YAShot 2016: Pt 1

The day FINALLY came. I was London bound! (I had the Reception bear, Betty, in tow with me and we were off!) Jumped on the train after work on Friday and zoomed off to London. I knew that a few of the blogger friends I had made were going to be there so as well as sheet elation at the idea of all of the authors being there I was excited to put names to the faces I’d been talking to all these months online! The bookish community has been nothing but welcoming of me since I decided to join their wonderful corner of the world!

On Friday when I got to London I just hoofed it on over to the Travelodge in Uxbridge (very nice I must say… ever need a place to stay in Uxbridge Travelodge is your man!). I knew that Cora was going to be staying at the Travelodge too so I managed to meet up with her for a glass of wine on the Friday night! After a long day a glass of wine was MUCH needed.

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Then came the big day… SATURDAY. YASHOT. I was excited. I didn’t know what to do, where to go or ANYTHING. Luckily Uxbridge is comprised of a pretty bog standard high street and I was told that I just needed to go up the high street… et voila! I picked up my gloriously glittery wrist band and then got the meet Lizzie and Darren (two of my twitterers) who were selling books for Waterstones! There’s something quite surreal about meeting online people for the first time in real life… but it is awesome! I managed to withstand buying ALL OF THE BOOKS and got my paws on Holly Bourne’s ‘…And A Happy New Year!’ which I was absolutely shocked to see, but absolutely made up! I also bought Laure Eve’s ‘The Graces’, which I have heard SO MUCH GOOD about that I needed it for myself!

Uxbridge Civic Centre was the actual holding place for some of the events. Within this there was an incredible quiet area. I loved the idea of this, for those of us who get over stimulated and need 5 minutes from the rest of the world! All of the locations were given bookish names: Ministry of Magic, Narnia, Wonderland and Middle Earth. Excellent choices all round.

Waterstones Uxbridge and I have been tweeting back and forth for months now and I happened to spend most of my day in there! I must say it was so calm and chill and the staff were so helpful. There just seemed to be books for days. Now yes, I know it’s a bookshop but it just seemed to flow beautifully. Props to you Waterstones Uxbridge.

The first event I went to was hosted by Hayley Long and Rosie Rowell, who talked about discovering yourself. It was fascinating to hear these two talk about their different books and the backgrounds for them. There’s quite a stark difference between South Africa and Brussels! They both drew me in for different reasons and talked about the importance of representing the culture in which you’re writing for, and how freeing it is when you’re writing for something you know first hand and have experienced your whole life. I hadn’t read either of their books but Hayley’s book with the secret code was one which went straight to my ‘to buy’ pile! They spent some time talking about their writing process with Rosie saying she starts with dialogue,  which helps her characters grow, from which the setting comes out.

After that I stayed in Waterstones to hear Laure Eve and Anna McKerrow talk ‘Practical Magic’. Both of their books were very inspired by the film and both books have many elements of magic in them. Again I hadn’t read either of these books but that’s the great thing about these events – they open your eyes to so so many new books that you may not have heard of. I had heard so much about The Graces via my twitter folk and had bought it that morning (and have since started it!) so hearing her talk about it was awesome. I think this talk was one of my favourites of the day. The ladies talked magic, love potions, Charmed and Buffy. I asked them which sister they would choose to be from Charmed and Laure said ‘Prue’ and Anna said ‘Piper’. Things that I love about events like this is you learn so much about the authos as people, they’re not just robots who sit and churn out books. These two women were a delight to listen to, we laughed a lot! I didn’t want it to end. If you ever get the chance to see them either separately or together then do! And buy their books!

The final one of the day before I ran away to have something to eat was one that I’d been waiting for a LONG LONG time… Rescuers: children saving adults with Peter Bunzl and Kiran Milwood Hargrave. Now I probably don’t need to say this to anyone but I love kids books as much as I love YA, as much as I love adult fiction but ‘Cogheart’ and ‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ are two of my favourite MG books of the recent past. If you have children in your life then please buy these books and get them to read them, or read them to your children… you will not regret it. I’ve been tweeting Kiran for months, ever since I finished GOIAS and I’d not had the fortune of meeting her til Saturday, and the same with Peter. Their event was lovely. They both gushed about the other’s book and answered questions from a hat. Before the event started we were given a piece of paper to write down any questions we had and to pop them in the hat – I loved this. It made us feel included and it isn’t as pressured as putting your hand up in a Q&A. I loved listening to these two people talk about their books and the other’s book too. We even got some sneak peek details about their new books that are coming out! I am super excited. Like the event with Laure and Anna this event comes easily in my top events of the day. It was so incredible to finally meet two authors whose work I’ve admired from afar for so long. I even got my copies of their books signed.

