Little Miss Teacher Blog

By Clara Fiorentini

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

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!


Monday, 2 July 2018

Teaching Junior Infants

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! 

I've tried to tackle as many of your queries as possible, if you've any more, you know where to find me!

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