I have started to develop a bank of Story Sacks in the infant classes over the last few years. I really enjoy using them in the classroom but I also send them home which develops home-school links but it can also give the parents ideas of how they can engage more with their children using storybooks at home.
Ideally a story sack should contain:
A copy of the storybook
A non-fiction book that relates to the story (where possible)
Character cut outs/puppets
Activities that relate to the story
I also included a home-school diary that the parents could fill in and tell us about the story sack at home. Parents also had the opportunity to send photos of their child with the story sack that we could use in school to discuss but also to put on the class blog.
There are many books that can be used in a story sack. Traditional tales can often be an ideal place to start. The Gingerbread Man, The Little Red Hen, The Three Little Pigs are great to start with. You can often find downloadable printable characters from Twinkl or puppets if you can source them easily. Using these puppets/characters both at school and at home can focus on your retelling comprehension skills.
I include the story book so parents and children can read together. Where possible I include a non-fiction book so that the parents can explore the topic further if they wish. I also try and link my story sack to my Aistear topic when I can. This can encourage discussion at home on both the book and the topic.
Activities can vary from book to book, at the start of the year I like to have a focus on fine motor activities. So I usually include play-doh activities where I can. Within the story sack I include everything they will need, play-doh, play-doh mat and cookie cutters. For other story sacks I have included written activities so I include some nice pencils and colours (some that are often not used in class to make it special). Again there are lots of ideas for activities for different stores on Twinkl.
The task card is important part of the card so that the parents know what the story sack is for. It might be worthwhile sending a letter home first to outline what the story sack is for and how it can be used at home. I always remind parents that story sacks are the property of the school so that everything should be returned.
I have made many different story sacks so this list probably does not include them all. But if you have any questions on them please send me an email.
Enormous Turnip (Farm topic)
Little Red Hen (Farm topic)
Three Little Pigs (builders)
Peace at Last (home)
Room on the Broom (Halloween)
Owl babies (autumn)
Jolly Postman (Post Office)
Harry and the dinosaurs say raah (Dentist)
Rainbow Fish (seaside/Summer)
Space is a great topic if you are well familiar with Aistear in your classroom.
This would be the perfect topic to link with Space Week and Discover Primary Science in your school.
The role-play/socio-dramatic area could be a spaceship, this year we invested in a rocket tent from Amazon. However you could also use your gazebo and turn it into the space station. You could also add the glow in the dark stars to the roof of the gazebo. You could also invest in these fab costumes from Asda for your role play area too. Children will love moving as if they were in Space and looking at the stars. Twinkl have also got some lovely printable resources to add to your role-play area.
In small world you could make their own space station using the dolls house or blocks you have in the area. Small rockets might be available in the Euro shops. I always asked for help with resources for this area and one year a child brought in a Little Einsteins toy rocket which was perfect for Small World.
In construction the children could build a rocket or the space station. We invested in the giant polydrons from Nexus this year and they were perfect for making rockets.
In art, I chatted to the class about different things in space, from aliens to the planets. In Junk Art they got to make different things they might find in space. They had great fun making UFOs from paper plates and making aliens using play-doh. The children had endless ideas for the Junk Art.
Finally in Sand the children could pretend to be on the moon or another planet in space. They had little cars that were the space buggy for the astronauts.
Space is a great topic with many opportunities for integration across curricular subjects. Also the children can really expand their vocabulary in this topic. Some might even teach you one or two things. I have a planning template for Space in my Mash.ie store.
If you have any further questions on this topic or any blog posts please send me an email.
In Infants it can often be easier to adopt a thematic approach to your planning. This can easily be done when looking at topics in Aistear. When I moved to Senior Classes last year I looked at some topics across the three SESE subjects and at first I looked for opportunities to integrate them and take a thematic approach. While it proved difficult and took some time to plan I found it really worked in my class as the students looked at a topic from many different angles. Here are some examples of my thematic planning.
In Geography I had planned to look at rocks and soils and I chose to also focus on earthquakes and volcanoes. This linked to many other subjects. In History we looked at Pompeii and we also did some research on some of the largest earthquakes recorded. The children really enjoyed this and did their own research at home. In Science we looked at structures (also 3D shapes in Maths). We investigated what shapes we could see in famous buildings and we also looked at Japanese Pagodas (from children’s own research). These buildings have stood through numerous earthquakes and we examined how they were built. We then made our own structures and to test them we put them on a bed of jelly and shook the jelly. There were many interesting findings including what to use to stick the sticks together blu-tack or marshmallows. Finally we were covering report writing in English and using the childrens’ own research they wrote a report on an earthquake of their choice. This gave the children to record their own research using specific headings and really consolidate everything in the topic. An integration chart for this topic is available on Mash.ie.
