William Turner Garden Morpeth, a Hidden Gem.

We cut through the William Turner garden today on our way to Carlisle Park play area and were struck by how tranquil and pretty it was even though only a few plants had begun to grow.

We noticed things we hadn’t spotted before such as the carvings by the seating area and the sculpture over the water trough.

We also liked the added information boards which either we hadn’t noticed or were new and that all the beautiful trees had been identified. There were some unusual trees and shrubs you don’t often get to see such as Quince. All in all it was a happy few minutes spent in a peaceful little garden and well worth a look. We’ll been going again to have a look at all the different varieties of herbs they have growing later in the season.


Multi-Sensory Maths Facts: Division

Homework this weekend was \nto explore times tables division facts. Having recently decided to abandon trying to use standard methods to help Shorty, we threw ourselves into a more hands-on approach.

First of all, we negotiated how many sums we’d look at – 10 was the agreed amount. Then she picked out and wrote down the sums she would like to work with, from any of the tables she had learned, along with the answers. Next, we worked out the sums with some help from some random toys that were on hand, using cereal ‘ohs’.





Then we took a break while we made some playdough (we did a bit of measuring & ordering sneakily!)








Once we had our dough, we made a centipede and gave him the same number of legs as some of our sums. Then we cut him up, dividing him up in the inverse of the times tables we’d previously worked out.

We also made ‘pizzas’ with toppings made from bottle tops and a cool octopus and divided those up too.

After we’d played around for a while making models that represented the sums and then dividing them up accordingly we stopped doing maths and Shorty carried on playing with the playdough for a while. Big sis even joined in for a while. Shorty seemed to have taken in the division concepts and we had some fun.

Helpful Everyday Classroom Interventions for Dyslexic Kids

I’ve been at various conferences etc where staff in other schools have said they don’t have funds, resources or training to support kids with dyslexia so I thought I’d put a list here of the things that have been put in place in our school over the last few years that have made it possible for my daughter to be achieving the way she is now.  Even in Nursery she was clearly struggling and saying things like “Why can’t I read like my friend does ?” and “Am I stupid?”. She would throw herself around the bed/sofa/floor when we tried to practice reading or spellings. But as the school began to put help in place her learning started to become easier.

Staff training for dyslexia awareness – this must have had some cost implication but once received it was applicable to EVERY child with literacy difficulties.

Assessment from Local Education Authority – our school was in a scheme that allowed some help, not a full dyslexia assessment yet but we’re working on that. They followed recommended advice for my child but used these techniques for a whole group of children who have benefited from them.

A classroom culture where all different learning styles are embraced equally and there is little tolerance for any bullying type of behaviours about this – FREE

Yellow background setting on the class whiteboard – FREE

Phonics reminders printed on cards by Shorty’s desk – Pennies

A small white board for her to organise her thoughts and change spellings BEFORE she writes in her book – pennies

white boards

Spellings presented in groups of similar phonic rules – FREE

Spellings practised in lots of different multisensory ways at school – FREE

An adult able to read out information, questions etc in non-literacy lessons if Shorty is struggling with accessing the information she needs to participate in the lesson – FREE

Additional small group work for Maths – this requires a TA to be available

READ WRITE INC scheme in a small group– this must have had some cost but is also used by lots of kids throughout school, again a TA was used

Action Words scheme – again this must have had some cost to buy into but is being used by a growing number of children, plus of course the TA.

action words

Making sure Shorty’s other skills and alibies are equally valued  as well as her academic progress – FREE

All in all, I don’t think the school has made a huge outlay or a massive change to their daily organisation but it has made a massive amount of difference in my child’s education, self-esteem and resilience. In addition to that, it has benefited a number of other children in school at the moment as well as children who will be following behind her with similar difficulties.

If you are having trouble getting the help you need at your child’s school, I hope that some of these suggestions could be of use.


Funny Flip Animation Books


These quick and easy flip books are fun to make and are a great little activity if you’re interested in film, animation and storytelling.