After the excitement of those 3 events I had about 50 minutes to fill, so I scarpered out of the signing room to get something to eat and to go back to the hotel to drop off the books I had already had signed because they WEIGHED A TON.

Come back tomorrow to see what I got up to the rest of the day!

Wanna follow some of the people I mentioned in this post?
– Cora: BlogTwitter
– Waterstones Uxbridge: Twitter
– Kiran Milwood Hargrave: TwitterWebsite
– Peter Bunzl: TwitterWebsite
– Laure Eve: TwitterWebsite
– Anna McKerrow: WebsiteTwitter
– Rosie Rowell: Twitter

S x

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#loveteaching

I’m on the road to becoming a teacher. I am so proud of this. 

I work in a school. I teach a lot of the time. I am a teacher in many senses of the word. I don’t have a piece of paper that says I am a teacher. To the kids, to the parents, to the people I work with, I’m a teacher. And I love teaching. 

There are SO MANY negative thoughts and negative opinions floating around all of the time about teaching. I come across person after person who have so many negative things to say about teaching, and it can be so draining. I know why NQTs and people who are qualifying would struggle. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by positive teachers and colleagues who love their jobs. Teaching isn’t easy. ANYONE who thinks they want to be a teacher because it’s ‘easy’ need look elsewhere. It’s not: it’s long days, it’s lots of work, it’s meetings, it’s dealing with so many different complex little (or big, depending where you work) humans who are just starting to find their place in the world, it’s dealing with parents. There’s reasons why teaching is a complex, hard job… but there are SO MANY REASONS why teaching is the absolutely best job in the world.

Kids: their sheer joy, innocence and humour. My job would not be the job it is if there were no kids. I get so much joy from going into work every day and seeing their little faces. Some of them just glad to see a face smiling back at them, some of them because they get to see their friends, some because they get to learn more. The kids are the absolute reason I do my job. They’re funny, sweet, kind, caring, complex little balls of energy and if you’re not in it for them then you need to reassess why you teach. Seeing them on a morning with their little sleepy smiles saying “bonjour” to me, or coming up to me to tell me it’s their birthday in 17 days, or cheering when I come in to teach them, or complain when I have to leave. Or those moments when they just want someone to talk to, so they’ll sit with you when you’re on break duty and just start talking to you because they just want someone to talk to. Or when they think it’s the end of the world because they only got 7 on their spelling test, or their sheer joy when they got their spellings right. Dealing with children is never an issue. I will go out of my way for the kids. If they need someone to talk to, I will find time in my day. The kids are the thing that keep me going back. They’re funny, they’re complex, they’re learning, they’re incredible. Their belief in magic and their wonder at the world and “miss you know so much”.

Learning: I learn every single day. I hope to impart my knowledge or help the kids that I work with in some way so that they learn. Learning is such a powerful tool. If you know how to then you are set for life. Knowledge absolutely can be power. Infusing children with a love of learning can get them so far. I have such a strong belief in our education system – some of it is totally backward, but getting kids into school and getting them learning is such an important thing. Watching a child struggle with something and then giving them that last piece of the puzzle and seeing them finally get it, that penny drop moment is incredible. Learning is something that my life has been filled with.

Fun: I don’t just go to school and think we should make the children sit at their desks and be robots. No. Not for me. There’s an incredible bond that teachers have with their students. For some of our kids they will see us more than their parents, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, so we need to be all sorts to the kids. They need to be able to laugh with us. I think a strong rapport with your class can do so much for them. The hardest to reach kids can become kids that will talk to you if you build up that rapport. They need to see you as a person, who likes to laugh, who struggles sometimes, who laughs and carries on. You want your kids to come to school because they LOVE it, not just the learning but the environment. I do. I go to work every day because I LOVE it. I don’t love the threat of Ofsted looming over my head, the planning and marking… I do it because I love the kids I get to teach and the people I get to work with. Laughing and sharing of memories is so crucial. Teachers are people, show the kids that and they’ll appreciate it. They don’t want robots teaching them, just as much as we don’t want to teach robots.

