Little Miss Teacher Blog

By Clara Fiorentini

Saturday, 30 July 2016

My top tips for first time infant teachers!

So you're going to be an infant teacher this year? Congratulations!!
It's manic, it's hectic, it's noisy but it potentially should be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life! 

At no other stage in their journey through primary school will those little children make such a leap into learning. It's such a wonderful time, to watch them progress and soak up so much learning and experience over the year. They literally join your class as babies and leave as independent little learners! I remember being a little sad at one stage last year when one of my little dotes said so clearly, "Teacher, look at my leg!" instead of "Teacher, wook at my weg!" Overnight, he magically mastered the L sound! (It doesn't sound like much, but after nine months of correcting and repeating L words, I thought I was going to forget how to pronounce L myself!)

I moved to infants a few years back after five straight years in the senior about jumping in at the deep end. I thought I'd hate it but how wrong I was! I adore teaching the little ones....they are ALWAYS happy to see you, they tell the BEST stories and they are ADORABLE! Plus, with a surname like "Fiorentini", you're always guaranteed some quality favourite this year was "Miss Fartey". Sigh.

I've been asked several times now what my tips would be for teaching infants for the first time, so here are my essentials:

1. Routine
Have a daily routine and stick to it. The little ones need structure. Start the day off with something quiet. I like my infants to gather on the mats first thing for a little morning informal talk and discussion. The children put their bags on their chairs, hang up their coats, put their homework folders in the basket and then join me on the mats. I'm not a control freak but I like to minimise fuss. Just like anything else we have procedures for the mats....'Give Me 5' - Eyes looking, Ears listening, Hands on your Lap, Legs Crossed, Lips Zipped. 

When we are all seated I usually start with this little chant: (Sung to Frére Jaques)
"Are you criss cross, are you criss cross?
Eyes on me, eyes on me?
Hands on your lap, hands on your lap?
Quietly, quietly!"

And if you have anyone dilly-dallying:
"We are waiting, we are waiting, 
for our friends, for our friends,
To join us, to join us,
On the mats, on the mats."

"Give Me Five" - Image from:

Did I mention you will spend half the year singing instructions to your class?? Trust me, it works!

So when we're all ready, we say our prayers. record the days and the weather, recap on things from the previous day, share news and revise our rules. 

2. Must haves.
From personal experience, it is my belief that ALL infant teachers should have:
  • Their own mop & mop bucket. Accidents are a given. I had a record year for accidents this year. Just saying! For water play anyway it's handy to have a mop, saves on towels. One of my favourite possessions last year was my JML Self Squeeze mop! (That sounds ridiculous, but honestly it was a life saver!)
  • Disinfectant wipes - I wipe down my tables everyday. Infant rooms are germy places. Stock up for next to nothing in Dealz!
  • Hand gel - I wipe a lot of noses, tie a lot of shoes, touch a lot of schoolbags....hand gel is a must.
  • Baby wipes - handy for wiping faces, cleaning up spills AND work a charm for cleaning whiteboards....much faster than using the sponges.
  • Spare clothes - My parents were great last year and many sent in spare clothing 'just incase'. I always keep a supply of underwear in my top drawer....they'll be needed at some point! A little roll of plastic bags will be helpful in these situations too. And maybe some plastic gloves.
  • Sanitare Powder - Our school got us this magical powder for cleaning up if anyone's been sick. Sprinkle it over and sweep it up. Less mess more success! You can find it here but keep it out of reach of little hands!
  • Tissues - Catching sneezes is a full time job!
3. Play
I'm a big fan of Aistear and a lot of my teaching and learning is focused on play based learning. If you're not familiar with it, try enrol in an Aistear course at your local education centre. They are run throughout the school year. You can find the framework here ----> 
You can incorporate most subjects into Aistear and focus on a theme for roughly a month. It's wonderful for language development, numeracy....basically everything. If you look through my previous posts you'll see some of the things I covered through Aistear last year. And no, it's not 'just playing'. It's an extremely valuable and enriching part of a child's educational experience. Aistear is the way forward.
This is my Aistear board. We work in groups of 4-6 and rotate every 15mins and usually do 3/4 stations per day depending on class size. As the year progresses they will be able to spend much longer at each station. My laminated stations are from here on Sparklebox and the lettering is just large Comic Sans font printed on coloured card!
Well if it was good enough for Einstein??
4. Challenge them!
God knows, it will be a long year if you expect the same of everyone. Children bore easily so keep things fresh and exciting, you can still maintain structure and routine without letting things become predictable. Get them up on their feet, get them down on the floor, move around the room, have stations. Flexible seating...beanbags, yoga balls, mats! 
Differentiate. It won't take long to get an idea of where everyone's at, who'll be finished first and need more work, who'll need support, who'll be easily know the rest! I like to have a station ready for my early finishers - a challenge area or a finger play station. One of my favourites this year was our sound search station. Stock up on those free Argos catalogues and let them chop away! They loved it!