To make them you will need:

2 Sheets of stiff paper or soft card

Access to a paper guillotine if you have it or a craft knife/ Scissors

Pens & Pencils

A Rubberband or bulldog clip

Some small sticky dots or an ink pad


First you need to divide your page up into even sections – it’s best if you can do this without folding as that makes it tricky for the flip book to ‘flip’ smoothly when you’re finished.  (I’m not the most accurate measurer in the world so I made a template by folding a sheet and then marked the folds onto the sheet that I cut up – the sharper you can make the cuts the better it works!)


You need to divide the paper so that you get strips lengthwise, which you then should cut again so that you have 2 sections on a strip. Fold these pieces carefully in half along your marked line.20180914_092124

You should have 16 folded leaves. Gather them together, folded edge to one side, tap them on a flat surface to make sure the edges are together and then wrap the band tightly around them (or clip together) to hold them in place. Now you should have a little book ready to decorate.


I find it’s best to start at the back of the flip book but if your book’s narrative isn’t vital then you can start at the front if it’s easier.  You can draw all kinds of amazing things in a flip book but for these ones, we kept it simple. We stuck a sticky dot on each page ( or an inky fingerprint). You need to check with the page before to decide where your next dot should be stuck – a tiny difference in locate creates a smooth transition and a larger gap makes the dot jump around jerkily. When we had the dots on each page we decorated them – mines a jumping frog but you could make it into a person, fish, monster etc or a football being kicked around, flowers growing, the sun coming up; the only limit is your imagination.

The kids I was working with came up with some great ideas – exploding zombie heads was my favourite! There are some incredible flip books people have made if you look online. See what ideas you can come up with.

And for those who are interested ‘ Persistence of Vision’ is the concept that explains why your eye thinks the pictures are moving and is how all film and animation works – lots of still pictures with a small movement being viewed at high speed fooling your eyes/brain into thinking they are actually moving.


(I made a little video of it in action – here’s the link… https://youtu.be/v0PgEU12EHk )

Pirate Quest @ Tynemouth Park

20180731_105901If you’d read any of our previous posts you’ll know that pirates are a bit of a favourite in our house, so when we saw that there was a Pirate Quest at Tynemouth Park we decided we better check it out.

It was really good value for money and great fun although I have to say that my two ran around so quickly that it only took us half an hour. You have a choice of the less scary route but the ‘scary’ one was ok really unless your kids are very nervous.  We paid £1 extra for a ‘map’ and as you run around the maze there are various stamps to collect on your map. There are obstacles and things to see as you go around and we laughed a lot at the cheesy gags.

Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting wet as you get squirted with water if you’re not quick enough. You get to walk the plank and then at the end there is a Pirate Shipwreck and a chest of gold coins. For each completed map handed in the kids get a handful of chocolate coins.


There is a nice coffee shop in the park that does great food and yummy cream scones. It also has a takeaway fish & chip counter with kids options available. There are picnic benches and plenty of room to put down a picnic blanket.  There are two unisex loos and a disabled access loo they are a bit worn but clean and there’s sometimes a bit of a queue.

The Park also has a boating lake with swans and often remote controlled yachts,  kids play area with some great fun and unusual play equipment; a dinosaur themed mini golf course and a bouncy play area.

The parking is limited, on-street and pay and display but the park is within walking distance of Tyne Mouth and the beach. It’s definitely a great day out for all the family with plenty to do for the whole day.

Fun Mini Trebuchet Game

We made these super simple mini pom-pom trebuchets then had loads of fun inventing games to play with them.

To make 1 trebuchet you will need

2 pieces of sturdy card

2 lolly sticks

1 elastic band

1 plastic milk bottle lid

Glue Stick, Sticky tape, Scissors, Ruler

Ok so, first of all, cut the cardboard into a rectangle – we made ours 10cm’s wide by 15cm’s long. If your card has a corrugated middle make sure that the corrugated lines are running parallel to the shortest edge to make it easier to fold later.