Another theme I used was the famine. The Great Famine in Ireland is an important part of Irish History and we spent some time looking at the cause and effect of the famine. We also looked at famine in some third world countries and found out that the same problems lead to famine now as they did in 1845. We made a potato maze to see how potato stalks grow towards the light. Finally to link with English we read the novel Under the Hawthorn Tree. I found my class really engaged with the novel as they now understood the history of the famine. The children themselves agreed they learned so much more from the novel as they already had the knowledge from History.
While it is not always possible to integrate across all subjects. I think this approach does help in Senior Classes. It can guide their own research and project work too. An example of my thematic plan is now available on mash.ie.
If you have any questions on the above post, please send me a PM.
I recently completed a Summer Course with Anokha Learning and found it very practical and beneficial for the teaching and learning in my classroom. Every course that you complete with Anokha Learning also has an additional module on Restorative Practice.
Restorative Practice was relatively new to me and I was very interested in this area. Within the additional module it talked through creating a classroom environment that is collaborative with effective communication between the children and also between the teacher and the children. The module also outlined how to deal with incidents if they arise. There are many steps to effective Restorative Practice in the classroom, they are reflective classrooms to focus on the behaviours and not the child in question. The questions focus on past (what happened)), present (who has been affected?) and future (what can we do next?). In this way children can see how their behaviour has affected others, but also how they can change and what they can do differently now. There was an interesting video on how a principal used Restorative Practice in a Secondary School which is definitely worth a watch.
Further information on Restorative Practice can be found here.
Courses from Anokha Learning also include Bullying Prevention: cultivating friendship and inclusion, Emotional & Mental Health Fitness for Well-being in the Classroom and Cyber Bullying. I really enjoyed the course, I felt it was beneficial for me as to how I could change my classroom, both the environment and the relationship with the children, so I could improve and build on a collaborative and co-operative classroom environment which will benefit all my pupils.
Further information on these courses can be found on their site.
Small world can often cause some confusion when it comes to resources. It is important to remember that small world play allows the child to create their own small world using their imagination and resources available to you. It also allows the child to explore the world they live in.
Depending on your topic there are many resources for small world, some may come from parents if you ask for donations, others you may have to invest in yourself. I invested in this dolls house from ToysrUs in the North. It is gender neutral and comes with a variety of furniture also. You can also purchase extra small world people for the dolls house. The dolls house can have many functions, as the dolls house, as the doctor’s surgery or even the hotel for going on holidays. Never underestimate the children’s imaginations when it comes to small world.
I also have a road map mat and small vehicles, cars, tractors, trucks etc. I also have some emergency vehicles for some topics. These resources are often easy to pick up in Euro Giant or Dealz, or any good toy shop too, depending on your budget.
Animals are another key resource in small world. These can often be difficult to source, especially for sea animals or jungle animals. For these animals I found some on Amazon. Standard farm animals should be available in your local toy shop.
Finally I also added some smaller building blocks to small world, foam blocks are ideal as children can use them to create their own buildings or walls in Small World. Foam blocks or small building blocks should also be available in your local toy shop.
This is not an exhaustive list of resources for small world. If you have any other ideas feel free to share them.
I hope you are enjoying the holidays so far, especially the lovely sunshine at the moment. Apologies for the lack of posts recently but between my Summer Course and general end of year madness I decided to take a little break.
I did my course this year with the PDST. Teaching Children to Move Well and Move Often. This course highlighted the need for a focus on Fundamental Movement Skills taught through the different strands of our PE Curriculum. It was a fantastic course with very practical ideas that can be used in the classroom with any age group. I really enjoyed it and because we were active for a lot of the time the week flew.
I followed the course with the ultimate gig of the Summer – Coldplay. I’m not sure if many of you got to see this concert, but I can honestly say it was Amazing!
My plans for the Summer include catching up with friends and spending time with my family. I hope to get away for a break in the sunshine in the next few weeks too! I have some blog posts planned for the next few weeks for both Aistear in the Junior Classes and Senior Classes, so keep an eye on my page. I hope to revisit some posts from last year too for new followers.
If you have any questions or suggestions for blog posts please send me a PM.