Why we have been using so many Activity Village pages

Activity Village have added a lot of new and interesting pages since I wrote my last general Activity Village pages post about 18 months ago.  And I feel like they are adding more and more content which is making them more and more valuable as a home education resource (plus their membership deal is a good price (£15).  So for those of you who do not use the site a lot or are not sure what they offer for home educators I am going to point out a few of the areas that we have been using a lot this past year. (This post is not sponsored in any way it is just me writing about a resource that I have been using a lot this past year / 18 months)

They have created a whole new Numeracy section and are growing it step by step.  Starting with basic number recognition and it is going to end up going all the way through to Maths for Year 6.  It is the Maths Stage by Stage.  If you are new to home education, have younger kids and are wondering what you need to do and possibly in what order you would like to introduce Maths this Maths Stage by Stage gives lots of great ideas.  They start from basic numeracy ideas like one to one correspondence and progress step by step up to Addition and Subtraction to 20 (for now – like I said that are always adding to this).   They also include lots of resources using 10 frames or base 10 which I used a lot with my kids.

So some of the Key areas which you might want to look at – Ordinal Numbers, Number bonds, Fact families, Numbers up to Twenty.

Colourful addition pages from Activity Village

With each section they include a brief explanation and suggestions on how to introduce the topic and lots of different worksheets.

I think this Maths Stage by Stage is an absolute gem for new home educators who are nervous about Maths. And not included in their Maths Stage by Stage section but a Maths section we have been using a lot lately – their Times Table resources. (They have posters, worksheets and multiplication games).

Activity Village Times Table Worksheets

But Maths is not the only things you get in your membership.  You also get Lots and Lots of English resources – starting with basic alphabet resources for younger kids,

Some of the different Alphabet pages from Activity Village

handwriting pages – lots of tracing over words in all different kinds of formats, labelling worksheets,

Activity Village label the farm worksheet

vocabulary cards (which we love using for spelling) and High Frequency word printouts (we used some of their bookmarks with our stories when the kids were still learning to recognise basic words – High Frequency Bookmark Post).

One of my favourite and most used English sections are their Story pages (Love that they have normal lined and handwriting versions – handwriting versions have a middle dotted line to help kids with the height of their small letters).

And don’t forget about the Word Searches and Crosswords and Word Sudoku.

Activity Village Word Sudoku

One of the sections that we have not used a lot but which looks so useful is their Geography section – Lots and Lots of Maps and a really handy My Country Study 4 page document which would be great for kids to use to summarize all the facts that had learnt about a country.

For History we have actually used their Famous people section quite often.  My daughter in particular loves reading up about Historical figures and then afterwards we always have a look to see if that person is included on their database and print off one or two goodies to use (examples of the kind of things you can find here are included in these two posts – Guy Fawkes and Christopher Columbus).  We also recently used a lot of the Egyptian pages (Tutankhamun post)

Activity Village the gunpowder plot comprehension pages

And Science themes – they have some Human Body posters (Including ones where the kids need to fill in the labels themselves, lots of fun animal pages and some seasonal pages. (our version of a seasonal tree).

activity village 4 season tree

It really is worth spending some time looking at their Teacher section to see what they have on the site.  But don’t forget all those puzzles and the massive range of pages to inspire Art – we LOVE using their templates for art activities.

As I mentioned in the beginning this is NOT a sponsored post in any shape or form.  We started using Activity Village when we started home education but over the last 18 months I have been using their site more and more.  They really have been working hard at increasing the number of printouts on their site and I think they have done an amazing job.  There are only two of them so I am constantly amazed at how much they add each week.  And I have only ever found 1 error on a page (if you ever do find an error or a link is not working just email them they are super helpful and will fix it).



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Mrs Mactivity

Since December last year the kids and I have used a few goodies off the new website Mrs Mactivity.  They have a combination of paper craft activities and some learning activities aimed at the moment at the younger years (I would say key Stage 1 ages for their learning items).  They offer a free membership and a premium membership which is currently just under £10.  It is a newish website and they are constantly adding items but I thought I would share a few of the gems that we have found so far.

We totally loved their egg matching number bonds and flower wreath colouring activity (both of which are free to download and perfect as a Spring or Easter activity).

Learning wise they have English resources like these CVC word cards (free to download) and the common exception word sheets for Year 1 and Year 2   (both premium).  My son did find the words that he needed to trace over a bit too small but he liked the fact that the list came with extra lines so he could add his own words.