Colleagues: I work with the most incredible, talented and inspiring group of people. The people I work with are constantly challenging me, I am constantly learning from them, constantly in awe of them. They’re an incredible bunch of people who are juggling their own lives with this incredibly difficult job that we have. We have a great relationship. I learn from them all the time, they make me laugh, they let me be me, they show me the teacher I am when I doubt myself. I’m very lucky to not only be a part of a community of supportive teachers in my own school but of a virtual portal of teachers too. The teaching community I get to be part of on Twitter and on Facebook (via Twinkl Facebook groups)  is just staggering. Here are some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met and they’re willing to share their knowledge, their insight and their experience with people they don’t know in real life. I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without both groups of colleagues. They both inspire and challenge me.

Teachers are brilliantly robust people. They constantly strive to be better. They need to keep up with the times without losing sight of the importance of the past. They are reflective and quite tough on themselves. But teachers are the greatest bunch of people in the world. We unite for one reason mainly… to inspire and teach kids. We don’t do it for the short days, the holidays (yes, never say anything holiday related to teachers because they will kick your head off!) and the pay… we do it for the kids. 

I love teaching. There is no other way about it. I am a self confessed teaching lover. If you are too then you’re clearly an awesome person. It’s not easy, but nothing easy was ever worth having.

S x

BOOK BLOG: Emery Lord

Heartbreaking yet love affirming. The power of a book.

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“Seventeen year old Jonah Daniels has lived in Verona Cove, California, his whole life, and only one thing has ever changed: his father used to be alive, and now he’s not. Now Jonah must numbly take care of his family as they reel from their tragedy. Cue next change: Vivi Alexander, new girl in town. Vivi is in love with life. A gorgeous and unfiltered hurricane of thoughts and feelings. She seems like she’s from another planet as she transforms Jonah’s family and changes his life. But there are always consequences when worlds collide”

When I started reading this book I knew it was going to destroy me. I could just sense it. I knew it was going to make me cry. But in a good way. A heart-wretchingly, deeply loving way. My friend Rachel kept telling me to read it. But she also warned me that it would make me cry. I can deal with crying. (I read Me Before You and that absolutely killed me. For about a week. Even now I can’t think about it and not be sad. So I can deal with tears). But I don’t think I was prepared for this book. It looks so unassuming.

Plot: So the basic plot is there’s Jonah and there’s Vivi. They’re teenagers who meet and the story is all about how they change each other’s lives. How unashamedly honest they can be with each other, yet how very secretive they are. How open, yet closed, they are with each other. How bright her personality seems to be compared to his very reserved and staunch shell. How messy his life seems to be compared to her seemingly very well put together life. His big, complicated family life compared to her very tiny family. This story deals with grief, loss, mental health issues and it does it with such a grace and such a brilliance that it’s not shouted at from the rooftops, it’s just there. Spoken about. No judgement. No pretence. Real. I loved the story. I’m a sucker for a love story. Even more so for a love story that has some serious depth. That’s what you get with this book… a love story with heart, with personality, with dimensions. It is done so brilliantly.

Characters: I loved them. So so so much. I genuinely don’t think I disliked any characters. Some played a much smaller part in the world of the story than others. But they’re all so wonderfully knitted together. They all work so well together and I can’t imagine the book without each and every one of them. Vivi – a bubbly, vivacious, unashamedly boisterous main character who seems so very well put together, but who has, like every other person in the world, a story. Her story, her love for life and her charm is what will make you fall for her. Jonah – reliable, trustworthy, amazingly adorable big brother Jonah. I fell for him. The relationship he has with his little sister Leah instantly made me fall for him. And he only grew on me. I want myself a Jonah. His family are incredible. You’ll fall for them all, even his seemingly detached sister. There are so many characters in this book that I could talk about, but I don’t want to spoil it. Just know this, I loved each of them. They all, in their own way and shape, played some important role in the book. 

