Friday, 12 December 2014

KS2 - Writing our own storyboards.

KS2 ( 7- 8 yr olds)

As part of their 'Fairytales' unit, our students look at how to write a storyboard. They learn how to use a storyboard to plan a story; using 'a start', 'a middle', and 'an end'.

 Not only are they writing about fairytales, but they are writing in English. Although English is their mother tongue, all of our students are at school in France, Holland, or further a field.

Below is some of the lovely work we have had back for this unit:

                    Adnan's storyboard for 'The Snowman'.

                             Iman's storyboard for 'The Little Match Girl'.

Lynden's storyboard for 'The Little Match Girl'.

                                      Christy's storyboard for 'Room on the Broom'.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Blackhen's Top Ten Books for Christmas

Christmas is a lovely time to give books and receive them. It is a great way of encouraging children to read and to feed their imagination. This year there are dozens to choose from, whether you buy them online or from a bookshop. Whether you want a pop-up book, noisy book, book without pictures or sticker book.

I still think some of the best are those I loved as a child or as a mother, reading to my two children. They are imprinted on my mind and still hold a special place for me.
We have had a good perusal of books on offer for children this Christmas and have come up with our list of ten books. Some of them are classics and a few are not so well known.


The First Christmas’ – Jan Pienkowski
I love this very traditional book about the Nativity story, because of the wonderful silhouette illustrations.

‘Father Christmas’ – Raymond Biggs
This book still makes me smile and we use the film version of the story in our English course for 6-7 year olds. The book tells the story of a grumpy, miserable Father Xmas, who is fed up with his job.

The Jolly Christmas Postman’ – Allan and Janet Ahlberg
This is a wonderful book for young readers. The book includes real letters that children can take out of the envelopes to read. A delightful book for Christmas.

'Jacqueline Wilson Christmas Cracker' - Jacqueline Wilson
Jam - packed with Jacqueline Wilson goodies! There are festive puzzles, tasty Christmas recipes, perfect present tips and fun Christmas facts. 
'The Best Christmas Present in the World' - Michael Morpurgo
A haunting story from one of our best loved children's writers. A very appropriate story for 2014, the year of the Centenary of WW1.

'Odd Socks Learns All About Christmas' - Melinda
Odd is hoping for a present from Santa. But does Santa ever give presents to cuddly toys?

The Most Beautiful Christmas Story Ever ' - Adina Pasa
Adina is not having good Christmas. A boy at school keeps telling her that Santa doesn't exist.



'Dear Santa' - Rod Campbell
A wonderful book for very young children. Lift the flap on every page and find the present!

‘The Night Before Christmas’ – Clement C. Moore     
The much loved classic Christmas poem is brought to life in this gorgeous picture book. A beautiful present for any child.

'Father Christmas Needs a Wee' - Nicholas Allan
Father Christmas has been drinking drinks since half past three.... Find out what happens in this brilliant and funny counting book.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Key Stage 3 - Gothic Literature


One of the units for our 12-13 year old students is 'Gothic'.

Most of our older students have heard of 'Dracula' and 'Frankenstein, but have not studied the texts or genre of Gothic literature in their French schools. They only know of the characters from films and comics.

In the unit of four lessons, they look at:

1) The Gothic genre
2) Research Dracula or Frankenstein
3) Design a book cover for a Gothic novel
4) Write an interview with a character from a Gothic novel

We believe it is important to have a mixture of written and creative tasks in the units for all of our students. Here are some of the wonderful book cover designs we received this year.

I am always impressed with the imaginative and creative designs they come up with!

 I love the 'foggy' atmosphere that this student has been able to achieve with her front cover for Dracula. I also like the choice of font for the description for the book.

This poster is brilliant! It was all hand drawn by Dan and is really quite creepy when you see it in the flesh!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Christmas Cards for India

Our students have been very busy making home made Christmas cards for our sponsor children at:

We asked all of our students and their families if they would like to design and make their own card, that could then be sent to Annapoona and Durugesh in Manvi, India.

The response has been wonderful! Lots of beautiful cards have been sent to us at Blackhen Education, from our youngest student to the oldest and from students who live all over France. We even received one from a student who lives in Mauritius.

They have all now been posted an are on their way to India!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Harry Potter

KS2 ( 9-10yr olds) Harry Potter

This month we have been working on a 'Harry Potter' unit. First of all, we looked at describing words or 'adjectives' to describe Hagrid, Hermione and Ron.

