Keeping up communication

Fostering home-school links is always an important aspect of our teaching positions. Keeping parents in the loop, providing feedback, making suggestions, giving praise when it's due etc. It's hard to keep on top of everything but little spontaneous notes are always helpful, even if it's just a sentence. Be it a post-it, a note on top of a word list or page of work - any communication is great. You'll never have time to physically talk to every parent every week and realistically you won't see them all anyway. Little personalised notes are always handy.



I keep a stock of them on my desk ready to go, so whether it's for a reminder, a suggestion or positive feedback on work or behaviour, notes like these are easily stapled into a copy or popped into a homework folder or pencil case on the spot - or even just handed out at home-time! Besides, any opportunity for a little praise is a good one.

So easily done but worthwhile. Mine is pretty basic but if you would like a copy you can PM me on Facebook on Instagram or comment below!

It's all about the time-savers!


Stories for September

September. It's hard to even think about it yet - especially if you're an infant teacher. Oh my, it's hectic! But once you get through it, half the battle of the year is over.

September deals with so much establishing of routine, rules, expectations - the list is endless. On the bright side, however, this allows for so many wonderful story telling opportunities. There are literally stories to suit every scenario - making friends, how to behave, listening skills....etc etc!!

Here are some of my story recommendations for the month of September:

For starting school:

These are nice stories to read in class and also even send home as parent and child reading activities. Always nice for September.

 'The Kissing Hand' by Audrey Penn.
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'I am absolutely too small for school" - Lauren Child
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It's an oldie but a goodie, 'Starting School' by Janet and Alan Ahlberg
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Slightly biased because I'm obsessed with Shirley Hughes' books but 'Alfie and the Big Boys' is just lovely for starting school.
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Making friends:

Making friends is a huge part of September. It's not easy for many little ones but there are so many beautiful stories that can help with the process and plant some positive seeds for the experience. Such as:

'Friends' - by Rob Lewis.

'Enemy Pie' by Derek Munson.


'Boy + Bot' by Ame Dyckman is a really lovely, quirky little story about how friendship can still blossom through differences.
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'Be Friendly Little Pig' by Tiziana Bendall-Brunello is a lovely little picture book about learning how to be friendly. I was given it a few years back and had used in September with infants several times but it vanished on me recently. I'm terrible for lending things to people and forgetting who and where etc. But sure what odds when you're sharing a love of literacy! I was delighted to spot it in the 3 for 8 deal in The Works Stores last week! 


Learning to love literacy with laughs:

Regardless of what class you are teaching, promoting a love of literacy is vital. Teaching your pupils to look forward to stories, to find the joy in reading and listening to stories. And what better way to do that than with entertaining books?

'The Book with No Pictures' by B.J Novak is an ultimate favourite of mine. I struggle to read it myself without giggling. It is just brilliant. I'm yet to read it to a group who haven't been in fits laughing by the first few pages.
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'Dogs don't do Ballet' by Anna Kemp is a gem. It is a lovely, funny story about a dog proving his owners wrong, I came across in Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, Galway, a few years ago. If you haven't been, check it out the next time you're in Galway - it's literally an Aladdin's cave of book wonder!
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Anything written by Oliver Jeffers is generally amazing, however I particularly adore his story 'Stuck'. It's simple but hilarious and the illustrations are to die for.

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'If you happen to have a dinosaur' by Linda Bailey. I love this one.
If You Happen to Have a Dinosaur by Linda Bailey

I could list funny picture books all day, so instead of making this the never ending blog post, here are some good links to plenty of other funny stories.



Anything else?

Let their contributions be valued. Why not snap a picture of their news when it's written on the board each day. You could stick the pictures up on the IWB screen and revisit it on a Friday or even at the end of the month to see if they remember sharing certain things or to see if it triggers any other contributions. You could print them and make a little news story for each month or week!


Do you have any other story favourites for September? Be sure to share!



GIVEAWAY



Hi everyone,

If you're following me on Facebook, head over to Little Miss Teacher's Facebook Page where I'm giving away two lovely Worry Monsters to one lucky follower and a friend! These are always lovely little addition to a home or classroom.
The winner will be announced on Monday!

Best of luck.


How to build fine motor skills in class

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Fine motor work is SO underrated. There is not enough time allocated for it at all in the curriculum. However, it is so important. Especially in a world where so many kiddos are coming to school with really under-developed fine motor skills.

Why? There's so many reasons. Technology can't be blamed for everything but we are definitely in the midst of a 'swipe' generation. It always strikes me with a little pang of trauma when I see a little one try and swipe a book page - I've actually lost count of how many times I've witnessed that in the past few years!

