Getting ready for tomorrow – 5th & 6th Class

As many of you may know I will be moving to the Senior Classes this year.
So this post is all about my classroom set up in 5th and 6th class.

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I have arranged my class into groups and each group has one of these frames. I got the frame in IKEA and printed commonly mispelled words for one side and a maths problem solving guide on the other. I downloaded both of these resources from Twinkl.co.uk

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I finished my Gaeilge Display Board today, the banner I got on Mash.ie from Perfect for Primary. The question words in bubbles are from Twinkl.co.uk. The verb question cards are from Realta Ranga on Teachers Pay Teachers. The months of the year and days of the week are both from Mr. Price.

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I have different activities planned for tomorrow. After the initial discussion about classroom rules and settling in time, I have a Mé Féin activity that once completed can be displayed in the classroom. I got this on from Ms Fordes Classroom on Teachers Pay Teachers. I am introducing a character education activity this year. It is a totally new concept to me but I am hoping that both myself and the class will enjoy it and benefit from it. It explores one character trait per month and offers reflective exercises for the children and suggestion discussion prompts. I bought this from the Teacher Next Door on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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I am also introducing SALF folders to my Senior Class. I have a Social Media About Me Template that they can fill in and put it at the front of their SALF folder.

Finally I have a Team building activity that the children can complete in their groups. I have a prize for the team that works well together, although that is a surprise for them tomorrow.

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So I think I am all set, just an early night and we’re off to begin Term 1!

Best of luck to everyone going back to school over the next few days.

Involving Parents

As we get ready to return to school there will be lots of anxious infants along with anxious parents coming to our doors over the next few days.

Having recently researched the area of supporting parental involvement in play and Aistear here are some ideas for parental involvement in Infant Classes.

As a school we request parents email addresses on the application form. In this way the teachers can contact the parents through their school email. It is important to use a school email both from a data protection point of view and keeping your personal email confidential as it may be linked to social media accounts etc.

I email the parents regularly, at the start of a new Aistear topic and also for different events in the class, parents can also email me regarding pick ups or play dates if they wish.

I have recently designed newsletters for some Aistear topics that could be emailed home as a pdf or printed and sent home. The newsletters have ideas for songs, rhymes and stories that link with the topic along with vocabulary for the topic. These newsletters are on Mash.ie.

Through keeping parents informed parents can in turn support their child’s learning at home. Parents are not always aware of the value of play based learning and I encourage play based learning at home using maths games as part of their homework.

Curriculum information evenings were also mentioned within my research as an effective way of informing parents and involving them in play based learning too. A powerpoint presentation for a curriculum information evening will be available on Mash.ie in the coming weeks.

Keeping parents informed and supporting them to help their child’s learning at home is an ideal way to develop a level of parental involvement in your class. If you have any questions regarding this post or my research please feel free to send me an email.

Timetabling in Junior Infants

A class timetable is available on Mash.ie, however this blog post is more detailed on specific activities for each subject which can be used for the first few weeks of Term 1.

9.00 – 9.10 First thing in the morning I have fine motor activities which would come under handwriting and literacy.
9.10 – 9.35 For English time, I would use some auditory processing activities, rhyming activities and pre-reading activities. These can be from your set scheme or from additional resources. I normally don’t begin the formal Phonics programme until the end of September.

9.35-9.55 Maths
Within the Ready Set Go Programme they recommend counting activities every day, I use counting activities at the start of every maths lessons. It is a nice transition activity and the class become familiar with the routine. After counting activities the class would do some one property sorting both on their own and with a partner. It is important to focus on the language, asking the children to explain why they made a particular set. You could also complete some of the EMA activities in the maths book.

9.55 – 10.20 Gaeilge
Depending on the scheme used in the school I usually introduce each lesson through the rhyme or song. Then we focus on the new language as outlined in the Irish scheme.

10.20 – 10.3o Song and rhyme time and the children get to have their snack.

10.30-10.40 Sos

10.40 – 11.30 Aistear

11.30 – 11.40 Handwriting, I use some pre writing activities after Aistear, it helps to refocus the class too.

11.40 – 12.00 SESE lesson which can be integrated with the Aistear topic

12.00 -12.30 RE

12.30 – 1.00 Lunch

1.00 – 1.15 Rhyme time (can be in English or Irish)

1.15 – 1.40 SPHE

This timetable is for Junior Infants, although it could be adapted for Senior Infants either.

Back to School: Activities for the first few days

Over the next few days schools will reopen, it’s time to plan some nice activities for the first few days.

An earlier blog post was about organising the classroom on the first day along with some suggested activities.

For Junior Infants I would begin each morning with some fine motor activities, play dough, beading and lacing. Senior Infants could also work with similar activities. If you are using the early assessment pack, it would be an ideal chance for the teacher to observe some of the children.

Reciting nursery rhymes and singing songs with both classes will also work on phonemic awareness. Sites such as Literactive.com have lots of activities for the interactive white board. Literactive focuses on one nursery rhyme and has additional activities such as sequencing and jigsaws for each nursery rhymes also. I recommend working on one nursery rhyme each day for the first few weeks.

