The Rhyme Bag




The Rhyme Bag is a handy little asset for the infant classroom.  It can have several uses but here are two which I would particularly recommend:

1. Nursery Rhymes:

Fill the rhyme bag with various items that feature in your nursery rhymes. (e.g. A Fish will represent 1,2,3,4,5 Once I caught a Fish Alive)

The chant:

"Pass the rhyme bag round and round, 
Round and round,
Pass the rhyme bag round and round, 
What will you get?"
(Sing to air of London Bridge)

Seat the children in a circle and pass the rhyme bag around as you all sing the chant. Whoever has the Rhyme Bag when the chant ends, closes their eyes and picks an item out of the bag.  The child must then decide which Nursery Rhyme it belongs to!

As time goes on and children learn more and more Nursery Rhymes, add in items that might feature in two or more  Nursery Rhymes, this allows for lots of debate, discussion and excitement between the little ones! (e.g. A spider features in Incy Wincy AND Little Miss Muffet.)


2. Teaching the concept of rhyming:

Rhyming can be a tricky concept for some to grasp. Playful approaches are best. Enter, 'The Rhyme Bag'. Same chant, same seating arrangement, same routine - this time however, you fill it with objects or images from the word families you want the children to know rhymes for e.g. cat, pig, peg, log etc. So when a child chooses an object from the bag, they must think of something that object rhymes with. Simple but effective!
As their learning progresses you can replace the objects or images with actual words and the children will have the challenge of reading the word then thinking about a rhyming word too.


Minimal prep, maximum learning!






20 Activities to do with a Novel

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Why use novels in the classroom?


Novels are a valuable resource in any classroom situation, from infants right up to sixth.
Naturally, you are going to get more written work opportunities stemming from the senior classes but the younger classes can still reap the rewards of having a good novel read to them. Never too young in my opinion!

Novels are a means of promoting:

Development of Imagination
Development of Language Skills
Understanding feelings
Relaxation
Critical Thinking
Development of Listening Skills
Empathy
Concentration
A thirst for knowledge
Integrated learning
Creativity
Entertainment through reading

Maximise your novel reading and extend your novel studies with your class by moving beyond the usual chapter summaries, comprehension style questions and character fact files.

20 Activities to do with a Novel:


1. Create a Book Log - using a copybook or a scrapbook, invite the children to collate their learning on the novel into a book log. These are lovely to work on and even more lovely for pupils to look back on.

2. Interview with the Author

3. Create a Cloze Challenge - cloze procedures are important for comprehension skills but they're much more appealing to learners if they're about something interesting and relevant! Photocopy a page from the text and block out some words. You can differentiate it to suit your own class - by either providing a word bank or not. Why not even challenge the students to create their own close challenges for their peers?

4. Dictionary Work / Thesaurus Work - looking for new words in chapters and finding the meaning and logging them in a personal dictionary or notebook!

5. Webbing - Put a character or key word in the centre of a web. Brainstorm for ideas and thoughts and see if any connections can be made between them!

7. Note taking - make post-its available for your students. Permit them to use post-its to make notes of interesting words or events that they might want to refer back to later. Nice way of quickly recapping on a chapter and saving your books from pencils at the same time!

8. Write a poem - inspired by an event or a character in the novel

9. Make a story map / cartoon strip -  of the main events in a chapter or entire novel

10. '5 Questions' - If you could ask a character 5 questions what would they be?

11. Mapping - Map out your imagined impression of what the setting of the novel might be like.

12. Venn Diagram Character Compare & Contrast

13. 'My Fictional Friend' - encourage your students to choose a character who they would want for a friend. Why would they choose them? What would they do together? What would they talk about? Wonderful scope for imaginative, creative writing.

14. Compose a letter or a postcard - to a character or the author

15. Look for language in context - identify nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, contractions within the pages! Bring learning the mechanics to life!

16. Write a Limerick - about a character or the plot of the novel

17. 'Dear Diary' - write diary entries for chosen characters during the duration of reading your novel!

18.  'P.S.' - Write an epilogue or some additional text for what you imagine to have happened the characters after the novel ends.

19. Reader Response - choose the most important word / line / image or object from a page and describe why you have chosen it.

