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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Study Skills
for
Childcare Students
Author: Janet Rees

This edition has been supported by the Employer


Training Pilot.

This pack meets the national standards for adult literacy


and is mapped to the core curriculum.

The skills developed through the use of this


pack should help candidates to fulfil the
evidence requirements of a variety of training
opportunities within the context of childcare.

If you would like any further information on workplace skills training


please contact:

Training Matters
Foley House
Wellington Street
Newmarket
Suffolk CB8 0HY

Tel: 01638 669203

© Suffolk County Council, Training Matters


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Training Matters

Basic Skills at Work Programme

Foley House
Wellington Street
Newmarket
Suffolk CB8 0HY

Telephone:
01638 669203
Facsimile:
01638 561169

Training Matters is jointly supported by


Suffolk Learning & Skills Council
and Suffolk County Council

Every effort has been made to trace and acknowledge ownership of copyright.
The publishers would be pleased to make suitable arrangements with any
copyright holder whom we have been unable to trace.

The worksheets in this pack may be copied, provided they are


used solely in your institution to support learning. If you wish
to photocopy them for any other purpose, you must first gain
permission from Training Matters.

Copyright © 2004 Suffolk County Council

© Suffolk County Council, Training Matters


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Introduction

This booklet is for students working in the Early Years


and Childcare field who are embarking on a course of
study.

The booklet covers the basic skills you need for the
reading and writing tasks required for a course.

It also looks at the organisational skills necessary to


get the most out of your study time.

You can:

• read through the whole book to brush up on all


your study skills

• dip into the sections you feel you need help with.

You will need to have a notepad and pen handy to


make notes and to try out your writing skills.

The answers to some of the exercises can be found at


the end of the booklet.

We hope you enjoy Study Skills and find it useful.

© Suffolk County Council, Training Matters


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Adult Literacy Core Curriculum References

Rt/E3.6 skim read title, headings and illustrations


Rt/E3.7 scan texts to locate information
Rt/E3.8 obtain specific information through detailed reading

Rw/E3.3 use a dictionary to find the meaning of unfamiliar words

Wt/E3.1 plan and draft writing


Wt/E3.2 organise writing in short paragraphs
Wt/E3.3 sequence chronological writing
Wt/E3.4 proof-read and correct writing for grammar and spelling

Ws/E3.1 write in complete sentences


Ws/E3.3 use punctuation correctly

Ww/E3.3 produce legible text

Wt/L1.3 present information in a logical sequence


Wt/L1.4 use language suitable for purpose and audience
Wt/L1.5 use format and structure for different purposes
Wt/L1.6 proof-read and revise writing for accuracy and meaning

Ws/L1.3 use punctuation correctly

Wt/L2.4 use format and structure to organise writing for different


purposes

Ws/L2.4 use punctuation correctly

© Suffolk County Council, Training Matters


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Contents

A Place and Time.....................................................page 1

Research / Reading Skills........................................page 6

Writing Skills..........................................................page 12

Short Answers and Reports...................................page 20

Leaflets and Letters...............................................page 25

Observations and Reflective Writing......................page 29

Essays...................................................................page 35

Information Sheets.................................................page 44

Answers.................................................................page 48

Booklist..................................................................page 49

© Suffolk County Council, Training Matters


Study Skills for Childcare Students

A Place and Time

During your course, you will need to do some studying at home.

You may choose to study at your local library, where you can be
assured of peace and quiet.

Before your course starts, do some preparation, so that you use


your time effectively.

If you are studying at home, think about your place of study. Will it
be:
• a separate room?
• a bedroom?
• the kitchen?
• the dining room?
• somewhere else?

Visualise your workstation – how can you prepare it for studying?


Will you have:
• a large enough work surface?
• a shelf for books?
• a comfortable chair?
• a reading light?
• heating?
• peace and quiet?

If the only place available is the kitchen table, you will need a
‘study box’ to keep all your files, pens and pencils in.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Let’s look at what equipment you’ll need.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Think about the equipment you’ll need

Collect together everything before you start so that


you’re not wasting your time hunting around for
something during the course.

Here’s a list of equipment – tick the items you will


need and add any others you think of.

Calculator
Clock
Computer
Dictionary
Dividers
Files to store work
Mat for coffee mug
Paper
Pencil sharpener
Pencils
Pens
Pin board
Planner
Rubber
Ruler
Sticky labels
Sticky notes
Thesaurus

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

How will you organise your files?

Will you have:

• one file for your notes?


• one file for photocopied
articles?
• one file for handouts?

or
• a large ring binder with sections?
or
• a selection of different files?

Decide which is best for you. Don’t forget to label each file clearly.

When will you study?

It can be difficult to fit in study time with all your other


commitments.

That’s why you need to plan your study time.

For example, it’s difficult to concentrate when


you’re feeling exhausted after a hard day’s work.

You may need to allow time to relax before


getting down to study.

Think about when you are most alert – are you a morning or
evening person?

If you’re an early riser – put in half an hour before the rest of the
house wakes up.

Use the timetable on the next page to start planning your study
time.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Timetable

See how you spend your time by filling in the boxes with your work, home
and leisure activities.

Where will you put your study time?

If you need more time for study, which boxes could it come from?

am 6 - pm 12
Day 8 - 10 10 - 12 2-4 4-6 6-8 8 - 10
8 -2

Mon

Tues

Wed

Thur
s

Fri

Sat

Sun

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Be strict about your study time

Tell your family that you won’t be available


between certain times. They will soon get
used to the idea.