Interested in reading more about the effects of  tablets on young children? Here's a few good articles, for and against!

The Telegraph - Using iPads to pacift children may harm their development.

The Washington Post - Using an iPad or Smartphone can harm a toddlers brain.

The Guardian - Are computers bad for young children?

Early Childhood Australia - No the research does not say iPads damage brains.

Anyway, rather than succumbing to alarm or shock, the best thing to counteract poor fine motor skills is simply be prepared to strengthen them and find as many opportunities to incorporate activities that will do so into your daily plans. Be it throughout your teaching or at a Finger Gym or Funky Finger station, there are plenty of ways to work fine motor skills into your teaching and learning.
 
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Me, calculating how much I can get done in one day!

What kind of activities develop fine motor strength?

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Scissor Work

  • I try to incorporate scissor work into the day at least 2/3 times per week. I have a scissors skills book which consists of a variety of shapes, patterns and pictures which are great practice for cutting, while strengthening little hands at the same time.
  • Troll Haircuts - where are all those kitchen roll tubes you have been collecting? Draw on some eyes and a mouth and let the children chop in some hairstyles for them.
  • Cutting straws - literally, chopping up straws into little pieces. Maybe you could make a colour sorting task out of it too.
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Paper
  • Tearing paper - Yes, even before you ever worry about how well your class can use scissors, tearing paper is a really useful way of strengthening fingers. So keep those spare worksheets and let them tear away!

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Image source - Pinterest
Clothes Pegs
  • Clothes pegs are a truly undervalued resource in the classroom. (There's a sentence I nver thought I'd say!) You can use them in a variety of ways to strengthen fine motor skills. Have you a home corner? Why not make a little washing line and encourage the children to hang up their washing? 
  • You can also use them for a variety of pattern matching activities and even painting. Pinch a variety of materials between pegs and you have a selection or ready-made unique paintbrushes.
  • Got a bag of Pom Poms? Why not set up a little colour sorting challenge using the pegs as the only means of picking up the pom poms.
  • If you've got a budget to play around with at the start of the year, investing on some plastic tweezers is always a good idea. They are sturdy and durable enough to use with the sand and water too!
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                                You can get Jumbo Tweezers in packs of 12 from Thinking Toys.


Water Play

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  • Eye-droppers - the pinching of the eye droppers to is a handy little finger strengthening task and a sure way of avoiding a classroom tsunami.
  • Pipettes - I bought several packets of these last year and they are always in high demand at the water station.
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You can buy pipettes for next to nothing on Piping Rock.
  • Spray tops - once you ensure they are fully cleaned, these are great fun at the water station but also require a lot of hand strength to use. I actually stocked up on a mountain of these last year from Recreate.ie
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Stationery

  • Hole punch - hole punchers require a great deal of hand strength and coordination so therefore are a great fine motor challenge. I have about ten different types and the children love punching holes in all sorts of paper and cardboard. Once they get used to the hold punches, you'll find they love to bring them to the Junk Art station too.
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  • Paper Clips - think of all those lovely colourful paper clips you've been stocking up on. You'll never use them all so why not use them as a fine motor challenge? Linking paper clips is fidgety work and takes a lot of determination and concentration for little hands! Set a paper clip chain challenge! Again, you could make this a pattern making challenge too.
Bingo Markers - Red, 2 Pack
Mr. Price stocks Bingo Markers.
  • Bingo Markers - these are lovely, chunky markers which make nice circular patterns for printing with. Give your pupils a template or a pattern to follow and away they go!
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  • Reinforcer stickers - remember these boyos? These are great for making letter recognition or learning to spell into a fine motor challenge too. All the pupils have to do is peel off the stickers and carefully follow the shape, letter formation or word with them. Any stickers will do but obviously when you're using them in bulk you're not going to want to use you're best reward stickers!
Toys

Don't underutilise what you already have at hand. Get the most out of toys and equipment such as:
  • Lego
  • Links
  • Spools
  • Pegs & Peg Boards
  • Beads & Pipe cleaners
  • Threading
  • Unifix cubes
  • Stickle bricks
  • Mobilo
  • Train Tracks

Other useful materials


  • Nuts & bolts - yes, the real ones. All that twisting and turning takes a lot of finger work.
  • Bubble wrap - it's a fun one. Pressing and popping. Simple but a finger skill!
  • Plastic bottles and lids - matching these and putting them on correctly requires finger skills and problem solving.
  • Cotton buds (q-tips) - these are fine and require careful grip, especially if you're doing some painting with them.
  • Pipe-cleaners - pipe cleaners are great as they are easily manipulated. Why not use them as a threading activity too? Threading them through colanders or flower pots is always a fun challenge.
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Image source - Pinterest.
  • Playdough - I could do a whole post alone about the wonders of playdough and fine motor skills. All the rolling, kneading, pinching and smashing - it's super. It's always nice to scale back and let the children have plenty of time without any actual equipment - just their hands and the playdough. A fun challenge which my past few classes have loved is balancing marbles on golf tees - with playdough as the base. Takes a lot of careful work and steady hands!
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Image source - Pinterest


Have you any other 'go-to' favourites for fine motor work? Be sure to let me know!