If you are beginning Aistear, the first few days are the ideal opportunity to focus on the story, the oral language and other activities that link to the topic. I try to use traditional tales as my first topic in Aistear. Tales such as The Gingerbread Man and Little Red Riding Hood allow lots of integration with nice activities for the first few days. Retelling the story using picture prompts or masks, play dough activities for fine motor, class discussion to introduce the concept of characters are some of the many activities you could use in the first few days.

Storylineonline is a great site where children can listen to stories read by a number of actors. It may not have traditional tales but there are nice stories for class discussion.

For the first few days I wouldn’t start any workbooks, the first few days are about establishing routines, classroom management and getting to know your new class. While the children will be anxious to get started on all their new books I would take the time to enjoy doing lots of different activities instead.

If you have any questions on this blog post feel free to send me an email, or comment below to share some ideas for activities for the first few days.

Classroom Management in Infants

The most important thing for classroom management is focusing on the positive behaviours and reinforcing expected behaviours.

I have used different systems in my classroom and I felt the children responded to the sunshine and clouds one better. I had a large sun from yellow card, all the names of the children in my class were on clothes pegs on the sunshine, there were also three clouds, white, grey and black. A child may be moved to the white cloud for repeated misbehaviour, then the grey and finally black. The majority of the class stayed on the sunshine every day. At the end of the day any child that had their name on the sunshine was given a sticker on their chart. Full sticker charts led to a prize from the prize box.

While reinforcing positive behaviour works I have also spend time discussing behaviours and expectations with my class. At the beginning of the year I discuss appropriate behaviour either with the teacher or their classmates and I also explain that inappropriate behaviour will lead to consequences such as going on the cloud and not getting a sticker. If a child misbehaves in the class, I explain that their behaviour was not appropriate and as a consequence they will not get their sticker today. This process also works well with children who may have additional learning needs. While the language such as consequences and inappropriate might sound a bit daunting for junior and senior infants, I have overheard them discussing playground incidents among themselves and correcting each other for inappropriate behaviour.

Language and classroom management tips aside, all children love prizes and stickers. I particularly like the sticker album from Mol an Oige. It is like a little album for the children and prizes are awarded for filling one page. You can use stickers or stamps for these sticker albums also.

For prizes, I came across this site recently when researching Science Equipment. Craft Packs have lovely novelty prizes and are very reasonably priced. I used Address Pal from An Post to avoid huge delivery charges and got my order within a few days. I have already begun a new shopping list for this site.

If anyone has any questions about classroom management, please send me a PM or feel free to share other ideas on the page.

Assessment: Senior Infants

Yesterday’s blog post was on assessment in the beginning of Junior Infants. While some of the checklist could apply to Senior Infants too, there are other types of assessment that could be carried out in the early stages of Senior Infants.

In the early days of Senior Infants I use these checklists from NEPS. the phonics skills checklist will assess their letter sounds, blending and diagraphs. I also use the Dolch first hundred words checklist. I copy one for each child and have one master copy. I enlarge the master copy to A3. The child reads from the master copy and I highlight the words they know on their individual sheet.This sheet is then stored in my assessment folder and can be repeated at another stage in the year. This makes it easier to monitor progress for each child.

Another similar test for phonics can be found in the teachers manual of the Just Phonics books by educate.ie. We are introducing Just Phonics to our infant classes this year. These workbooks are based on the Irish phonemes and sounds and the children also get a practice copy in the pack which can be used for homework. I really like the Teachers Manual that is available for this scheme. It contains an assessment pack that can be used from Junior Infants right through to 2nd Class. Once copied it can be kept on file for the individual child and this makes it easier to monitor progress too.

While these assessments methods for Literacy are for Senior Infants, they can be extended and used in a 1st class setting also.

In maths I devised my own checklist in line with my Ready Set Go scheme. This checklist could be used in June of Junior Infants or early stages of Senior Infants. It can be hard to complete these checklists in a busy class, so for the early days of Senior Infants I would focus on one specific group that you may have concerns about. I have another checklist that can be used throughout the year for Senior Infants Maths, it could also be used for early days in 1st Class. Both of these Maths checklist are now available on Mash.ie.

 

Assessment in Junior Infants

It can be hard to know where to start for assessment in Junior Infants.

In the early days of Junior Infants I think it’s important to observe the children for specific criteria such as identify their dominant hand, recall of nursery rhymes and pencil grip. I designed my own checklist based on the Early at Risk Indicators from the PCSP.

My checklist focuses on fine motor and oral language, while in the early days the children will engage in free play activities it can allow for some time to note down some observations on some of the children, the checklist provides an easier guide to identify if there are any areas of need.

As the year progresses the checklists can focus on more specific academic areas.

With regard to my assessment folder, I have one folder with dividers for each child, ideally I get the extra large dividers for use with plastic pockets. Each child has a plastic pocket to keep some of their cutting activities, more detailed observations, worksheets and tests can be added to their section of the folder as the year goes on. At the very front of my folder I have a section for class checklists, the checklist in my assessment pack will go here once completed. These checklist provide an overview of the class at a glance and will also identify any children that may need early intervention at Stage 1 of the Continuum.