Measure about 2cm’s in from the short edge and find the ‘dip’ of the corrugation and draw a line across. Measure 1cm from there and do the same thing. Then another 1cm away. You should end up with 3 evenly spaced lines running with the grain of your card.  If you press down gently with a blunt pencil you should be able to make an indent in the card which will help you to create a neat fold. Turn the card over and mark the centre line and do the same thing.

Measure half the width of the card and draw a line. Mark about 1cm either side of the centre line on each of the outer lines you made previously and carefully cut a slot wide enough for the lolly stick to go through. (it’s a good idea to check at this point!) Fold the outer edges upwards to create a triangle shape.

Glue the other piece of card and fit the folded piece on top of it, you will get a little gap at the end. If, like us, you want to use your trebuchet straight away then tape the folded card in position so that the triangle ridge is stable. If you don’t want to use tape then peg the 2 pieces of card in position until the glue dries.

Slot the 1st lolly stick through the two slots so that it overhangs the end nearest the triangle ridge. Place the other lolly stick so that it rests over the triangle ridge an sits on top of the 1st lolly stick. Bind the two ends, quite tightly, with the elastic band. Then gently manoeuvre the lolly sticks back so they rest on the cardboard base. You will need to secure the bottom lolly stick to the base – we taped ours down.

We used a plastic milk bottle lid for our ‘basket’ but any small container would do – you could fold one from some softer card. You can hot glue it to the stick if you’d like but we carefully made two small slits in the lids and slotted our sticks through – leave a little piece of lolly stick showing to press down for firing.


We made mini pom-poms for firing – they were very non-aggressive and too light to cause any injuries or damage indoors! Test to check all is working properly and make any adjustments.

We cut off the overlap of the card, decorated our machines and gave them a name.20180811_161826

We made a target and a scoring type game which was great fun but if you don’t want to have a competition you could try measuring how far/high you can fire it and test different projectiles. You could create some targets or skittles out of card to try to knock down. Or create a target area with forfeits etc

To make the Pom-Pom Projectile’s you will need:

Some wool – we used different coloured for different teams, A fork, scissors.

To make the pom-poms first we made a loop of wool and hung it through the central prong of the fork – this will be used later to tie the middle of the pom-pom. Then wrap the wool around the fork being careful that it doesn’t fall off the top or bottom.  We found that heavier poms-poms worked quite well so we wrapped a lot of wool around the middle. When you feel you have enough, slip the looped piece of wool over the top of the fork and into the central slot and gently pull the two ends to tighten around the middle of the wrapped wool and tie tightly. Carefully cut up the sides to release the pom-pom strands and then remove from the fork. You can trim the pom-pom to shape it and you’re ready to fire them!

We made 3 for each team and that seemed to work fine – Enjoy!

More exciting books for releuctant readers

We’ve found a few more books for you that our little ninja pirate really enjoyed and found good to read so we thought we’d post them in-case they help any other young ninja types; enjoy!










The Sword in the Stone – Tales of King Arthur, by Karen Wallace & Neil Chapman, Hopscotch Adventures.

This story was quite easy to read but still exciting with fun pictures. The font was good; the sentences were well spaced out and there weren’t too many lines on the page. It did have the odd challenging word such as ‘tournament’ but with the pictures and the way that the story reads they were quite achievable in the end. There’s a whole series of King Arthur Stories, a Robin Hood series, Pirates, Heroes and Adventurers: they don’t seem to be too easy to come by but we’ll be snapping up any we can find online. Shorty rated this book :

5 Star ratings


  • Ninja – First Mission by Chris Bradford, Barrington Stoke dyslexia friendly books

These are exciting chapter books. They are slightly more challenging with more varied vocabulary and longer amounts of text to images but still very engaging and decodable. The pages are off-white and the font is easy to read and well spaced out. The dyslexia friendly sticker is removable! Our little Ninja Girl rated this one:

4 Star ratings


Download: Skateboarding by Rising Stars

Part of a series of factual books about all manner of exciting and interesting subjects ranging from Rockclimbing and BMX biking to Predators and Natural Disasters! The books have colourful pages with bite-sized chunks of information and lots of photo’s and illustrations. The books have a short fictional story in them usually in two short parts with lots of pictures. Shorty liked the ‘grown-up’ style of these books and the way she could pick them up and just read a little bit without losing track of where she was up to. We gave these books:

