Starting Year 7 English Language Resource Ideas

My son is moving up to Year 7 in his home education and when it comes to planning for his English I am going to be taking quite a few of the resources that worked well with my daughter and reusing them but I am also modifying it a bit so it suits him more, trying to link it in to topics that he enjoys.

So basics. We are sticking with the Get It Rights series – it just works well and I like the way they develop the English activities over the 3 years. So he will be using the Get It Right Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling book 1 and the Get It Right Vocabulary book 1. Now those are going to be covering our basics. With the Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation workbook I have bought the answer book that goes with it and for the Boost your Vocabulary book the answers are free to download from the Oxford University Press site.

Then we are going to bring in areas that he finds interesting – and that is one of the reasons that I really enjoy the KS3 English section on the Twinkl site. It is massive and they have included a huge range of resources. I think over the last 3 years of covering KS3 work with my oldest this English section was honestly one of my MUST-HAVE resources.

I know that for comprehensions there are going to be a whole bunch that will appeal to him (I already have marked these ones – The History of Lego, Living on Ice, Nelson Mandala, Giant Spider and Sinister Rats, Coral Reef Ecosystems, Seagrass Meadows and Extraordinary Events). I really love this section because they have just include such a wide range of topics that you can always find something interesting. And I really want to start working on how he answers his questions so comprehensions are going to be a big part of that.

We are also going to work through some of the English Units that they have on Twinkl. I have used a lot of those English units with my daughter over the last 3 years and I have to admit I found them so easy to use – everything that you need is already there so you don’t need to do a lot of prep work before hand and they have made them interesting. We are going to work through the Narrative Writing Unit, History of English and the Poetry around the world unit. I did both the Narrative Writing Unit and the History of English unit with my daughter and she found the History of English unit fascinating (they are both learning Latin so I think he will like that link) and the Narrative Writing unit is full of useful ideas. I have never done the Poetry around the world unit before but I have done two other poetry units from the site and for someone who is not a poetry fan I found them brilliant.

I also know that I want to work on his writing skills so we are going to dip into the writing section quite a lot over this coming year, but I am going to link the writing into the topics and themes that he enjoys. The way I use this site is once I have selected a page for us to use I always go to the right hand side and see what the other suggestions are linked to the page – by doing this I often end up finding extra gems that I may have missed otherwise.

Okay so we are going to be using a lot of the Twinkl KS3 pages with him. One last thing some of you may find the Twinkl KS3 English Curriculum map useful – I have never stuck to it but it does give good ideas and often even if you don’t follow the suggestion they give, it just might spark another idea for you. (The photo below is the copy that I printed out – I enlarged it and printed it over multiple pages which is why you can see pages stuck together – but you can just print it out onto 1 sheet of paper).

Then two other books that I started using with my daughter and used a little bit with my son are the English Anthology Mythology book and Detective books. I love this series. Really we are massive fans of how these books have been set up – the fact that they include fiction, non-fiction and poetry all linked together by a theme. Brilliant. And the activities, are so varied and interesting, really massive fans of these already so we are going to continue with both of these this coming year. Plus I know that for a kid, like my son, who finds Mythology fascinating, being able to work through English activities all around Mythology is just the going to be winner.

And lastly reading books. We read a lot and I mean a lot so I am going to talk about the books that we are planning on reading in a separate Year 7 English book post.

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International GCSE Biology Workbook

I recently wrote a post about the IGCSE Biology Student Book which we are planning on using and in the post I briefly mentioned this workbook as something I was wanting to get for extra practice. Well, we now have the workbook so I thought I would give everyone a bit more detail about it.

Okay so why are we using a workbook? Doesn’t the Student Book have questions in it? Yes it does. It actually has quite a few questions and it looks like the questions are a nice variety. But I would rather be in the position of having extra questions than wishing we had more, so yes for us a workbook is a must have. And a workbook that is linked to the student book, has exam styled questions and answers is just the type of workbook that I like using. If we feel like we have covered a topic really thoroughly and my daughter is very confident then we may just work through the questions verbally, discussing them together. But when we want extra practice, when she may have gotten one or two things wrong when she worked through her student book then I want those extra questions as a way of making sure we now “get it”.

