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What do you mean by 'active learning' and 'differentiation'?


Active learning at Jack in the Box is a process in which children participate meaningfully in their own learning.  They are encouraged to learn by thinking for themselves, sharing an opinion, working collaboratively and developing discussion skills.  This process gives them the skills and confidence to apply their learning to new situations.


The Jack in the Box teacher's role is to guide and direct the work, and monitor progress.  She will use a range of teaching styles and strategies to promote active learning.  It could be as simple as asking two four year olds to play a phonic game together or as complex as asking a group of eight year olds to predict and act out the next chapter of a novel.  An eleven year old might collect and analyse data and then share his findings with the rest of the class.  Alternatively, the teacher may have partnered him with someone likely to challenge his analysis, demanding an even higher level of thinking skills from them both.


A key factor in promoting active learning at Jack in the Box is the nature of the teacher's questions.  Whilst there is a place for closed questions requiring a single correct answer, they simply test children and promote passive learning.  Teachers at Jack in the Box place emphasis on open questions, giving an opportunity for a wide range of responses and requiring children to think and reflect.


Active learning is synonymous with UK primary school teaching.  Ofsted inspectors fail schools who don't do enough of it and will keep returning until they see change.

Ofsted have the same response to a lack of differentiation in UK primary schools. Children have different learning styles and the teacher will be aware of how each child learns best and will adapt the course to suit the learning style.  For instance, children who need a kinaesthetic approach will require resources they can touch, such as using plastic letters to form words.  Others may learn well visually, so the teacher would write information on the whiteboard in addition to speaking to the class.  There is another group who learn best by listening but they also benefit from a kinaesthetic and visual approach so the teacher is flexible, providing a wide range of activities and varied lesson organisation.


There are three categories of tasks given to children to meet their varying needs.  One involves all children doing the same task but achieving different levels of outcome.  This approach has limitations as it does not necessarily challenge the most able and may provide no learning opportunity to the least able.  The second approach involves placing children together to work and can be very successful if monitored carefully.  The third approach involves providing different tasks for the range of ability which allows all children the potential to succeed.


The active learning process and differentiation in the classroom are integral - one could not exist without the other.


How long will it take my child to learn to read and write?


The length of time will vary depending upon a range of factors from motivation, ability and commitment of the child/parent.  Each child will be taught according to their level of ability and progress will be at a pace appropriate for the child.


If they read well after a year the teacher will not let them 'coast' along and will begin higher level work with them.  You will find that their reading will be ahead of their writing as the latter is more demanding.  Children will learn at different rates for the reasons given above.

What resources are you using?


Oxford Reading Tree and Jolly Phonics, Magic 100 Words, Department of Education Resources, LDA items, Learning Materials Ltd items, shared reading storybooks, Nelson English 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, level-appropriate short novels. The secondary classes follow a specially written scheme of work to prepare them for the Edexcel iGCSE English Literature and Language exams.


My child is dyslexic. Will you be able to accommodate him/her?


There are additional strategies and approaches to learning which can be incorporated in the reading/writing teaching which will help.


If they appear to be struggling to read and write at school we would like to meet them before the course commences to get an idea of their difficulties.  This would allow time to plan a programme of study before September.  Parents may want to arrange one to one (or small group) sessions with the teacher in addition to the regular class.  Let your child know the sessions will include lots of 'fun stuff' where they can shine and develop confidence.

My child has been diagnosed with ADHD. Are you able to accommodate him/her?


We currently do not have the additional support needed to help a child with ADHD to benefit from the course.


I'm worried my seven year old is not going to like being in a class with five year olds.  How can you reassure me that he's going to get something out of it?


Each child will be taught at a level appropriate for their ability.  The teaching will be differentiated to include all learners, and tasks and activities arranged with this in mind.

It is common in the UK for different age groups to work together.  Some schools even arrange classes vertically in 'family' groups.  In this case your child would take on a leadership role and set an example of a good work ethic to younger children.  In a small class it is easy to differentiate work and your child would be grouped with children of a similar age for literacy tasks.


Are you going to give them homework?


Yes. Younger children will be required to learn to sight read and spell Magic 100 Words and will be given reading tasks. Older children will continue to learn the High Frequency Key Words and complete a range of grammar, punctuation and spelling exercises. Of course other school commitments and tasks will be taken into account when necessary.  We realise that children have a lot of different activities after school, and also the time factor involved in school homework.  We want to make sure that our Jack in the Box children are motivated to learn. This is meant to be fun!


We provide guidelines for parents on how best to support children at the beginning of the year.


I see that you're going to do lots of role play and drama.  What does this involve exactly?  How is it going to help with reading and writing?


Role play and drama activities are a proven and extremely successful method of consolidating language skills and encouraging listening, speaking and writing skills, eg: play scripts, dialogues etc.

Children are very motivated by performing for grown-ups, especially when they are showing off their own work.  Also, some children find they shine at these types of activities, whereas they find writing or other skills more taxing.  With careful encouragement and guidance the more hesitant child can also be drawn out of their shell and produce something for everyone to be proud of.


Taking part in drama is the most natural way of learning.  It is derived from children's innate capacity to play - to be other people, at other times and in other places.  To be able to improvise and think on your feet is an important life skill and often, concepts that are tricky to understand by reading or writing, are made easier if explored through drama first.  Children of all abilities find it enormous fun.


My child can already read and write. What's the point of them doing Years 3-6?


The later courses draw on basic skills and develop them to a much more analytical and thought provoking level.  They allow your child to express opinions concisely and thoughtfully and introduces more advanced skills of persuasion, reporting, analysing, discussion and, of course, creative writing.  These are skills that are all fundamental to success in today's competitive world and benefit every child who masters them.

If your child wants to go to university in an English-speaking country they will have to be able to write fluent essays and read specialist language with understanding.  Even if they study in France their employment prospects, in France and around the world, will be greatly enhanced if they can read and write to a high standard.


What happens if my child can't read after Year 1/2?


It would depend on why they're not reading.  If your child has a learning difficulty we will spend more time consolidating and will use a multisensory approach to meet their needs.  Children learn in different ways and at different paces.  We will always be ready to discuss concerns with you.


My child can read but not write.  Is there any point in her doing the course?


Yes, definitely.  Writing skills are a natural development of reading. The fact that your child has already mastered reading will mean that they should make good progress with the right professional support and structure offered by our curriculum.

It is about ownership; we read other people's ideas but we write our own.  They are native English speakers so it's only natural that they should learn to write in their native tongue.


I can teach my children myself!  Why should I send them to you?


It's wonderful that you can teach them to read and write - no problem at all with home schooling! But, if they came to us, imagine what progress they could make with you so keen to be involved as well.  Also, they will enjoy working with other English speaking children and would certainly learn a lot from each other.  In addition to the literacy, they would develop group discussion skills, learn how to solve problems together and learn how to think on their feet.


We offer a carefully structured course devised through many years of in-depth, professional experience with children of this age group.  We appreciate that you are an integral and vital part of the equation of your child's education and progress, and the more support you can give your child at home the better their chance of success.  We want to work closely with you, as a parent, to combine our skills and experience about what is best for your child so they reach their full potential.

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