For part of the lesson, we had to produce a factfile about our favourite character.

 by Lucie Sims

 by Alex Okula

by Nell Bienvegnu

Then we wrote some descriptions of one of the shops in Diagon Alley. We had to think about the senses 'sight,sound,touch,smell and taste' and how we could use these in our writing.

We also wrote some 'Magic Potions' of our own.

by Alex Okula

Details of all our courses can be found on our website:

Christmas Bags for charity

Bags for India

Each year we choose a charity to support. Our parents and students are asked to select one form a list of 5. They are usually all connected by the theme of education in some way.

This year our chosen charity is . Each month we donate a certain amount to the charity and this goes towards sponsoring two children:

Annapoorna and Durugesh:

It is nearly Christmas and the charity has asked us if we can make some cotton bags to send out to India. These will then be used to put Christmas presents in for the Dalit children..

Here are some photographs of the bags that our parents & students made.


You can learn more about the charity and the children we sponsor on our website:
Welcome to our blog!

We are aged between 6 and 16 years. Most of us live in France, but some of us live in Holland, Mauritius and Morocco. We are all English - speakers and want to maintain our English skills whilst living abroad.

We like to study lessons similar to those in the UK and some of us are studying for our IGCSE English Language and English Literature qualifications.

We would love to hear what you think of our work and we hope that you will enjoy our posts on the blog.


These are just some examples of what we do.

You can find our website at:
And we have a facebook page:

Friday, 14 November 2014

World War One Poetry

My Favourite WW1 Poem

Most people will have studied some poetry from the First World War during their time at school. Many of these poems are read or printed each year in the run up to November 11th. Amongst the most ‘popular’ are the haunting and bitter ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’, the poignant ‘In Flanders Fields’ and the idealistic but tragic ‘The Soldier’. All poems from this genre reveal some aspect of the horror from the trenches of France and Belgium.

My favourite poem from this period is one that doesn’t crop up too often. I learnt this whilst at school and it conveyed to me everything that I needed to know about the war. ‘The General’ by Siegfried Sassoon is one of the shortest poems about World War One. At 7 lines it is remarkably short to communicate the futility of the war. But it does just that.

It starts off in a terribly breezy, very British way with an old General wishing the passing troops ‘good morning’. Initially he comes across as a friendly guy, just one of the men. However, the darker side of the poem comes in when we learn that most of the troops he says hello to are dead. The poem then goes on to comment about the inadequacy of the army leadership. We then get to meet (briefly) two British Tommies, Harry and Jack; we have a personal insight of this meeting. They seem to epitomize the decency of the ordinary British soldier and his unquestioning nature. Harry’s response is simply that the old major is a happy soul. The poem then ends with the abrupt news that both of the soldiers have died due to the detached and ultimately useless general. 

Unlike the graphic nature of Owen’s ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ with a detailed account of watching a soldier die from a gas attack or the almost dreamy nature of Brooke’s ‘The Soldier’ mulling over how his death will some how be glorious in turning foreign soil English, ‘The General’ shows in a short regimented way the poorly thought out tactics of many commanders in the First World War and their terrible consequences. The contrast between the General’s pleasant demeanour and the outcome of the Battle of Arras, which resulted in the deaths of thousands pinpointed for me the gaping chasm in those that did the fighting and those that didn’t. Whilst the General comes across as a nice old buffer, his apparent detachment or complete incompetence with military tactics and what is actually happening at the front, is clearly conveyed. In 7 lines the reader can really believe the  rumours of Commanders sitting in grand country houses miles behind the front line sipping claret, whilst ordinary soldiers were perishing in the mud and bullets of the Western Front. All in all it is a deceptively simple yet terribly powerful poem.

The reason why I like this poem is exactly because it’s simple. The length makes it very accessible and as a child I actually memorised it. I like the image of the apparently good natured old General cheering his weary troops up with a sprightly ‘hello’. It makes us feel that all of the top brass aren’t so bad. I also liked the two Tommies, Harry and Jack. One could almost see them marching along through the French countryside to be met by this old military man. The way Harry ‘grunts’ to his mate that ‘E’s a cheery old card’ made me like the seemingly good natured soldiers. And then we learn in the last line that both of these men are to become victims of this General’s ‘plan of attack’. So the seemingly benign old boy has actually got them killed. A clear, simple snapshot of the brutal and often short life for a front-line soldier on the Western Front.

The General

“Good-morning, good-morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
“He's a cheery old card,” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

But he did them both by his plan of attack.

