Monster News

Calming activities for the summer holidays

(2 minute read)

A child resting in the grass looking up at the sky

Summer can be a wild and wonderful time for kids - long days playing games and lots of fun in the sun! But as parents, we all need some time to chill and it can be hard to get the little ones into a relaxed state of mind. So I thought I’d share some of my favourite calming videos and activities from my teaching days to help you and the kids chill out. 

  1. Facetime with Blazer Fresh - This video shows your kids how to make their face and body calm - one minute of tuning into the feeling of calm.
  2. Melting - A four minute activity where your child simply needs to freeze and thaw - slowly! I used to use this just after playtime in reception - perfect for calming down after lots of physical activity.
  3. The Body Scanner - this wasn’t the exact one I used but it’s a very good body scan video. Ideal for a mindful moment, this five minute video talks you through a scan of each body part - I recommend a good lie down for this one! 
  4. Make a calming glitter jar - always a permanent fixture in our ‘calm corners’, these easy DIY glitter jars are really great for some mindful watching. I even used to hide little toys in there so kids could follow something around inside the jar. Perfect for channeling calm!
  5. Rainbow Breathing - I think these breathing activities are really awesome. You can even make your own by drawing a rainbow out and having your child colour it - a 2-4-1 craft and mindfulness activity! 
  6. Read our lovely comic ‘Bongo Blows his top’ - as well as helping to identify some tough feelings, it has some lovely calming strategies to practise at home!

And my final gift to you - one last video to help you with the post-activity clean up - the tidy up song! This was such a valuable tool for a messy classroom, by the end of the song everywhere was tidy and the kids were behind their places. Stickers for extra helpful cleaners were always a great motivator too. 

Happy summer holidays to you all!

Kay Leathers
A freelance consultant for Teach Your Monster and ex-primary school teacher!

Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

An Interview with Number Skills Expert - Bernie Westacott

(5 minute read)

We caught up with maths lover and Number Skills Expert Bernie Westacott in this behind-the-scenes interview. 


What’s your favourite number?

91 because whenever we study prime numbers at school and you ask the children to write down all the primes in the nineties, they invariably put 91. And they don't realise that they know that seven twelves are 84. Then another seven will be 13 (sevens). So it's another way of building instructors of numbers and making connections. So I just sort of sit back and laugh about how many get it wrong and then we go through it.


And what do you enjoy most about maths? Why did you get into a lifetime of maths? 

Because I was so bad at school. Well, I'm very dyslexic. I have a memory issue, sequencing problems, and everything was by rote at school. And I really didn't enjoy it. I didn't do too well at it. And I wanted to become a teacher. So I hoped that there was another way of doing it. 


And a lot of people, when they don't enjoy something at school, they run a mile from it. 

Yeah, I go the opposite way. I'm dogged, I like to solve problems. I like to get on top of things. I don't like them to get on top of me. And then I kept working and working at it, particularly when I started teaching. And then as a result of that, I fell in love with it, became very passionate about it, and then tried to pass that onto my pupils.


So what are the problems facing children at the moment? 

What are the problems facing children in mathematics? Number sense is a huge issue. Children don't develop a sense of number, how it works, how it hangs together. You will see children in this country and other countries age 16 who still don't know that seven is made up of five and two, four and three.

So they don't have this fluency, this ability to break a number apart and put it back together. That is one of the big issues. Another issue that's right across the curriculum is there's too much content and children do not have enough time to play, explore, collaborate, discuss and reason. 

The problems start from the very beginning, particularly in the UK at the moment, because there is a drive for the dogma of the knowledge-rich curriculum and it completely flies in the face of everything we know about how young children learn mathematics.

And that is becoming a real issue.



Could you talk a little bit more about your concerns around the knowledge-rich curriculum? 

The knowledge rich curriculum comes out of, I think, a slight misunderstanding of cognitive science, that declarative knowledge that 'I know this' and 'I know that' and mathematics is more about understanding structure and concepts than knowing knowledge. Though it's great to know number facts, you have to understand the structure, how these things are built together there and that knowledge-rich curriculum or dogma is in danger of taking that away from young children what they need to be doing.