Cover: LOOK AT IT. It’s one of those books you want to pick up because you want to read it. It’s BEAUTIFUL. 

I will conclude with this: If you want a book that is going to make you fall in love then read this. I adored it. It was an easy read, but I fell in love with it. I didn’t want to put it down. I am gutted it is over. I don’t think I could’ve taken any more though. A lady on the bus actually asked me if I was OK because I was crying so much. Good work Emery Lord.

Have any of you read this? What did you think? Catch me on twitter for a chat (@eenalol) or comment in the box below! I would love to read other books like this!

S x

Reading in the classroom?

“Miss, do we have to go outside? Can we not just stay inside and listen to you read?”

Yes. I heard that last week. A Year 4 boy. You have NO IDEA how much it made me smile.

Reading in the classroom is important. There is no other way to put it. To me it’s probably one of the most important things. I love it. I hope I infuse my kids with the love of reading too. The quote above tells me that they’re certainly fans of reading.

So far we’ve read George’s Marvellous Medicine… they loved it. They enjoyed listening to me read it, they enjoyed the work we did on it.

However at the minute we are reading Demon Dentist, and they are absolutely devouring it. Any time we have a spare 5 minutes all they want to do is listen to me read. They want to hear what is going to happen next. As I haven’t read it myself it is so incredible experiencing the book at the same time as them. They have laughed, been afraid and cried. It’s funny, it’s sad but it has them absolutely hooked. I didn’t know they would be this hooked. And I feel so lucky to be going on this experience with them.

I am adoring watching their adoration for books. For reading. For this fantastical world that David Walliams has written. For the humour they find in the words. For the blossoming relationship they have with books. For the existing rapport we have with each other.

Books are transformative. I truly believe that. I am loving watching my Year 4 fall in love with this book. Thank you David Walliams.

S x

Half term hopes

What are my hopes for half term? I shall share 2 or 3 with you…

  • Read. A lot. I have a massively huge TBR pile and it needs to be dealt with. I love half term because it means I can finally tackle my pile of TBR. Don’t get me wrong it always ends up inevitably getting bigger because I go out and buy more books but half term also gives me amazing chance to read. This half term I’m going to London for YAShot. This means I have amazing train reading time but it also means that I will come home with more books. I have been saving up since UKYACX for more books. I can’t resist them. 
  • Relax. A bit. I have this horrible tendency to make myself super busy every day in a half term and then I don’t feel rested because I’ve been super busy. I love being busy. I get crazy cabin fever if I stay indoors all day, but I need to let myself just rest. Just go out and enjoy a walk or something, just something calm. I can’t be going mad. This half term has been manic and my life is only going to get more mad on me. So hopefully spend some time relaxing: maybe go to the seaside for a walk. I haven’t for such a long time (brings up memories of my ex, which I do not need resurfacing at the minute). 
  • Start exercising again. I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t barely exercised recently. And I can tell. I don’t feel as fit any more. I miss going to the gym. How mad. Me. Missing the gym. Don’t get me wrong I’m by no means a gym bunny, but I enjoy the working hard at something and then coming out of the gym a bit sweaty… I know I’ve worked hard then. So hopefully get myself to the gym a few times, go for a swim or 2, maybe go for a few long walks. Who knows. Maybe just try and exercise. Stop being lazy.
  • Work on my dissertation. I am going to have a whole load of reading to do for my dissertation and I don’t want to be one of these students who saves it all up to the last minute. My brain won’t cope! So I wanna get some reading done, some of my academic poster started… just something to keep me ticking over because if I don’t do it it’ll be like pushing sand up a hill to get it all done in the end. (I have until Star Wars day).
  • See the Twiglets. This is always on my half term to do list. To be fair it’s on my life to do list. The Twiglets, for those of you who don’t know, are my god daughters. Ruby and Poppy. They’re my cousin’s twin girls and they are the absolute light of my life. I am so lucky to be their god mother and would do anything for them and their mam. I don’t have a sister, but Kate is the closest thing I have to it. The Twiglets light up my shitty days and they’re never far from my thoughts. Seeing them is incredible for my well-being. 

