Little Miss Teacher Blog

By Clara Fiorentini

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Happy Birthday Aistear!

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Play gives children opportunities to be in control of what is happening and what they know. (Levin,1996)


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Through play, children exercise self-control, develop previous related knowledge, take turns, co-operate and socialise with others. (Glover, 1999)

It's hard to believe that Aistear
the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework celebrates its tenth birthday soon. It's safe to say that the curriculum framework has helped bring the teaching and learning methodologies in our primary infant classrooms on in leaps and bounds. For the most part, teaching in the early years of primary school in many classrooms has a significantly different appearance now, compared to what it did over a decade ago. More formal ways have been set aside and a more playful approach adopted. I know, my own practice and my approach to teaching and learning have been immensely enhanced by elements of the Aistear framework.

As primary school teachers, we definitely have a lot to thank Aistear for. The
 concepts of 'play' and 'playful pedagogy' are still undergoing a journey of their own in the Irish primary educational context. Over the past decade, play-based practice with less an emphasis on didactic, formal approaches has indeed been a source of rejuvenation to our teaching at the junior end of the school. 

Through my own experience with the Aistear framework, as an infant teacher, I felt more and more equipped on a year-to-year basis contending with the ever-evolving, ever-diversifying Irish infant classroom. Our classrooms are in a constant state of evolution and while this can be a challenge, there-in lies a need greater than ever for a playful approach to teaching and learning
 to meet the different learning needs of the children.

From the perspective of a teacher who spent several years dedicating immense effort (proudly) into getting an Aistear approach up and running in an infant classroom, it was (without a shadow of doubt) a truly beneficial learning curve but didn't come without its challenges. The biggest challenge of those, being simply, the attitudes towards play.

'How would you be bothered?'

'There isn't enough time.'

'There aren't enough resources.'

And my favourite of all...

'It's an awful lot of mess.'

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One thing is for sure, when you look beyond what a small few may see as 'mess' and appreciate the sheer amount of skill development, language development and interaction at hand, the immense value of play in the primary school stands before you. 

Where are we going with 'play' at primary level?

As stated in the Aistear Framework (p9);

"Early learning takes place through a reciprocal relationship between the adult and the child – sometimes the adult leads the learning and sometimes the child leads. The adult enhances learning through a respectful understanding of the child’s uniqueness. He/she alters the type and amount of support as the child grows in confidence and competence, and achieves new things."

To fulfill the aims of the Aistear framework, it is imperative that playful pedagogy is valued and prioritised at primary level
 as a natural transition support for the children. The Aistear hour was of its time but it worked! It helped people get into the 'swing' of things and let go some of the overly formal classroom practices. But is the notion of the ' Aistear hour' restricting the potential of playful learning across all the elements of the infant school day? We must strive to ensure that the the precious elements of 'child-led' play so evident in our early childhood contexts are maintained and continued to be wholly fostered at primary level. Child-adult ratios are a significant and unavoidable factor. After the transition from ECCE contexts to primary school; and with brimming class sizes, tackling the best 'led' approach to play can be a concern. As primary school teachers, ensuring that the child-led element continues to be fostered is important yes, but using our role as facilitator of play by embracing open-ended invitations that playful pedagogy awards will only continue to maximise the intentional teaching opportunities that play provides. Finding the balance and recognising the balance is key. We can play, teach and observe learning simultaneously.


Intentional teaching involves educators being deliberate, purposeful ad thoughtful in their decisions and action. Intentional teaching is the opposite of teaching by rote or continuing with traditions simply because things have 'always' been done that way. (Duncan, 2009)

Those of us who have embraced playful pedagogy in classrooms can most definitely recognise and agree that play is not a simple, singular term. It is indeed a very multifaceted teaching methodology.
Is there a need for child-led play? Absolutely.
Is there a need for playful learning? Definitely.
Is there a need for intentional teaching through play? Without a doubt.
Do I need to go on? Surely not.

Play is play and it is here to stay. It is serious business – it is the work of the child and it involves serious learning. 
Our new Primary Language Curriculum (2019) recognises the significance of 'appropriately playful learning opportunities' when developing literacy skills in junior and senior infants which is a welcome inclusion for many.

What is evident in schools now, is that children, who have been immersed in playful learning and instruction framed by Aistear's themes, are now journeying through the senior end of the school, armed with the learning skills and dispositions practiced and embedded during their play-rich learning experiences. A scenario which can only but blossom over the coming school years.

Happy birthday Aistearwe have learned a lot- the children have benefited significantly- here's to the next decade!