5 Star ratings


Lego Ninjago: Return of the Djinn by Kate Howard, Scholastic Inc

When I looked into these books it turns out there are loads of them some of which are described as ‘readers’ so I think we might see what some of those are like and let you know about them. This book is great fun. The pages are bright and colourful with a nice clear font. Some of the vocabulary is a little challenging but eh story is engaging – it’s about the LEGO Ninjago team so it’s great for fans of the show, however, it does still make sense without previously seeing the cartoon.  We rated this book:

4 Star ratings


At the moment we are reading Rory Branagan Detective by Andrew Clover & Ralph Lazar and really loving it – we’ll let you know what we think at the end but at the moment we’re finding it funny and intriguing with interesting characters and cool cartoons. One of the things Shorty really likes about this book is that it’s really big and thick with 15 chapters and when you’re 8 years old and dyslexic that’s an important fact! So far Shorty has rated this book a double:

5 Star ratings


Leazes Park Newcastle

Half term adventures started with exploring Leazes Park – a lovely old park in the centre of town. Large open spaces and beautiful autumn trees made this a little green oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of city life.

View of Leazes Park Lake.

You can stroll around the lake and admire the swans, geese and other waterfowl or watch the fishermen fishing at one of the numbered swims around the edge. There are pathways throughout the park which are suitable for prams or wheelchairs.

The kids play area had really interesting equipment for various ages and abilities but was sadly in need of repair in places. We still had lots of fun though with some exciting and unusual adventure playground slides and climbing frames. There were tennis and basketball courts which no one was using so would be great for groups of sporty kids to burn off some energy.

The coffee shop was really cute and colourful and although we weren’t staying for lunch our mouths were watering with the delicious smells that were drifting our way – homemade pizza’s we were told.

The loo’s were clean and tidy and there was a disabled access loo & baby change although you needed to ask for the key.

There seemed to be renovation work taking place on some of the older walkways which were good as it would have been a shame to lose the character of the park.


We gave the park a 3 out of 5 as we really liked it but the litter and tatty play equipment really spoilt the picturesque nature of what deserved to be a 5 star park, I hope that someone decides to bring it back to it’s best, we’ll visit again another time with our fingers crossed!

Super-Snooze-Proof Sensory Spellings

We’re back to school and back to spelling tests with all the moaning, groaning and whining and I’m sure the kids aren’t looking forward to them either! So if like us you dread getting the weekly spelling tests and find that the usual ‘look, cover, write’ method doesn’t do anything to help, then how about doing things a bit differently this week?

When I realised that the traditional ways of learning spellings weren’t working I wish I’d been quicker to decide to go our own way.  We’ve put together a list of some of the ways we’ve tried to spice up spellings with a bit of multi-sensory fun which we hope might be useful or inspiring – so here goes!

1) Playdough, Plasticine, Clay, Saltdough, Theraputty 

There are lots of fun things you can do with dough.

We wrote out the spellings and then copied the shapes with the clay. It’s best to mould the clay and give it a really good squidge as your little one makes the letters. They can lay them over the written shapes to check them but it’s also good to build them three dimensionally.   We find this helps to really get the shapes in my little ones mind. You can also use cookie cutters, or use various tools to make imprints to form the letters. Play Dough Literacy

2) Bath letters, magnetic letters, scrabble tiles, Bananagrams or any letter toys.

Finding the letter and building the words moving the letters around to self-correct is all very helpful in reinforcing the learning of the words. You can play games putting the letters of the words mixed up and asking the child to find the word or put in the missing letter.

3) Shaving Foam, Mashpotatoes, Sand, Rice, Paint

Getting their fingers messy forming the letters in various substances is fun, don’t forget to wear old clothes!

