Jack Cherry and the Juicer- a review on this resource designed  to boost self-esteem, confidence and resilience.

‘Jack Cherry’ is a company offering resources and workshops all about a character called Jack. It aims to boost self-esteem, confidence and resilience in children, by helping put them in control of their thoughts. The idea of a juicer is used to help children reframe thinking.

As a family, we were thrilled to see that the main character in the comic wears glasses- my middle kiddiewink was horrified to see him being ridiculed about them and he felt very angry for Jack. Both myself and the children could see the impact on Jack of several negative things happening, and we talked about when they had had a bad day and how it made them feel.

 The comic itself is well illustrated and clear, with the message being about how bad thoughts and feelings, making you feel bad. In essence you have to keep out the bad things, just like you would keep the bad fruits out of a smoothie. We had great fun thinking up alliteration for happy fruits; fitting in perfectly with what my eldest has been doing in literacy this week. Personally, it thought that Jack coming up with the fruit and juicer analogy was powerful, as oppose to an adult sharing it with children. It was also great that he triumphed in the end!

The comic book is currently available free to download.

We were also sent a link to an audio book; I struggle with audiobooks, as I am an excellent storyteller (blowing my own trumpet here, but I really am). Although, I am sure it is very good, but the voice instantly annoyed me, as I know I could have made it sound just as good  (if not better).

The activity book that went with it looks fun, and the kids are keen to complete different aspects; a maze, making posters, games and word searches. Just got to get some ink for my printer first…

The resource as a whole, would be great to use at home and in the classroom as part of PHSCE or as part of an anti-bullying week (although a bit late for this years National anti-bullying week 16th -20th November). I can imagine many school councils would enjoy sharing this resource with their peers and some great activities (music, drama, paper activities and discussion) could be generated from reading the comic as a stimulus.

For more information on using the resource at home or in the classroom click here. There are videos and more information on the excellent resources on offer to boost children’s self-esteem and confidence, including resources to help with the stress of sats.

The creator (Simon Benn) also does workshops to schools which amazingly, are either free or funded and I certainly intend to book him in for next years Anti-Bullying Week.


Parents and Schools together make Mini Mathmagicians

As teachers, we can help motivate and inspire the mind. We can foster a life long love of learning. We can teach knowledge and skills, care and nurture, but we cannot do it in isolation.
In 2008 a lot of research was done into the teaching and learning of mathematics (Peter Williams report), one of their findings was that it is believed that a positive attitude to mathematics was a big stumbling block. One of my lecturers at university back in 1998 had said the same. I remember him saying how it really wasn’t cool to study maths and even less cool to lecture in maths. He joked that at dinner parties, when he told people what he did, it often provoked either awkward silences or a response of utter shock that anybody in their right mind would study mathematics after school. They were useless/rubbish at mathematics, hated mathematics etc.

Hands up if when faced with a maths related question, you feel a panic deep inside and instantly worry about looking stupid? This is still the case amongst my peers, people are quick to proclaim their rubbishness at mathematics, it is socially acceptable. To declare you were rubbish at reading, would attach a bit more of a stigma…
In literacy, reading in particular, once you have learnt the phonetics and patterns, the skill will rarely be lost. Unfortunately, in mathematics this is not the case; if not practised regularly, even basic mathematics can be difficult. 9+7, double 8, 7 x 8, 64/ 8 , 123 x 5… Without the recall of number facts such as number bonds, multiplication and division facts; the world of mathematics is a scary place.
That is why I ask you as parents, please help us produce mini Mathmagicians.

I don’t mean extra homework as I honestly don’t believe that is the way for many children. Instead, they need to want to learn. Make it fun, slip it into everyday activities, make it frequent and in short bursts. Make it a non stressful, no pressure environment. Where mistakes and misconceptions discussed and learnt from, a mistake is nothing to fear or get upset about.

Ten Top Tips for helping your child be a Mathmagician

1) Help them grasp the basics- pairs of numbers which make 10, 100 and in KS2 pairs which make 1 is additional.
Multiplication and division facts- regularly but for short bursts.
Reading and writing numbers

2) Play Bingo as a family- six squares with a number in each and either multiples of… Or pairs which make. Shape names etc. Bingo caller asks a question, if children have the answer, they cross it off. If playing with siblings you can always use a multiplication grid or similar to support the younger.
Eg 6 x 4 (children cross of 24), shape with 4 equal sides (cross of square)- pairs to 100( you say 30, child crosses off 70) etc

3) ‘Talk mathematics’ everyday with your child. On the journey to school or a granny’s Ask them quick recall questions (such as 6x 4, pairs to make 10/100). what shapes can you see? Reading numbers on labels, discussing weights and quantities.

4) ask them word problems linked to your shopping, menus in cafes etc

5) Find some good mathematics pc games and apps, that practice the recall of the basic calculation facts and skills
Interactive resources -currently 9apps for i devices and android devices

  • topmarks
  • bbc and channel 4 learning
  • woodlands junior/primary homework help
  • Mathematics shed has lots of links for all areas of mathematics (can be annoyingly slow to load at times though). Although a lot of the resources are designed for classroom use, there is no reason it can’t be used for home. There are some great raps and song videos to help to learn key facts, games, puzzles, downloadable resources. (I printed a brilliant frozen multiplication mat for my little girl)

6)  Get a copy of the school’s calculation policy, read it and ask them if you don’t understand anything; teachers won’t bite. This is important for consistency of approach.

7) Get a copy of maths for mums and dadsIMG_1381



8) Whenever having fun as a family with maths, don’t move too quickly. It is far better to get them happy and confident with something first; self esteem is key. Keep this high and your child will flourish. (Try not to inadvertently make it acceptable to be ‘rubbish’ at maths).

9) let them play with maths, explore weight,capacities, calculations with their toys, drawings to represent calculations, arrays for multiplication(basically dots and crosses in rows and columns) talking things through, using a 100sq, charts etc. Playing with apparatus can really help them fully grasp principles.

10) Keep it fun! Make maths a part of everyday with nothing to fear, only learn from.

multiplication and division facts ideas.

  • bingo
  • chanting in funny voices
  • displaying those that always trip them up in prominent places and bright colours
  • writing/typing the facts in lots of different fonts and colours.
  • Making mini card games( fact on one side, answer on another- how many can they get right in a minute?
    Fact and answer cards and play memory
  • Children design their own times table game.
  • http://www.teachingtables.co.uk

Teaching the Time
General everyday discussion. sharing the time eg Its half six now, time for your bath. What time do we have lunch?
Make a paper plate clock- start getting them to make O’clocks, half pasts etc.

All of the above are just a selection of ideas you may find effective at home but remember, even when they appear to know all the facts, keep revisiting them as just because they can do them in Year three, it doesn’t mean they will remember them in Year five. More resources and ideas will be coming up in the future…

REMEMBER…keep it fun!