Portraying Playful Learning:

Are you interested in Aistear or playful pedagogy in the primary setting? Many wonderful teachers share their journeys through playful learning online - particularly on Instagram. They play an extremely important role in promoting good practice and through their platforms are inspiring many young and long-standing teachers to embrace playful learning and highlight the benefits of the Aistear framework and playful pedagogy at primary level.

Look out for:



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Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Fuss-free play dough recipe

I've been asked to post my favourite play dough recipe. I've tried several recipes, but this is hands-down the easiest, safest and most successful that I've found.


No boiling water necessary; which makes it all the better for getting the children involved in making your play dough batches. 

I've lost count of how many times I've used this recipe and it never fails.

Happy playing!


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Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Halloween - 8 ways to get your class writing!

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I love Halloween.
I love Halloween themed learning.
I love Halloween themed writing even more!

Halloween is a brilliant time of year for working on creative writing. So many opportunities for discussion, for descriptions and details.

As children progress with their writing competence, their texts depend on details. Quality sentences with descriptions and details to hook the attention of readers. What better excuse to integrate the theme of Halloween and make use of all things creepy, gory and shivery to inspire young writers to evoke some detail in their writing?

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Watch out for:
The Literacy Shed have some fabulous spooky-themed images for prompting narrative writing and some great eerily themed background sounds too, to play as you write! Set the mood for spooktacular writing before the children begin!

Halloween Themed Writing Activities:



  • Pass the Page

This is a lively group activity for narrative writing. In groups, the children compose a Halloween themed story. I like to use a visual to prompt the writing. The children must take turns writing one line at a time and passing the page around the group until their story is complete. Each time a child writes a sentence, they must read it aloud so all group members can hear. This is a lovely collaborative approach to narrative writing and ensues lots of lovely discussion, chat, debate and vocabulary development! I like to encourage a collaborative approach to practice a concept like narrative writing before setting the children off to compose a piece themselves.

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  • Potion Making

Potions may seem like an obvious one for Halloween, but they are a great opportunity for creative thought and descriptive writing. The 'Song of the Witches' from Macbeth is an ideal invitation into potion themed creative writing as it is rich in description, detail and rhyme. Invite the children to compose a potion for a spell of their choice - consider the ingredients, the recipe and encourage them to give their rationale for this potion.
Could you extend the learning and link in with any potion themed reading? What about an extract from George's Marvellous Medicine or The Witches!

  • Halloween Onomatopoeia

Creak! Bang! Whoosh! Stomp! Halloween is the perfect theme for practising onomatopoeia. Invite children to compose sentences using onomatopoeia and then encourage them to use it in their narrative writing.

  • In the Haunted House

Before we ever set the children a task of writing a narrative, it's important that we arm them with the tools and language to shape their work. Time to plan and time to prepare is essential. Regardless of the setting, it's important to consider how the setting looks, how it sounds and how it feels. Considering the senses when writing opens paths to all sorts of welcome descriptive language.

  • Halloween Jokes
Why wouldn't the skeleton cross the road?


Because he didn't have any guts!
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Introduce the children to some Halloween themed jokes, then have them try to compose their own! 

  • Halloween Story Starters

Sometimes it can be tricky to get started with writing a narrative piece without a visual or a title. Story starters a nice way of launching the writer into a narrative and help open the scene. 

  • Witches Cauldron Writing Prompts
Setting the scene is important. When a theme is involved, it's nice to have a key object to focus attention on to inspire and trigger ideas for creativity. So if it's Halloween, why not use the cauldron. Fill it with a few key items that must feature in the story or piece of writing.

"In the cauldron, the witch's pot,
Let us see what prompts we've got!
Are they nice or are they gory?
Whatever they are, they'll be in my story!"
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  • Roll a Story


Roll a story is a nice way of helping pupils to pick a character, setting and key object to feature in their writing. It's a nice starting point for anyone who might struggle to get started or to trigger a little inspiration!


You can download all my Halloween Writing Materials for free here! 

Be sure to share a picture of them in use in your classroom!







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Monday, 7 October 2019

Podcast Interview: Inside Education

Inside Education - a podcast for educators interested in teaching

I was last week's guest on Inside Education - the educational podcast presented and produced by my colleague Seán Delaney. I spoke to Seán about all things literacy, language and literature. Such a lovely experience and an honour to be invited on as a guest for a podcast I enjoy listening to and admire so much myself!

Let me know if you have a listen!

Inside Education Podcast Interview - Little Miss Teacher


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