This post was written by Andy Mackay, KS3 & IGCSE Co-Ordinator at Blackhen Education.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Applying to University

Applying to University in the UK

The prospect of going to open days and picking courses for your higher education is exciting and fun. However, the prospect of having to write your personal statement and fill out the rest of your UCAS application can be very daunting. Having been through the process myself whilst completing my Economics and Sociology Baccalaureate via CNED homeschooling, I am now studying American Studies at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

Here are some of my top tips to help you out:

1) Firstly, start thinking about it early, choosing a university and course which suits you can take some time - as can the application process. Avoid unnecessary stress and start planning ahead. Universities host open days throughout the year, but you can tie in visits with your usual trips to the UK by contacting the university's admissions office to arrange a tour on another day. UCAS applications open mid-September in the year before you want to start your course.

2) If the university you are interested in doesn't list the qualification your are studying towards on their grade requirement list, contact them! They're always happy to help and will also be able to explain language requirements for the course: some universities require all non-UK educated applicants to sit an English language proficiency test*, whilst others will simply specify a minimum grade for the English exam you sit as part of your baccalaureate for example.

3) Follow UCAS on social media, they're on Facebook and Twitter. They have a great social media team who will reply to you using those platforms, which can help avoid an expensive international phone call! They also remind you of important deadlines which is really useful. The same applies for following universities on social media, it's a great way to get a feel for the lifestyle the university offers.

4) Prepare a strong personal statement. It's harder for applicants who aren't going to a traditional college because we don't get the same kind of help from careers advisers, etc. Make sure you mention language skills and how great you are at working independently having acquired qualifications via distance learning - it's a great asset that admission tutors love!

5) And just keep in mind when filling out your application that it'll be worth it and Uni life is just around the corner!

This post was written by our guest blogger, India Bottomley, who has lived in France and is now in her 2nd year at the University of Kent.

* UCAS state that students will require one of the following as proof of English proficiency:

1) Edexcel IGCSE English Language

2) Cambridge IGCSE English Language

3) International Baccalaureate

Details of our online Edexcel IGCSE English Language & English Literature courses can be found on our website:

Monday, 18 August 2014

Back to School / La Rentree

'La Rentree' - One parent's experience.

As we move towards the second half of August the return to school known in France as La Rentrée draws ever closer.  And with La Rentréecomes preparations for school.  In France pupils have to supply their own exercise books and many other things including art materials, pens etc, file paper, folders, plastic pockets ... and so the list goes on.  At the end of the summer term a list is sent home and parents are giving the onerous task of gathering together all the supplies.  Yes, I can see anyone with school-age children in France quivering slightly at this point and fully understanding what this involves!

It is something I absolutely dread because there are so many variations on each item yet each teacher seems to ask for a specific thing, slightly different from the next.  Take A4 exercise books.  The lists that Ben and Tom have asks for 4 different types:

  • A4, 96 pages, small squares, not spiral bound
  • A4, 96 pages, large squares, not spiral bound
  • 24/32, 96 pages, small squares, not spiral bound*
  • 24/32, 96 pages, large squares, not spiral bound*

* These are slightly larger than standard A4 and are apparently preferred by teachers who get their pupils to stick lots of A4 sheets into their books. 

The shops however also supply exercise books with different numbers of pages and spiral bound and A5 and  plain .... and we poor parents have to trawl through them all to find the right ones.  Oh and then you have to try and work out if it is cheaper to buy multipacks or a different make and not forget that you need to buy the right number of protective covers to fit the number of different sized books you are asked to buy!!!

Oh and don't get me going on file paper (Feuilles).  The boys have been asked to get:

  • Feuilles simples A4 large squares
  • Feuilles simples A4 small squares
  • Feuilles doubles A4 large squares
  • Feuilles doubles A4 small squares
  • Feuilles simples A5 large squares


So this week I have been trying to pin down the boys to go through what they have left over from last year before bravely heading to the shops to stock up on everything new they need.  I may have been making preparations for La Rentrée but I reckon my word of the week could just have easily have been stressed or exasperated orconfused or broke!


Mum - "There we go!  I don't think we've forgotten anything!"
Boy  - "Yes! A giant school bag to store this lot in!"

If you are you in the midst of preparations for the return to the school, how's it going?

THe Mad House

We would love to read your comments on 'La Rentree'. Feel free to post a comment below.

This post was written by our guest blogger. Check out their great website: 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Top Ten Tips to Encourage Reading

How to help the Reluctant Reader

Many parents worry about their children being reluctant readers. However, there are a number of ways to tackle this issue and instill a love of books and reading in general. 

