Posts Tagged ‘IT’

Using Busy Things to develop phonological awareness skills

Using Busy Things to develop phonological awareness skills

Almost all schools now offer a literacy curriculum based on systematic synthetic phonics which most children respond really well to. But, there is a small group of pupils that don’t make the progress that we expect.

The building blocks to good phonic skills include really strong phonological awareness skills (the ability to identify and manipulate sounds in spoken language e.g. syllables, rhyme etc.) and phoneme awareness  (manipulating individual sounds).  Research shows that the majority of pupils that go on to struggle with spelling, reading and writing have a relative difficulty with their phoneme awareness and other phonological skills.  This group need extra time and attention.

Early Years settings are brilliant at developing phonological awareness skills, but as children move up into Key Stage 1 and beyond, it becomes harder for class teachers to find time to spend time on this.

One useful resource, available to all schools with access to the London Grid for Learning is Busy Things.  We found their phonic games very helpful when supporting children during lockdown, as they develop phonological awareness as well as phonics.

They updated a lot of the materials in May 2021.  We like the way you can customize the games to concentrate on specific grapheme phoneme correspondences.


Our pupils loved the games. There are games to support rhyming skills such as Topple the Tower and Robert Robot:

As well as games like Feed the Monster and Build the Word which focus on oral blending and segmenting:

The software allows you to choose which scheme you want to follow, as well as your regional accent preference (north or south of England):

Once pupils are confident at using the games online, you can also produce pdf’s of specific patterns to reinforce areas that they are working on. This was useful to set as targeted homework.

Busy things does not replace the work we need to do to help strengthen phonological awareness skills but it is a really useful tool. Children can independently use the game on laptops during class reading time or other pockets of the school day.

Teachers can set up class profiles and monitor how their pupils are doing.

For more information, there are youtube videos on how to get started, as well as tutorials online. Alternatively, do contact us for more information. While not experts,  we are  happy to share what we have learnt!

Tower Hamlets Language, Literacy and Communication Team

September 2021






“Keeping Calm” … some ICT to support good Mental Health

Young people, especially those of secondary age are now widely recognised to be a high risk group for the development of mental health problems.

ICT can be blamed for creating some health issues for children and young people; too much digital gaming and Internet or mobile ‘phone usage can negatively affect sleeping habits, increase waking-time tiredness, cause addiction, sleep disturbances and possibly even depression.

Young people have a wide range of needs to promote their mental health, from basic information to high-level ongoing clinical support. They probably prefer not to seek traditional professional help and, compounding this reluctance, in many areas sufficient resources are not available to provide the level and types of face-to-face service they require.

As online communication is an integral and accepted part of life for today’s young people, appropriate ICT options supporting mental health should be considered. The internet can facilitate community and  therapeutic counselling interventions can work for online users.

(Obviously there are challenges to ICT-based health services including inadequate access and training, lower literacy levels and the need for specialized technologies for people with disabilities.)

Children with good mental health think clearly, develop socially and learn new skills. They develop self-confidence, high self-esteem, and a healthy emotional outlook on life.

We can use ICT to support children’s good mental health & emotional well-being by finding software and apps that:

  • teach kids the “language of feelings”.
  • encourage creativity. …
  • help children to model situations (like social stories)
  • allow children to make mistakes and correct them (coding type apps)
  • think positively and better of themselves

Ipad Apps

Calm is the perfect meditation app for beginners, but also includes hundreds of programs for intermediate and advanced users. Guided meditation sessions are available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes so you can choose the perfect length to fit with your schedule.

Whether they need to mellow out before bed, develop positive relationships or simply have a peaceful moment, Stop, Breathe & Think Kids offers children a fun and easy way to identify and process their emotions. From counting breaths to friendly wishes or frog jumps, each activity brings  rewards to keep them engaged.

Smiling Mind can be used on iPhone, iPad or a regular computer. It involves a series of short exercises, which guide children through breathing and becoming aware of their bodies to “put a smile on their mind”. It is based on the principle of “Mindfulness” – that is, being aware of taste, touch, sight and smell to be “in the moment” and truly achieve a sense of calm and perspective.

You might try Yoga with your class? Here are a couple of apps with good ratings to help.