Searching for letters / sounds they know. They love the freedom with the books, glue and scissors. Image:

5. Organisational Hacks
There are a few organisational hacks that I swear by in my room. Now I'm not going to deny it, my desk is usually a bombsite but to be perfectly honest, if you're a busy infant teacher, your desk should be an ornament, so to me a tidy desk means nothing!
I try to avoid workbooks like the plague, I like to make my own worksheets and theme workbooks. But all these need storage. 

  • Save the boxes A4 paper comes in, I use these for filing the children's work by subject. Even better if you can get your hands on those green filing folders for filing cabinets...they slot right in! I have one for SESE, Maths, Literacy and Homework.
  • You use pain A LOT in infants, save yourself the time of washing palettes all the time! I collect these little plastic tubs with the lids. So handy....and an incentive to order extra garlic mayo with your pizza! 
Save time with your paint clean up! Store paint in these little plastic tubs!
These are from little and perfect for storing PVA glue!
  • Again, like paint you use glue every other day. I collect little yoghurt tubs and simply fill them every term with PVA glue. Ready to go no fuss. And yes, they are glass and no, no one has ever broken one. You need to trust the children with a range of materials too. No one walks about with the glue pots!

Now a few other little things:

  • Take your break. Infants will drain the life out of you for the first while. You literally don't get a second to breathe. Drink plenty of water, look after your voice. (I find lemon water's a natural antibacterial too!). As tempting as it will be to work through your break, try to avoid it. You need the brain break yourself! 
  • Ban frubes. They can't open them and if they manage to, they squirt yoghurt all over themselves and the table! In my first year of infants, I was demented opening frubes, wiping yoghurt off myself and children, finding those little bits of plastic everywhere. *shudder* They're a nuisance!!!
  • Label everything. Bags, jumpers, coats, lunchboxes, hats..... everything. It'll save a lot of time and drama at home time!!
  • Pick a class mascott! Maybe a puppet or a teddy. Let the children help pick a name. He/She can be used to introduced listening skills, maybe bring a message for the children everyday. Or maybe even he/she could sit at a table who are following the rules really well? This works a treat!

The infant classroom is not a handy number. Far from it. But it really is a brilliant place to be!
Any other queries comment below or PM on FB!


Thursday, 28 July 2016

So you're going to be a teacher...

Hello everyone!!
I hope you're having a lovely summer and enjoying the odd bit of sunshine we're getting. Blogs been a little quiet for past few weeks but it's nice to take July to yourself! I'm just home from a fabulous girly holidays with my girls in sunny Ibiza...if you haven't been I highly recommend it...that was my fourth time there!!

I know it's important to chill, relax and recharge during the summer but it's also an exciting time for planning a little for the year ahead....ESPECIALLY if you're starting out with your very first teaching position! So in response to a lot of mail and questions about finding your feet, here are some tips for starting your first teaching job.

1. Plan a fun but structured first day.
Your first day will be hectic. Without a doubt. So you want to make it as smooth as possible and get to know your class a little too. You can plan some fun activities to ease your class into the day but keep a certain amount of structure to it. Some team games, ice breakers, circle time...give the class a chance to learn about you and each other.
Be sure to go through your rules. Perhaps you will have yours drawn up already or perhaps you will want to involve your class in this. An activity like "What makes a good classmate?" is always a nice way to break into the "rules" conversation.
"What makes a good classmate?" - You can find this resource and others in my 'Back to School' pack here ---->

This was my rule display for the last two years. Visual reminders are a must for me, especially with the infants. We revise them every morning!

2. Start as you mean to go on.
Image from:
Spend time working on routines. Be firm without being harsh. You can be nervous without being a pushover. September can be a vital month especially in getting your class into a good working routine and working hard at this will make the rest of the year run so much more smoothly. Make a job chart, have a noise-ometer or seatwork guidelines, have a routine for lining up, tidying up, how to behave if someone visits to talk to the teacher, pushing in chairs....I could go on and on here! If you start some of these, stick at them, trust me, it'll take a while for them to stick but they will work.
I've been using this for the past two years...just move the arrow depending on subject or activity! Simple, effective and I don't even notice myself doing it anymore. Second nature!

3. Reap the Rewards.
Plan your rewards system, This can be a nice eye catching display for the first day also. Combine it with your table names. Don't just pick something that you like, think of your class, their age, their interests or something they might learn from. Like for an older class, you could have mountain ranges, countries, capital cities. Twinkl have some fabulous group signs ranging from every idea that you could ever possibly think of! Also if you search 'Class Rewards' on Twinkl you're sure to find everything you need. I use a star chart to match my table groups. My biggest piece of advice? Don't single out your children too much, teach them to reap the rewards as a group. Individual awards can be unfair to children as you'll find it will be the same winners everytime. Balance your groups accordingly. Also, don't feel you always have to reward your students with edible or actual bought prizes, You'd be amazed at how much a little extra PE, some quiet time in your class library, computer time or Golden Time can go down!

4. Wait.

Wait until everyone is listening before you speak. This sounds a bit obvious but on knowing several dip inspectors well, they ALWAYS say this is one of the most frequent problems they encounter on visits! It might take time, it might irritate you but just have patience and WAIT. Save your voice, use a rainmaker, echo clapping, a buzzer, a bell, a hand signal, echo responses....all these are great for getting the attention of your class. I love call backs, these are some that I use. And may I add I've used them with summer camps, infants, 4th class and 6th class! 


