Phyllis and the Fossil Finders. A Twinkl eBook

It is strange it think it is only January and yet we are all already feeling exhausted and a bit fed up with the current set up for home education (I have said this before and I will keep saying it – this lockdown style of learning is NOT home education and even us “normal” home educators are struggling with being cooped up and stuck at home this much). So I am trying to add in as many learning activities that I know my kids enjoy and I am trying hard to vary what we do week to week.

One of the big winners last year were the Twinkl eBooks and their activities so last weekend I asked my youngest if we should try one and he was immediately keen. We went onto the site (this is the place to go to see which eBooks they have – Twinkl eBook library) and he selected Phyllis and the Fossil Finders.

Phyllis and the Fossil Finder resources from the Twinkl website

As always there are a bunch of  linked activities to the eBook including some grammar pages and topic pages (about fossils) and of course they have the guided reading questions to along with the story. But I must admit the week before we had actually done quite a bit on fossils, including how they are formed so we actually did not go down the fossil angle.

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Instead we focused on the creative writing side and character aspect of this book. And after reading just a few pages I actually called my oldest (who is Year 8) and suggested she come and read it with us. Okay I am sure a lot of you think that is strange. But the way the story is written really appealed to me, the writer drops these hints about the characters without coming out to say this character has sensory issues or this character has this illness etc, they just mention little bits here and there that build up these characters. And I thought it was an excellent example for my oldest in terms of how she could drop these hints about characters in her own writing.

She actually ended up reading the entire eBook with us and we had a few discussions about how writers can drop hints without coming out and saying something and how it is actually fun for the reading to piece together these bits of information.

And just because she was enjoying the eBook so much when I gave my son the comprehension to do I actually searched the KS3 comprehensions and found one on Mary Anning which tied in perfectly with the book. So she also got to do an age appropriate activity “linked” to the eBook.

Sticking with the creative writing angle. We downloaded the Character profile pages that are linked to the eBook and then I also searched Twinkl and found a number of other character writing pages that we printed out (these ones – Character Traits, character description checklist, character description word mat and physical appearance adjectives). I love that about these eBooks, they always link activities to the eBooks but you can always extend those activities with other pages from the site (we always do this). I purposely printed out the character planning page that has blocks on it and asked both kids to first jot down some key words before they write up a character profile. The reason I did this is my kids don’t plan before they write. They both get these ideas for writing and then just dive it and write away and then half way through they want to change something. So I am trying to get them to do a bit of planning first (trying being the word here, not sure that the planning part has sunk in yet).

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We all loved the story of the creature who came to life. And I do think it is an excellent price of writing to read with the kids and talk about ways that they can describe and drop hints about their own characters in their creative writing.

We really do Love these eBooks and I have already promised that as soon as we finish our next book (The Last Wolf and activities linked to it) we will choose another eBook.

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Maths Revision Books Year 7 and Year 8

When I first started on our home education journey I spent hours sitting in local book stores paging through the different workbook options that they had on their shelves. And there are some really good ones but for the most part what you find in a WH Smith or Waterstones are actually what I call Revision workbooks. They are workbooks written for kids who attend school, so they include some examples and answers but not a lot. A workbook written for the whole school year may include all the topics covered in that academic year but there will never be enough examples for a full-time home educator. These books cannot be used in isolation (ie they can not be the only source).

When it comes to my daughter’s Year 8 Maths we are using a number of sources. And the main reason for this is I like her to get to used to the different styles that everyone has. A geometry page from the Twinkl website looks different to one from the TeachitMaths website, and they both look different to the geometry pages in the Collins workbook and the CGP books (I must admit we do not always like the CGP style but we do have 2 of their Year 8 books which I dip into every once and a while). I have also noticed that different publishers tend to word the questions a bit differently and sometimes tend to even focus on different points within each topic. So for us, using more than one source is really beneficial.

The majority of her Maths pages are from the two sites – Twinkl and TeachitMaths. And they both tend to have lots of examples. But I still like to get her a Maths Revision book for each year and we actually use it as a Maths Revision book (ie she works through the pages in her revision book once we have completed the topic).

Our favourite of these “Revision workbooks” tends to be the Collins books – the pages are clearly set out, they normally include enough writing space, they have the answers, they include problem sums which I really like and I have never found duplication between what is included in a Collins workbook and what is included on the 2 websites that we use. So the examples are always new examples.

Collins Maths workbooks for Year 7 and Year 8

So for those of you look for a Maths Revision book to use this is what is covered by the Collins workbooks.