Why is creativity important in Maths?

Creativity is an aspect of maths I think that's very important for young children. You don't just learn to solve problems because somebody taught you a way to solve this problem. You need to reason and do things for yourself and investigate and explore, all words that were being taken out of the curriculum at the moment. I feel, um, creativity is important in mathematics, so I don't want children to see it as something they learn and they do off by rote.

I want them to be able to create their own ideas. So we've been working with young children on a number of bonds and we built some frames to fit things in. We want to see how many different ways they can develop and do that and be creative, but also in doing that creativity, they will slowly start to pick up a systematic way of doing things. So I think it's a very important area to do from the very beginning.


So what's been your involvement in Number Skills?

My involvement in Number Skills is been, to first of all, identify the key areas that young children need to be developing in mathematics and then to outline what the pedagogy looks like and then to work with the game developers so that they can make that fun and bring that in. So between the two of us, we're developing fun games that are pedagogically sound and based on current and new research.

Working with the team has been very different from the teaching experience I've had. It's been a very collaborative experience and it's. And it's been very creative, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and hope to keep doing that.


How does Number Skills support the learning of these mathematical concepts?

A. It's games so children are relaxed, they're comfortable, they're having fun. They don't realize they're learning.

But B. it's all presented in a way that's pedagogical and research-based correct as well. And they're just enjoying themselves, learning things. They don't even realize that they're learning. 


So what are the exciting upcoming features that you're working on with the Number Skills team?

Lots of different things. One of the most exciting features is the Sandbox, where children go in and it's free play, which we would like to have a lot of. So they're constructing their own world, their own ideas, their own understanding. They can investigate and explore. That's a key element of the creativity of mathematics.


Finally, what’s your favourite game in Number Skills?

I have one I love. My favourite game out of all of them is Slides because it rolls through a lot of conversations and it's got a very important thing in it, which is that we we start with a number and we decompose it into two parts, but we see them go down the slide and the important bottom line is that we see them recombine at the end.

So we have the inverse process in mathematics where you separate and join together. And already children are seeing that the breaking apart and joining together are inverse processes. I think it's very powerful message.


Follow Bernie and his amazing work here and look out for the new updates to Number Skills by following our Teach Your Monster social channels (links below).

Teach Your Monster Holiday Top Tips!

(3 minute read)

A child holding a watermelon playing supermarket dash!

After all that hard work everyone's put in to get through a whole year of learning, summer is the time to really knuckle down and get some homework done? No? Of course not! Kids are tired ( so are adults) and everyone might need a bit of fun and relaxation before the new school year! Our games are fun and educational, so that ticks all the boxes! We’ve gathered our ‘TOP TIPS’ for keeping your child active with Teach Your Monster learnings over the holidays (and get them ready for school at the end of summer). We hear from our Literacy games manager and our Maths game manager, Alex and Leo! 

Teach Your Monster to Read - Alex’s TOP TIPS
  1. Play phonics eye-spy! Same as normal eye-spy, but with phonemes instead of letters. A phoneme is a letter-sound, for example, the phoneme /f/ for the grapheme 'ph' as in photograph. Whilst playing, use a pen and paper (or even just your hands), to draw the grapheme that matches the phoneme sound. You and your child could even look for things that use a phoneme they have learnt in Teach Your Monster to Read, and get them to spot it wherever you go. 
  2. Make fun phonics songs: Check out these animated phonics songs, which are great for revising and teaching letter-sounds. Catchy and easily adaptable, children will want to sing along and invent their own.

Reading for Fun - Alex’s TOP TIPS
  1. Reading for Fun is the perfect portable library of over 70 books in your pocket. I bet you couldn’t fit 70 real books in your carry-on!
  2. Kids finding it hard to sleep in the hotel bed? Why not get Reading for Fun to tell them (and you) a bedtime story, you’ll soon be off to the land of nod.
  3. Map-reading quest - reading is more than just stories and facts. If you’re visiting a new city, grab a map from the tourist information centre and let your child use their map-reading skills to navigate their way to the park.

