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!



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