KS3 Maths Year 7 Workbook: Prepare for Secondary School (Collins KS3 Revision)

  • Using numbers – negative numbers, problems with train timetables, distance, bank balance.
  • Sequences
  • Perimeter, Area and Volume – includes cuboids and compound shapes.
  • Decimal numbers
  • Working with numbers – squared and cubes numbers, converting units.
  • Statistics – bar, line and pie graphs.
  • Algebra – creating expressions and simplifying them.
  • Fractions – all 4 operations.
  • Angles – missing angles in triangles, quads, around a point.
  • Coordinates and graphs – includes all 4 quadrants.
  • Percentages
  • Probability
  • Symmetry
  • Equations – an extension of the algebra pages, how to solve for x.
  • Interpreting Data – an extension of the graph pages, understanding what the graphs tell us.
  • 3D shapes
  • Ratio

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KS3 Maths Year 8 Workbook: Prepare for Secondary School (Collins KS3 Revision)

  • Working with numbers – negative numbers, BIDMAS, squared, cubed numbers, HCF, LCM.
  • Geometry – missing angles and translations.
  • Probability – some good problem type examples.
  • Percentages – using percentages including percentage decrease and increase.
  • Sequences
  • Area of 2D and 3D shapes -parallelograms, trapeziums, kites cuboids.
  • Graphs – plotting an equation on a graph.
  • Simplifying numbers – rounding to significant figures, standard form.
  • Interpreting Data – what are the graphs telling us.
  • Algebra – expand brackets, writing equations for shapes.
  • Congruence and Scaling
  • Fractions and Decimals – practice of the 4 operations with decimals and fractions.
  • Proportions
  • Circles
  • Equations and Fractions – solving equations.
  • Comparing Data

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I hope that helps anyone looking for a Maths revision booklet (but please the key is revision these books have 70 pages in them, they are not a complete curriculum)

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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Animal Knowledge Encyclopedia

Someone once told me that kids can never have enough books. And although I agree with that, when I look at our collection of books, we really do have a lot of animal books, a LOT. So when my daughter asked for yet another animal book for Christmas I was a bit reluctant. But she asked for a specific one – the DK Knowledge Encyclopedia Animals and she really wanted this one because she already has the Human Body version of the series (which is amazing) and we recently borrowed the Dinosaur version from the library which was also amazing so she was convinced the animal book in this series was very much required reading.

What is it about this series that my kids love? I think it is the visual feeling of these books. The photographs are incredible and some of the detail, wow the detail – like the little hairs on a mosquito, the complex eyes, the wings of the dragonfly. They really are stunning pictures and they make every creature seem fascinating (even the ones I don’t actually like).

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My kids also like the way the details are explained and depicted with diagrams.

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There is a lot of detail included in this book but it is done in a visual format and it is this visual format that really wins over both of my kids and me (yes I will admit that even though we had a ridiculous number of animal books in our house this is a stunning book and I can understand why my daughter wanted it as one of her Christmas presents).

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The entire book just seems like you are stepping into a photographic wonderland.

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My daughter tends to read sections at a time whereas my son has actually gone from page 1 and is slowly working his way through page by page. Both methods work with this book, you can start at the beginning or you can just find the sections that you want.

For those who want details. The books starts with some introduction pages like what is an animal, evolution, the animal kingdom and then it splits into 6 sections.

  1. Invertebrates
  2. Fish
  3. Amphibians
  4. Reptiles
  5. Birds
  6. Mammals

And after the Mammals section there are a few pages on Animal Science – habitats, food webs and migration.

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This book normally sells for around £18.99 and after seeing how much my kids have read and reread it just since Christmas it has already been worth it. We bought our copy from Amazon – Knowledge Encyclopedia Animal!: The Animal Kingdom as you’ve Never Seen it Before

Admin Bit – I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

DK Animal Knowledge Encyclopedia

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Written Calculation Books for KS2 Maths

I used the Written Calculation series with my oldest when she was in KS2 and I have been using the exact same series with my son. The series consists of 6 different workbooks (they also have answer books and teacher’s guides but we have never needed those).  The books in the series are – Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication 1, Multiplication 2, Division 1 and Division 2.

This series is straight forward teaching the kids how to do the four operations and then giving them a chance to practice them and become confident using them. I always knew that making sure the kids mastered the basic four operations where important but now that my daughter is in secondary school I really can say it is vital. Making sure they understand and are totally confident with these 4 operations in a key parts of KS2 Maths and one of the foundations for them to move into KS3 Maths. And me these books do just that they allow the kids to master the 4 operations.

My son (who would be Year 5 if he attended school) is currently working through the Division and Multiplication books in this series. So I thought I would explain a bit about these books – but really think – lots of practice, getting gradually harder and more advance with each step.

Written Calculation Books for Divsion and Multiplication of KS2

All the books in the Written Calculation series are set out in the same format. Double pages with a worked example as an explanation at the start of each page, then some examples for the kids to work through and finally between 2 to 4 problem solving questions. The explanation at the top of the page means the kids can actually work through these books independently (which is very helpful).

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Multiplication 1 – Is the column method for short multiplication (if you are not sure what I mean by that it is multiplying by single, double or triple digit numbers but with only one line answer.  In Multiplication 2 the kids do long multiplication where they end up with two lines of answers that need to get added together, hence it is called long multiplication)

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Multiplication 2 – Goes from the short multiplication of the first book into long multiplication and includes examples where you are multiplying decimals.

