Monday, 18 May 2020

Coping with lockdown

We've cleaned nooks and crannies, and rolled back the rugs.
We've polished the silver, and bleached tea stained mugs.

Sorting out drawers was a chore we once dreaded.
Now our paperwork's filed, neatly labelled or shredded.

These days, we have time for those long-postponed tasks.
We've stitched those old headscarves, and made ourselves masks.

We've dusted down boxes, and what they contain
May have prompted a wander down Memory Lane.

We've weeded and mowed. Now all's tidy al fresco.
And we've mastered the system for shopping at Tesco.

Every cough has brought panic, in case we are ailing.
Our hair has grown long, and our teeth need de-scaling.

We've all been alert, as the rules now require us.
And we pray that there'll soon be an end to the virus.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Teaching vowels and split digraphs

We've been attempting to home educate a four year old, which includes introducing new sounds. All the Phase 3 and Phase 4 phonics, involve two or three letters together e.g. "oi", "er", "ow", "oa" or "air". (Phase 4 is, incidentally, mainly blended letters, such as "cl" or "st".)

We eventually got to the more complicated challenge of split digraphs. This is where the vowel sound changes if an "e" is added after an intervening letter. For example, add an "e" to can (to make cane). Or add an "e" to not (to make note) etc. They are expressed as a-e, i-e, o-e, u-e. (e-e does not appear to be covered at this stage, though it does, for example, work with "her" and "here").

This added "silent" e turns the short sounds to long sounds. The long vowel sounds are exactly as would be spoken when reciting the ABC alphabet.

Before these could be learned, the concept of vowels first had to be introduced.

To make all this easier, I came up with a song, to be sung to the tune of "1,2,3,4,5. Once I caught a fish alive..." It seemed to work!

These are vowels. We know that's true.
Here's a trick, the best trick yet,
To make vowels sound like the alphabet.

It's easy as can be.
Add a silent magic "E".
Practise so you don't forget
How to make vowels long, like the alphabet.

Copyright Maggie Ballinger

Friday, 10 April 2020

Teaching phonics

In these stay-at-home times
Which affect the whole nation,
Many thousands are struggling
With home education.

How we all learnt to read
Is a mystery because,
The skill isn't taught
In the way it once was.

These days, there are phonics.
They form words when they're linked.
Sometimes they're quite subtle
And far from distinct.

Different sounds are produced
If you join up two "o"s.
"Food" and "good" do not rhyme.
Why is this? No one knows.

Digraphs and trigraphs
Most clearly abound.
These are two or three letters
That make just one sound.

It's not always easy
To get these things right,
Like the "i" "g" and "h"
In the middle of "night".

"Cr", "cl" and "br"
Are some sounds that one "blends".
Whereas "ch", "sh" and "th"
Are all deemed "special friends".

Silent letters appear in
A difficult word.
They creep in unbidden.
Are seen, but not heard.

A "k" starts off "knee".
"B" ends the word "dumb",
And it's got into "debt".
There is no rule of thumb.

Thrown into the mix,
(And where things can get sticky),
Some words don't conform,
And such words are called "tricky".

They crop up quite often:
Require recognition.
Children don't like them -
They're viewed with suspicion.

Take "we" for example,
It drives us all dotty,
(Unless it means "small",
Or what's done in a potty.)

Our language lacks logic.
It's complex. It's daft.
And mastery needs
Concentration and graft.

A small girl aged four
Longs to don pretty dresses...
To abandon the phonemes...
And play at princesses.

Thus Granny, at times,
Has her bouts of frustration.
(Though she's found chocolate buttons
A great motivation.)

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Getting a refund from Ryanair

We'd booked with Ryanair,
And had duly paid our fare,
But our trip to Spain cannot now go ahead.
As they'd cancelled both our flights,
We were well within our rights,
To claim a refund of our cash instead.

This proved very complicated,
And I soon became frustrated,
As I entered details time and time again.
All those squiggles I'd reload,
From the "not a robot" code,
But my efforts were consistently in vain.

Then I finally succeeded,
Done the things the system needed.
To confirm, they'd send an email. This seemed fine.
In my inbox one was there.
It was from Ryanair...
Demanding that we now check in on line!

Just to update everyone. The following day, another Ryanair email appeared, entitled "Top tips for a speedy take off" !

A third email arrived a few days ago, hyping the fantastic low fare deals on offer and urging us to book.

Almost three weeks on, there is still no sign of the refund...…..

Update - 26th May (2020)

Still no sign of a refund for the flights that were cancelled in March. Our flights to and from Cologne in July have also now been cancelled. We have applied for a refund, and been told that we're in a queue! Earlier emails suggested that the queue might be lengthy, as priority was being given to "vulnerable" passengers. How do they know who these vulnerable passengers are? 


In this crisis, we know our best hope,
Is to hand wash with plenty of soap.

We must take our time with this, since
It takes more than a casual rinse.

Speed, when applying this stuff,
Means we're not being thorough enough.

Thus, performing our self-cleansing missions,
"Happy Birthday" we sing - two renditions.

Or one "God Save the Queen" will suffice:
There's no need to be anthem-ing twice.

Monday, 16 March 2020

A strange response to coronavirus

In the USA, outside some shops,
Folk form a lengthy queue.
So what is it that they hope to buy,
To see this crisis through?

Is it loo roll? Is it canned goods?
Is it pasta, rice or soap?
Are they after medications,
Or for sanitizer hope?

The tiny bugs are everywhere,
Give everyone the jitters,
So these citizens are after GUNS -
Do they plan to shoot the critters?

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Twinkle twinkle

Twinkle twinkle little star,
I see you nightly from afar.
You shine so brightly in the west,
And there out-sparkle all the rest.
You're Venus, and your glowing ball's
A planet - not a star at all!