Brilliant Brownies

This week at The Pod’s Cookery Club we’ll be baking Jamie Oliver’s delicious ‘Brilliant Brownies’. If you’d like to try these delicious teatime treats and cook along at home with an adult you can follow the recipe below. 

Brownies

Ingredients

  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 200 g good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken up
  • 75 g dried sour cherries, optional
  • 50 g chopped nuts, optional
  • 80 g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 65 g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 360 g caster sugar
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • zest of 1 orange, optional
  • 250 ml crème fraîche, optional

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Line a 24cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the cherries and nuts, if you’re using them, and stir together.
  1. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar, then add this to the chocolate, cherry and nut mixture. Stir together well. Beat the eggs and mix in until you have a silky consistency.
  1. Pour your brownie mix into the baking tray, and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. You don’t want to overcook them so, unlike cakes; you don’t want a skewer to come out all clean. The brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle.
  1. Allow to cool in the tray, then carefully transfer to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares. These make a fantastic dessert served with a dollop of crème fraîche mixed with some orange zest. Enjoy!

 

Learning Through Play – Numbers

Edited from text for TES.

Introduction

Numbers can provide a lot of entertainment for small children. They first become aware of the sounds of numbers, then they begin to understand what they mean. Finally they need to recognise them when they are written down.
There are four main skills that children need to develop before they can count. Follow the links to see these explained and how you can help.

1. Recognition of the sounds of the numbers.
2. The understanding of one-to-one correspondence.
3. The understanding of “How many are there?”
4. The number of objects is the same however they are arranged.

The next stage is for your child to recognise numbers as symbols which can taught by playing number recognition games.

Once children recognise numbers they will want to start writing them themselves. To help encourage them to form their numbers correctly, use our number formation guide. (found at the back of this leaflet)

Skill 1

Children need to learn the sounds of the numbers ‘one, two, three…’.

Children can start to recognise the sound of numbers from an early age if they hear number songs and rhymes and hear people counting. Some examples of rhymes are:

Five currant buns in the baker’s shop
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I caught a fish alive
Five fat sausages frying in a pan
1 potato, 2 potato, 3 potato, 4

Books and stories that include numbers can help too. At story time make a point of counting the characters and the key items in the pictures. Some examples of books are:

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Three Little Pigs

These will give reinforcement to the sound of counting and with it the fact that numbers relate to different amounts. Children will then start to notice numbers in speech and begin to develop an understanding of how they are used.

The children may even be able to count by reciting the numbers from 1 – 10, but this has little meaning at this stage. It is a good idea to point out numbers that appear in everyday contexts such as on a clock, a telephone, on doors and money. This will help children to understand that numbers have a practical use, as well helping them to recognise written numbers.

Skill 2
Before learning to count a child needs to understand ‘one to one correspondence’. This means being able to match one object to one other object or person.

You can practise ‘one to one correspondence’ in all sorts of different contexts. Laying the table is a good idea. Alternatively you can do this in a play situation as indicated below.

Dough Cakes
Make some dough cakes and ask your child to give one to each of their soft toys. Use very small numbers at first.

Skill 3

Children need to understand what is meant by ‘How many are there?’.

Counting
As you count objects together touch each one. This helps children to understand they are counting one thing at a time. Also, only count up to three at first and do not progress until your child can do this successfully. Gradually add one more number at a time. Counting opportunities arise with everyday objects such as cutlery or biscuits. Ask your child to guess how many objects there are before counting them together. It is important to build confidence through positive comments.

Counting Game/Throwing Games
Games which involve throwing a number of objects, such as rolled up socks, in a waste paper bin or cardboard box can give good counting practice.

Counting trays
Use paper plates for this activity. Write a number on the plate. Provide a pile of dried pasta or bricks and show your child how to count the appropriate number onto each plate before he or she has a try. Underline 6 and 9 to avoid confusion.

Counting everyday objects
You will find many daily opportunities to count aloud together. Cooking is a wonderful way to introduce a child to practical maths and extend vocabulary. You can count baking cases, spoons of sugar or chocolate button decorations. Later you can use buns for simple addition and subtraction sums.

Skill 4
The number of objects is the same however they are arranged.

Ordering Numbers
Make some cards with numbers on one side and the corresponding number of spots on the reverse.