Number Skills - Leo’s TOP TIPS
  1. Supermarket Counter - Ask your kid to get you a number of something in the fruit and veg aisle - this will help practise their number skills. If they need a challenge, ask them to get 2 more and see if they can count on (1, 2, 3 etc) or add them (1 + 2 = 3).
  2. Practice makes perfect - If you know there’s some areas your teacher says your child needs to do a bit more work on, Number Skills’ practice mode can get your kids working on specific topics, numbers or mini games. 
  3. Play board games - Research shows playing board games is a great way of getting more confident with numbers. Games such as Snakes & Ladders.

Adventurous Eating  - Alex’s TOP TIPS
  1. Supermarket Dash - Ask your child what fruit or vegetables their monster has been trying in the game. Can they find one in the supermarket? Would they try one? Perhaps even take it home for trying later.
  2. Friday Try-Day - getting your kids to try new fruits and vegetables can be the last thing on your list of things to do, especially if they can be a reluctant eater. Carving out just one day of the week for trying something mysterious is a great way to start a new good habit - try to sync it up with the day you usually do your food shopping, so you can grab something fresh. Better still, let your little person pick the new food themselves. 

We hope you have lots of fun trying these over the summer!

Alex Goss and Leo Allen,
Product Managers for Teach Your Monster

Summer Reading in Reading for Fun!

(2 minute read)

We have a huge library of books in our game Reading for Fun - over 70 books - perfect to take on holiday. We wanted to highlight some of our favourite summer reading and activity books, things you can do with your kids over the holidays. Earn all these books by playing through the activities in Reading for Fun

Make your own Plasticine - Okido


In this activity book, kids can learn how to read a simple recipe to make their own plasticine! We’ve given you an exclusive preview in the photo but you can learn more about making different colours once your child has earned the book!

I can cut and stick - Ray Gibson - Usborne Books


In this bumper activity book, there are loads of crafting activities for your kids, all with simple materials found around the house. We’ve given you a sneak preview here of the ‘Make your own octopus’ activity but there are loads more to try out, from crown-making to crafting flying fish!

Woodland Creatures - Emily Bone - Usborne Beginners


If you’re going on a forest adventure this summer, why not read ‘Woodland Creatures’ by Emily Bone in Reading for Fun. This informative non-fiction exploration of the creatures you find in forests is perfect preparation for a forest scavenger hunt. Learn how to spot squirrels, what dormice eat and what creatures might live in dead trees…

At the beach - Emily Bone - Usborne Beginners


This non-fiction book by the same author explores everything that you might find by the beach. Perfect for a beach holiday learn all about the creatures you may spot while rock-pooling in your winkle-pickers (or flip flops maybe!)

There’s a whole world in my park - Gabby Dawnay


For a holiday that’s closer to home, why not read ‘There’s a whole world in my park’ - a beautiful short story about someone’s local park. You could even make one up with your kid about your local park!

There are loads more books to discover in Reading for Fun - play the game to explore a bookshelf you can take on your travels this summer!

If you want extra incentive and fun with reading this summer, we really love the look of this Summer Reading Challenge by The Reading Agency too - all you need to do is sign up, read books and earn fabulous digital rewards! 

Al Goss
Product Manager for Teach Your Monster Reading for Fun

End of school year!

Display resources and tutorials for End of School Term!

Congratulations on making it through the whole school year! We know you're probably very excited for summer holidays and TYM will be right here waiting for you when you get back.

You're some of the hardest workers on the planet, and here at Teach Your Monster, we love to make your life a little bit easier when it comes to teaching and resources.

Before the end of term

Make sure you...

  • share your player passcodes with parents so kids can practice their skills over summer

Watch how

  • AND transfer your old students to their new class

Watch how

Click here if you'd like to watch the rest of our 1 minute tutorials. Feel free to share these videos too!

We know some of you start prepping before the end of term, so we've prepared a big Back to School Pack with loads of lovely FREE RESOURCES for display in your classroom.

Download

Do you need a Data Processing Agreement to use Teach Your Monster? Read here for more information and advice on how we can help.