This workbook is written as an extra for the student book. So the topics covered really are in the same order. There is no trying to match this question to that chapter. Topic one in the workbook matches topic one in the student book. This just makes it straight forward and easy to use with the student book.

The questions included are a mix of different types of questions. There are multiple choice, label the diagram, one mark questions up to extended writing questions, there are graphs and table questions (maths type questions), and they include a lot of practical activities. There really is a good mix of questions.

I know my daughter is not that keen on the “maths-type” questions so I immediately focused on those and made sure there were extra examples of graphs and calculations. Which there are. I was also struck by the inclusion of the extended writing questions. I thought these were a great addition as I know a lot of kids struggle with the longer questions so these are always going to be good to practice and then I have to say the Practical activities really impressed me. But really whatever it is you think your kiddo needs practice with I am sure they have included them in this workbook.

I have read a few comments from other people about the lack of answers. There are answers, there are answers for all of the questions. They are on the Hodder Education website and are FREE to download. If you look on the workbook page – International GCSE Biology workbook – on the left hand side there are a few links and one of those links says answers – that is where you go to download the answers for this workbook. (In fact for quite a few of the Hodder Books if you look on the left hand side there are normally links added and if the answers are free to download they will be there).

The photo below shows what the answers look like. The page on the left is a page out of the workbook and then on the right is the corresponding answer page.

So this is the workbook that we are going to use with our student book for International GCSE Biology. As always I will write update posts once we have used them for a little bit but I have to say I am actually feeling quite happy about our choices for Biology.

I shared links for the workbook in the post but in case you missed them here is the workbook on the Hodder site – International GCSE Biology workbook

and here is an Amazon link – Edexcel International GCSE Biology Workbook.

Admin – After really liking the way the Biology Student book looked I asked Hodder if we could get a copy of their workbook so I could take some photos and write a post about it. They kindly sent me this workbook. This is not a paid for post and all photos and opinions expressed are mine.

I do sometimes 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 enjoy.

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Big Cat readers for more able readers

When my kids were younger one of the things I spent ages searching for were readers. And yes, there are lots of different readers out there but my kids often found the readers a bit dull and boring and they were just not inspiring, that was until we discovered the Big Cat Series. We loved this series. And one of the main reasons why we loved this series so much was because the books were actually interesting and they did not shy away from non-fiction readers. Both of my kids enjoyed reading non-fiction readers.

The Big Cat series has a whole band of readers for different reading levels and they include a wide range of readers within each reading level so you can find something that will interest your reader. My daughter loved that they included condensed versions of the classics (Little Women and Black Beauty are two examples), we loved the fact based ones (Mary Anning, Sister Queens and Wolves and My Journey across the Indian Ocean) and we devoured all of their Shakespeare readers.

I was intrigued where I discovered that they have a band called Lime Plus which is written for more able readers as a way of helping them improve their vocabulary and practice skills like inference, prediction and reading stamina. So I asked if we could get a few copies from this band so I could have read and possibly share about it with fellow home educators. (This is not a paid for post I was just interested in the older readers and wanted to see if they were as good quality and interesting as the ones we had used in the past).

The Lime Plus range includes fiction and non-fiction titles. My instinct is always to go for the non-fiction titles just because my kids enjoy reading non-fiction and also as a home educator I love merging subjects together and working on topics and these non-fiction books always lend themselves to my way of doing that. But having said that I actually enjoyed the stories of The Dungeon of Despair and The Ravens’ Call. They were sweet stories, with an adventure in them but also stories that I could see had the possibility of developing into more than just a story. The Dungeon of Despair is a fun story where an inquisitive young boy gets himself trapped in a dungeon and the Ravens’ Call is about a young girl’s journey in an attempt to stop a battle. They were interesting stories, nothing to scary but they had a clear story arch which is something that I liked to point out to my kids when they were reading so they could try and include a story arch in their own writing. The Characters were also interesting, the boy in The Dungeon of Despair starts off frustrated with his younger sister and family, gets bored on the outing then out of his boredom and frustration he goes off on his own adventure, gets himself into a pickle and manages to get out and then is relieved to see his family again. I can imagine lots of siblings understanding this character. And The Ravens’ Call was a story that my daughter (when she was younger) would have really enjoyed – she likes stories with story female characters, who go off on an adventure and prove themselves.