Lay the cards out with the spotted sides upwards and ask your child to put them in order.

DICE

It is important that he or she can recognise the number of objects however they are arranged. Using the cards theme, you can represent some numbers with different patterns of spots. Ask your child to match the cards with the same number of spots. Take the opportunity also, to arrange everyday items in different formations, for your child to count.

Estimating
Developing the ability to estimate is also a useful skill. Asking a child to guess how many items are on a tray will help to develop this. Always count them out together afterwards, so that the child can see how close he or she was.

Recognising the Symbols
A fun way to help recognition of numbers is to select a few number cards. Take one from the pile without letting your child see it. Ask him or her to guess which one you have as you gradually expose the number from behind a screen (eg. a book) If your child guesses wrongly explain what the number is. Introduce a few numbers at first and build up slowly.

Number Formation Guide

Encourage your child to form numbers in the standard way. Bad habits are difficult to break, so following our simple guide can help to prevent problems at a later stage

Spots indicate the starting position of the pencil. The pencil should remain on the paper, following the arrows. For the numbers four and five, the pencil must be raised before completing the second part of each number. Crosses indicate the second starting positions.

Number Formulation

 

Learning Through Play – Letters and Sounds

Edited from text for TES.

Why begin Teaching Reading through Games?

It is vital that early reading experiences are happy and positive. The aim should be not just for children to learn to read, but to enjoy reading. Whilst games may appear to be an indirect approach, they do protect a child from a feeling of failure. By ‘playing together’ both parent and child are relaxed. Where a child could feel pressured in a formal teaching situation he/she will usually enjoy reading activities in a ‘play’ situation. This leaflet aims to give you simple ideas to try.

The Sounds of Letters

Tips for teaching your child the sounds:

• It is important for a child to learn lower case or small letters rather than capital letters at first. Most early books and games use lower case letters and your child will learn these first at school. Obviously you should use a capital letter when required, such as at the beginning of the child’s name, eg. Paul.

• When you talk about letters to your child, remember to use the letter sounds: a buh cuh duh e … rather than the alphabet names of the letters: ay bee see dee ee . The reason for this is that sounding out words is practically impossible if you use the alphabet names. eg. cat, would sound like: see ay tee

• When saying the sounds of b, d, g, j and w you will notice the ‘uh’ sound which follows each, for example buh, duh… You cannot say the sound without it, however, try to emphasise the main letter sound.

Sound Games to Play at Home

Common Objects
Collect several objects that begin with the same sound and make a card with this letter sound on it. Make a second group of objects beginning with a different sound and a card to go with those.

Discuss the sounds of the letters on the two cards with your child and shuffle the objects. Separate the cards on the floor and ask your child to put each object near the sound that it starts with. This activity can help your child to “hear” the first sound of a word.

Odd-one Out
Say a number of words, all but one of which begin with the same sound. See if your child can pick out the odd one. It can be helpful to have the corresponding objects there for the child to look at.

I-Spy
For small children the usual way of playing that starts ‘I spy with my little eye something that begins with ….’ can be too difficult. You can make this easier by providing a clue. ‘I spy with my little eye something that barks and begins with.

Sounds Scrapbook
Write a letter at the top of each page of a scrapbook. Concentrating on a few letters at a time collect pictures of objects that begin with those letters. Do not use as examples words where the first sound does not make its normal sound such as in giraffe, ship, cheese, thumb. Stick the pictures on the appropriate pages.

Games For Recognising Letter Shapes

Fishing for Sounds
You will need a few cards with individual letters. Attach a paper clip to each card. Using a small stick with a string and magnet, your child fishes for letter sounds. If your child can say the sound of the letter he/she wins the card, otherwise you win it.

Sequencing the Letters in your Child’s Name
Providing the individual letter cards for each letter of your child’s first name can be a useful way to teach the sequence of letters. Remember you will need to write a capital for the first letter and lower case for the rest.

If you want to print out the cards using a word processor use a font such as Century Gothic on PC which has not a. Show your child how to make the name first, before shuffling the cards for him/her to have a try. For a very long name work with the first few and build up a letter at a time.

What does it start with?’ Box
You will need:
• A box
• Several items each beginning with a different sound
• Corresponding letter cards

This game is similar to the common objects game on the previous page, but the emphasis now is on recognising the sounds the letters make. Ask your child to choose an object from the box, to think what its first sound is (remember it is the sound you are looking for rather than the alphabet name) and then to match the object with the relevant card.