Have an absolutely wonderful summer, put your feet up - we know you deserve it. If you have any feedback on our resources, or have something in mind you'd love us to make, do contact us on

See you in the fall!

Teach Your Monster HQ

Adventurous Eating Is Nominated For An Award

We are delighted to announce that our game, Teach Your Monster Adventurous Eating, has been shortlisted for an award at this year's Games For Change Awards festival in New York!

Adventurous Eating has been nominated in the 'Best In Health and Wellness' category alongside Soul Paint and So Exhausting, with the winner being announced at the ceremony on 27th June.

It is an honour once again to be recognised by our peers and industry experts for our efforts in making magical, fun-filled learning games. This is the second year running that we have had a game nominated, with Teach Your Monster Number Skills making the shortlist for 'Best Learning Game' in 2023.

Games For Change Awards logo

Teach Your Monster Adventurous Eating is a unique game that encourages kids to eat a broader range of fruit and veg and build a better relationship with food. Designed in collaboration with Dr Lucy Cooke - an expert in children’s food preferences and eating habits - and inspired by the SAPERE method, Adventurous Eating is packed full of fun mini-games that encourage kids to explore foods with all five of their senses.

Despite only being released in January 2023, Teach Your Monster Adventurous Eating has been played over 6.4 million times by over 1.25 million children - based on research with hundreds of parents who use the game at home, 16% said their child tried new foods as a direct result of playing Adventurous Eating.

Bub from Adventurous Eating celebrates being nominated for an award surrounded by fruit and vegetables

Beyond Numbers to 10 - The Expansion of Number Skills!

Something HUGE is happening here at Teach Your Monster - Number Skills is expanding! The team have been working very hard to bring you the next stage of Number Skills, set to expand into the UK Key Stage 1 Year 1 curriculum and US standards for Kindergarten curriculum.

Number Skills has been a huge success so far, with over 20 million plays and thousands of five star reviews. Since the launch, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response from teachers and parents, but we also have had literally hundreds of you ask us for harder levels for older kids.

Well finally... IT'S COMING!

As ever, backed by our Maths expert Bernie Westacott, we have ensured that the game is aligned with all US common core standards and the UK national curriculum, so you can be certain that your kids are making the right progress at the right time with their numbers.

There will be loads of brand new mini games, a whole new set of islands to explore, new stories and a few surprises in store too...

Be the first to play the game

If you can't wait for the new school year to play the game, click here to join our Number Skill Testers Club and play an exclusive, early version of the game for free!

New Number Skills stages

Teachers!

In our upcoming 'Experienced' stage, we’ll be covering concepts like:

  • Numbers to 100
  • Place value
  • Composition/Decomposition
  • More advanced addition/subtraction
  • Number bonds
  • The foundations of multiplication.

Things to do before end of term:

  • Access Monster Trucks and Volcano in class now via Practice Mode to warm up the kids for next year!
  • Transfer your current students to their new teacher quickly and easily. All you need is their email address and this helpful 1 minute tutorial!

Can't Wait? You can already play two brand new mini games right now!

Simply go to Practice Mode and you'll see two new games under the "Games" section. If you're not sure how to access Practice Mode, watch this video to find out.

Monster Trucks

Number Skills Monster Trucks Higher Numbers game

‘Bumper Cars’ has expanded to ‘Monster Trucks’ where children can recognise and bump numbers up to 20, with a clever use of 2 ten frames. Skills: Composition/Decomposition, Addition, Subtraction, Number Bonds.

Volcano

Multiplication in Number Skills

The ‘Bouncy Castle’ has expanded to ‘Volcano’ where children can count up to 50, not only in ones but 5s too! This is a start to the foundations of multiplication.
Skills: Counting, Multiplication

These can be accessed via practice mode in the app and on desktop! Watch the video below to find out how to access them. 

For those covering the game in class, the game currently has counting, subitising and number bonds (reception/Pre-Kindergarten) up to 10 EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage). One of our core principles in mathematical learning is that repetition of concepts solidifies number knowledge, and moving on too quickly might hinder the building of basic number knowledge. So it’s important that kids have been allowed to play the first two stages in Number Skills before moving on. 