Get rid of distractions

It’s difficult to study when there’s a pile of ironing waiting to be


done, a telephone call to make or letter to write.

Get rid of these distractions by:

• making a list of things you have to do

• prioritising those that need taking care of


urgently

• making a note of when to do the other things – tomorrow, the


next day …

• doing the urgent tasks before you sit down to study.

Concentrate

You may not feel much like studying - perhaps you’ve had a long,
hard day, or you’d rather be doing something else.

How will you motivate yourself?

• Get involved – make notes.

• Test yourself after reading something – did


you understand the main points?

• Give yourself a break after 45 minutes -


have a cup of coffee.

And finally – Look forward to your study time – enjoy it!

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Research / reading skills

Research skills

During your course you will need to do some research.

Getting recommended text books

You will probably have a book list to help you with your
assignments.

Try to get hold of the books as soon as you can - there can be a
rush when a new course starts.

If the book you want is not on the shelf in the library, ask an
assistant to order it for you. The assistant will transfer it from
another library or keep it for you when it is returned.

Finding other books

You may need other books to help you with an assignment or


essay.
How do you choose when there are so many to choose from?

There’s a quick and easy way to do this:


• Look at the front cover
• Look at the back cover
• Look at the contents page
• Look at the index
• Skim through the book - look at the:
chapter headings
section headings
illustrations.

You will quickly get a good idea if the book will be useful to you. If
not, discard it and look at another.
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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Where can I get information?

There are lots of other sources of information.

Which of the following might you use? Add any others you think of.
Internet
Journals
Lectures
Magazines
Newspapers
Other students
Radio
TV
Video
Your tutor

Student Power

It’s a good idea to get together with fellow


students and share your experiences.

The Library

Books, videos, magazines, newspapers and journals can all be


found at the library.

The Internet

There’s a wealth of information on the internet but you do need the


skills to be able to search effectively – otherwise you can spend all
day looking for something.

There are short courses to help you with searching the net - or ask
a friend to help.

If you don’t have a computer, you can use one at the library.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Reading Skills

You’ll have different kinds of things to read on


your course – articles, policy statements,
instructions etc.

Think about why you are reading:

Are you finding out the answer to a question?

Are you building up your knowledge?

Are you taking notes to use in an essay?

Here are some techniques you can use which will save you time
and help you to become a more effective reader.

• Skimming – flicking through to get an overall picture

• Scanning – to pick out detail

• In-depth reading - to gain more detailed information.

We’ll look at each of these on the next few pages.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Reading techniques

Skimming

We’ve already looked at choosing textbooks using


the skimming method.

Try this out using a magazine or newspaper article.


See how long it takes you to get an idea what it’s
about.

Scanning is used to quickly pick out detail. You still don’t have to
read every word.

Cast your eyes down a page, reading just enough to pick up the
main message.

Try this here. See how quickly you can answer the following
question about a new provision for children.

Q. How many holiday club places are there?

Blackbirds, Sudbury is a holiday, after school, and


breakfast club for children aged 4 to 11. The club
will be held at Sudbury Primary School.
There are 14 places available in the after school
and breakfast clubs and 26 places in the holiday
club.
The provision is run by a voluntary committee
supported both by parents and staff of the
school.
The club has been achieved with the aid of a grant
from the New Opportunities Fund.
Contact Freda Rice, Co-ordinator

When you find the information you need to


answer a question, or to help with your essay,
make a note of the book title and page.

You can either make your own notes while you’re reading, or place
a sticky note in the page, and go back to it later.
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Study Skills for Childcare Students

In-depth reading is slower than the other techniques and is used


for difficult reading such as policies and unfamiliar text.

You may be asked, for example, to compare two ideas or theories.

You can’t do this until you really understand what each theory
involves.

To help your understanding:

• use a dictionary or thesaurus to find alternatives


for any words you’re unsure about

• read the passage several times until you


understand what is being said

• put it into your own words.

Try this here. What does this sentence mean?

We will endeavour to positively encourage


bilingualism and to promote its value and
importance

You may find you need to use another word for:

endeavour - try
positively encourage - really support
bilingualism - the ability to speak two languages
promote - raise awareness
value - usefulness

By finding alternative words in this way, you can build up a real


understanding.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Taking notes

Active reading means making use of what you’re reading.

Underlining key words and taking notes helps


you to concentrate and remember.

Keep a question in your mind all the time you’re


reading.

For example, suppose you have the following question:

‘Say 3 ways in which you can encourage


children to have good self-esteem.’

Read the following passage. Underline the key words and phrases
which will answer the question.

Every child is unique and has his/her own family


and cultural background. Therefore, ways to
promote feelings of love and security can vary with
each child. Children should be valued for what
they are rather than what you would like them to
be.

Praise by effort rather than result. Don’t expect


too much with what they can manage to do, such as
dressing or feeding themselves.

Give encouragement. If children make mistakes,


don’t put them down by calling them ‘silly’ or
‘stupid’, but encourage them by saying ‘Never mind’
and suggesting a better way to deal with the
situation next time.

How would you answer the question in one sentence?

I would encourage self-esteem in children by

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Writing Skills

A well-written and clearly presented piece of work will create a


good impression.

It may have an influence on the overall grade that you get.

We’ll look at some of the basic skills you need for writing well.

What is good writing?

It’s no good knowing how to answer a question if the reader can’t


understand what you’re trying to say!

Your writing should be easily read and understood.

For this to happen it needs to:

• be legible
• have well constructed sentences
• be structured into paragraphs
• have correct spelling and punctuation
• keep to the point.