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Division 1 – Is short Division (some people refer to this as the bus stop method). It includes answers with remainders, writing remainders as fractions and extending the numbers into decimals.

Written Calculation Books for Division and Multiplication KS2

Division 2 – Goes from the short division of the first book into long division.  Again it includes remainders, writing remainders as fractions and extending the numbers into decimals. 

Written Calculation Books for Division and Multiplication KS2

Each of these books sells for around £3.95 and honestly if I think of printing costs and the times and effort it takes to find all of these examples and set them out in such a logical order, where they get gradually harder, it is £3.95 well spent.

You can buy these books directly from the Schofield & Sims website, a local book store or Amazon (links below)

Written Calculation: Multiplication Book 1 – KS2, Ages 7-11

Written Calculation: Multiplication Book 2 – KS2, Ages 7-11

Written Calculation: Division Book 1 – KS2, Ages 7-11

Written Calculation: Division Book 2 – KS2, Ages 7-11

Admin. I bought our first set of Written Calculation books that I used with my oldest and then Schofield & Sims kindly provided me with a second set to use with my youngest. The fact that I am using the exact same books with both kids shows that I do think they do the job but as always all opinions expressed are mine.

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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KS3 History – Technology, War and Independence. 1901 to present day

One of our favourite KS3 resources has to be the Oxford University Press History series by Aaron Wilkes. We are still busy working through the second book in the series but my daughter loves reading these books in her own time so just before Christmas OUP kindly sent her the third book in the series  and she is already on page 180 of 223 pages. The series consists of three student books – we are covering 1 book an academic year (what I mean by this is my daughter and I read through the book together, discuss the events, she answers the questions and I check her answers – but she also reads the books independently just because she enjoys History).

The first two books in the series are these ones – Invasion, Plague and Murder (book 1), Revolution, Industry and Empire (book 2)

This post is about the third book (year 9) – Technology, War and Independence from 1901 to the present day.

Technology, War and Independence 1901 to present day. History book for KS3

So, what does it cover? It is split into 9 chapters.

  1. A new Century
  2. The First World War – a Depth Study
  3. Between the wars
  4. Power in the early twentieth century
  5. The Second World War – a Depth Study
  6. The post war world
  7. From Empire to Commonwealth
  8. Into the Modern world
  9. The Modern world what has changed.

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The layout of the book is much the same as the first two. Double page spreads, with lots of informative pictures (both illustrations and photographs), lots of source evidence (which I really like because the kids need to think about what the source is telling them, if it is accurate, biased and they often need to “read between the lines”), maps, cartoons information in key boxes.  They really manage to include a lot in these pages.

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And yes, the pages do look busy. And in the past both of my kids have complained about other books being too crowded or overwhelming.  But never with this series.  I think it is because the pages are set out with blocks of information and they include lots of illustrations and pictures to support the information.  Whatever it is, it works.  This is the most comprehensive History series that I could find, and they cover a lot in each book but they do it well.  Both of my kids have enjoyed reading these books and they have understood and followed everything in the books. So even though the pages may look busy we have not found them confusing or overwhelming.

And then there are the questions.  I am a massive fan of the questions in this book. At the end of each double page you get a few questions relating to what you have just read, which is kind of what you would expect.  But then at the end of each chapter they have 4 or 6 pages of extra questions and these are what have really impressed me.  They include 1 page of multiple-choice questions about the whole chapter and then they include a longer, more complex question.  Something that makes the kids apply their knowledge and practice writing a properly structured answer. Plus, they give the kids step by step guidance on how to structure their answers.  It is these longer questions and the guidance on how to answer them that makes this series stand out for me.  This is excellent practice for kids. I honestly wish more of my daughter’s other books had these types of questions and guidance on how to structure her answers like this series does.

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As for my daughter – the first thing that my daughter excitedly informed me after she started reading this book was – there are two Depth Studies and both are on the World Wars.  She  loves the depth studies in all the books because they go into a lot of background detail and she always discovers fascinating facts in the pages.

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Without a doubt the depth study chapters are always her favourite chapters.

We are not planning on working through this book just yet, but my daughter has read most of it and I have quickly gone through it and it is without a doubt this is going to be our main History book for her Year 9.  We Highly Recommend this series.

You can buy these books directly from Oxford University Press site – KS3 History series by Aaron Wilkes or you can buy them from Amazon (links below)

KS3 History 4th Edition: Invasion, Plague and Murder: Britain 1066-1558 Student Book

KS3 History 4th Edition: Revolution, Industry and Empire: Britain 1558-1901 Student Book

KS3 History 4th Edition: Technology, War and Independence 1901-Present Day Student Book

Admin Bits – I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

Oxford University Press knows that my daughter loves this series and they kindly sent her the third book.  All opinions expressed in this post are mine and my daughter’s.

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