Once confident in numbers to 10 and 20, moving on to numbers to 100 and place value will be much easier for them and the next stage of Number Skills supports them on their journey. 

The full update to Number Skills will be out in time for the new school year, with many more brand-new mini games, and a whole new island adventure to explore. Keep an eye out for further news on this.

Leo Allen
Number Skills Product Manager

An Interview with our Number Skills Illustrator - Matt Oxborrow

(4 minute read)

We have loads of fantastic people here at Teach Your Monster contributing to all our wonderful games. So we thought we better introduce some to you! In this month’s edition, we interviewed Matt Oxborrow, the genius behind all the wacky and wonderful designs in our game Teach Your Monster Number Skills!

Matt Ox and the characters of Number Skills

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Matt… Matt Oxborrow, or just Matt Ox. I’m a freelance illustrator and art director and I’m responsible for all the artwork on Teach Your Monster Number Skills. All the monsters, rides, funny little things with eyes and the little bits of detail on things that no one else really notices.

How did you get started as an illustrator?
I illustrated my first book of animals when I was 5 years old. I started taking it a bit more seriously after school and got a degree in it before starting out working life as an animator. That led me to character design and art direction, then 25 years later to here.

When and how did you get started at Teach Your Monster?
A funny little Non-Player-Character called Darren Garrett got in touch after seeing my work for another highly successful app. I think it was about 4 years ago when we’d all been banished to our homes and not allowed out so a big project like this was just what I needed to stay relatively sane. 

How do you develop your ideas? What are your stages?
I like to start by going out and sketching monsters in the wild. They’re actually everywhere if you know where to look. Paredoilia (the phenomenon in which people see faces or other patterns in ambiguous images) definitely helps. The early sketches provide the wild silliness and humour then it’s a case of distilling it down into something that’s still fun but has the articulation and dexterity necessary to do its job on screen. I often rebuild a sketch using geometric shapes and strokes in Illustrator then when the composition is nice, I kind of bash them around and beat them up to make them look a bit more handmade again. 

What are important considerations when designing for young children?
They’re very stubborn and very honest critics so you have to revisit a design a few times with fresh eyes to make sure it looks like what it’s supposed to look like. Stylisation can sometimes come and kick you if you’ve drawn a monster that can be interpreted as a cat for example. Kids will never unsee the cat.

Do you use your own kids as part of your process?
Absolutely. My daughter was 2 or 3 when we started Number Skills so is one of our earliest testers and has been my litmus test for whether something is fun or ‘boorwing’. A truly valued critic.

How do you design for games vs regular illustration jobs?
As I mentioned earlier it comes down to articulation. The rigs (the ‘skeleton’ of the characters that control it’s movements) are very rigid so you have to make sure every character has the physical ability to perform it’s job or it’s going to look weird. Imagine a T-Rex trying to stack a pile of crates… Nope. 

What do you use for inspiration and research at the start of a process?
It depends on the job but everything starts with an observation or an obscure reference. I look at nature, animals, people and their funny clothes and habits, loads of old cartoons and comic strips. The internet is a treasure trove for character designers. I also find myself looking at my own old work and reminding myself what worked and what didn’t.

What tools do you use?
Pen and paper for initial musings then Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop with my Cintiq Pro (drawing tablet). 

Out of all the things you've worked on at Teach Your Monster, what are you most proud of?

I love the player characters and the Monster Dressing up shop. It took so much work to get right but being able to build your character from all those sets of limbs and heads is pure joy.

If there was part of the TYM design process you'd like other clients to follow what would it be?
Creative freedom and belief in my decisions.

Is there anything you wanted to get in the game that didn't make it in?
I really wanted to make the magic mirrors actually reflect your monsters in weird distorted ways. Dawid (one of TYM’s game developers) has an idea of how it might work so maybe one day.

