yearn for the “other” and they respond so deeply when allowed to engage with symbols and their deeper natures.

As we have children of every religious persuasion at our centres (including many free thinkers), we honour ALL the festivals by telling children about them! They love to hear about Lent, Ramadam, Purim etc and we feel it helps them to appreciate the richness of our very mixed cultural identities. We acknowledge the Aboriginal traditional owners of the land at all our sessions and indeed the children are annoyed if we forget to do that!

At all our learning sessions we have a time when our groups come together for our motto, ICE song, turning on of the STAR of learning and giving out of awards. The lights are lowered and we have fairy lights to make this time special. Children often tell special news and we might have a few quiet moments or listen to a visualisation before writing. If EVER we get very busy and this GATHERING time is late. the students complain. They hunger for the special, comforting rituals that help them to feel they belong and matter. It is a special, magical interlude and I am sure it contributes to our high academic success rare. Our teachers so often comment that the work output seems to double after the gathering!

So, let’s listen deeply to our needs and those of our children and establish times when they can interact with the sacred and feel the deep connections that bind us all. Acknowledge special days with simple rituals. Establish a gratitude time with your family at meal times where each person holds a special “gratitude stone” and shares one thing for which they are thankful that day.

Mark the changing seasons with a simple nature tray on your kitchen table and above all take the time with your families for quiet contemplation- whether that be in Church, Temple, Mosque or simply in a forest or at the beach.

This spiritual yearning is part of the human experienced and we all need the deep healing and comfort that comes from contact with the sacred.

The Love of Parents

I am in Singapore to assess children, train teachers and talk to parents and I have met so many wonderful people this trip. I am bowled over by the parents I have met over the last week.
I have met many parents in tears, determined to keep their ADHD diagnosed children away from medication and fight for a more wholistic treatment. I have met parents with super-bright children who simply do not fit “normal” teaching methods and so are not doing well at school. I have met parents of angry, disturbed and sad children who are determined to help bring their children to a happier future.

I salute all these parents for their courage and determination to find solutions for their children’s learning needs. This is a very complex issue and it takes a huge amount of observation to truly discover a child’s learning needs. Parents all over the world do the same-they search and search until they find the solution or rather the combination of solutions that work for their children!

This is all about love.

Martin was interviewed on Singapore radio this week about kinesiology and learning difficulties. He was asked to sum up in few words and he did-
LOVE YOUR CHILD he said-and parents do!


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