And then the Non-Fiction books – LOVED these and actually I am already planning on using The Battle of Hastings book with my son when we cover the Battle in our History in September. It is a brilliant summary of the events and characters. It is written in such a easy manner with the events unfolding just like a story that it makes it all seem so natural and dare I say easy to remember the characters and the order of events. We have already used quite a few of the History readers with my son and he always enjoys them, he calls them bite-size History events. Just enough to read in one setting and enough information that it all makes sense but does not get confusing. And I love that they included detail about the armies.

And then they take it a step further and actually get the kids to think about the events. In The Battle of Hastings they challenge the kids to think about what went wrong, what could King Harold have done better that could have changed the outcome.

And with The Great Fire of London they start by explaining to the kids that they need to think about sources and how trustworthy the sources are (which is something that the kids will never to develop in their Secondary History).

I have been a fan of the BIG CAT books for quite a few years and these Lime Plus books that we have read are just as interesting as the others that we have used in this series. I would recommend anyone with kids in primary school to just go onto the website and have a look at this range of books. They have a lovely huge range of topics and all of the books we have read have been interesting, which was always a big factor in getting my kids to read.

Admin – As I mentioned above I asked Collins if we could get some of the Lime Plus readers to review because I used this series with both of my kids and really enjoyed it so I was keen to see what the Lime Plus books were like. This is NOT a paid for post, this is just me sharing about books that I think are good quality and useful for home learning.

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Starting Year 7 History Home Education Books

The second of my starting year 7 resource posts for my son is going to be on History resources. It is another easy post because I really have LOVED the series that I used with my oldest for her KS3 History and I am sticking with in. It is the Aaron Wilkes History series from Oxford University Press. The series is split into 3 books and we used one book for each of her KS3 years and we are going to stick with that for my son. So Year 7 History is Invasion, Plague and Murder, Year 8 will be Revolution, Industry and Empire and Year 9 Technology, War and Independence.

Okay so why do I LOVE this series so much – the book is written in a very logical manner, they include all the facts you need and lots of extra interesting information. They use pictures and diagrams which does bring the topic to life and make it more memorable. So fact wise this book covers everything you need and a bit more. But it is the questions that really elevate this book for me. On every double page they include some quick questions in a box called Over To You – which are basically questions on the text that you have just read. (questions to make sure you have understood what you have read).

Then at the end of each chapter you get a Quick Knowledge Quiz (again testing you understand what you have read throughout the chapter) and Literacy Focus questions (things like note taking, PEEL paragraphs or writing in detail).

And finally you get the History Skill Questions. These are the ones that are worth their weight in gold. These questions are honestly just by themselves enough of a reason to get this book. They are longer writing questions which help to build up the skills required to answer the history questions that you would get later on (GCSE or IGCSE). And they have included step by step guidance on how to structure your answers. When I say these questions are gold I really do mean that because with hindsight after working through all three books with my oldest and now being about to start her IGCSE History course with her I actually feel like we already have a good foundation in place on how to tackle these longer worded questions and I don’t feel that they are as intimidating. I really can not stress it enough how these longer questions and the step by step guidance on answering them are just some of the best stepping stones you will find in terms of helping your kids structure longer answers.

Okay so what topics does it cover.