What's your favourite ride or character in Number Skills?
The rollercoaster is my favourite ride. I love its stupid grin and the little train that zooms around the track when you go near it. Brain in a Jar is officially the funniest head in the monster customiser. There’s also a new game and character in the pipes that I really like… (stay tuned for this in an upcoming update)

Has working on Number Skills helped you help your own kids?
Yes, even learning how to pronounce ‘pedagogy’ has been invaluable. It’s a fascinating field to work in.

Has working on Number Skills improved your maths?
Embarrassingly, yes. 

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Check out Matt’s amazing illustrations by playing Number Skills here!

You can take a look at the rest of Matt Oxborrow’s great work on his website.

Social Stories to help with tricky emotions

(3 minute read)

Social stories have many different uses all focused on healthy social development. When used to depict and display challenging emotions, social stories give children the language to identify, speak about and develop emotional self-regulation strategies.

What is emotional regulation?
Also known as emotional self-regulation, this is the ability to manage our emotions. 

It includes being able to resist highly emotional reactions, adjusting to changes in expectations, self-soothing strategies and handling frustrations without a tantrum! 

Regulating our emotions is a skill, just like learning to read, that can be taught and nurtured, so that children can direct their own behaviour responses as they grow towards goals that will benefit them, in the face of a rather unpredictable world and our feelings about it!

Regulating emotions is a pretty personal journey, as our reactions to certain events may be completely different from one another - one child starting a new school will feel excited, and another might be terrified. Although one feels like a positive emotional response, this might result in the child disrupting the class, being too rambunctious in the playground and ultimately result in a bit of a telling-off. So it’s the self-regulating strategies employed by BOTH children that will help them fit positively in their new environment. 

How do we develop it? 

Coaching kids through challenging situations with a supportive framework is the key to learning self-regulation skills. Rather than being impulsive and reactive, slowing them down and teaching them how to respond calmly really helps develop these strategies. Clinicians call it “scaffolding” the behaviour you want to encourage until they can handle these situations on their own.

In schools, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) schemes can help teachers scaffold these self-regulation skills in a more formal and structured way, helping children learn about their feelings, the feelings of others, and how to recognise and manage emotions.

The first two learning steps in SEL are self-awareness - identifying emotions, learning about feelings, and self-management - managing emotions, and coping with feelings.


Social Stories - how do they help teach emotional regulation?

For some children, understanding feelings is particularly challenging as ‘feelings’ aren’t tangible and children often lack the language to articulate them. Adults may be able to model feelings to children but not experience them in the same way, presenting a particularly difficult challenge when teaching self-awareness. 

Social stories present information in a literal, 'concrete' way, which may improve the understanding of a previously difficult or ambiguous situation or activity. So social stories can help us present emotions to kids and model the type of language that can be used to describe them. 

What forms can these stories take?

Picture Stories can be especially useful for all people, including those with learning difficulties, to model the language used to describe emotions and the associated bodily expressions of emotions.

Here at Teach Your Monster, we have developed social picture stories with our expert, Child Clinical Psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin! Bongo Blows His Top is the first in a series of beautifully illustrated comic strips addressing emotional regulation. In this story, we see ‘Bongo’ having some difficult feelings in response to environmental stressors and ‘Cuddles’ giving 3 useful strategies to deal with those emotions. Why not download a copy here and read it with the kids? Available in black and white too

If you’re interested to find out more about social stories click here for a helpful article from the National Autistic Society. 

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Kay Leathers
Freelance writer and designer.

TEACUPS - A Reading for Pleasure Acronym

(5 minute read)

What is the first book you can remember reading because you wanted to? The first one that drew you into a story that you can probably remember into adulthood? Maybe you picked it from the library or in a book shop. Maybe you still have a copy in the house.

Reading for pleasure is choosing to read what you want based on your own interests and preferences, without the pressures of being graded, assessed or marked on ability. Clearly teachers need to assess reading proficiency, but at the same time children can find being assessed quite stressful — potentially that can create some negative connotations when it comes to reading. Therefore it's really important to foster reading time where children aren’t assessed, where they can read what they want and as much as they want.