20 Things to collect for school this summer

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Hi everyone,
I hope your summer holidays are off to a wonderful start. I've thoroughly enjoyed resting this week. I never had such end of year exhaustion in my life!

I know school is far from many of our minds and rightly so! However, without getting too bogged down in thoughts of returning to school (which is AGES away!) here's a list of some things you can get collecting over the next two months - especially if you do a lot of craft work or implement Aistear! Put a box aside somewhere at home and you'll soon have a handy little stock-pile for heading back to school - with the added bonus that your recycling bin might have a little more space in it!

1. Egg Cartons - get a head start for all the crafts you'll need them for during the year. They're easily stacked and stored and an essential if you doing Junk Art.
Hungry Caterpillar Egg Carton Craft - Little Miss Teacher Blog.

2. Kitchen Roll Tubes - again, you can never have enough. Having a stock pile of these makes life a lot easier and saves you hounding parents for them at short notice during the year.

3. Inside cardboard tube of tin foil / cling film

4. Punnets & Tubs - Plastic vegetable / fruit punnets & washing tablet tubs - not only are these handy for storage, they're excellent construction materials as they're light and easily stacked. they're also a popular item for Junk Art as they're easily transformed into vehicles, houses, monsters, caves etc!

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5. Lids & Caps - Bottle caps / milk carton lids / Pringles lids - basically any form of  plastic lids and caps.

6. Wine bottle corks - now if there was ever an incentive to crack open some vino, there's one! These are great for construction, printing, making people, water play.....endless uses! 

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Image source - buggyandbuddy



7. Wrapping paper - salvage  pretty paper from gifts - it always goes down a treat at a Junk Art, Creative Station or writing table.

8. Buttons - think of all those spare buttons you get on every purchase in Pennys! Have you ever even used them? Pop them in a tub and they'll soon add up. Handy for counting, for games, for Junk Art, for crafts or even if you're teaching your class to sew!

9. Plastic cutlery - think of all those free spoons and forks you get with fruit tubs and salads!

10. Sponges - collect old kitchen sponges for art!

11. Bubblewrap - fab for printing! Also a handy resource for your fidget box! Fine motor fidgeting galore!

12. Little plastic containers and their lids - yes, as in the ones the Garlic Mayo from you're local chipper come in! These are IDEAL for storing PVA glue and paint. Saves clean up and wastage.

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13. Glass yoghurt pots with lids. Yep, these also are brilliant for storing PVA Glue and Paint. And no, none have ever broken in school. It's nice for children to use real materials in school too - responsibility, rules & trust! The Glenisk ones from Lidl are ideal.
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14. Cardboard Coffee cups - will always be useful for crafts, construction, storage - they'll be used! You might have seen my Coffee Shop Role Play earlier in the year? Made all those coffee pit-stops justifiable!


15. Shells - collect shells for water play, natural materials for construction, crafts, maths - they're always a useful item to have around!
Check out this adorable Shell Self Registration idea from Renata Rosbiffi.
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16. Twigs and sticks - again having a variety of natural materials for construction and crafts is always a nice idea. Think of Maria Montessori's ways and the natural environment as a teacher!
This image from BooknBlues pinterest page gives me all the feels!
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17. Stones - think small, little-hand-friendly stones! Stones you could paint for story stones, stones you could add to your small world play, stones you could stack and build with - endless options. So the next time you're strolling along a seashore, keep your eyes peeled for from free, natural resources!
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Image source - Pinterest.

18. Envelopes and stamps - handy for crafts, writing material and for stocking up for a Post Office role-play!

19. Shoe boxes - construction play gems!

20. Scarves & handbags- doing a wardrobe clear out? Salvage your scarves and old handbags and save them for school! It's said that we're best to allow children more freedom and creativity with their play, so rather than buying all the commercial costumes, let them experiment with scarves and fabric and see the creations they come up with! I find scarves great for draping over an area too to corner off special sections of the room for different themes!
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Image source - Desertcart.



Materials and resources galore without spending a fortune. Happy hunting!



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