So that’s just some of my half term plans… other things will creep up I’m sure! 

What do you have planned? Do you like to plan or do you just like to leave half term to see what it throws at you? (Obviously I will have teacher things to do and my SCITT application to freak out over, but let’s not talk about that!) Let me know in the comments or tweet me @eenalol 

S x

Freeday: Y6 Science

Year 6 this year have brought on new challenges (I knew my last class very well!) so I have had to keep things fresh. Last year the children loved looking at the adaptations of the animals we have in the world today, whereas I know this new class can cope with something which is more of a challenge… 

We have been looking at the wonderful (ha) new addition to the curriculum which is Evolution and Inheritance (thanks to Twinkl FYI for the amazing Plan It resources for this topic, I would’ve struggled without your gentle guidance!). We’ve looked at adaptation using the lesson I did last year, which they absolutely loved, so I thought for the final lesson for this topic I would get them to design their own creatures and to describe the adaptations the animal has which make it suitable for whatever habitat it lives in. 

The worksheet is herey6-science.

Let me know if you download it! Tell me in the comments or via twitter @eenalol

S x

(Credit to: https://www.tes.com/lessons/search/science for the picture!)

#SundayYA

This is a very short post to give a shout out to my wonderful corner of the YA twittersphere! Every Sunday there is a little gang of us who get together on Twitter to discuss everything YA!

#SundayYA is led by my wonderful friend Rachel (you’ll find her @_sectumsemprah) between 6 and 7pm! I am considerably newer to twitter chats than the rest of the people in the #SundayYA world but everyone has been so welcoming that I definitely feel super involved and included.

So far since I joined in we have discussed Banned Books, Art in YA and so many other things!

Please come along and say hi, join in the chat and share your opinions/recommendations/blogs. We will welcome everyone and anyone! We’re all there just to talk books!

If you want to follow Rachel then please do, she’s over at @_sectumsemprah on twitter and she blogs at Babblebooks. She’s also an editor at the new quarterly YA magazine (@Shift_Zine)! Go give all of them a follow! And don’t forget to follow the #SundayYA hashtag on twitter between 6-7pm! Say hi too!

S x

Talk4Writing

Last year we started to introduce Talk4Writing into the classes… and I have to say on the whole I love it! Initially it was brought in as part of one of our deputy’s leadership projects to help improve boys attainment, but it helps everyone! I’m going to be very specific in this blog post about how I used it in a recent 2 day cover period in Year 2, but there will be a future post about Talk4Writing in the not so distant future!

A quick insight into Talk4Writing… “Talk for Writing enables children to imitate the key language they need for a particular topic orally before they try reading and analysing it. Through fun activities that help them rehearse the tune of the language they need, followed by shared writing to show them how to craft their writing, children are helped to write in the same style. Schools that have adopted the approach have not only increased their children’s progress but have found that children and teachers alike love it. It not only works throughout primary schools from the early years to Year 6 but also in secondary schools where it is key to making literacy across the curriculum really work” (taken from the Talk4Writing website.)

Last week the Year 2 class teacher was poorly so I was asked to cover Tuesday all day and Wednesday morning (not Weds afternoon as during this time I am in Year 4 covering PPA). The Year 2 class had been looking at instruction writing for the past week or so… so I knew where they were up to in that and where to take it. 

On Tuesday we decided together that we could write instructions describing how they come in at the end of break time. We discussed the steps a few times, I wrote them on the board in order, then I asked the children to draw a “story map” of their instructions in order, so they could see it visually.  Once they had all finished I had written the bossy verbs on separate pieces of paper and “accidentally” muddled them up… so they had to help me to put them back in order.