Angela Colvert, lecturer in English Education at Roehampton University and our Teach Your Monster resident Literacy advisor, describes 4 core principles for developing a joy of reading:

1. Skill and will - The skills for reading are phonics, word decoding etc and the will is the motivation to read. There’s no use in having the skill to read but no will to actually pick one up! So it’s important to develop both in tandem.

2. Achievement - Many studies have shown that if children read for pleasure over time, they will be more successful in their school career and achievement across a broad range of subjects. On a more personal level, more reading helps children to access more texts that they are interested in.

3. Cultural understanding - reading can be a doorway into another life. You live vicariously through stories, develop empathy, different perspectives. Non-fiction develops investigative skills.

4. Identity - the way in which children start to identify themselves as readers and develop preferences, having autonomy and ownership over their reading choices. 


After the success of Teach Your Monster to Read - a game where we introduce the skills and building blocks of reading, we wanted to create a game that would encourage the will to read. Together with Angela as the literacy advisor, our team developed the game ‘Teach Your Monster Reading for Fun’. In this game, kids teach their own little monster the joys of reading (while also vicariously learning it themselves) in a range of contexts. 

Ensuring the game was underpinned by literacy pedagogy, Angela and the team developed the acronym 'TEACUPS' to inform the design process and ensure that research and pedagogy were embedded throughout the game. This helped to keep the core principles of reading for pleasure in focus. This could draw some parallels with popular teaching or at-home reading for pleasure practises.

T is for…Trying new things
Providing a range of texts is a great way to encourage the development of identity and maintain the will to read. The game provides a range of texts, including magazines, recipes and free e-books, for children to enjoy and encourages them to extend their reading experiences. 
The librarian ‘Goldspear’ recommends books similar to the preferences that the child has shown to ensure that a sense of identity is being built, while also recommending new ones that are slightly removed, to extend the kid's knowledge. 

E is for…Enjoyment
One key element of will is enjoyment - after all if you don’t enjoy it, you don’t do it! In the game, there is an extensive map of places and characters to visit all wrapped up in this joyful and humorous world of reading adventures waiting to be explored. Those familiar with our other Teach Your Monster to Read games will recognise the engaging and exciting environment and the fun the children can have reading with their very own monster. 

A is for…Achievement
Achievements in reading can affirm a child’s reading identity. Put simply ‘I am being rewarded for reading’ = ‘I enjoy reading’. Completing reading adventures and missions within the game supports the children’s sense of achievement as they engage in reading across a range of authentic contexts. We’ve added badges that the kid can collect by completing certain missions, to help instil this sense of achievement. 

C is for… Community
Book talk and building reading communities is one of the pillars for teaching reading for pleasure. When children can talk with adults and their peers passionately about their books, this builds enjoyment and a sense of belonging (identity). When playing the game, the children are part of a community of virtual characters with whom they can read, talk about books and share reading adventures. When looking at how children interact with the game, it was found that they do actually read aloud to the characters in the game, building this love for reading. 

U is for… Understanding
Understanding the purpose of reading or ‘why do I read’ can motivate readers. In normal life, lots of reading can be done to fulfil a purpose, for example, reading a recipe to make a meal. When completing missions, children develop an understanding of the purpose of different types of text, for example, when following instructions or using a text to help a villager make a rock bun! And children can be creative around this, building that positive association of reading and enjoyment, rather than simply following an instructional text. 

Teach Your Monster Reading for Fun Recipe game

P is for…. Preferences
Crucial to reader identity is the sense that the child can start to have preferences and build a collection of books they enjoy. As the game develops, children will begin to evolve a preference for certain activities and books and can curate their very own collection of favourite texts on their monster’s virtual bookshelf. 

S is for… Stamina
Developing a regular reading habit can make a real difference in building that love of reading. The game supports children to develop the habit of regular reading and the option to listen to audio books can support their engagement. Characters encourage you to pick up and read a book from your bookshelf if it’s been a while.

These pillars can be applied outside the game too. Can you think of ways to help children read for fun in the classroom and at home using TEACUPS?

Alex Goss
Teach Your Monster to Read and Reading for Fun Product Manager

Click here if you’d like to see Angela Colvert talking more about this subject.

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