5. Musical Chairs
Don't feel you are a meany for assigning seats. Each to their own, but I would never underestimate a good seating plan. Think of the chatterboxes, think of peer tutoring, think of your sanity. Assign seats. It's a good way of encouraging friendship, reducing 'clicky groups' and keeping an eye on those who need it. But who is to say they have to be stuck to the same seats all day every day? I like to have different work stations and areas, particularly for English and Maths. Have a floor space you can use, maybe an area for small group work, an early finisher station, if you've the space maybe even a creative area! It's all about the flexible seating these days. One of my rewards last year was to swap their chair for the yoga ball or the beanbags. They loved it!

6. I'm done!
It's guaranteed. Every day. Someone will always have their hand in the air to announce "I'm done!" and it will always be just as you are about to take a minute to organise yourself for something coming up in the next lesson or work one to one with another child. Plan for this. Have a station for early finishers or a list of things that they can do. It's ghastly and not one of my fashion favourites but my busy hat works a treat! "When teacher's busy hat you see, interrupt just for an emergency!"
Fashion at it's finest!

7. Expect the best.
Set high expectations for your class. Obviously keep them appropriate but they all deserve to be challenged. Misbehaviour can often arise simply from children being bored or understimulated. Simple but true.

8. You are not alone.
If you don't ask you'll never know. Every day is a learning experience in our job and that's partly why it's exciting. You could have the perfect day planned and all it takes is one hiccup to knock that plan out of sync. If you need help or advice, just ask. Ask a colleague, ask the principal. Don't flounder. Every school should have a mentor to support you through your first years of teaching.

9. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Don't wing it. Plan. It's essential. Don't short change your students. You don't need to get bogged down in plans to be planning well. Keep them concise and clear. Stay on top of them. If you're running off some one elses plans, don't just copy and paste, adapt them to suit you. Otherwise your plans are pointless. Draw out a quick plan for everyday, and tick off what you get through. See for guidelines.

10. Top Drawer Supplies.
Now this is a personal favourite but do not underestimate the power of your top drawer. No, no it's not just for stickers and staples. In mine you will find....babywipes, spare socks and pants (for the infants, not me!!), a roll of plastic bags (for the accidents...and this can happen in ANY room), plastic gloves, safety pins, tissues, hand sanitizer, chocolate (for me, because let's face it, there will be days when nothing else will suffice!), paracetamol (for when the chocolate isn't enough). It's basically everything but the kitchen sink, but all essential in my eyes!! Also, I also like to keep a packet of crackers or little boxes of'd be surprised at how many of your student's come to school with empty tummies and a little breakfast could turn their day (and mood) right around.

11. Take Pictures.
Document your work. If you did a nice display or experiment, take a photo. I try to take a good few photos every week because it's nice to the review the week with your class on a Friday. It's a nice form of self assessment and a good discussion/explanation opportunity. 

12. Parent Patrol.
Don't be afraid to get to know your parents. Remember their putting a lot of trust in you to look after their child so put their minds at ease! If your children are collected from the  door, why not have a parent's board? I put up a quick note every day to give the parents a rough idea of what we were doing all day. If you've taken a picture of someone doing a nice activity, send it home! Invite them in, if you have a HSCL teacher perhaps you could invite them in for Maths for fun or Art & Crafts?

13. Kindness is key.
Remember, our job is a wonderful one. We take a lot of bashing for our 'cushy job' and our 'endless holidays' but if only they knew! It's a fantastic career, but in no way easy! We get the opportunity to help shape and mould the lives and education of so many tiny humans! But at the end of the day you sometimes have to step back and think, maybe today Handwriting, Maths, Irish and Geography isn't what this child needs. Would a listening ear, a conversation, a compliment, a smile go further? Sometimes it's important to stray from the plan. Kindness is key.

Hope this helps with some of your queries, PM me if you've anything else you'd like advice or info on!

Oh also, I came across this Classroom Set Up Resource Pack on Twinkl specifically for ROI teachers!!

Now, I think it's back to relaxing for me. Celebrity Big Brother starts tonight, so that's me sorted for this rainy evening in Donegal!

Over & out,


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Giveaway Time!!

Hello everyone!! Hope all your summer holidays are going well!! I feel like a different human, so relaxed and refreshed. I'm working away at my leisure getting lots together for the blog for August and September, and lets face it no one wants to be bombarded with back to school stuff too soon.....lets enjoy July!!  
To celebrate the holidays, I'm giving away one of my favourite home-made resources for Junior letter formation and sound recognition worksheets....perfect for the early months in Junior Infants when introducing early writing and letter recognition. This resource includes a whopping 106 pages....that's four worksheets for every letter of the alphabet.
I'll announce a winner on Friday evening! Head over to my Facebook page to enter! And if you have a teacher friend you think might be interested, be sure to tag them!!

Best of luck!!

This resource is available on my page and TpT store along with many other Little Miss Teacher Resources!

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