If your writing does all this, you may well earn a higher grade.

Word processing solves any problems of untidy handwriting, but if


you don’t have access to a computer, make sure your writing is
neat and tidy.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Now let’s look at the other skills on the list.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Sentences

Is your sentence complete?

A good way to make sure, is to say the sentence out loud and ask
yourself: “Does this make sense on its own, or does it need
finishing off?”

Which of these are not complete sentences?

1. Cutting out pictures and sticking them onto a


large piece of paper

2. Freddie was playing happily with the other


children

3. On comparing the two theories

Don’t use too many commas.

This is easily done when your thoughts are flowing and you want to
write them down quickly before you forget them.

Such writing can leave the reader breathless – as with the


following passage. Read it through and then write it out again
using fewer commas and more sentences.

Activity to develop reaction


I use a Jack-in-the-box toy and a drum, watch the toy
working with the children, then ask the children to crouch
down on the floor, ready to spring as they pretend to be the
Jack-in-the-box, curled up tightly in his box with the lid shut,
so that when I bang on the drum, suddenly the lid is open and
Jack leaps up stretching high into the air, then slowly he is
pushed back down and the lid is closed again.

Adapted from: Bright Ideas for Early Years, by R Whiteford and J


Fitzsimmons

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Paragraphs

As soon as you split up a piece of writing into


sections, or paragraphs, it looks better and
becomes easier to read.

A paragraph consists of
sentences which are related
to each other. Each new paragraph should
contain a new idea or topic.

Where would you start new paragraphs in this passage? Mark


each paragraph with the proofreading symbol //.

Providing drinks for children

All drinks that contain sugar can be harmful to teeth and


can spoil the child’s appetite. Therefore the best drinks
for children are water and milk. Water quenches the thirst
without spoiling the appetite and so is an excellent drink for
children. More water should be provided during the summer
to prevent dehydration. Milk is a very nourishing drink. It
contains calcium, protein, and vitamins B, A and D. Reduced
fat milks should not be given to children under five, because
of their lower energy content. Drinks which contain sugar,
such as flavoured fizzy drinks, fruit squashes and flavoured
milks can be harmful to teeth and affect the child’s
appetite. Unsweetened diluted fruit juice is the best
alternative to water or milk. It should ideally only be
offered at mealtimes.

Adapted from: An introduction to Child Care and Education, by


C Meggitt, J Stevens, T Bruce

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Spelling

Spelling is important if you are to give a good impression.

If you are not confident with spelling, you


may need more help.

Invest in a self-help
book (see the list at
the end of this booklet) or brush up your
spelling skills by taking a short course at
your local college or community education
centre.

If you don’t have time for this, there are a number of things you can
do.
• When you check through your writing, look up any
word you’re at all unsure of.

• Have a good dictionary by you and use it regularly.

• Use the spell-check on the computer.

o If you use a difficult word a lot, write the correct spelling


down in a notebook – try to learn it.

Don’t look up words while you’re writing as this will interrupt your
thoughts.

Analyse your writing

Some people think they make lots of mistakes, when, in fact, they
make the same mistake several times.

Look through your writing carefully and see


what mistakes you keep making. You could be
spelling plurals wrongly, putting i and e round
the wrong way, or getting endings wrong.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Once you know what mistakes you are making, you can look up
the rule and correct many of your errors.

© Suffolk County Council 18


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Punctuation

The purpose of punctuation marks is to make a


sentence clearer. They tell the reader how a
piece of text should be read.

For example they could indicate whether a


sentence should be read as a question or an
exclamation.

The two punctuation marks people are most unsure how to use are
the comma and the apostrophe.
Capital letters can also cause problems.

The Comma
As we’ve seen in the section on Sentences, too many commas can
leave the reader breathless and confused.
Only use a comma when it is necessary to make a sentence
clearer.
A comma indicates a pause. It enables the reader to:

1. make sense of a sentence:

Freddie ran over to the painting table, and Rosie followed.

This sentence would not be so clear if the comma was not there.

2. separate information within a sentence:

The outing to the local zoo, the first since it opened, proved
a great success.

This sentence would be difficult to read if the extra information (the


first since it opened) was not separated with commas.

A test for seeing if you have put the commas in the correct places,
is to see if the sentence makes sense without the extra
information.

Try this out on sentence no. 2.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

The Apostrophe

There are two ways to use an apostrophe:

1. In a short form to replace letter/s missed


out

eg. it’s = it is
don’t = do not

Note: Be careful not to mix up this version of it’s with the


possessive pronoun its.
eg. The robin injured its wing.
Only use an apostrophe if, by replacing it’s with it is, it
sounds right when you read the sentence.
2. To show possession
eg. Sophie’s lunch (lunch of Sophie)
the children’s playtime (playtime of the children)

Test your apostrophe skills here. There are 7 apostrophes


missing from the passage below. See if you can find where, and
make your corrections.

Dont pretend to be happy or loving when you arent


feeling that way – its confusing and can make children
become evasive and in time quite disturbed. At a
parents meeting recently I asked people to call out
the ‘you’ messages they remembered hearing as
children. Examples came in little rushes at first, as
the audiences memories were triggered, but by the
end, the training rooms blackboard was covered.
Peoples sense of relief was very evident as they spoke
aloud the words that had hurt them so long ago.