4) Blow football, Racing, Trampoline, Hopscotch, Go-fishing spellings

We find that ‘doing’ tends to be more enjoyable than just sitting writing so if we can we often try to turn spellings into a physical activity.  We chalk the spellings on the trampoline or path and then jump them out shouting out the letters as we go.  On the trampoline here I’ve put the sounds we were working on in the middle in red, as all the words would contain these letters and then the rest of the letters from the spellings on the list around them, shorty then jumped or bounced on each letter calling out the sounds. She did them slowly at first then we tried to see how fast she could do them. ( you get quite chalky so old clothes may be needed!)

For the Blow football we wrote the letters on little scraps of paper and then each player had to get the correct letters in the correct order by blowing them through the goals. You can ‘suck-up’ the letters and transfer them into a pot etc if you’d rather.

The Race Game was to try and get both kids spellings done at he same time. We put the letters for their words on cards in 2 containers and had the chalk board in the garden. We arranged an obstacle course for each depending on ability and had separate starting points for each child. Our biggest kid had more complex spellings so we broke her’s down into syllables so it wasn’t too unfair and then we chalked the next word they needed to complete on the board blew the whistle and they raced to bring back the correct letters and arrange them in the correct order, lots of fun – some controversy!

For ‘Go Fish’ we made a fishing game with magnets and used that to fish for the correct letters – see our post:  Phonic Fishing Fun !

We have also done spelling treasure hunts in the past. Each child has the words on their card and needs to run around inside or outdoors to collect all the letters and get them in the correct order.

5) Draw pictures, Rainbow Writing, Letter Pictures, Fun writing, Hangman


We find that the more colour and life we add to the words the easier they are to remember. We often take turns drawing a picture and the other person can write the word – or one of us writes the word and the other draws the correct picture. We also write down the letters and put the correct number of lines for each letter so my little speller can cross off each letter as she works out which goes where. We always make sure we know what the word means and can use it in context this also seems to help. We sometimes make up little stories for each word.


6) Writing on various surfaces with different frictions

Using a pencil on paper is great for creating friction which I’m told aids muscle memory and similar sensations are created by using chalk on a blackboard or crayons on paper over sandpaper.  It doesn’t create as much friction but white boards and ‘magnadoodles’ are a great way to get information down quickly that we can change easily if we need to.

7) Sing it, dance it, Mnemonics and make the shapes with your body

We have lots of fun jumping around laughing making songs  and rhymes – rude or silly ones tend to work best we find and we have also been known to try and balance in various letter shapes or lay on the ground to make shapes.

8) Water pistols, Squeezy bottles, Big paint brushes with water on the fence or path

On a hot sunny day who wants to sit inside learning spellings? Grab some buckets and ‘paint’ or squirt your spellings in the garden/park/beach; the sun dries it up and you can start all over again!

9) Building blocks, Lego Bricks and Minecraft

You can build your words using blocks either flat or in upright in three dimensions but creating the shapes of the letters with blocks is fun. You could use beads or other toys to make the letter shapes with. A note of caution if using Minecraft or Lego make sure your little adventurers are clear that they have to complete making the words BEFORE they wander off to explore and build other exciting things!

10) Spellings Apps online

There are various spelling apps available on-line but the one we have used is  Spelling City which we found was ok; you can insert your spellings list and the kids can choose from a number of games and quizzes which help reinforce their learning – we quite like the Splat-N- Spell game. The kids did tend to get a bit bored with this and we wouldn’t use it every week but it was quite useful if you have the time to set it up and add the spellings but we found we wanted to then use pencil and paper afterwards.

splat n spell

So there you have it, our list so far I hope they might inspire you to have some spellings fun this week. We’ll still be inventing new ideas I suspect – maybe spelling ‘Tin Can Alley’ or some kind of nerf target game or maybe bake some edible spellings; we’ll post an update if we think of something that works!




Exciting Books for Reluctant Readers

If your youngsters don’t get on too well with the usual school readers then look out for these titles which our littlest spy- girl super kid rates as 5 star maybe you’ll like them as much as we do!