  • 1066 and William the Conqueror
  • The Normal Conquest
  • Religion in the Middle Ages
  • Life in the Middle Ages (and this is what they call a depth study so it includes lots of fascinating detail)
  • Power in the Middle Ages
  • Health and Medicine
  • England at War (Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France) and the War of the Roses
  • The start of The Tudors (Henry VII and Henry VIII)
  • Medieval Britain what changed

So that is our main History book but we do like to make History come alive, so we tend to watch quite a few documentaries (there is a great 3 part documentary called 1066 A Year to Conquer England), we like visiting places and reading extra books. I often just find these extra bits as we cover the topics but I do already have a few extra books lined up. These are a few of the books that I already have as they are part of the BIG CAT series by Collins (which we love). I use these as a quick read before we start a topic.

And of course we love the Oaka Books Topic Packs for all of our KS3 subjects. I already have these History Topic Packs lined by for my son. With the history packs I often use these as revision after we we finished our topic.

So that is our History. I really cannot stress enough how much a LOVE the KS3 History series by Aaron Wilkes.

Admin – 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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When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit Review

One of the children’s stories about World War Two that I have heard a few people mention was When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and as luck would have it our local library had it on their shelves so we decided to have a read and I must admit it is a beautifully written account of the impact of Nazi Germany on a families life.

Anna is nine and loving her life in Germany. Her dad is a famous writer, she has a comfortable life, friends and enjoys her school but her family is Jewish (they are not a practicing Jewish family but they have Jewish blood which is enough it the eyes of the Nazis for them to be targeted). Quite suddenly Anna’s dad disappears (he has to flee to the country after getting a tip that he was on a list) and his family start getting ready to follow him.

The entire experience is written through the eyes of nine-year old Anna, you (the reader) get to experience what it would have been been like to suddenly have to leave your home, relocate to Switzerland, then onto Paris and when even that gets unsafe finally onto London. It is a lot of change for young kids, different countries, different schools, different languages and different ways of doing things. And every time they are forced to move the families finances seem to get tighter and tighter as her dad struggles to find work. It is an eye-opening account and one that does seem to ring true and sincere. So I found it interesting to read that the author wrote this story as a way of explaining to her kids what she went through fleeing Germany and living as a refugee.

Both my daughter and I read Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and we both thought it was a lovely story about an ordinary family having to cope with becoming refugees. It was moving, interesting had a few moments of adventure and even funny in a few instances. I found it interesting because it deals with a slightly different angle to most of the world war two stories that we had already read – I liked the fact that you got to understand the point of German’s fleeing their home country, coping in different countries and having to adapt to a new life.

After we had finished When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit we noticed that there were two follow up stories. Bombs on Aunt Dainty and A Small Person Far Away. So we borrowed both of those as well. Now I must say I felt like When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit would be fine for any kiddo aged 9 and over but the other two I feel are more for older kids / teens. In Bombs on Aunt Dainty Anna and her family are know living in London, surviving the Blitz and coping with everyday life in War time England. And there were lots of great moments that were very interesting to read (like being in a building when it gets bombed) but she does deal with an older relationship. Anna starts going to an evening art class and ends up having a relationship with her 40 year old teacher. There are no explicit sex scenes, and they just kiss but I felt like any kid reading this needs to understand the issues behind a young 17 year old girl having a relationship with a 40 year old teacher, so for that reason I would think it is not suitable for 9 year olds.

In the third Book A Small Person Far Away, Anna is now grown up and married and has to deal with the emotional impact of going back to Germany after her mom tries to commit suicide. The third book in the series is a lot slower, there are none of the more adventurous scenes like in the first two and it is quite emotional as Anna needs to confront her fear of being in Germany and face the fact that maybe her mother just does not want to live. My daughter found this a bit hard to read and we did have to discuss this and talk about why the mother just wanted to give up (the author also starts to deal with the fact that Anna’s relationship with her mother is actually not a healthy relationship but she does not go into too much detail on this – however some kids may pick this up and need to discuss the fact that Anna’s mother has a tendency to manipulate her kids and can be emotionally cruel when she does not get her own way).

I think all three books were well written and interesting but I do think which ones you choose to read depends on your individual kids. The first one is by far the most interesting and I would definitely say include that on your book list but possibly think about your kids age and maturity when you consider including the second and third one.

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