My assessment pack for the beginning of Junior Infants is now available on Mash.ie.

Aistear: At the Doctor

The Doctors is a nice topic for a class that is familiar with Aistear and it links well with the Mé féin topic in Gaeilge. Mé féin is also a nice topic in Term 1.

To introduce this topic I begin with the story Topsy & Tim go to the doctors. Some children may be familiar with the range of Topsy & Tim books.

In the socio-dramatic area we have the doctors surgery with reception and waiting room. The children set up the reception area with the phones, cash register and a clipboard for all the appointments. The children also added some books from the library for the waiting room. In the surgery area we have the doctors coat and doctors set. Doctors set can be found in Dealz, Euro Giant or Mr. Price but it is definitely worth investing in a good one for your class.

Small world is the town where the doctors surgery is, or at times my class have used the dolls house as the hospital. In construction the children built the surgery and labelled the different areas in the building.

In Art we painted self portraits and pictures of the doctor, sand was a free play area for this topic as it’s not always easy to link it in.

To link Irish with this topic, the class learned the song Bú hú from the d’aon ghuth series. The doctor topic also links easily with SPHE and SESE.

The topic plan is available in my Mash.ie store for the Doctors Surgery.

Preparing for the First Day!

Where to begin when preparing for the First Day Back to School!!!

Schools reopen on different days, but all teachers will spend days preparing for back to school. Here are some of my top tips.

In my school, on each teacher’s door, there is a sign with my name, my class and also my school email address on it. I encourage parents to use my school email for notes and questions, and I also send out my own class news and Aistear newsletter via email to the parents.

In the classroom print desk name plates for everyone in your class. This way all children will find their seat on the first day. It is also another way to coax in some children that may be a little shy. Have book lists and stationery lists printed also just in case.

Print labels for every child too. Some children may come in with books and copies unlabeled so this makes it easier to organise books. If you don’t have a book scheme then you will have to go through everyone’s books to ensure they all have the correct ones. Once I asked that the parents send in all books and copies in a plastic bag with their child’s name clearly written on it. I then sorted out the books myself at the end of the day. It worked in a multi class situation when you are trying to sort workbooks and also meet new students and their parents.

On the first day back, I would organise some table-top activities and have them ready for when the children come in. These activities could include jigsaws, playdoh, lacing and maybe some colouring. Once the children are in and settled at the activity, it is an ideal time for the parents to leave.

Always have a camera handy, I think it’s important to take photos of their first day, individually and in a group with their peers. In previous years I have made a little book that the children can work on for the first day or so, I leave the back page blank for their photo. I like to take photos of each child on their first day in September, at Christmas, at Easter time and in the last few weeks of school. At the end of the year I make a photo grid for each child and parents can see how much they have grown and changed during the year. If I have infants over two years I will include their first day in Junior Infants with their photos from Senior Infants too!

In my Mash.ie store the books for My First Day are available as a free download.

Hope you are all enjoying the last few weeks of the hols!

A.M.

Fine Motor in Junior & Senior Infants

I don’t have free play in the mornings for my infants, instead for Term 1 I set up fine motor stations as morning activities. I feel that fine motor is a core element for the infants before introducing any pencils or letter formation. 

To begin with, the children are given tubs of playdoh and using their thumb and pointer finger they make lots of little balls with the playdoh. We then move onto making sausages with the playdoh and using the side of their hand as a knife to cut the sausage up. Children then get free play with the rolling pins and cookie cutters. To save your table tops I would recommend getting mats to use with playdoh. I got PVC table mats in Heatons before the Summer and they were reduced to only 50c, messy mats are also available in Heatons which can be used with the playdoh also.  

Another station is tweezer work. I am lucky to have these large plastic tweezers in my classroom. I have a plastic bowl from IKEA with pom poms in them and other bowls that are empty. The children must sort the pom poms by colour and move them to the bowls using the tweezers. I encourage the children to use their pointer finger and thumb when using these tweezers also. This activity can also be done using coloured matchsticks. I’ve also used a chip and dip tray for sorting coloured matchsticks and tweezer work. 

Beading work is another station for fine motor work.  The beads can be different sizes and colours and the children can create patterns or copy patterns using pattern cards. Similarly the children could use the plastic spools. Jigsaws are also another activity for fine motor along with pegs and pegboards. For children who may have difficulty with fine motor activities I would recommend large button boards from the Early Learning Centre

Not forgetting Senior Infants, I have beads with letters on them and flashcards. The children can make words using the beads and threading them onto small laces or matchsticks. Seniors also like to copy and extend patterns using the smaller beads. I think Senior Infants always benefit from fine motor activities in Term 1 after the Summer holidays.

As part of the areas in my room, I have a fine motor gym where the activities are stored and one or two are on top of the unit and children have the opportunity to visit there during the day. It is near the classroom door and sometimes the class like to get into line first so they can play in the fine motor gym while they are waiting. I hope these activities give you some ideas for your own classroom in September.