Mrs Mactivity exception words handwriting practice

And for kids learning their sounds they have a lovely FREE to download sound mat

Mrs Mactivity FREE to download Sound Mat. Different versions available

And some very useful FREE CVC Letter Shape Phoneme Frames.  I used pages very similar to these when both my kids were learning their sounds.  The Letter shape frames are really helpful for younger kids.  They also have a FREE  Name Handwriting activity – but you could use this for a number of activities not just for name writing.  When my kids were younger I had a page like this laminated and they would practice writing all kinds of different words on the lines below.  I liked using something like this as it had the letters above so when they were still learning how to form their letters properly they had a guide which they could refer to.

Mrs Mactivity Free to download I can write my own name page

My son has recently used some of their dot to dot pages – we used the FREE counting in 5’s version when we were practicing his skip counting for his 5 times table.

Mrs Mactivity Dot to dot pages in 5's. Perfect for practicing skip counting and helping with multiples of 5's

And although the learning pages are too young for my daughter she has enjoyed some of their paper craft pages.  She is currently going through a phase where she reads about 4 books at the same time (really not sure how she manages but she seems to love dipping in and out of the different stories) so she needed some extra bookmarks.  She choose these cute Spring Bookmarks (these are premium).

Mrs Mactivity Spring themed colouring bookmarks

And I must admit they do look lovely.

Mrs Mactivity Double-sided colouring bookmarks

She also liked the more detailed Unicorn colouring page (also premium).

Mrs Mactivity detailed Unicorn colouring page part of their premium package

Mrs Mactivity. Lots of Free to download pages suitable for Key Stage 1 ages


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Key Stage 2 Comprehension Books

Two Years ago I wrote a post about the comprehension books that we had used for year 2 (and into the start of year 3).  So I thought it was time to give an update and share which  Key Stage 2 comprehension books we are using (Key stage 2 covers school years 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the UK).

KS2 Comprehension books by Schofield & Sims. 4 Books included in the set

We have stayed with the Schofield & Sims range for comprehension. Their Key Stage 2 Comprehension books consists of 4 different workbooks – in theory one workbook for each year of Key Stage 2.  So Book 1 for Year 3, Book 2 for Year 4, Book 3 for Year 5 and Book 4 for Year 6 (but we have not really stuck to that).

One of the reasons why I like these books is their choice of topics for the comprehensions.  The texts are varied and interesting – they combine fiction with non-fiction, extracts of famous stories, poems, newspaper articles and factual material, like items from the National Archives.   Below are a few examples of the different texts that they have included in their Book 2.

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I also like these books because they contain lots of practice and there is no sharp increase in difficulty between the exercises.  So if there is one exercise that the kids want to miss out, it’s okay,  it really is not going to impact the flow of work.  In fact when my daughter was working through Book 2 she actually jumped around a bit between the different comprehension based on what we were doing in other learning areas.  And some of the comprehensions lead to further reading about the topic.

Each comprehension is spread over a double page – one page for the text and one page for the questions.  Normally around 8 questions per text.  We have not yet tried the exercises in Book 4 but after looking through I do think they are slightly harder but I don’t think it is a big leap, especially if the kids have been practising the slightly easier ones in the previous books. (Photos below show the difference between Questions in Book 1 and Book 4)

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Some of the comprehension did require the kids to look up a few words in the dictionary – something which I really liked as I think using a dictionary is a good skill (yes yes I know  – the internet and all that  – but there is something about looking a word up, the kids often end up noticing other words and end up learning more than just the one word that they had to look up – but this is probably a whole other blog post).  The Dictionary that we used is this one.

Schofield & Sims Complete Dictionary

Schofield & Sims Complete Dictionary. Perfect for Key Stage 2 ages

I must admit that when I first bought Book 1 and Book 2 for my daughter I did not buy the teacher’s guide and I feel like together my daughter and I managed to answer the questions successfully.  When Schofield & Sims and sent me the whole set for review purposes they included the teacher’s guide and I admit,  I have actually used it to double-check that a few of our answers were on the correct path.  So if you are not that confident in helping your kids with the comprehension it might be useful to get the teacher’s guide.  For each exercise the teacher’s guide includes a short introduction, the answers to the questions and suggestions on how you can expand the topic.

KS2 Comprehension books by Schofield & Sims. The Teacher's Guide

For more Information about these books have a look at the Schofield & Sims website here – Key Stage 2 Comprehension and the Dictionaries.