20.  Opening Minds - Using a blank head template, write ideas, words, sentences or draw images that you think may be flying through the mind of a particular character.


So much scope for lovely learning and creative writing opportunities.

My Novel & Stories Activity Pack for 4th - 6th Class is on Mash and contains 10 templates for various novel related activities.






Martin Luther King Day 2019


Follow the link to visit my updated post on Martin Luther King with links to resources, ideas and inspiration galore on this topic!

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Top Tips for Student Placement

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Hello everyone!

Well, I said I'd resume blogging in January and here I am!

Logging in to my blog for the first time since the 12th of July feels strange! I made a conscious decision that I would log off the blog in July when the baby arrived and honestly, I haven't had time to even think about it since! I have a whole new respect for mothers and I'm counting my lucky stars that I decided not to go back to school until next year. I'll still have plenty to keep me busy, my diary is already jam packed for the next 6 months and it's only the 2nd of January!

First post back and I'm tackling the most recent queries head on - Student Placement!

Firstly, 10 weeks will seem like a looming marathon! But hold tight, it's not going to be that bad, in fact if it's teaching that you really want to do, then jump in, embrace it! We've all been there and survived! Yes the planning can be a bit ghastly but you'll get it done!

1. Your plans are not ornaments. 

  • Beautifully presented folders are lovely....but crisp, untouched pages tell me one thing - these are for show. Use your plans, use your folders. You don't have to destroy them but use pencil to take notes - what worked, what didn't? This will make writing reflections SO much easier and purposeful. Stock up on your sticky labels. Think, what vocab might need revisiting? Did you achieve all your objectives? Did the children bring any additional learning to the lesson? These are real anecdotal notes! 
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2. Displays 

  • If you're going with the handwritten approach on posters, signs or titles - use the handwriting script the school follows. For example, think of the Infants, do they use the curved t? the looped k? the f with the tail? Avoid confusing the little ones! Same goes for making your own worksheets!
  • If you're printing your own posters or display lettering, no matter what class group, consider all learners. Comic Sans is always a safe bet. It's recommended that Sans Serifs fonts are used for learners with Dyslexia, so Comic Sans, Arial, Verdana and Tahoma are good!
  • If it's lettering on flashcards to be displayed, consider the size and if all learners can see and potentially read them from their seats!
  • Avoid overpacking noticeboards. Spread out posters / artwork etc. Your displays reflect you. Take time to hang them nicely.

3. Timesavers
  • Print several lists of the children's names & have them handy on your desk or in your resource folder. I've been doing this for years. It's handy for sticking on to artwork, projects, written work for display etc!
  • A date stamp is super handy for keeping on top of corrections! I generally revisit and add a comment later but a date stamp is a nice way of keeping track of things! Here's the stamp I have!
  • Individual learning portfolios / files for each pupil. This is a handy way of keeping their work together and showcasing it on an observation from your supervisor. Little plastic folders are handy. That way you can pass them out for the children pupils to file their own work!


4. FAIL - First Attempt In Learning
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Image source: http://csnsgri11.blogspot.com/2015/11/fail-first-attempt-in-learning.html 

  • Sometimes, things won't work. And that's fine. Sometimes a lesson you planned that would last 30 mins was over in 10. Maybe that artwork you planned, didn't work and the children weren't engaged? Don't flog a dead horse. We all have #fail moments. Just learn from it, stick it in your reflection and brush it off! Don't consider it a fail - consider it a first attempt in learning! A nice little motto to instil in your pupils too!


5.  Prompts

  • Prompts just aren't for pupils. You go to such great effort planning lovely lessons but then you forget to ask the correct questions or discuss certain points. Here come the post-its again! Using a novel or a big book? Place some post-its of specific questions you want to ask to trigger higher level thinking etc! I hang all sorts of prompts all round the classroom for myself - Blooms Taxonomy being one of them!


Finally:

- Take photos; document your work! Google Photos is my saviour! It's lovely to look back on your ideas AND be able to show them to your supervisor to back up your plans.

- Have fun! Enjoy your placement. Build a relationship with your class. If you're a big bag of nerves, the children will pick up on it. Smiling is infectious! 