Adapted from: The Secret of Happy Children, by Steve Biddulph

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Capital letters

Use capital letters for:

Policy titles: The Children Act, Sex Discrimination Act


Places: Tiny Tots Kindergarten, Hilltop Road
Abbreviations: RNID (Royal National Institute for the Deaf)
CACHE (Certificate in Child Care and
Education)
Course Titles: EdExcel Family Support Work Course
Titles of people: Nursery Nurse, Special Needs Co-ordinator
People’s names Sigmund Freud, B. F. Skinner
Day, Month: Wednesday, September
Book/film/ Early Childhood Education by T Bruce
play/TV titles: Blue Peter

and, of course, at the beginning of sentences.

Remember:

Use a small letter for the general:


The doctor came to examine Alex.
We visited the zoo.

Use a capital letter for the particular:


Alex was examined by Doctor Bourne.
We visited Chester Zoo.

Test your skills with capital letters here:


my name is alison cooper. i currently work at
funtime playgroup in cambridge. i started my
college course – cache diploma in nursery nursing
in september 2000 and hope to finish in the spring
of 2002. i have been in several different
placements, including day nurseries, statutory
nurseries and a montessori school. this has given
me a wider understanding of childcare in the

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Keep to the point

Do you waffle and end up with many more


words than you need?

Waffle can cause:


• confusion
• irritation for the reader
• too many words in an essay

Avoid strings of words – keep your writing short and simple.

I am inclined to think that = I think that


In my own personal opinion = In my opinion

Avoid repeating yourself:

They have 79 unfilled vacancies = They have 79 vacancies


It was 2 am in the morning = It was 2 am

In the passage below there are several phrases which can be cut
out or replaced with one word. See if you can find them.

Rewrite, and count how many words you have reduced the
passage to.

It is illegal to punish children physically. Despite the fact that


the child may be about to harm another child, you must never
and in no circumstances pull the child’s arm or elbow or grab the
child by the wrist. In a situation where you have to intervene in
order to protect the child, others or property, you should use
the least possible, and minimum restraint. (66 words)

Writing should be done in stages. For more on this see the Essay
section.

If you feel you want more help with punctuation or grammar, there
are plenty of self-help books on the market – see the list at the end
of this booklet.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Short Answers and Reports

Short answers

You may need to answer a question using just one or two


sentences.

Make your answer:


precise
clear
concise

Read the question carefully.

Look for ‘command’ words, such as ‘describe’, ‘explain’, ‘list’. You


can find these, and other command words on page 38 in the
Essays section.

Make sure you do what the question asks you to do.

For example, if a question asks you to:

‘List 4 types of equipment used for each of 3 play areas.’

it can be easy to note down 3 types of equipment for 4 play areas!

Use headings, numbers and columns.

Here’s how you might present the above question.

Types of equipment

Sand Tray Dressing up corner Home area


1.
1. 1.
2.
2. 2.
3.
3. 3.
4.
4. 4.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

‘Describe in Detail’

You may have to go into more detail.

For example:

‘Describe in detail 4 strategies for delivering stories.’

You will need to plan this answer carefully. Here’s what you do:

1. First decide what your 4 strategies are - have a heading for


each one.

2. Plan your answer. Here’s a plan for the above question:

Eye contact Behaviour


With all children Disruptive children - seat close
Keep interest Unwanted - Eye contact
Good behaviour Don’t stop story

Volume Questioning
Vary volume Check understanding
Project voice What happens next?
Different tones – whispering, shouting
Depends on story

3. Write your plan up into sentences.

4. Introduce your answer:

‘I have chosen eye contact, volume, behaviour and


questioning as my four strategies for delivering stories. I
would use them in the following ways: ……’

5. Don’t forget to check through your writing for errors.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Bullet points

Headings, numbering and/or bullet points help to organise your


answer into a clear, logical structure, making it easier to read.

Look at these two examples. Which one is easier to read?

A code of practice can cover areas of moral concern


and good practice such as health and safety, equal
opportunities, confidentiality, first aid, partnership
with parents, child/staff ratio and child protection.

A code of practice can cover areas of moral concern and


good practice such as:

 health and safety  partnership with parents

 equal opportunities  child/staff ratio

 confidentiality  child protection

 first aid

Now try this yourself.

Describe an activity with children (a game, story-telling or craft).

Use numbering or bullet points and make sure they are in logical
order.

Give your description a heading.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Short Reports

You may be asked to write a short report.

A report should have a clear beginning, middle


and end.

Beginning – provides background information. It also


introduces your answer:

‘In this report I will show how … ’

Middle – sets out your main points. You can use headings
and/or numbering for each new point.

End – sums up your report; gives your conclusions.

You should also give your report a title.

Writing a report

Suppose you have the question:

‘Give a short report setting out ways to achieve good


working relationships, and say why each contributing
factor is important.’

Begin by making a spider plan to help you sort out the main points
(see an example on page 40). These become your headings for
the middle section of the report.

Next, using your spider plan to help you, make notes on how you
will set out your answer as a report. See an example on the next
page.

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Planning your report

This is how your notes might look.

Ways to achieve good working relationships


(The main topic or ‘body’ of your spider plan)

Introduction
Good working relationships are essential because …
I will highlight below 5 ways in which good working
relationships can be achieved and give my reasons why each
is important …
Main points (The ‘legs’ of your spider plan)
1. Valuing the contribution of other members
2. Providing opportunities to express feelings/ideas
3. Sharing the workload fairly
4. Having clear guidelines
5. Defining roles and responsibilities
(Under each heading, write several sentences/paragraphs
giving reasons for your choice. Include some examples.)

Conclusion
(Refer back to the question. You can give your opinions in this section.)

When you’ve written up your report, assess it using this checklist.