You can also purchase the books from local bookstores or from Amazon (I tend to buy mine directly from Amazon as I often get them for slightly cheaper and then I just buy them as we need them).

KS2 Comprehension Book 1: Year 3, Ages 7-8 (for the new National Curriculum)

KS2 Comprehension Book 2: Year 4, Ages 8-9 (for the new National Curriculum)

KS2 Comprehension Book 3: Year 5, Ages 9-10 (for the new National Curriculum)

KS2 Comprehension Book 4: Year 6, Ages 10-11 (for the new National Curriculum)

KS2 Comprehension Teacher’s Guide: Years 3-6, Ages 7-11 (for the new National Curriculum)

As I mentioned above we used the Key Stage 1 comprehension books (which I bought) and I then bought Book 1 and Book 2 of the Key Stage 2 set.  Schofield & Sims heard we were using these books and then offered to send us the complete pack together with a dictionary for me to use in a review.  These books are OUR choice of comprehension workbooks.

I have included 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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Skip Counting Spiral Snakes

We are doing quite a bit of skip counting with my youngest at the moment mainly because he is busy learning his times tables.  We are just starting the three times so I wanted to find a fun way for him to practice skip counting in 3’s but I was stumped.  Then a few days ago he asked if we could do some paper snake crafts (he is fascinated by snakes) and as soon as I saw the spiral snakes I immediately thought they would be perfect for skip counting.

We actually downloaded and used 2 different templates.  The first spiral snake  is free to download from  minieco.co.uk and the second spiral snake template is from the Education.com website (I have a free membership with them and then I get to download 10 worksheets a month).

Spiral snake template from minieco.co.uk websiteSpiral snake template from Education.com

I started off by printing a number of copies onto coloured thin card – we did also try paper but it did not work well.

Our first one was counting in 3’s so we used a hundred square to first highlight the correct numbers and then wrote them onto the snake. (you can download hundred square from a number of different sources – Education.com hundred square, free hundred square from Twinkl)

Using a spiral snake to practice counting in 3's

He loved the end result.

Making your own skip counting snakes. Fun and easy way to practice skip counting

And wanted more, so next we did counting in 5’s and 10’s.

Skip counting spiral snakes. Multiples of 10. counting in 10's

One of the things I really liked about this is the snakes are fairly long so when we did counting in 10’s he went all the way to 400.  I loved this as it reminded him that the number pattern stays the same no matter how big the number gets.

Counting in 10's spiral snake. Fun way to learn skip counting

And even his old sister joined in.  They made snake after snake.  Branching out into other multiples like 4’s, 6’s and 7’s.  And yes mistakes were made.  But it ended up being a longer, fun Maths session.  My daughter ended up adding all kinds of numbers and he was singing the number patterns (sorry neighbours).

Making skip counting spiral snakes. Fun and relaxed maths

They were really easy to make – just downloaded and print a template and you are set for a a fun, relaxed Maths session, the kind when no-one really realizes how much they are learning.

Fun and Easy to make.  Skip counting spiral snakes.  Counting in 10's, 5's and 3's

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Butterfly suncatchers

Last weekend we released our butterflies from their Insect Lore Butterfly Garden and as exciting as the whole thing was my daughter said she has missed having the butterflies in the house.  So we thought we would turn our sliding doors in a butterfly garden.

We started off by tracing some butterfly colouring pages onto our laminating pouches (sharpies work well on laminating pouches – although we did discover that it is better to use the sharpies on the inside part of the laminating pouches – the side that has a slightly rougher feel to it).

Easy to make suncatchers using laminating pouches and sharpies

And then we coloured them in – again sticking with sharpies.  The kids stuck to three different colouring pages all from Activity Village – Butterfly colouring page 4, butterfly colouring page 5 and butterfly colouring page 6.

After we hung our first few up we decided to try some using our Tulip 3D Fabric Paint 4oz Slick (Black).

Trace over a colouring page with 3D paint onto a laminating pouch to use as a sun catcher

Although this is advertised as fabric paint we have used it a lot with our different art projects – creating stained glass effect pictures and cards.  The kids love it because it leaves a raised line on the pictures.  But it does smudge, so once you have made your outline you do need to let to dry properly – we normally leave it overnight.

Easy home-made suncatchers. Ouline made using 3D paint onto laminating pouches

I love this 3D paint – the effect it gives the kids art work is stunning and it also is a great hand strengthening activity – they really have to squeeze the tube to get the paint out.