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-Ask all the questions. Don't be shy. This is your opportunity to learn and absorb as much experience as possible. 10 weeks may seem long but it also makes placement so much more credible for both yourself and the pupils!


-Remember, your ideas and creative are so important, don't be afraid to try things out! Who's to say the teacher won't adapt some of your ideas into their teaching when you leave?! I've been lucky to have had seven student teachers in my classroom over the years (yes, I'm old) and without fail every year you pick up some lovely ideas that teachers have tried or put in place during their placement.


Best of luck!



Don't forget, you can email your teaching queries to me or message me on Instagram or Facebook!





The Busy Hat

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When you just need a minute in the classroom, what do you do?

Unless you're familiar with the world of teaching, it is impossible to actually imagine how demanding a classroom can be....especially at the Junior end of the school! I always describe it like needing to be an octopus, two hands are never enough! 

When it comes to working one-to-one, listening to reading, doing assessments or even just working with a small group I find having a routine for interruptions essential, you would be blue in the face repeating yourself otherwise!
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All you need is a hat. Any hat. In fact, probably the sillier the better. Your busy hat!




Once you've introduced it and explained the routine clearly, the children will learn to recognise it pretty quickly and adapt to understanding that you're busy and will soon learn to take a little venture down the lane of independence and think about what they can do in the meantime.



Just be sure to spend some time teaching them what they are expected to do if they are finished their work, if they need to go to the toilet etc, etc! And, remember to take it off before you head down the hall for lunch!


Now, perfect excuse to justify a silly hat purchase on  a night out on your holidays!



Teaching Junior Infants

*The most frequent queries I receive are usually in relation to teaching infants. Over the past few weeks I have been inundated with hundreds of lovely messages from teachers moving back to the infant classroom or taking on infants for the first time. I've written lots of posts on preparing for teaching infants over the past few years but I thought to best tackle all your queries I'd compose a fresh post with all my most up to date tips and advice. As always, if you have any ideas or suggestions you would like to share, feel free to message me and I'll add them in!*

Preparing for Teaching Junior Infants:

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Setting up your classroom:

  • Group seating  - The Infant classroom is a social place. Plan for this in your seating. You want to maximise language and peer learning opportunities so ensure every child has the opportunity to sit and belong to a group for seat-work activities. Give each group a name and use these for your classroom reward system. One thing you need to get into your head before teaching infants is that it is a busy, chatty environment and that, is a good thing!
  • Lasting displays - In the Infant Classroom you will have several wall displays which you will refer to and use EVERY day. Use your wall space wisely. My recommendations for your infant classroom long term wall space would be the following:
-A Literacy Wall - a working wall space which you can add and take from as need be. Be it nursery rhymes, letter knowledge, reading etc.

- A Numeracy Wall - similar to your literacy wall but just for Maths. Ensure you have a number line for 1-10 and your colours on display for September!



-A birthday wall. This can double up for your months of the year too. 

-Rule Display - Your rules are something you're going to be referring to a lot for the first part of the year in infants, therefore a large visual is key for me! Keep them short and concise and then you can always add to them as the year goes on if need be. 



It's all about the visuals in the Infant classroom, especially when most will still be in the pre-reading stage of things or even when you have children with EAL in your classroom. I find a 'How are we working?' display a handy one to add to the list too.



I usually have a 'Golden Rule' as something we work on when various issues arise throughout the year. This one was a favourite of mine and something you should probably brace yourself for, haha!



What else can I have set up for September?

  • Writing Table - an essential in the infant classroom. I like to have nice markers, paper, stickers, scissors, glues etc here....things that they don't get to use all the time!
  • Fast finishers area - In Infants, the one thing you are GUARANTEED to hear on repeat 2.5 seconds after you assign a task will be "Teacherrrrrrrr, I'm finished!!!!!!". Your saving grace will be instilling a routine in the pupils, that there is somewhere they put their completed work independently and a space where they go if you are working with another pupil / group. A fast finisher area with some little fine motor crafts, additional skills work like cutting or sticking - something relevant but enticing for pupils! 
  • Reading Area - another essential. 