Have you:
• used headings and a title?
• set out your report clearly?
• kept to the point?
• used plain English?
• kept your sentences short?
• proofread your final draft?
© Suffolk County Council 27
Study Skills for Childcare Students

Leaflets and Letters

Designing a Leaflet
As part of an assignment you may be asked to design a leaflet.
A leaflet is a sheet of paper, usually folded, giving information or
advertising something.
Planning
First, you need to plan what to put in your leaflet - the question will
give you some clues.
Read the following question and underline the information you
need to include in a leaflet.

Q You’re planning a number of outings with your


nursery group of 3 and 4 year- olds. There will be
visits to a farm, museum and theatre. Transport will
be the playschool minibus which has safety belts
fitted. Parents are needed to help with the scheme.
Produce a leaflet for parents.

Brainstorm what you will put into your leaflet – all


the time thinking about why you’re writing it, who will
read it and what they need to know.

Below is a brainstorming session for this question.


Tick the ideas you would include and add any other
ideas you think of.

Trips – farm: museum, theatre


Description
Minibus with seatbelts
Parents needed for trips
Dates / times
No glass bottles or sweets
Amount of money needed for each trip
Type of clothes to wear

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Study Skills for Childcare Students

Drafting

Once you’ve planned the outline of your leaflet, you can start
writing a first draft.

Expand each section with additional information you think the


reader needs to know.

To produce a good leaflet:

• include all the information necessary


• be clear and concise – see section on Writing Skills
• make it look attractive:

o have plenty of space between sections

o use photos or cartoons – an illustration always catches


the eye
o you can use bullet points to make your leaflet easy to
read.

Take a look at one or two leaflets to give you some ideas.

Edit and Proofread

Check through your first draft carefully to see if :

• you’ve included all the information

• your facts are correct

• you haven’t repeated anything

• your sections are in a logical order

• your spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct.

© Suffolk County Council 29


Study Skills for Childcare Students

© Suffolk County Council 30


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Writing a Letter

Part of your assignment may be to write a letter – perhaps to the


parents of children in your care, or to other professionals.

As with the leaflet, you need to:

• think who the letter is for and why you are writing
• include all the necessary information.

Think also about the style and tone to use.


Compare the two letters below. Which is more important in each –
things or people?
Mrs A Thompson

Dear Madam

Your letter of 10 January has been received and has been passed to the
Manager.

Complaints are usually discussed at the monthly policy meetings. Your


letter will, however, be looked into sooner than this, and you will be
invited to attend an interview regarding the supervision of Craig.

You can be assured of our continued dedication to our children.

Yours faithfully

Dear Mrs Thompson

Thank you for your letter of 10 January, which I have passed on to the
Manager.

We would like to invite you to come and discuss your concerns about the
supervision of Craig. We will contact you shortly to arrange a date.

Thank you for all your support. I hope that we can work together to
achieve the best possible care for Craig.

© Suffolk County Council 31


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Layout

It’s important to get the layout of your letter correct.

Here’s an example of a formal letter:

Name, title and address


of person you’re writing to Your address
Date
26 Hilltop Road
Stowmarket
Suffolk
IP38 3HI
10 June 2003
Miss C Brown
Manager
Tiny Tots Nursery
Riverside Walk
Ipswich
Suffolk
IP23 2LO
Dear Miss Brown
Nursery Nurse
I am writing with reference to the above post, which was
advertised in the ‘Stowmarket Post’ on 4 May 2001.
I should be grateful if you would send me further details and
an application form.
Yours sincerely
Remember:
Susan King
Susan King Dear Sir/Madam
Yours faithfully

Dear Miss/Mr/Ms Brown


Yours sincerely
Your signature and
name printed underneath

© Suffolk County Council 32


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Observations and Reflective Writing

An Observation

Question:
What does writing an observation involve?

Answer:
It involves describing accurately what you have seen with your own
eyes.

The details of what you write depend on the


purpose of your observation.

For example, two people may be observing the


same child, but for different purposes. One may
be observing social behaviour and the other motor
skills. Their observations will end up looking very
different.

It can be difficult to write things down quickly. Some abbreviations


may help:

+ and ↓ down
> greater than ← left
< less than → right
↑ up

You may have your own form of speedwriting – for example:

lks for looks


ptg for painting
bk for book.

Always use the child’s initials – even when writing up your


observation. This helps preserve confidentiality.

On the next page is an example of part of an observation.

© Suffolk County Council 33


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Example

2.30 NC goes to water tray, splashes with both hands. SF


comes over. Both play with water toys.
2.33 NC moves to painting easel. Using left hand paints
face with eyes and mouth onto paper, puts brushes
back in correct pots, moves to construction table.
2.38 NC looks round then moves to book corner.
2.40 NC looks through 2 books, puts them back in same
place. Chooses another book, sits down and reads.
SF comes over, sits with NC and they turn pages,
pointing at pictures and laughing.
2.45 NC and SF still reading.

Writing up your observation

If you write up your observation as a report, you will need some


headings. You may have headings provided for you:

Child observation
Name of child

Sex Age

Date

Time started Time finished

Setting
Situation

Write up your observation here.


• Change your notes into proper sentences.
• Use reported speech.
• Use the past tense.
• Write in logical order.
• Use paragraphs.
© Suffolk County Council 34
Study Skills for Childcare Students

Reporting speech

Direct speech is where you write down the exact words spoken in
speech marks (quotation marks):

Sharon said, “I want to make a plane.”