Box

Sand Tray or Finger Paints
Children enjoy writing letters with their fingers in a tray of sand or with finger paints. These ways provide good opportunities to teach correct letter formation.

sand tray

Sentence Games

This activity is quite useful when your child has been given an early reading book. Quite often parents say “He’s not reading the book. He’s remembering the story off by heart”. This can happen. Some children become over-dependent on the picture clues and do not look for clues from the words.

Making Sentences
Read the book with your child so he/she is familiar with the story. Then simply use the first sentence from the reading book and copy it out on a strip of paper. Either write it out or if you use a word processor use a font such as Century Gothic (font size 36 at least). Leave a double space in between each word. Now cut up the sentence into the individual words. For example:

sentence

Ask your child to make the sentence, “This is a dog.”, using the individual words. At first you will probably need to help. When he/she has made the sentence ask your child to read it to you and encourage him/her to point to each word with a finger.

Retain interest by only spending a few minutes a day on the activity. If your child makes a mistake do not say “That’s wrong” immediately, because negative comments discourage. Ask your child to read the sentence and mistakes will often be self-corrected. If not, you can give clues such as, “What sound does dog start with?” If your child is still unable to read it, say positive comments such as “What a good try. You got all these right and only this part wrong. Well done.” Then show your child the correct order.

We recommend working on a maximum of five sentences on each reading book.

 

Phonics– learning to read and write using the sounds letters make when you speak a word

Edited from the original leaflet by Hannah Widdison for TES.

Letters and Sounds is a fun and interactive teaching system endorsed by the UK education system to support children in learning how to read and write.

The children are taught the sounds they will come across in English words systematically. There are several programmes around and the schools in Iver use Jolly Phonics. Jolly Phonics represents each sound with an action helping children to remember both more easily.

The alphabet contains only 26 letters. Spoken English uses about 42 sounds (phonemes). These phonemes are represented by letters (graphemes). In other words, a sound can be represented by a letter (e.g. ‘s’ or ‘h’) or a group of letters (e.g. ‘th’ or ‘ear’).

Hear

Once children begin learning sounds, they are used quickly to read and spell words. The first six letters that are taught are ‘s’, ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘p’, ‘i’, ‘n’. These can immediately be used to make a number of words such as ‘sat’, ‘pin’, ‘pat’, ‘tap’, ‘nap’ and this helps children understand the meaning behind the phonics.

Blending—for reading

To learn to read well children must be able to smoothly blend sounds together. Blending sounds fluidly helps to improve fluency when reading. Blending is more difficult to do with longer words so learning how to blend accurately from an early age is imperative.

Showing your child how to blend is important. Model how to ‘push’ sounds smoothly together without stopping at each individual sound.

It is also recommended to talk to your child about what blending is so they understand what they are trying to achieve.

Segmenting—for spelling

Segmenting is a skill used in spelling. In order to spell the word cat, it is necessary to segment the word into its constituent sounds; c-a-t.

Children often understand segmenting as ‘chopping’ a word. Before writing a word young children need time to think about it, say the word several times, ‘chop’ the word and then write it. Once children have written the same word several times they won’t need to use these four steps as frequently.

Children will enjoy spelling if it feels like fun and if they feel good about themselves as spellers. We need, therefore, to be playful and positive in our approach – noticing and praising what children can do as well as helping them to correct their mistakes.

The Phases

Letters and Sounds is split into six phases. Below is an overview what is included in each phase.

Phase One (Nursery / Pre-school)

The aim of this phase is to foster children’s speaking and listening skills as preparation for learning to read with phonics. Parents can play a vital role in helping their children develop these skills, by encouraging their children to listen carefully and talk extensively about what they hear, see and do.

Phase Two – Four (Reception)

Phase Two is when systematic, high quality phonic work begins. During Phase Two to Four, children learn:

* How to represent each of the 42 sounds by a letter or sequence of letters.
*How to blend sounds together for reading and how to segment (split) words for spelling.
*Letter names
*How to read and spell some high frequency ‘tricky’ words containing sounds not yet learnt (e.g. they, my, her, you).

The Letters and Sounds Programme progresses from the simple to the more complex aspects of phonics at a pace that is suitable for the children who are learning.