Colouring in our home-made butterfly suncatchers with sharpies

And I must admit having butterflies all over our sliding doors does look great.

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My youngest now actually wants to turn it into a Minibeast wall (I need to order more of the 3D paint) but I have a feeling by next weekend we might just have a whole range of Minibeasts all over the sliding doors.

Fun and Easy to make butterfly suncatchers

In case you have never heard of an Insect Lore Butterfly Garden before they are amazing – you get some caterpillars in the post and the kids watch them grow. Once they have formed their chrysalis, you move them into the net and wait for the butterflies to emerge.

Insect Lore

I do sometimes 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.

Easy and Fun home-made suncatcher craft for children.  perfect for Spring, Summer and as a Minibeast activity

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The Night Zookeeper

We are very much in a creative, literacy mode at the moment.  Both the kids have been immersing themselves in stories and then creative games or activities based on the stories.  I have loved watching this unfold.  One of the books which has really caught their imagination is the Night Zookeeper: The Giraffes of Whispering Woods.

Night Zookeeper. The Giraffes of Whispering Woods by Joshua Davidson

It starts off with Will (the main character) painting a mural on a wall at the local Zoo and he is teased by one of his classmates because his animal is not realistic, it is a creative version (a purple elephant).  After Will is made to paint over his picture he sneaks back and repaints it in his original style and this moment he gets transported into the Night Zoo for the first time.  The Night Zoo is a version of the zoo where the animals walk around without any fences and can talk (LOVE this a Zoo with no fences). The imagination here is amazing.  The way Sam, the spying giraffe has been written is brilliant, both my kids where chirping along – “Oh No Sam not another slobbery kiss.”

Night Zookeeper. The Giraffes of Whispering Woods. San the spying giraffe

Will who is now the Night Zookeeper has to save the Night Zoo from some voids – metallic spiders who destroy everything (ie creativity).

The Story is well written and it really  captivated the imagination of my two, they are desperate to read the next book – Night Zookeeper: The Lioness of Fire Desert (only out in August 2018).

The story  naturally encourages the kids to get creative – they can come up with their own animals, with unique characteristics and new and exciting events for the Night Zookeeper to get involved in.

Both my kids and I highly recommend this book.  But it is not ONLY a book.  They have a created a Night Zookeeper website and it even has a catchy tune – here is a YouTube clip with the song – The Night Zookeeper

Night Zookeeper website. Fun and educational.

When you register on the website you get 30 days free trail after which it is £40 per year for a home educating family (The site has been designed for schools but honestly that did not impact our use of the site).  I registered myself as a teacher and then set up both my kids as students.

As soon as the kids register as users they have to create their own avatar (they can always go back and adjust this later if they wish).

Night Zookeeper website. Each child designs their own avatar

Then their first activity was to was draw their first animal and write a short description about it – both of my kids loved this part and could spend ages just creating animal after animal. And if you are kids do enjoy creating their own animals on the website you can always encourage them to start creating some animals of their own on paper and possibly build their own version of the Zoo at home. (We are currently doing a version of this as art project).

As the “teacher” you can log onto the websites lesson hive (which has over 300 different lesson plans and they are always adding new ones), select lessons and then send them to your kids.

Night Zookeeper website. An example of one of the over 300 lessons they have

When the kids log on to the site their lessons will be waiting for them.  Each lesson they complete earns orbs and orbs can be traded to go up levels and to strengthen animals (possibly other things but that is all we used ours for at this stage).

The website suggests 1 lesson a week but you can do as many as you want.  In the first few days of using the site my daughter completed 5 different lessons, this really is flexible – YOU choose.   You select the lesson the kids do and the number of lessons.

The lessons that we have tried have been perfect.  Grammar lessons have been to the point with examples attached followed by short exercises for the kids to do.  The comprehensions that we have tried have been on interesting topics.  And we have found some interesting Science topics.  (So far we have found the questions to be a mix of multiple choice and short writing activities)

They also have a section where the kid can just go and write and they have writing challenges which the kids can choose to do.  (I am sure there is more that we have not discovered yet).

Night Zookeeper website. A star writing challenge for the children to complete

I love the creativity that this story has inspired and how they have managed to use this story to encourage the kids to write and get creative themselves.

Both my kids (aged 7 and 9) are enjoying using the website and I am really glad we discovered it.  As a home educating mom it is a time-saving resource, I can log on and there are lessons already created for the kids.  And there is never any nagging needed.  As soon as I suggest the Night Zookeeper website both kids are happy to log on and they sit for ages doing the lessons and creating.

