The Balanced Approach!
Following a recent survey on my social media pages, it will come as no surprise to many that there is a high level of trepidation amongst teachers around how a safe return to school will look. Uncertainty, questions and debate hover around teachers like vultures waiting to pounce should schools interpret the guidelines in the wrong way! Anxiety is building, and we want answers. How can we offer a high-quality learning experience and keep everyone safe at the same time?
The reality is there will be risk involved in reopening schools, and there is no guaranteed safety. But what are the alternatives, given that this Covid19 is here for the foreseeable future? We need to evaluate the risk and mitigate it in a realistic, practical manner if we are to manage to live alongside this virus.
Last night I went to bed, feeling anxious. I knew I should have been setting my alarm for school in the morning. The festivities of the St. Patrick's break are over, and my body clock was telling me that it was time to return to normal. I woke up this morning before the sun, earlier than usual and that feeling of anxiety had turned to upset. The reality had finally arrived and was parked firmly on my thoughts...
We may not see our children for many months to come.
More than anything I want to go to school this morning, I wish normality to return, and I want to see the children I teach. But instead, the reality is that I won't see the children and I'm not even sure I will be able to connect with them, especially the children who need me the most, the ones who escape into the security of our classroom. I feel worried that we may not get to finish what we started, we worked so hard this year and post Christmas you get to see all these efforts fall into place as we begin to reap the rewards of our hard work.
Now I'm worried that the children will soon start to feel this sense of change in their every day, maybe they'll start to miss our little classroom family, our silly jokes and structure routines that they moan about (but secretly love!). Our hands-on exploration of the unknown, our play and our connection. Never again will I breathe a sign of irritation if a child interrupts my teaching with a story about their pet sock at home. I'll miss the morning greetings, the idle chat and the regular taletelling. Now we don't have our little friends to tell tales on!
I know we are meant to keep positive, but it's important to share our anxieties so that they don't begin to fester and consume us. It will be hard for us Infant teachers because we work with the most vulnerable of our society. Teaching infants is so much more than just giving direction. It requires touch, emotion and a great sense of presence, more than any other class level.
This morning I woke up feeling upset, but this emotion gives me more drive than ever to be innovative in finding a way to connect with each of the children in my class! Children are resilient, and they bounce back, it's going to be ok. This will be but a small moment in their whole lifetime, many may not even remember in years to come. No loss of tuition over the coming months is going to change their longterm education achievement. We are just on pause, a moment in time we might be able to erase. We will pick up where we left off. We will ease into this new normal, taking it hour by hour, day by day.
We will be ok.
“I say to you all, once again -- in the light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
Stay safe, stay sane and hang onto every moment of happiness that comes your way my friends!
When do Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter start and end?
It is a long-standing debate I have with anyone who obliges me in conversation, as to how the months and seasons correspond. Every year when the 'Spring' display goes up in the corridor on February 1, I have the battle in my head. "How are the children supposed to understand that it is Spring, when we often look out the window and everything tells us were are in the depths of Winter?" (flashback to The Beast From The East in February 2019!) So once and for all, I decide I need to but this to rest, by doing some research! To start I put the question to my readers in a poll on my Instagram page and here are the results.
Every year I choose a few focus areas of my teaching practice I want to improve on, this year one of those areas was guided reading. To start the ball rolling by found myself some CPD in the shape of Stephen Graham and his reading workshop. I enjoyed Stephen's talk, he is a lively speaker who kept us listening eagerly, even if it was to his back as he roamed between tables to the rear of the conference floor! (I always make a beeline for a front-row table, but in this case, it didn't have its usual desired effect). From Stephen's workshop, I walk away with plenty of useful tips, all of which I will share with you in this post.
Five tools for the balanced reader’s toolkit
Supporting children through the process of learning to read with little stress and as much success as possible is the ultimate goal of any teacher. We want children to become successful and component readers who read for both knowledge and enjoyment, a complex task for any teacher regardless of experience. And just when you feel you know what you’re doing, you realise that each new class, with their unique needs require a whole new approach to literacy! There is no quick fixer for gaining reading success, nor will any one component alone, churn out those fluent readers. The challenge for us educators is to provide each child with a personally tailored set of tools for their reading toolkit.
Playful Lesson Planning...
Strand: Energy and Forces
Strand Unit: Magnetism
1) Investigate the fact that magnets attract certain materials
2) Use magnets of different shapes and sizes in purposeful play to explore their effects on various materials
Skills: carry out simple investigations, make observations and collect Data
Focus Language: Materials, magnets, magnetism, attract, attach, metal, copper, screws, fabric, wood, plastic
Stress Free, Mess Free...
This is my second year making bread in a bag with my infant learners. It's a really fun activity and relatively easy to do with infants. What I love most about it is there is a lot less mess involved because it's all contained in a bag. In this post I share the 'how to' steps and at the end I'll go through a few different activities you could do to integrate some other subject areas into this lesson!
Creating the 21st Century Classroom...
Getting creative with play-doh...
Play-Doh is probably one of the all-time favourite resources in the infant classroom! It's not just a sensory incitement that compels the children to reach for the play-doh at every opportunity, it's also a very useful and versatile resource for a teacher to use throughout the day, in any lesson. They one down side about Play-Doh is that it is expensive! And because of an already stretched budget, I started to make my own play-doh about 5 years ago. So, as you can imagine I've tried a fair few different recipes over the years.
Lets make them ones to remember...
For most children it is an exciting time where they get to make new friends and play with lots of new toys, and for some children it can be a terrifying time anticipating the unknown... they might feel completely out of their comfort zone. Your job is to be prepared for every event! No pressure...