The Magic Belt Series

fan-of-magic-belt-books These books are great for kids who are looking for exciting adventure stories but need them to be easily decodable. They follow Zak and his friend Finn on their quest to find the magic stones that will save his grandfather. They have lots of pictures, are printed on cream paper, the lines are well spaced and the fonts clear.


Each book concentrates on a different phonic sound and they build up through the series. Our only criticism would be that for us we could have done with the books building up more slowly we got to book 8 and plateau’d a bit but she’s keen to finish the set so I’m sure we’ll be having a go at the next ones soon. There are a couple of other series that are very similar you can check them out at : https://www.phonicbooks.co.uk


LEGO Superheroes Phonics Books


These Lego phonics books are ideal for kids who love superheroes and/ or Lego. The 10 stories and 2 workbooks come in their own carrying case. Again the pictures are great, the words are clearly laid out and the language simple. Each book tackles a specific phonic sound.


My own little superhero feels confident reading these on her own and will take them with her if she needs to take a book. You can get these sets in most book shops and they also have Star Wars, DC Comics Superheroes and Lego City to choose from.


Boffin Boy Series


Boffin Boy is a science geek who saves the world from various disasters and has loads of sci-fi adventures. The stories are laid out in a quirky comic book style which makes them easy to follow. The stories are fun and exciting but simply told.


There are 3 sets of 6 books and they are available to purchase at : http://www.ransom.co.uk/Product%20Pages/Boffin%20Boy/BoffinBoyPacks.html

There are teacher guides available for this series.


Alfie Small Books


Alfie Small’s journals tell the story of his fantastic adventures. These stories are fun and exciting with dramatic illustrations.

alfie 2

The font is nice and clear but there are some tricky words occasionally and some pages have quite a lot of text. We tend to do a bit of ‘Shared Reading’* with these stories which works really well.


Mortimer Keene Series


Mortimer Keene is a genius – a little mischievous but he always manages to put right what ever disaster his experiments and crazy machines may have caused. His adventures include slime, dinosaurs, lots of peculiar teachers and some cool kids.

The illustrations are really funky and the stories rhyme which helps with predicting the words.


The type is laid out in an exciting way which helps the stories along. At the end of each story there are some fun facts and some science based activity ideas.


Trail Blazers Series: 


Trail Blazers are a series of factual books that include a fictional story. The information is presented in bits sized pieces which can be read in any order and still make sense. The typeface is easy to read and pages are varying colours.


‘Spies’ is my little super spy’s favourite title but we’re looking forward to checking out some of the other titles. You can get a hold of Trail Blazers from Ransom Publishing:


There are workbooks available to accompany the series.


Brilliant for Boys Handbook

The only snag that we found with this book is that my superhero kid isn’t a boy! We stuck a sticker over the ‘boys’ bit and changed it to her name because it is brilliant for her – full of activities involving dinosaurs, bugs, spys, jokes, superheroes, drawing and lots more.


Divided up into chapters, it’s easy to read with a good font, on coloured pages with lots of diagrams and pictures all in bite sized pieces. Tons of fun and especially good for rainy days. Unfortunately when I checked online I could only find these books ‘pre-loved’ on E-Bay so keep a look out for them when you are at your local car-boot sale etc.





The Last book on our list at the moment is:

The Jolley – Rogers series



These funny, exciting stories are about Jim Lad and his best friend Matilda as they tackle various swashbuckling adventures with rest of the Jolley-Rodgers.  The font is nice and clear and the line spacing good these books are a bit more difficult to read so again we use them for our ‘Shared Reading’*.


The pages have amazing illustrations and are laid out in a variety of ways, some more like a comic book, others more text based and some more like a picture book all of which helps to keep the readers interest throughout.  The books have about 15 chapters of a pretty good length which means they can be read over a number of nights. You can find the Jolley – Rogers in most book shops.

And that’s the end of the list so far, we’ll post some more as we find them we hope some of these ideas might be of interest to you. Happy reading!

*Shared Reading is a technique where the adult reads at the same time as the child. The adult runs their finger along under the words slowing down if the child struggles but not interrupting the flow of the story. We find this technique allows us to tackle more difficult books while building confidence.