Phase Five (Year 1)

Children learn new ways of representing the sounds and practise blending for reading and segmenting for spelling.

Phase Six (Year 2)

During this phase, children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers.

Tips and Definitions

Talk to children about Letters and Sounds – “These are letters. A letter can make a sound. Sometimes letters are stuck together and they make a new sound. Letters together can make words. If we can read those words we can read; labels, signs, notes, comics, books and lots of other things all around us.”

Tricky Words

Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded-out’ but need to be learned by heart. They don’t fit into the usual spelling patterns. Examples of these words are attached. In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual or untaught spellings. It should be noted that, when teaching these words, it is important to always start with sounds already known in the word, then focus on the ‘tricky’ part.

High Frequency Words

High frequency (common) are words that recur frequently in much of the written material young children read. They need to learnt by sight as they often occur in written material and some are tricky words that can’t be sounded out using phonics.

But beware…
Not all words can be read using phonics and some children may not respond well to phonics teaching. Children with speech or hearing problems might find it especially hard as may children who are dyslexic. Extra rules like the magic e rule can make it confusing. Some words sound different depending on how they are being used and the some words, which sound the same, are spelt differently. Remember that love of story and knowledge fuels the desire to read and write and some words that your child will struggle with when presented on a flash card or in a list will be easily decoded in the context of a sentence.

Websites:
Interactive websites at home to support your child
www.phonicsplay.co.uk
www.sentenceplay.co.uk

Cheese and Pesto Whirls

This week at The Pod’s Cookery Club we’ll be baking ‘Cheese and Pesto Whirls’. If you’d like to try these delicious teatime treats and cook along at home with an adult you can follow the recipe below. 

Pesto

Ingredients   (suitable for vegetarians*)

320g puff pastry

1 tablespoon pesto

150g grated Cheddar cheese

Cherry tomatoes (cut into quarters)

1 teaspoon dried basil

Pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 egg yolk, for brushing

Plain flour, for dusting

*To ensure this is recipe is 100% vegetarian, be sure to check that the cheese has not used any animal rennet in production.

Let’s Bake!

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Grease an ovenproof baking tray
2. On a clean surface scatter some plain flour and roll out the puff pastry until it is 2.5cm thick
3. Spread the pesto thinly onto the pastry making sure you leave a 2.5cm margin all the way around. Then sprinkle the Cheddar, chopped cherry tomatoes, chilli flakes if using, dried basil and season with salt and pepper to taste (You can add any herbs you like)
4. Starting with one of the long sides of the rectangle roll the puff pastry like a Swiss roll making sure you paste the last 2.5cm with the egg, to seal
5. Once rolled, refrigerate the pastry for at 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the fridge and cut in to 1cm slices and place the slices on to the baking tray. Brush with egg
6. Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown
7. Transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled
8. Enjoy!

Top Tip

For meat eaters why not add some cooked chopped smoked ham, cooked chopped chicken or even some smoked salmon!

This makes filling a lunch box more interesting and tastier.  For dinner add potato salad and coleslaw for a delicious summer meal.

 

Free Childcare For Children Aged Three and Four

childcare

As you will probably be aware, the Government has offered 30 hours of free childcare a week for children aged 3 and 4 from September 2016. We’ve had lots of questions from parents about the scheme and hope that you’ll find the following information that was recently published in Families magazine useful.

When does the scheme start?

In September 2016, but the scheme is not launching everywhere at this time. Instead, it will be piloted in some areas, and these are still to be determined. There is currently still no indication as to when the scheme will be available nationally. Buckinghamshire is not part of the pilot scheme and the scheme will not start in this area until 2017.

Which parents will be entitled to the 30 hours?

Unlike the current scheme, under which all parents of 3 and 4 year olds are eligible for 15 hours of free childcare a week, the additional 15 hours will only be available to working parents. A statement on the Government website says it will support up to 600,000 working families, but it is not clear at this stage how many hours parents should be working to qualify as “working parents.”

Which children will be eligible?

Children aged 3 or 4 in September 2016 living in the pilot areas with working parents  (as stated above, the definition of ‘working parents’ remains unclear) who have an annual household income of less that £150,000.