When Wednesday came around I was told that there were going to be writing observations and that yes, even though I was covering, I would be observed… just to check what I was up to. (I hate being observed, I’ll have to get used to it I know, but I hate it. It’s a lot of pressure and I was dreading it!) We started the lesson by going over the features of instruction writing (title, a ‘you will need’ section with bullet points, a ‘what to do’ section with numbers), with me writing the different sections on big pieces of paper and putting them on the window. In entered the head and the writing coordinator (EEK) while we were trying to come up with ideas for a title for the instructions. (There was only 1 title it could’ve had, but the ideas the children came up with that we wrong we discussed together and with their talk partners why they wouldn’t work). Then we moved on to thinking of things for the ‘you will need’ section and me making them stress to me that I need BULLET POINTS (they loved shouting this at me) in this section. Again they came up with the ideas with their talk partners. Once we’d written the list (a coat, an adult, a whistle, somewhere to line up), I explained that they were going to use their story map to write the instructions on their piece of paper – to which they all shouted “MISS WE NEED TO REMEMBER NUMBERS!” YES, well said in this observation! I had 3 different models, 3 different scaffolds for the different abilities. Then I sent the children off to their seats to say, write and check their sentences with their partner. The observers stayed for a few minutes while the children started their writing and then informed me that they’d be back at the end “to see the finished product” (TALK ABOUT PRESSURE). The rest of the lesson went over a blur. 

I got some absolutely incredible feedback from the observers about my lesson. The children were totally engaged, there were high expectations of all children, I had differentiated well, Talk4Writing strategies were well used, good use of the space and adults, excellent routines put in place, children knew what was expected of them. I was so very chuffed… 

When I marked the work it seemed 28/30 had met the LG. 

I’m not too shoddy at this teaching thing it seems. Maybe.

I know not all observations will go this well, but I think it’s important to celebrate your successes!

S x

Competition win!!

Recently I entered a competition to win some bookish goodies from the wonderful Michelle Toy on Twitter! I enter a few competitions now and again on Twitter but don’t seem to win… BUT THIS TIME I DID. WOOOOP.

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LOOK AT IT! It was SO GORGEOUS. When I found out I won I was so excited and when it arrived I was even more excited. IT CAME IN A BLACK ENVELOPE FILLED WITH PETALS. How glorious. I wish I had got a picture of the envelope. I didn’t even know black envelopes were a thing!

So here is the contents of my wonderful package:
– Pirate rock (Obviously I love rock… who doesn’t?!)
– Postcards (I love me some postcards! I wish people sent them more often)
– A bloody adorable pink cat rubber!
– A Day of the Dead/Mexican inspired yellow rubber (at least I think it’s a rubber!)
– A pencil with a UNICORN rubber on the end (amazing!)
– A cat lolly WHICH HAS EARS (I don’t want to eat it cause the ears are the cutest!)
– The cutest bracelet ever, I am going to put it on and it’s going to stay on forever!

A BOOK. OBVIOUSLY. The book that was the main reason for the winning was Deviants by C.J.Skuse!

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“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves
THEN: 
Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane.
The Fearless Five, inseparable as children growing up in a sleepy English seaside town. But when Max’s older sister is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.
NOW:
Only Max and Ella are in touch, still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. But Ella is hiding things – like why she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level. And when underdog Corey is bullied, the Fearless Five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?”

HOW EXCITING. I may use this as my travelling to YA Shot book. I have SO MANY books on my TBR pile. But yesssssssssss! I love bookish competitions so much.

If you’d like to follow Michelle, because well let’s face it she’s pretty awesome, you can do so on Twitter or you can check out her blog (which you absolutely should, her blog is amazing!).

Have any of you read this? What did you think? Let me know in the comments or on twitter (@eenalol)!

S x

Free-day: Maths challenge!

During a Maths learning walk last year I was in the Year 5 classroom and we were thinking about algebraic problems involving shapes, patterns and missing lengths.

I produced the sheet attached which has 2 differentiated versions of the problems.

We had spent the previous week looking at a few different variations on the same problems so this week (luckily for my observation) was one in which was just a bit of input from me but then a lot of problem solving skills from the children. They were able to use their whiteboards for any help needed but I encouraged the children to draw and write all of their thoughts in their maths books for assessment purposes. The children were all well engaged and loved the challenge posed at the end.

This would work well in Year 5 and Year 6. We were following Maths Makes Sense at the time and we found that some of the expectations were too high, so possibly even higher up would be good.

Let me know if my maths-learning-walk worksheet is any good to you! Comment below or let me know on twitter @eenalol

S xx