Oxford University Press did send me a copy of the book.  We logged onto the website and used it under a FREE membership.  All opinions expressed about the book and the website are that of my two little readers and myself.

You can order both books from Amazon

Night Zookeeper: The Giraffes of Whispering Wood

Night Zookeeper: The Lioness of Fire Desert

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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The Life and Times of William Shakespeare

We were sent a lovely set of Big CAT readers over a month ago and we have been loving them.  We used the Tutankhamun’s Tomb book when we went to do a tomb painting workshop at the British Museum and the kids read the “Ancient Greeks Why They Matter To Us” before we went to our Ancient Greek workshop.  We have enjoyed both books and they have been brilliant sources of information for the kids and importantly information that the kids can read and understand for themselves.

Included in our lovely set of BIG CATS readers we also received a number of Shakespeare readers.

Shakespeare BIG CAT readers from Collins. Perfect reading material for Upper Key Stage 2 ages

We have just started reading about Shakespeare and I have been so impressed with this book – The Life and Times of William Shakespeare: Band 18/Pearl (Collins Big Cat).  The book is about Shakespeare’s life but they have manged to include so much general history about the time period in which he lived.  I was not expecting this and I have found it fascinating.

And it is not that they just mention who was on the throne.  The book goes into much more detail, it talks about the ongoing tension between the Catholic and Protestant members of the royal family and it talks about events like Queen Elizabeth riding out on horseback to inspire her soldiers at Tilbury.

The book goes into the background of Shakespeare’s parents and their home in Stratford-upon-Avon. And includes details like how Shakespeare’s farther planned to apply for his family coat-of-arms but could not due to financial issues and interesting facts about the schooling system of the time.

BIG CAT readers The Life and Times of William Shakespeare. Lots of background information about the time period

I found these little bits of background information so enlightening.

And the part about the clause in the lease which allowed them to move the theatre to another site – my kids were amazed by this and transporting it over the frozen Thames – Wow, no-one is going to forget that.  It is these bits of information that bring this version of Shakespeare’s life alive and makes it so memorable.

BIG CAT reader. The Life and Times of William Shakespeare includes lots of background information

As the book goes through the different events in Shakespeare’s life it also highlights some of his work. It summaries a few of the most famous plays into about 2 pages each – Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth and The Tempest.

BIG CAT reader The Life and Times of William Shakespeare. A summary of Macbeth

Although these are highly summarized explanations of the plays it is really useful to read the quick summaries and see how what he wrote fitted into the events of the times.

I was really impressed with the style in which this book was written.  The story of Shakespeare’s life is woven into the events of the time and then linked to the plays that he wrote.

I think this reader makes a great introduction to Shakespeare for younger children and even for someone like myself who did study Shakespeare at school I found reading it and linking his writing to the events occurring around him fascinating and eye-opening.

The Life and Times of William Shakespeare is one of the BIG CAT readers from Collins.  Because it is part of a reading series it has been given a reading band which is Pearl Band 18 and is the last band in the reading series – so it would be Upper Key Stage 2 ages.

We have only just started looking at Shakespeare and I have no doubt it is going to be a theme that we will study for years to come so I am sure I will be sharing more Shakespeare resources over time but for now I wanted to mention a few general items that we found on Activity Village.

They have a lovely Common Phrases and Sayings from Shakespeare Poster (aswell as a worksheet for the kids to complete).Common Phrases and sayings from Shakespeare. Downloaded from the Activity Village website

And series of copywork pages all using famous lines out of Shakespeare’s plays.  Both of these go well with a general discussion about Shakespeare, his works and how they even impact our current lives today.

Activity Village has a series of copywork pages all using famou Shakespeare quotes

As I mentioned above Collins sent my kids a set of BIG CAT readers for them to use in our home education.  All opinions expressed in this post are that of myself and my two little readers.  We choose the readers that we wanted to feature in this post and other posts based on what we found useful as part of our home learning activities.  We have been impressed with the quality of the BIG CAT reading series (both as readers and as informative historical books for the kids) and will continue to use them in other learning activities.

The Activity Village worksheets are part of the membership package which is currently around £15 a year.  I just included them as possible pages to use when looking at Shakespeare.  I am not paid to include Activity Village pages in my posts.

I do include Affiliate links in my posts. 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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