Reported speech is where you report the words spoken without


using speech marks:

Sharon said that she wanted to make a plane.

You also need to change the verbs from the present tense to the
past tense:
I say / I said

See if you can turn the rest of this exchange into reported speech:

I say, “I’ll show you how. Watch what I do carefully.”

Simon says, “She can’t do this because girls don’t do


woodwork.”

I say, “Anyone can do it – it doesn’t matter if you are a


girl or boy.”

I say, “Some women are carpenters or bricklayers.” I


make a mental note to find a book that shows this.

Here are some ways to start your sentences:

I said … Simon said … I explained … I told him …

© Suffolk County Council 35


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Event Sampling Sheet


You may be asked to put your observation into context - saying
what happened before and what happened after:
Antecedent what happens before
Behaviour what child does, how s/he acts, what s/he
says
Consequence what happens after
This enables you to analyse the cause of any unwanted
behaviour so that it can be discussed with staff and parents and
dealt with in the most effective way.
You can see how the child responds to a particular adult, or form of
discipline, and which method of behaviour management works.
Here is an example of an ABC observation. (You may be required
to add times and actual words spoken.)

ANTECEDENTS BEHAVIOUR CONSEQUENCES


NC playing at NC splashes other child. NC looks upset and
water tray with 2 A comforts other child and begins to cry.
other children. dries his face. Tells NC to NC moves to
be careful to keep the painting easel.
water away from other
children.

NC at painting and NC paints face onto NC looks pleased


easel – no other paper. Puts brushes back with himself and
children present. in correct pots. finishes tidying up.
A praises NC for being
helpful.

NC at book NC chooses a book, then NC lets go of other


corner with one tries to take one from child’s book, moves
other child. another child. away and starts
A explains that he can’t reading his own.
read both books together
and suggests he takes his
turn to read the other
book in a minute.

© Suffolk County Council 36


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Reflective Writing

Question:
How does reflective writing differ from an
observation?

Answer:

Reflective writing is not just a record of what has


happened. It also includes your thoughts about what has
happened and what you might have done differently.

This shows that you are learning through experience and that you
can use your knowledge and understanding to adapt your practice.

A Reflective Log is like a diary where you reflect on what has


happened during a day or week.

For a reflective log, you need to:


• explain what happened; say what the situation was
• reflect on why you acted in the way you did
• decide how you might do things differently next time
• write in paragraphs
• write in the past tense.

Here are some ways of starting sentences to reflect your thoughts.

Next time I think I might …


Perhaps it would be better to …
Next time I would let the children …
It would have worked better if I had …

Think about something that happened in your work setting recently.


Using the above starter phrases as a guide, say what you would
do differently next time.

© Suffolk County Council 37


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Writing a reflective account for an activity with children

As part of your course, you may be asked to reflect on an activity


with children.

To help you do this, ask yourself the following questions:

• What was the activity?

• Why did you choose to do it?

• How did you prepare for it?

• How many children were involved?

• How did you explain what you were going to do?

• Did they understand?

• Were they able to complete the activity easily?

• What did you talk to them about?

• What did they talk to you about?

• What did they learn?

• Did anything happen which you had not expected?

• Next time, would you make any changes?

• What did you learn?

Don’t forget to use reported speech and to write in the


past tense – see section on Observations.

© Suffolk County Council 38


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Essays

Your course may include an essay assignment.

A blank piece of paper and 2000 words to write can seem a


daunting task.

Perhaps you haven’t written an essay for some time - maybe since
school days - and are not sure where to start.

The trick is to approach the task in a methodical way.

There are 8 steps you need to take:

1. Analyse the title


2. Brainstorm your ideas
3. Organise your ideas
4. Make a plan
5. Write a draft
6. Edit your draft
7. Proofread
8. Present your work attractively

You will also need to write a Reference list and Bibliography.

We’ll look at each step in turn.

© Suffolk County Council 39


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Step 1 – Analyse the title

Some essay titles are quite straightforward -


but some can be difficult to understand.

You need to analyse the title to be sure you


understand exactly what it means.

Here is what you do:

• Read through the title and underline or highlight the


difficult words.

• Find a simpler meaning for each word and write it above.

• Write the title out again, using the simpler words to form
a title that you understand.

Here is an example of an essay title which is quite difficult to


understand on first reading:

‘Discuss how your provision enables children to


explore two basic concepts.’

Which words would you underline?

Try putting them into your own words. You may have to look them
up in a dictionary.

Now compare your version with ours on the next page.

© Suffolk County Council 40


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Discuss how your provision enables children to


explore two basic concepts

Here are some simpler meanings for these words:

Discuss explain, then give points for


and against

Provision what you supply: equipment,


toys, staff

Enables provides the opportunity

Explore examine or investigate

Concepts ideas

So the title, put in a simpler way, could read:

Explain, giving points for and against, how the


equipment/toys/staff you supply, provide/s the
opportunity for children to investigate two basic ideas.

On the next page you will find some ‘command words’ often used
in essay questions, with their meanings.

© Suffolk County Council 41


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Command Words

Analyse Break up into parts; investigate

Comment on Make remarks about; give a point of view

Compare Look at the similarities between

Contrast Bring out the differences between

Describe Give a detailed account of

Discuss Give the arguments for and against

Evaluate Give your opinion about the merit of actions,


theories or opinions. Back your judgement by
giving your reasons

Explain Make clear to the reader, give reasons for

Examine Look closely into; investigate

Justify Prove that your thoughts or actions, or those of


others are right

List Give an item-by-item record, with each item


written below the other

Summarise Bring together the main points

© Suffolk County Council 42


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Step 2 – Brainstorm your ideas

As you read through the question again, this time


in your own words, you will find that ideas will
start to flow into your mind.