Replacement of childcare vouchers with tax-free childcare scheme

Last year, the Government’s proposals for delivering Tax-Free Childcare were found to be lawful by the Supreme Court and the changes should come into force early in 2017. The Tax-Free Childcare scheme will replace the current Childcare Vouchers system, although, parents who are currently signed up to the Childcare Vouchers scheme will be able to continue using it.

The key differences between the two schemes are as follows:

The current Childcare Vouchers scheme is a tax and National Insurance saving scheme, offered as a benefit from the employer of a parent, but only where the employer chooses to offer the scheme.

The new policy is expected to be open to all working parents who meet the set criteria. Where both parents work, families can save around £1,800 a year under the Childcare Vouchers scheme, but will save £2,000 per year under the new scheme. Self employed parents will also be eligible for support under the Tax-Free Childcare scheme.

Under new proposals the Tax-Free Childcare scheme will only be available to one earner in a family where both parents are working. Families with a single earner will be excluded. You can find out more here

Vanilla and Strawberry Pin-Wheel Shortbread

This week at The Pod’s Cookery Club we’ll be baking ‘Vanilla and Strawberry Pin-Wheel Shortbread’. If you’d like to try these delicious teatime treats and cook along at home with an adult you can follow the recipe below. 

Hearts

This delicious variation on traditional shortbread is perfect for Valentines Day and special occasions!

Ingredients
For Pink and White Heart Pinwheel Cookies:
• 1 cup butter (226 g)
• 1 cup icing sugar (210 g)
• 2 egg yolks
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (8 g)
• 2 tablespoons milk (30 g)
• 3 ½ cups plain flour (483 g)
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon cherry extract (4 g) (optional)
• Few drops of pink food colour

Method

1. Sift the flour together with the baking powder. Set aside.
2. With the flat beater of a stand mixer, on medium speed, cream the butter until smooth and free of lumps. Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy.
3. Add egg yolks one at a time beating until blended.
4. Add vanilla extract and milk. Beat until well combined.
5. Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients beating well. When all has been added, slightly increase mixer speed and beat for about 2 minutes or until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Dough is ready when you press it between your hands and it can hold its shape without being crumbly.
6. Remove about slightly less than ½ of the dough from the bowl and set aside. This portion will be the white swirl in the cookies.
7. To the remaining dough in the bowl, add the optional cherry extract. Beat until well blended.
8. Add a few drops of pink food colour and tint until desired shade is reached. Beat dough very well. Dough should leave the sides of the bowl and hold its shape when pressed between your hands without being crumbly.
9. For assembly, choose between spiral swirl centres OR pink heart centres.

Assembly for Pink Heart Pinwheel Cookies with Spiral Swirl Centres:

1. Form the white dough into a ball. Place it on a sheet of waxed paper then flatten it into a round disc with the palm of your hand. Place another sheet of waxed paper on the dough, and with a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangular shape measuring about 8” x 12.5”. Set aside.
2. Apply the same procedure above to the pink dough. Roll the dough into a rectangular shape measuring about 8” x 14”.
3. Lay both pink and white sheets of dough side by side and remove the top waxed paper from both sheets. Flip the white sheet of dough onto the pink sheet of dough. Tip: before flipping the white dough, trim the waxed paper beneath it, closer to the top and bottom edges. This will make aligning the two sheets of dough easier. Peel the waxed paper off of the white sheet of cookie dough which is now on top of the pink dough.                                                           4. Start rolling the stacked dough sheets tightly into a log. You can use the waxed paper at the bottom of the pink dough to help in rolling. Important: when you reach about halfway, roll the dough loosely to give it some slack so you can shape the log into a heart.
5. Wrap the log of cookie dough in plastic wrap. Chill the cookie dough log until really cold or pop into freezer for an hour. If freezing the dough long-term, place it in a freezer safe container. Freezing/chilling makes it easier to cut and shape into hearts.

Baking:
1. Baking time and temperature apply to all pinwheel cookie patterns. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Thaw cookie log for a few minutes, just enough to slice easily with a sharp knife. Slice to about ¼” thickness. Bake for 18 minutes. Leave cookies on pan for about 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
3. Sandwich together with some strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream……..delicious!
4. Enjoy!

Top Tip! Add a chocolate centre!
Add cocoa powder to a batch of shortbread dough, knead, roll out as above and lay on top of the white and pink. Continue as above.