I absolutely recommend that you give these Bath Bombs a go! They were a massive hit with my class and made a memorable gift to send home to their loved one... In this case The Mammies! While this project was relatively easy to do in class, my first attempt went horribly wrong. So before you attempt this activity with your class make sure you read this post to the end to see my tips and suggestions. So here's how I did them...
When I had a little time over the mid-term break I made some great salt dough bakery items for our role-play area. I made them with my own children as a fun activity. What I love about the salt dough is they look sooo realistic, they're not plastic, they're relatively cheap to make especially if you have some paint already and they last for years! (I hope!) So without any more chat I'll get straight into how I made them...
Now and then in my job, I come across a new approach to teaching that captures the pure anticipation and imagination of the children I teach. The ability to deliver a lesson that ignites wondrous excitement is my goal as a teacher, a lesson that is so much fun it essentially has the children teaching themselves. The children become so engaged and focused on the activity all you have to do is be the facilitator! But it's also important that the lesson awakens excitement in me. As a teacher, if I find myself looking forward to teaching a lesson, I will revisit it time and time again, and that's when teaching for me becomes a pleasure and not just a profession.
6 Steps to Successful Role-Play In The Classroom...
One question I'm often asked is how do you get children to stay on topic during their role-play? So in this post I've put together a few of my favourite tips I use to help encourage children to dig deep into their imagination during their role-play.
Step 1 - Build their vocabulary
The little steps to reading success...
Teaching children to read is no easy task! It is a subject area that requires teachers to have a great amount of knowledge and expertise. I am not an expert in linguistics (few teachers are), but I have spent a lot of time researching what is involved in learning to read, all the time trying to see things from a child's perspective. We all know reading is a skill fundamental to succeeding in school and life, so as an educator it is my responsibility to make sure I am confident teaching children to read and that my teaching is reflective of current practice and research. Most importantly I want to do my best to ensure that no child is left behind on the journey to reading success.
It's exciting, Collaborative and most of all it's FUN!
Making movies in your class is the most magical way to bring your learning themes alive! If you're in any way creative and a just a touch tech savvy then this is the way to go! It is the best way to extend learning in your class and will be a hit with the children, parents and your whole school community... and you probably have all you need to start creating movies today at your fingertips! (literally)
Hey Hey Everyone!
So, I’m here brushing the cobwebs off my blog! And just in case you were wondering I haven’t fallen into the copy machine or been swallowed up by the laminator. I just took a break from blogging simply because I was tired and found it easier to post to my readers over on Facebook and Instagram. But I’m feeling revived as I head into this new school year and want to fill you in on where I am now.
Focus on speech before print - What you can teach in the dark!
Therefore, it is vital that we teach phonological awareness skilfully, using teaching methods that are informed by current research. The good news is that when taught this way, most children will learn to read at acceptable levels.
YOU need to get involved in the future of the Irish primary education system!
Last year I attended a number of cluster meetings that discussed the proposed redevelopment of structure and time allocation of the primary school curriculum. This was concluded with a conference in Dublin Castle where people from all areas of education got to give their opinions and suggestion on this consultation. This week I attended the next stages of the consultations at seminar one: Review and Redevelopment of the Primary Curriculum. Today's blog will give you a brief overview of the key points of the day and link you to the papers discussed.
Let's put things in logical order...
As a child's ability to be active learner develops so to does their need for more challenging and abstract ways to explore and practice the same skills. Sequencing skills are extremely important in everyday life and in the new language curriculum sequencing has it's own learning outcome. Retelling and elaborating in sequence plays an important role in the development of a child's language skills and comprehension of written texts. It is one of those foundation skills that children will use to build on other skills in the future, while also helping children to recognise patterns that make the world around them more predictable and understandable. There are plenty of daily activities that offer opportunities to practice those important sequencing skills... story time, aistear play, P.E., art. Most activities involve some form of sequencing. Sequencing can be practiced in a simple two minute activity, a whole lesson or even a whole class project worked on over a week. Ideally the language of sequencing could be integrated into most lessons.
Now and then, I raid my children's book collection looking for something for school! Frog in Love is a perfect love story for infants classes, and I'll be planning all my lessons around it this week. So, here's a few ideas I've put together...
New beginnings and fresh starts all round!
At least that's the way it should be... I have mixed feelings as I head back to the class after the Christmas break. Before the holidays I allow myself to feel that I have the whole year ahead of me, take it easy and allow the children time to adjust to all things new. Then all of a sudden, it's Christmas and you tell yourself you're half way through the year and you think of all the things they don't know yet and you try not to hyperventilate... but panic not because all is not as you think.
The last week before we break up for Christmas holidays is a magical time for children and teachers. It is hard not to buzz off the excitement of the little ones! The classroom is a hive of festive activity and it's nice to ease back on the hard work and do some fun activities. Last year we did something really special that kind of happened organically. We were discussing food which was our language topic. What started off as a conversation about Brussel Sprouts... turned into an idea for a food tasting lesson... but it turned into something far more magical and I think I can say that this is the cutest thing I have ever done with a class. Our very own mini Christmas dinner. It was so much fun!
Now they're ready to write...
In most European countries, children are not expected to start formal handwriting with a pencil until they are six years old (or the countries that do best in international comparisons scores in Literacy, until they are 7). So, when are children ready to learn letter formation? This has been a much-debated topic and rightly so! On many occasions, I witnessed children become overloaded with the demands to develop these essential skills earlier and earlier at an ever-increasing pace. Do we risk children missing out on less 'essential' age-appropriate experiences in an attempt to spend more time getting children writing earlier?