Remember - you already have lots of knowledge


and experience which you can use.

Here is what you do:

• Jot down anything that comes into your mind that is relevant
to what you are being asked to do

• Let your mind wander freely

• Don’t organise your ideas yet

• Don’t spend too long on this – a few minutes will do.

Step 3 – Organise your ideas

You can now organise your ideas - you can also see what further
research you need to do.

1. Read through the list and link similar ideas or topics with the
same number. These will be your paragraphs.

2. A spider plan helps you to organise your ideas. See an


example on the next page.

© Suffolk County Council 43


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Spider Plan

lack of time handwriting


other commitments spelling
not good enough punctuation

FEARS ABOUT FEARS ABOUT


STUDYING PRESENTATION

QUALIFICATION

FEARS ABOUT FEARS ABOUT


HEALTH THE FUTURE

feeling nervous redundancy


no confidence promotion
tiredness moving

Step 4 – Make a plan

Make notes on how you will structure your answer into:

• an introduction – usually one or two paragraphs. Give


background information; say how you will answer the
question.

• the main body – several paragraphs. Make sure each


part of the question is covered. Use a fresh paragraph for
each topic or each point if you are ‘comparing’ or
‘discussing’.

• a conclusion – usually one or two paragraphs. Sum up;


make your own deductions. Relate back to the question.

© Suffolk County Council 44


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Step 5 – Write a draft

Now you’re ready to start writing.

While you’re writing, keep referring back to the


title to make sure you’re not straying from the
question.

Don’t worry about spellings,


grammar and punctuation at this
point. Just get all your knowledge and ideas
down.

Step 6 – Edit your draft

When you’ve written your first draft, you need to edit it.

Read through your work. Ask yourself these questions:


• Have I answered the question?
• Have I included everything?
• Have I repeated anything?
• Is everything in the right place?
• Do I need to change things around?
• Does my conclusion sum up the points I’ve made?
• Have I written the title at the top?
• Am I over/under the word limit?

Make your amendments. You may need to do this several times


before you’re satisfied with your essay.

Step 7 – Proof-read
Check your final draft carefully for spelling, punctuation and
grammatical errors. It’s a good idea to check each separately.
And finally …
Step 8 – Present your work attractively
Keep your finished assignment in a safe place, ready to hand in.

© Suffolk County Council 45


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Make sure it’s crisp and clean - free from coffee stains and
crossings out.

© Suffolk County Council 46


Study Skills for Childcare Students

References and Bibliography

A Bibliography is a list of the books and articles that you’ve used


for your essay. It appears at the end of your essay.

A bibliography provides evidence of your research.

Example of a book:

Fidge, L The Essential Guide to Speaking and Listening


1992

Example of an article from a journal:

Allen, J ‘Stages of Physical Development’ Playschool


Times June 2001

Remember:

• Underline book and journal titles


• Do not underline the title of the article
• Arrange alphabetically by author.

© Suffolk County Council 47


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Referencing

If you use:

• a quotation

• a specific idea or argument for a book or journal

you must say where it came from (the source).

The Harvard system

1. Put the source in brackets at the end of the sentence itself.

2. Give the author’s name and date of work.

3. If you are quoting, also give the page reference.

Example of referencing a theory:

Further research into the introduction of the Voucher System for


nursery children shows that it did not raise standards because no
money had been set aside for training (Hurst and Joseph, 1998).

Example of referencing a quotation:

The concept of the voucher system ‘ignored those at grassroots


level and forced vouchers onto an unwilling public’ (Hurst and
Joseph, 1998, pg 5).

Remember:

If you are referencing a source during your essay, you need to list
the book it comes from in your bibliography.

© Suffolk County Council 48


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Information Sheets

Question:
How does an information sheet differ from an Treetops I ndoor Play Club

essay?
Location: Treetops Tel: 03594 867222
Fir Lane www.treetopsplayclub.org
Oakswood

The Treetops Play Club aims to provide :


• a welcoming and happy environment
• positive activities for school age children
• opportunities to make friends
• a safe environment

Answer:
• a tuck shop stocking healthy snacks
• lockers for personal belongings
• ease of mind for working parents.

The Treetops Play Club believes that children will feel secure and be able to

In an information sheet the information needs to


make meaningful relationships in an environment that is safe and where there
are plenty of positive ways for them to occupy their time. We have well-trained
staff and work with a ratio of 1 staff member to every 5 children. We seek to
help children to overcome social barriers through discussion and understanding
of others’ needs and views. We encourage children to negotiate their own rules

be presented in a way which is easy for people,


for acceptable behaviour.

Health & Safety First:


All staff are trained in Emergency First Aid.
The premises comply with all Health & Safety regulations.

who don’t know much about the subject, to


There is always a qualified member of staff in the sports hall.

The Treetops Play Club is a well-equipped club and offers the following facilities:
• a quiet reading area with a good selection of books and magazines
• computer use including internet (suitable sites only)

access. In an essay you are writing for people


• a study area for home-work and help with school-work
• board games and jig-saws
• an indoor adventure play-ground
• a hall for sports (badminton, netball, volley-ball)

who have an academic interest in the subject.


The Treetops Club is open on Monday to Friday all year round from 8 am until 7
pm.

It may include discussion and/or reflection.

Here is what you do:

1. Plan:

• Decide who the information is for.

• Write a list of the information you need to include.