  • Mats & Floor Space - vary your seating arrangements. If someone asked me to sit in the same seat for the day, I think I would die. Think of dull inservice days or lectures where we endured being stuck in a seat glued to a presentation for the day.....zzzzzzzzzz!! Break up the day with variety in your seating. I have rolls of carpet left over from my stairs which I brought in and use for seating space in front of the IWB and for whole class Literacy work / stories. Yes there are a multitude of beautiful mats you can buy online, but really the children are meant to be looking at you not the carpet!
  • Set up for play - plan your classroom layout around your play / Aistear instruction. Think of a space suited to construction, socio-dramatic play, messy play etc,
  • Place-mats - Every pupil needs a placemat with their name. Remember not all will be able to recognise their names so having a little icon or animal they can recognise will help for the first while. I like these from Twinkl. I have been using them for years as they have sight words, alphabet, numberline, days of the week and are editable! My advice? Attach them with bluetac as no doubt you'll move pupils around a good bit for the first while as little personalities tend to only shine through as they children become more comfortable.
  • Visual Timetable -  another infant classroom essential. It's nice for them to be able to see their day laid out, it saves on a lot of the 'What are doing next? When's hometime?' questions. I found this past year that breaking their timetable up into sections of three worked even better simply by using 'Now, Next, Then'. This was part of our Daily Routine Board which we used every morning to do our days, weather, jobs, line leader, reminders for the day and birthday checks!
  • Accessible storage - I like to have the pupils getting stuck into helping out as much as possible from day one. As each group has a name e.g. tigers, I put a picture of the group on the tubs for their twistables and pencils so that helpers can give them out when needed without any fuss or debate about who gets what!

Shopping list:
  • Twistables - forget the chubby crayons! Twistables and triangular pencils are all you'll need.
  • Zippy Folders - so handy for storing all your topic resources!
  • Date stamp - makes correcting a lot quicker and handy for absences!
  • Stickers - you can never have enough! 
  • Highlighters - literally one of my most used items on my desk. 

  • Picture Books - again, you will never have enough!
  • Wipe clean table cloths - cheap & cheerful but so handy for art, playdough or any messy crafts!
  • Post Its / Sticky Labels
  • Sharpies
  • Hand Gel - it's a germy place I'm afraid!
  • Baby wipes - sticky hands, yoghurt faces, lunch spillages - baby wipes are a saviour!
**Keep your receipts! I found that more than any other class I've taught, you will spot things to support your infant teaching everywhere! Now, not everything can you claim back for, but certain things, like Twistables and art materials, you will go through a lot of and you shouldn't be out of pocket for those!**


Classroom Management:
  • Class Mascot - having a large teddy or puppet as a classroom mascot is always handy. Remember the age group. A great incentive for good listening is giving the class mascot an opportunity to join the table of the best listeners here and there throughout the day! Works a treat!
  • Timers - I would be lost without my timers. Having a variety is essential. I find 2 minute and 5 minute egg timers are great, some little ones just physically need to see the time passing and they will come in very handy in instances when turn-taking or sharing can be an issue! 
My advice:
  • No rush on phonics / letter knowledge programmes. People rush in to 'work' far too quickly. There is no need or proven benefit, in fact, the children will respond better the longer you leave it! Take September to get the children into routine, lots of pre-writing work, colouring skills, phonemic awareness, fine motor work etc.
  • Take time to get to know everyone - talk to them. Make an effort to have some little conversation with each pupil, each day. It's easy to be overlooked in a busy room!
  • Spend time on routines - again this will stand to you. Practice you rules, lining up, listening skills and be  consistent. September will be tough but it will be so worth it. 
  • Play - anyone who knows my content by now, knows my opinions on play! Play is the way!
  • Scissor skills - great for finger strength and an important skill that the pupils develop so they can work on crafts and sequencing activities independently later in the year!
  • Stories, stories, stories - seize every opportunity to read stories galore. Not only are you developing language but you're practicing listening skills and concentration.
  • Nursery Rhymes - essential! There's a rhyme for everything these days.

Parents & Guardians:


Remember, the infant parents and guardians are putting a HUGE amount of trust and faith in you to take their little child for their first year at school. It can be overwhelming for you and some infant parents can seem a little demanding at times,  but remember the pupils are so young, they're only babies and it's a traumatic time for parents too - the tears don't always come from the kids in the first week! Establish a good routine from the start, after day one, insist on the 'drop and go' routine. Perhaps another staff member could help out by being at your door for this. 

