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“The Magic Key” magazine is published by BBC Worldwide magazines. It forms part of their “Learning Together” range of magazines for Primary school children, and is a very well put together supplement to the Oxford Reading Tree range of reading scheme books. At the time of writing, the magazine is on Issue 17, and costs £1.75. Each issue comes with a free gift, which is always something to do with the Magic Key stories. This issues’ gift is a Holographic pencil and notepad. The cover price is therefore virtually justified already, before even opening the magazine! Previous free gifts have included stickers, fridge magnets, pencil case, Magic Key ball pens and card games. These high quality free gifts also attract the children to the magazine, without thinking that actually, it’s an educational magazine. As a primary school teacher, I use “The Magic Key” as the main reading scheme in school, and the resources to help the children to read are very extensive. Parents will find that this reading scheme is common in many primary schools across the country, and this magazine is a useful resource in itself. I buy the magazine each month for the children in my class (kind teacher that I am – must be paying us too much!), and my class look forward to reading it every month. My classroom assistant (age 19) always pinches the free gifts for herself and now has a plethora of Magic Key stationary on her desk! To preserve the magazine, we generally take out the staples and run each page through the laminating machineI even have a Magic Key screensaver installed in the infant classroom (available from www.oup.co.uk/oxed/primary/magickey. Whilst on the subject, there is the BBC part of the Magic Key, found at www.bbc.co.uk/schools/magickey. Back to the magazine – and a quote from the Editor, Jacqueline Harding. “The magazine takes children on an exciting literacy journey along a path of ima
ginative literacy activities. The National Literacy Strategy and the National Curriculum underpin the educational content of the BBC Magic Key magazine…..Word, sentence and text level work are developed in a variety of fun ways...” If you think that this is a very wordy comment which uses flowery language to impress the parents, yes, you are right, but from a teacher’s point of view, Ms. Harding is quite correct. I regularly use the magazine to supplement my Literacy Hour activities. The magazine follows a similar format each week, this particular month, we have… Biff’s Brainteasers, focusing on opposites and descriptive words. Troll Talk: A read together story. Key words have dotted lines on them, so parents can supervise children when they over-write the letters. Letter Soup: Focusing on “cvc” words (consonant vowel consonant) eg. bat, dog, mad, pig, wig. Floppy’s Walkies: Focusing on positional language and the use of commas in lists. This will be a very useful activity for my class this week as we are writing our own instructions. Biff explores Peru: Biff explores a different country each month. This helps children with reading non-fiction texts, and provides a useful cross-curricular link with Geography skills. Internet links are also given so that children can use this as a research tool. Friendship Frame: Again, a really useful activity for my class as they learn to follow instructions carefully. Simple instructions are laid out logically in a step by step format. Wilma’s Diary: a fun way of developing children’s confidence as readers. Early readers use picture clues for reading independently. Children may also want to keep their own diary, another good encouragement for independent writing. Your adventure: This always appears in the centre of the magazine and follows a different theme each month. This month it
is set in the Land of Nod. Write Away: This provides a useful activity for encouraging children to form their letters correctly and develop their own handwriting style. Lost In The Jungle: A mini magic key adventure, like the ones in the stories. At the end of the story there are some questions about it, thus developing children’s comprehension skills, and reading for meaning. For those of you not in the know, the main characters are Kipper, Biff and Chip, along with their friends, Wilf and Wilma. The characters are introduced in the first few stages of reading scheme books, then during Stage 4, the children find a dolls house in their new house which is a miniature version of their house. Inside is a magic key. When the children wish something, the key glows and transports them to a magical world. All Change: This is a good activity to present text in a different form, this issue concentrates on flowcharts. This would also be a valuable supplementary activity to an “Ourselves” topic. Playtime: Each issue features a mini-play, where children can take it in turns to read the text. I have used these in my Guided Reading sessions during Literacy Hour. Wilf’s Fact Finders: Again, a non-fiction text approach. Key vocabulary is concentrated on here. The back couple of pages is a reader’s feedback section, with letters and drawings from readers, and competitions to enter. The child can also fill in a little mini certificate with the main teaching points covered in each issue. As many parents will know, if children are in Year 2 at primary school, they have to complete National Tests (SATs). During the March and April issues each year, the Magic Key magazine has pull out sections to prepare children for these tests. They do work, as I tried them last year with my Year 2 class before their SATs. If you have a child aged between 5 and 8, this magazine is very well worth th
e £1.75 a month. I find that many parents can’t afford to buy books (as they are quite expensive for what they are) – this way, this is a very affordable way to help your child at school. With the new Literacy Hour in schools, this magazine also explains many of the new ideas taught in Primary School these days, which weren’t covered when we were children!
This new, monthly, 35 page BBC children's magazine is based on characters from "The Oxford Reading Tree", a reading scheme widely used in schools. It helps parents to support their children's reading and writing skills during Key Stage One. I have found it to be very useful with many different and fun activities to complete. It is targeted at the 5-7 age range but my 4 year old enjoys listening to the stories and can attempt some of the activities with help from me. Matthew, however, at 7 years old can complete most of them with little or no help after some initial guidance. Most, if not all, of the literacy skills required for Key Stage One are covered, and the children are guided through these with the help of familiar characters such as Biff, Chip, Kipper and Floppy. Each page has Parents' Key Notes that tell you which area is covered and give you further ideas to use to consolidate each concept. Throughout the magazine many different ways of writing are addressed in the February issue these include, lists, labels, poems and e-mails. Punctuation, spelling, handwriting and comprehension are also covered thoroughly. Every article is designed to encourage the children to do follow up activities or to discuss what they have done with an adult. Some of the features in the February issue are: Get arty with Chip; Follow Chip's instructions to a make a wizard's hat. A combination of pictures and written instructions make this easy for a child to follow. Adult help is required to make it as the cone needs to fit and taping the edge down is difficult. Wilf's Fact Finders; Find out about famous magicians and the tricks they perform, afterwards perform your own magic trick. The instructions for the trick are easy to follow and the trick actually works, Matthew was amazed by it. Wilma & Floppy Explore; Learn all about book covers, write a back cover
for a book about rabbits, with the chance to win an educational prize. This activity is a bit more difficult to follow and I think most children will need some guidance. Puddletown; A read it yourself stories with questions at the end. I think that Year 1 children would need help to read this story, Matthew is in year 2 and read it with no problems. The questions are in the form of True or False therefore they are straightforward. Hiddenwords; Find out about compound words. The first task is to draw lines to split some words into two smaller words, paint/box, roller/blades etc. The second task is to join some different words together to make single words. These tasks are very simply laid out, making it easy to understand what is expected of you with clear examples shown. Each month the magazine has 2 freebies attached to the front cover (Yes 2!!). One is a set of magnetic words, which change each issue. I highly rate these as Matt and Kyle have a great time competing for the best sentence on the fridge. Gift two varies, so far there has been a notebook, a magnifying glass, a magic code pen and this month a joke book. There are four advantages that I can see to these gifts: 1. They are free!!! 2. The celoptape doesn't tear the cover. 3. There is a guide on the inside back cover to help you get the most from them. 4. The kids actually use them and keep on using them which is always a bonus! In general this is a very visually stimulating magazine, which is packed full of imaginative, entertaining fun ways for you to help your child get ahead in literacy. In my opinion it is well worth the £1.75 it costs, my two thoroughly enjoy recieving this each month and consider it a treat. Children learn best when they don't realise that they are being taught. Using a magazine like this upholds the concept the learning should be FUN.