Here are our Top Ten Tips to encourage your child to start reading:

1. Let them pick their own book! Nothing is worse than being made to read what mum or dad think is a great book. Guide them, but ultimately let them make their own decision.

2If books aren’t already a part of your home, make them. If children see books around the house it sends out an important message.

3.Talk about books. Chat about a book you’re reading. Ask them what they are reading at school? Ask them what their friends are reading?

4. Make time to read with your kids. This might be before bed-time or at the weekend. This is one of the most effective ways to instill a love of reading into your children.

 5Comics and graphic novels. These are particularly good for less able readers. A mix of pictures and text ensure that they can access a story and become immersed in it.

 6Go with the latest trend. If your son or daughter is drawn to a current trend eg: Twilight or The Hunger Games, go with it!

 7Play word games. Be it a game of good old ‘eye-spy’ in the car or fridge magnet words,this all helps them take an interest in words

 8. If your child would rather pick up a magazine or newspaper then that’s fine. Several  surveys ( eg Clark & Foster 2005) identified that children will read lighter, non-fiction texts  generally progressed beyond this to works of fiction.

 9. Embrace technology. Children love gadgets and for many reading on a kindle or a laptop    is more preferable than from a paperback. At the end of the day, they are still reading  and  this should be applauded.


 And  finally...

10. Forcing someone to do anything to show them how good it is, very often backfires. Far better to show them how reading can bring great rewards.  Show them, don’t tell!

Contact us for Blackhen Education recommended reading lists.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Laurie Lee remembered.



This month marks the centenary of the birth of the author and poet Laurie Lee.  He is best known for his book ‘Cider with Rosie’ which made famous his rural childhood growing up in Gloucestershire in the years after the First World War. He was for many years a fixture on schools’ reading lists, in both the UK and further a field. However, although firmly rooted in the English countryside, he is also inextricably linked to Spain.

I first read ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’ in my mid 20s. It is the sequel to ‘Cider with Rosie’ and continues the story of Laurie Lee as he leaves home at 19 to walk to London, and then to travel to Spain. It is one of my favourite books and one that I have read many times over the years since first discovering it.


Lee writes in a flowing hand that richly describes the varied landscapes he travels through on foot, as he wanders around a Spain rapidly descending into civil war. He records his journey across an increasingly fragmented nation, from the scorched plains of Castilla and Leon to the pre-package holiday, fishing villages of Andalucia. His prose sparkles with rich images, recording the austere and at times brutal lives of many Spaniards in the 1930s. Whether they are farmers attempting to coax a harvest from the barren soil to inhabitants of crumbling medieval cities struggling to earn a living, all are observed by the young writer and at that time, musician. With just his battered violin he busks his way round a country almost unrecognisable to the modern traveller.

Along the way he meets a cast of characters that includes: beggars, smugglers, eccentrics and even exiled poets. All of these come alive on the page through Lee’s vivid descriptions. Critics have over the years have accused him of embellishing or even fabricating some events. Yes it is romantic and at times the soft focus filter is definitely on, but the grinding poverty and violence of this era are never glossed over. With a 30 year gap between his journey and putting pen to paper, surely memory can only go so far.

For me the second installment of his life was more compelling than his more famous work. It’s a book I know that I will return to again in the future. So for all travellers, actual or armchair, grab a copy of this book and raise a glass of rioja to Laurie on the 26th June.

This blog post was written by Andy Mackay (IGCSE English Language & Literature tutor at Blackhen Education).

Details of all our courses can be found on our website:

Monday, 23 June 2014

Learning phonics

How to help your child learn phonics.

Why do we use phonics?
Phonics is one way of teaching young children to read. It is a very important step in the process of learning to read, particularly for children aged 5-7 yrs.


What are phonics?
Phonics are the different sounds that each individual letter makes. In school children are taught to recognise:

i) The sounds that each letter makes.

ii) The sounds that different combinations of letters make; such as 'ch' and 'sh'.

iii) How to blend these sounds together to make a word.

There are 44 phonic sounds.

How can you as a parent help?
  • Use phonic cards with your child to identify the different sounds. You can make these yourself or buy a set of cards.(see link below).
  • When you read with your child, highlight the different sounds.
  • Encourage your child to 'sound out' words they are not sure of, blending the sounds together.
  • Aim to read with your child everyday.

There are lots of lovely resources available to help parents teach their child phonics. Here are a few that we at Blackhen Education recommend:





Details of all our online English courses for children aged 6-14yrs, & IGCSE English Language and English Literature can be found on our website: