Little Miss Teacher Blog

By Clara Fiorentini

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Albert The Dragon - Gareth Chapman

Albert the Dragon Gareth Chapman Books Dragon childrens book adventure

Anyone who has been following LMT for any duration of time knows that I am fond of picturebooks. Fond? Ok, I love them. One of the privileges of working in education, especially literacy education, means that so much of my work gets to revolve around literature - more specifically, children's literature!

Galway based (via New Zealand) author, Gareth Chapman recently sent me a copy of his newest publication, 'Albert The Dragon' and I just knew on the first read that it was one for my resource armoury.

Meaningful plot 


Clever Illustrations 

Subtle print embedded within illustrations (you all know I'm all about that environmental print!) 

Dragon as a protagonist 

Chapman's carefully crafted picturebook tells the tale of an elderly dragon, named Albert who is a little ashamed of his wings. Without giving too much away, Albert makes a fabulous friend in Holly, a young girl called who not only helps him to overcome his worries about his wings but also awards Albert with a whole new lease of life.

A lovely text for a read aloud, for incorporation into well-being learning activities and a without doubt, a great addition to a class library ...definitely a text which would be accessible for Junior Infants right up to 2nd class to model rhyming, descriptive language and even to aid the development of visual literacy. It is also an ideal text to utilise in the senior classes as a mentor text for delving into discussion and critical thinking. An ideal text to inspire creative writing and even as a focus for working on those all-important reading comprehension skills like predicting, inferring, visualising and making connections. 

One of the things that really stands out to you on your first read of Albert the Dragon, is the quality of the illustrations. Though detailed, they are age appropriate and afford plenty of opportunities for exploration, discussion and inferring. A perfect complement to the story, the illustrations are the creations of Spiddal based Brazilian artist, Andrea Rossi.

Albert the Dragon can be purchased on Gareth's website is on sale in Charlie Byrne's bookshop, Galway City and is also available on Andrea Rossi's workshop.

A beautifully crafted text with a truly heart-warming plot - and my goodness do we need more of those these days!

Children's Books | Gareth Chapman Books | Ireland

For more:

Follow Gareth on Instagram 

Follow Anrdrea Rossi on Instagram

This text was #gifted.


'Start the Day' Strategies

get service, chat, chatting, blue, yellow, ukraine, weird shit ...

'Start the Day' Strategies are language filled ways to start the school day, fostering an environment of responsiveness through listening, sharing, discussing and thinking.

It is vitally important that as teachers, we provide children with the opportunities to (A.) talk with their peers and be heard by their peers and to (B.) talk with their teacher and be heard by their teacher. We often plan a lot for talk and discussion, but it's important to remember the skills of listening and the experiences of being 'heard'. In the return to school process this year, prioritising opportunities for the children to talk and be heard are essential. 

Little Miss Teacher Blog - Learning to listen is a still that requires lots  of time and attention - essential for holistic development of phonological  awareness! . . . #earlyliteracy | Facebook

Did you know that a child's right to be heard is actually outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? Article 12 to be precise! To learn more about this and why it is important to ensure that children are heard, visit Every Child's Right to be Heard (UNICEF).

There are lots of ways to facilitate listening opportunities but choosing 'Start the Day' strategies helps make responsive practices become embedded in the daily routines and communication procedures throughout the school day. Many of the strategies listed below can be used with all ages groups, infants to 6th, and are easily facilitated from their desks, circle time or pair spots around the room. Sometimes children can feel reluctant about offering to speak out but inviting them to talk and be heard through lively and enjoyable talk-based activities can help alleviate this reluctance.

Listening" Emoticon

The idea behind 'Start the Day' strategies is that we begin the day with strategy or activity that involves sharing and listening. it is also reinforcing the idea that our classrooms are spaces of talk and discussion and that the voice of each individual child is valued and important!

Simple 'Start the Day' Strategies:

For the circle time set-up:

  • Hello, good morning and I'd like to say hello to ______________.

  • Good morning everyone, today I am thankful for _____________.

  • Good morning everyone, I am good at _____________.

  • Good morning everyone and good morning ____picks one pupil in particular_____, I like how you _____________.

  • Pass the ball - a listen, repeat & add activity. The children roll the ball to someone in the circle and the receiver repeats what the sender has shared and add their own statement, for example:
    • 'My name is Clara, I like to drink coffee. I pass to Tom.' 
    • 'My name is Tom. Clara likes to drink coffee. I like to drink milkshakes. I pass to Aoife' 
                                                         ...and so on!

  • Today I know I will love (day of the week) because ________________

  • Circle of compliments

Whole class:
  • Set daily goals - invite the class to participate in setting some daily goals for themselves; goals for the group and goals for themselves.

  • Empathy Scenarios - present and empathy scenario to the children and invite them to discussion what the best solution or approach may be

  • Morning wonders - share a morning wonder with the class and follow the discussion from there

Funny animals of 2013 - in pictures | World news | The Guardian
Image source: The Guardian
  • Picture This - Share a picture of the day and invite the children to talk and discuss an interesting image. While the aim is an invitation to talk and listen, this is another fabulous opportunity to work on skills such as observing, inferring and describing.

 Kid President Quotes Nice to Say
Image source: We Are Teachers
  • Thought of the Day - share a meaningful or thought-provoking quote with the children as a discussion guides.  The Kid President quotes are a great starting point and We Are Teachers have a selection of printable posters here.

For pair set ups:
  • Turn & talk - set a timer, invite the pupils to turn & talk to each other. Perhaps your might set a topic or present a guiding question to get them started but sometimes these aren't always necessary

  • Conversation Starters - sometimes a little guiding prompt of question is all we need to get the conversation, thoughts and laughs flowing.

Why not set a weekly or monthly schedule, this way it keeps the conversation points interesting and avoids things becoming too repetitive. It's also a nice way of ensuring that there's a strategy for everyone to enjoy. 

Let's start as we mean to continue - talk, sharing & listening!


Friday, 21 August 2020

Returning to school: What about the class library?

Books For Themes: Infants - 2nd class | Little Miss Teacher Blog

 FAQ: Can I keep my class library?

As teachers draw closer to the return to school, there is great uncertainty still surrounding the classroom set up. Understandably so. There are mixed messages galore and honestly, we're undoubtedly going to be wading through 'Do's' and 'Don'ts' for the foreseeable.

The classroom library is a major feature in most primary classrooms, so naturally there is concern and queries as to whether we should keep them or not. Just like play, circle time and collaborative learning - we need our class libraries. The children still require opportunities for independent reading, DEAR time and self-directed book time.

Like many other elements within our classrooms, changes within our library practices are required, but that does not mean a blanket ban on books in general.

For every problem, there is a solution; and within those solutions come opportunities and one thing that we can see within the online primary teaching community, these opportunities are brimming with creativity, hope and determination! One thing we have collectively recognised since March 12, is the power of our books and stories. During the period of distance learning, many classrooms were brought together 'remotely' by the shared story experience. As schools embrace the 'slow down to catch up' approach this term, books, stories and reading for pleasure will hold an extremely important place within Irish classrooms, regardless of whether it is infants or Rang a Sé in question.

I want to keep my classroom library, but how?

There are several options and their suitability to your classroom ultimately depends on how you are operating the pod system or social distancing within your own classroom.

If you are treating your class as an entire pod:

  • Assess your library and significantly reduce the amount of books on your shelves for the time being. 
  • Store the remainder of the books elsewhere so they can be rotated
  • Encourage the children to make more careful choices with their books to reduce the handling
  • Display books with the covers facing outwards so choices can be made without excess handling the books.
  • Hand hygiene must be practiced before and after handling books.

If you have separate pods within the classroom:
  • Create 'mini-libraries' or 'book boxes' for individual groups.
  • Storing the books within boxes (ideally with lids) means that they they can be easily quarantined and rotated. 
  • A good tip is to label the date of quarantine on the box just in the event that you could be absent! 
  • I saw that Libraries Ireland were quarantining returned books for 72hours. This could be a good approach to follow. So, even if you make the book boxes available for each group Monday - Thursday, you could remove and quarantine those boxes until at least the following Monday.

Changes, yes, but ones that the children should hopefully be enabled to adapt to with ease.

If you plan to try the book box approach - you can download my posters here for free.


Thursday, 20 August 2020

The Literacy Channel - Phonological Awareness


The latest instalment from Jen and myself is now LIVE on The Literacy Channel.

We're talking all things Phonological Awareness and share over 35 different activities to develop all the critical elements of phonological awareness.

Unsure of some of the terminology or what Phonological Awareness entails? Don't worry! We cover that too.

And, as always, all the slides & activities can be downloaded for FREE. You can find them in the video bio.

This year, take time to give your class the best possible opportunities to develop their Phonological Awareness and set them up for greater success in learning to read and spell!

Share, circulate, enjoy!

Don't forget to subscribe to The Literacy Channel. You can find us on Twitter too!


Tuesday, 11 August 2020

The Heart in Your Hand

Sometimes the first we days settling into school can be a little bumpy. Things have the potential to be a little bumpier than usual this year with COVID19 and the fact that most schools will be limiting what can be brought to-and-from home. So, comforters like a special toy or a teddy probably won’t be an option this year, but that doesn’t mean your child can’t have a special comforter to hand!


Enter, The Heart in Your Hand...


Draw a little heart on your hand and your child’s hand and let them know that if you press it, they’ll feel it too. I used this little trick with Junior Infants and Senior class pupils – you would be surprised how effective it can be.


As I always say, there is a poem for everything – here’s mine for the helping heart.


A direct line to parents, guardians and loved ones – what more do you need?


You can download my Heart in your Hand guide for parents here.


Monday, 10 August 2020

What did you do at school today?

 'What did you do at school today?' 


Sponge Bob To Do GIF - SpongeBob ToDo Nothing - Discover & Share ...

This can be common conversation between parents and children after the school day. The 'Nothing' response can be a frustrating one for parents and teachers alike. 

'The Nothing Poem' is a little poem I used to share with parents at the beginning of the school year. I also displayed it on the Parent's Board to serve as a little reminder of how much 'Nothing' can actually mean!

You can download a copy of the 'Nothing' poem in poster format here.

After a busy day at school, sometimes the children just need a little time to decompress. The 5 Step Check-In is a nice little way to approach the conversation about the school day in a way that enables the children to think, share and describe. Here's a screengrab of an example of the 5 Step Check-in I shared during my takeover on The Family Edit last week. 

Watch my full take over from their Back To School series here where I share FIVE important tips for returning to school.


Comhar Linn - The INTO Credit Union

I have been a member of the INTO Credit Union since the summer I graduated from college - and that's not today or yesterday! It has been a huge support to me in terms of regular saving which in turn, enabled me to finance the continuation of my studies - in particular, various CPD courses and my Masters. Saving with Comhar Linn also facilitated various important life milestones along the way - travel, first car, furnishing my home and, not forgetting, our wedding! Being a member enabled you to avail of their reasonable lending rates and fuss free application process, a huge plus for me! Jumping fences, be it physically or in paperwork, is a no for me!

Saving whilst living in a city is challenging. Saving whilst paying (what could often be deemed extortionate) rent is even more challenging. Add commuting, bills and somewhat of a social life... we all know the drill!. For me, having a saving system where the funds went out at source when payday arrived was what worked for me. That's where the Comhar Linn fitted in perfectly. They offer salary (and pension) deduction facilities.

So, what do the Comhar Linn offer?

Current Account

In October 2019, the Comhar Linn launched their new Current Account service. This is separate to a member's saving or loan account and means that members have instant access to their money through a debit card, a secure app and an online portal. 

Some of the benefits associated with a Comhar Linn current account include:

  • Transparent fees (€4 per month)
  • Contactless payments up to €50
  • Overdraft facility of up to €5000 available
  • Instant access to your money (mobile app available)
  • Fees are cheaper than most leading banks
  • Easy sign-up process

Comhar Linn have created a current account transfer guide for anyone considering a switch, it's quite straightforward, really! To learn more about a Comhar Linn Current Account, click here.

Lending Services

The Comhar Linn is a popular 'go-to' for teachers requiring a loan. The interest rates are extremely competitive are are the same for all members. To learn more about application processes and interest rates, and try out the loan calculator, click here.

Budget Service

The Comhar Linn also offer a Budget Account service which enables members to manage their household bills. Basically, a Budget Account means that a member pays all their annual household bills through one account. When you calculate your total annual amount, a regular fortnightly deduction from salary is established. This amount is credited fortnightly to your Budget Account meaning all bills are paid in full and on time. Out of sight, out of mind!

To learn more about the Comhar Linn's Budget Service, click here.


This is not a paid post. When the Comhar Linn reached out about collaborating on a blog post, I was  more than happy to share my experiences and recommend what I feel is a great service and support for teachers and their families. If you have any further queries surrounding the Comhar Linn or how to become a member, you can find all the relevant information for existing teachers, B.Ed students, PME students and retired teachers here.

If you have any queries on my experiences with the Comhar Linn, you can drop me a DM me on Instagram.


Thursday, 6 August 2020

Preparing Your Junior Infant for School

Image result for school gif

There are many activities that we as parents AND teachers can do to prepare children for formal learning. 

Before starting school and in the early months of school, it is best that plenty of time is allocated to developing important skills to best prepare children for formal learning. Their bodies and minds need time to get ready to learn - their fingers, their feet, their posture, the concentration, their listening - the list goes on and on! Transitioning from home or preschool to primary is a huge process and children need time to navigate that transition and to become accustomed to their new learning environment, their teacher and their peers they share the learning space with. There are many, many valuable learning opportunities that the children require and deserve to experience long before we ever expect them to sit down and deal with the formality of desk work and text books.

How can I help to prepare my child for learning at school?

Content in a Cottage: Einstein Quote about PLAY
Image: Content Cottage

Play - Play makes so much of our learning 'real' for children. Our children NEED to play, it's how they make sense of the world and the many concepts we teach them.  It's also how the children practice all the language they are learning. An important thing to remember about play is that when your child is inviting you to play with them, they're inviting you to talk with them. Play and language go hand-in-hand.

Board Games - Board games are a great way of working on turn-taking, sharing, waiting and learning to lose! I use and always recommend Orchard Toys, they have a lovely variety of numeracy & literacy games for young children.

Humpty Dumpty - Nursery Rhymes - MyVoxSongs on Make a GIF

Nursery Rhymes -  Nursery Rhymes are really important for developing you child's oral language but also for teaching your child lots of really important pre-reading skills too! By singing Nursery Rhymes with your child you are developing their awareness of rhythm, rhyme, syllables, alliteration, letter sounds - and so much more! There's a rhyme for everything -  this website, Emma's Diary, has a great list of popular Nursery Rhymes and their lyrics if you're looking for some ideas or reminders!

Play dates - they're not always feasible, especially in the current Covid impacted times, but they are lovely opportunities for your child  to interact with other children of a similar age and practice all sorts of skills for socialising. 

Image result for picture books

Read - strive to read to your child every day and don't be afraid to revisit the same book again and again! This builds enjoyment but also is really important for building on language and vocabulary.  Let your child join in with telling the story - read sentences and leave out the last word for them to guess. Encourage your child to gently turn the pages and follow the direction of the text. Stop and take a picture walk - examine illustrations and see what they see and talk about it.

Health Pills Sticker by Ritual for iOS & Android | GIPHY

'I Spy' - It's an oldie but a goodie! 'I Spy' is a great game to play with children as it gets them working on listening skills and observation skills. It's also a great activity for helping children think about letter sounds.

Fiddly Fun - Fine motor skills have a huge part to play in school and working on developing these skills from a young age is really important! You can develop fine motor skills by using simple activities, such as:

  • Rolling, patting and pinching play dough
  • Clipping clothes pegs onto cardboard
  • Playing with fine motor toys like pegs & peg boards, links & lego.
  • Threading beads onto pipe-cleaners

Get Moving - To develop gross motor skills, the children need to get moving. Running, jumping, hoping, balancing, crawling, rolling - these are all vital skills. Challenge your child to hopscotch, walking on a trail, bouncing & catching balls, walking up & down stairs. The more outdoors, the better!

Rocks Paper Scissor GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Scissor skills - Cutting and sticking are a huge part of Junior Infants and using scissors can be extremely tricky for the little ones. Learning to hold scissors is tough so plenty of practice chopping up old magazines and newspapers is a great start. Ensure your child is holding the scissors with their thumbs pointing upwards! You might find your child is sticking their elbow out when learning to manoeuvre the scissors - pop a page between their body and their elbow to encourage them to keep their elbow down! Cutting with scissors can be a really tricky skill to master.

Drawing Gif | Max Installer

Doodling & drawing: Lots of time and opportunities to draw and doodle is key. Doodling and scribbling have a huge part to play in developing handwriting skills. Using a variety of pens, pencils and colours is great. The little pencils from Ikea are great for little hands. Facilitating some vertical doodling opportunities is important too, it's much more natural for children to write that way - think of when they were babies and found a pen...they go straight for the wall or your doors! Sticking paper to the wall is a good one for this. Or, take them outdoors with a paintbrush and some water and 'paint' on the wall or fence - vertical writing opportunities but also developing really important muscles for balance and future handwriting skills!

ANIMATED GIFS – Mia Hernandez Design

Colouring: Learning to colour is an important skill for young children and moving beyond the scribble stage can be tricky for some. It's also important too not to always reach for the colouring book. Blank pages allow for a lot more imagination and creativity! 

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