• Decide on a sensible order.

• Decide how you are going to present the information.

2. Write a draft

• Write your information using language that is suitable


for the people who are going to read it.

3. Edit your draft

• Read through what you have written and alter it as


much as you need so that it sounds right.

© Suffolk County Council 49


Study Skills for Childcare Students

4. Proof-read

• Check what you have written for spelling, punctuation


and grammar.

5. Work on the presentation

• Bullet points

• Numbered lists

• Headings

• Diagrams

• Pictures

Example:

You have been employed by a new indoor play centre.You are


asked to produce an information sheet for prospective parents of
children who will be using. Your brief is to give information on:

• the provision of the centre

• its aims

• health & safety issues.

Follow the steps above:

Who is it for? ........................................................................... ........

How will this affect the way you write? ...........................................

.................................................................................................... ......

© Suffolk County Council 50


Study Skills for Childcare Students

On a separate piece of paper write a list of all the information you


might put on the sheet. (Think of a centre you know, to give you
some ideas.)

Put the list in order. It may help to put it under headings.

Think about what information you could bullet point.

Would any of it suit a numbered list?

Are there any pictures or diagrams that you could include?

Now, write a draft of your information sheet.

Read through what you have written. Is there anything you want to
change or leave out? Is there anything you’ve missed?

You can cross things out and rearrange as much as you like.

When you are satisfied with your work, check it for spelling,
punctuation and grammar.

Next – what does it look like?

How can you make it look readable? Most of us don’t like to be


presented with a lot of small writing on a small piece of paper. It
takes a lot of effort to read it!

Think – how could you present it so that if it was given to you, you
would want to read it?

The next page shows an example of how the information sheet


could be done.

© Suffolk County Council 51


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Treetops Indoor Play Club

Location: Treetops Tel: 03594 867222


Fir Lane www.treetopsplayclub.org
Oakswood

The Treetops Play Club aims to provide :


• a welcoming and happy environment
• positive activities for school age children
• opportunities to make friends
• a safe environment
• a tuck shop stocking healthy snacks
• lockers for personal belongings
• ease of mind for working parents.

The Treetops Play Club believes that children will feel secure and be able to
make meaningful relationships in an environment that is safe and where there
are plenty of positive ways for them to occupy their time. We have well-trained
staff and work with a ratio of 1 staff member to every 5 children. We seek to
help children to overcome social barriers through discussion and understanding
of others’ needs and views. We encourage children to negotiate their own rules
for acceptable behaviour.

Health & Safety First:


All staff are trained in Emergency First Aid.
The premises comply with all Health & Safety regulations.
There is always a qualified member of staff in the sports hall.

The Treetops Play Club is a well-equipped club and offers the following facilities:
• a quiet reading area with a good selection of books and magazines
• computer use including internet (suitable sites only)
• a study area for home-work and help with school-work
• board games and jig-saws
• an indoor adventure play-ground
• a hall for sports (badminton, netball, volley-ball)

The Treetops Club is open on Monday to Friday all year round from 8 am until 7
pm.

© Suffolk County Council 52


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Answers
Page 9
There are 26 holiday club places.
Page 11
You may have something like:
‘I would encourage self-esteem in children by valuing them for what they are,
praising them by effort rather than result and by giving them encouragement.’
Page 13
Nos. 1 and 3.

I use a Jack-in-the-box toy and a drum. I watch the toy working with the
children. Then I ask the children to crouch down on the floor, ready to spring
as they pretend to be the Jack-in-the-box, curled up tightly in his box with the
lid shut. When I bang on the drum, suddenly the lid is open and Jack leaps up
stretching high into the air. Slowly he is pushed back down and the lid is
closed again. (You may have something similar.)
Page 14
Each paragraph should start:

All drinks …
Water …
Milk …
Drinks which contain sugar …
Page 17
Don’t, aren’t, it’s, parents’, audience’s, room’s, People’s
Page 18
My, Alison Cooper, I, Funtime Playgroup, Cambridge, I, CACHE Diploma
Nursery Nursing, September, I, Montessori, This
Page 19
It is illegal to punish children physically. Although the child may be about to
harm another, you must never pull the child’s arm, elbow or wrist. If you have
to intervene to protect the child, others or property, you should use minimum
restraint. (43 words) (You may have something similar.)
Page 31
I said that I would show them how and they should watch what I did carefully.

Simon said that Sharon couldn’t do it as girls didn’t do woodwork.

I explained that anyone could do it – it didn’t matter if you were a girl or boy.

I told him that some women were carpenters or bricklayers. I made a mental
note to find a book that shows this.

© Suffolk County Council 53


Study Skills for Childcare Students

Booklist

You may find the following publications and internet sites useful.

abc Production Proof Reading

abc Production Punctuation

abc Production Spelling

MCH Publications Sentence Sense


Helps the learner to understand how sentences
are structured and how to punctuate them.

Training Matters Report Writing at Work


Helps the learner to produce well-organised and
clearly presented reports.

Longman Dictionary of Common Errors


A Workbook

Shiach, D. Basic Punctuation (John Murray)


Covers the basic rules of punctuation.

Shiach, D. Basic Grammar (John Murray)


Covers the basic rules of grammar.

www.dictionary.com

Builds up knowledge of words and language. Crosswords and puzzles offer


practice with vocabulary, grammar and spelling, or you can browse through:
Frequently Asked Questions

www.quia.com/dir/eng/

Games and puzzles offer self-check practice in the use of vocabulary,


grammar, spelling and punctuation.

© Suffolk County Council 54