How can you keep the parents in the loop and involved?
  • Parent's Board - having a parents board outside your door with info and notices for parents to read at hometime is nice. I like to have a 'What we did today?' poster on the board at hometime. It's a nice way for the kids to recap on what they did and allows the parents to have some prompts for asking their child about their day at school!
  • Photos - take photos, display them and send them home! Keepsakes are precious! Something I did for the first time this year was a monthly photo montage of the children's play, which led to lots of lovely discussion! 


There's plenty more I could add in but I think this post is lengthy enough already! I've tried to tackle as many of your queries as possible.

Hope everyone's summer is off to a wonderful start and if you're doing a summer course this week, fair play to you!



If you found this a useful post, do give it a little like or share on FB on IG...algorithms will be the death of me!

Maths For Fun

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When teaching the younger classes, or any class really, it's always nice to get the parents in now & again. They're putting a lot of trust and faith in you, so it's only fair that they get the opportunity to visit the classroom every so often, and it's a lovely chance for the children to show off all their lovely work and skills they've been learning.

I posted on Instagram recently about Maths for Fun and since have had lots of q's about how to go about it. It's a nice one to do with the parents, as everyone is busy and active and time flies! It's something we've been doing for years in our school thanks to our HSCL teachers. One of the nicest things about teaching infants is how closely you get to work with the HSCL teacher, if your school has one. It's great, especially for linking in with parents etc!

So what do we do?

Games galore!

I like to let the children know that they are the bosses for Maths for Fun. They are the experts. They are here to teach the parents / guardians / grandparents how to play the various games.
Obviously, there will be instances every week where some children might not have a parent / guardian present due to work etc, but that's fine, that's where you or another staff member will fit in! I like to have a separate table set up with lots of other games for children to pair up and play maths games if they haven't got a visiting adult present that day!

The children will be familiar with most of the games, from working with them during the year, but it's nice to put out a few new ones too.

Our HSCL teacher has a lovely stock of Orchard Tree Games - you can get them directly from their website but they're also available in Tesco, Smyths, The Art & Hobby Shop and Debenhams too!

   

I then, have a collection of games I've made over the past few years, be it from Twinkl, Sparklebox or just myself. Everything is ready to rock in zippy plastic folders and the children / parents can rotate them as they need.

Here's a little look at just some of the activities we use:

Count, count, count:

 
Fish Bowl Counting Game - Roll the dice, take that many fish, put them in your fishbowl. Winner has most fish in their bowl at the end! Pretty sure this is from Sparklebox, from back in the day before we had a colour printer!

Bug Counting - another nice pair game!



DIY Games:

There's lots of handy little games and activities you can create with the resources that you already have, such as:

Count & link - I just laminated lots of little gloves with numbers on them!

Bears on the Bus - simple sorting activity - I have it up on Mash.ie




Count & thread - you might have seen this one on my Instagram. Pipe cleaners, sticky labels & beads - maths and fine motor work all in one!



Write & wipe:

  

The little ones love having a chance to show off their number skills. Having a supply of these types of activities, laminated with marker and duster on hand ready in each folder are nice to have ready! I've a mountain of these built up from Twinkl over the past few years.


Jigsaws are handy to have on supply too.

 


Seasonal Activities:

It;s nice to tie in the time of year into whatever activities you're doing. This Ice Cream Scoop Counting Activity from Twinkl is very popular with my little ones at the moment!


Don't forget the old reliables!



Once the games are easily rotated, don't take too long and you have plenty of differentiated activities so it's a successful experience for all your little learners, your're sorted!

Tips:

  • Set the timer on-screen at the start, so when the buzzer goes, there's no dispute about time being up! 40 mins is ideal!
  • Playing some nice relaxing classical music in the background helps!
  • Have the camera on hand for some nice parent & child photo opportunities too!
  • Bring in some bigger chairs for the parents - we all know crouching on the infant chairs is far from comfortable for an adult!


Just a little insight into what we get up to!










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