Back to School: Teacher Essentials

I thought it timely to blog about some Teacher Essentials that I purchase each year just before returning to school. I’m a total sucker for customised resources. I love having stickers and stampers that I have designed myself.

My absolute favourite teacher stampers are from http://www.superstickers.com. Superstickers.com have an amazing array of teacher supplies. I want one of everything!!! Superstickers.com have pre-made stampers but also allow you to design your own. Mine is packed up but reads “Miss Mernagh says well done!”. The process of designing your personalised stamper with Superstickers.com is really simple. The quality of the stamper is AMAZING! No, they are not paying me for this blog post! I really, really do love them. They are really durable, last for ages and the ink doesn’t bleed through the page. I would give them 20/10. Click here for a link. I really must order up some of their stickers…

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Another great resource for customised stickers is https://www.thestickerfactory.co.uk. I used these all through the last school  year. Again, they are really high quality and super easy to design. I would highly rate http://www.thestickerfactory.co.uk stickers. Click here for a link

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The next resource I use for stickers is Prim-Ed. While, you cannot customise their sticker they have a great selection and at really affordable prices. I don’t know if many people realise that you can purchase stickers from Prim-Ed. They have an incredibly diverse selection of stickers to choose from. Those of you using Aistear will be thrilled to see so many  Prim-Ed thematic stickers available! Click here for a link. I have used their Merit Stickers for our Monthly Handwriting Assessments. Click here to read more about it and to download your free Handwriting Certificates.

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Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Back to School Routines: Toilet procedures

It’s that time of year again! I am getting lots and lots of questions about my back to school routines. Today I am covering a very important back to school routine: toilet procedures.

Toileting tends to be a hugely emotive and stressful topic for parents and kids a like. We all know that we want to use the facilities more often when we are nervous or feeling a little under pressure. Starting school certainly fits neatly into this. We are also talking about kids who are leaving a familiar environment (home/play school) where they know where the toilet is and facing a “foreign” room with the toilet in an unknown location. The pupil-teacher ratio is generally not as favourable either making it harder to get the attention of the teacher. So we have nerves, a busy teacher and a toilet in an unknown location. I think that I’ve made my point?! So what can we do as teachers?!!!! Read on…

I have been using the following toilet procedure with huge success for a number of years now. It has been an absolute life saver. The toilet procedure has also been influenced by my Montessori background. I really want the children in my class to feel autonomy especially in the delicate topic of visiting the toilet. I mean, who really wants to raise their hand and ask for permission to use the toilet in front of your friends?

I have two rather large stuffed toys that serve as “toilet passes”. It just happens that I have a whale and a shark. You can choose whatever you have access to. The girls use the whale toilet pass and the boys use the shark.

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So, here’s the drill. The toilet passes are displayed in a very prominent and easily accessible place. They need to be easily visible for all kids in the room. When you need to use the toilet you select the appropriate toilet pass (boy or girl) and place it on your desk or the spot that you were sitting on for floor work. The child goes to the toilet and then returns the toilet pass to it’s “home” for others to use. If the toilet pass is not available I must wait to use the toilet. However, if I am “bursting” and can’t wait I can take the remaining toilet pass and use that toilet. This may mean a girl using the boy’s toilet. Owing to the fact that the boy’s toilet pass is in use a boy cannot walk in on a girl using the toilet. This is a very important point. I have had problems in the past where I had 25+ girls in a class with access to one toilet and perhaps only 8 or 9 boys using the other one. You can see how there could be many girls who need to toilet simultaneously. You don’t need to vivid an imagination to know how that story ends!!!!

I like to start this procedure from Day 1 :) I explain and demonstrate the procedure and toilet location to one team at a time. I then help “remind” kids to use and return the toilet pass. It can take a little while to become and established routine but it’s worth the effort.

An important point to note is that the toilet pass needs to be pretty large in size. The kids can see it and so can I. I can tell at a glance who has gone to the toilet by spotting where the toilet pass is. I also like to use stuffed toys as I can wash them. If I could find something similar in plastic I would use that either.

I like to send home a letter to explain my toilet procedure. This allows mom/dad to talk to their child about how he/she can use the toilet as needed. I think that it is very important for those at home to understand the system and reassure their child.

I hope that my toilet procedure makes sense and is of use to those of you teaching infants for the first time this year.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

STEM Projects for wet days!

Well its another glorious morning here. Glorious, that is, for ducks and such but not for the rest of us. Cabin fever is setting in already and its only 10am!

I think that today would be the perfect day for some STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) activities, don’t you? (Science Technology Engineering Maths). The following activities involve supplies that are cheap and readily available.  They are great fun and guaranteed to give those brain cells a workout !

Homemade Play-dough

This is always a great hit with my kiddos at school. It’s cheap and easy to make too.

150 g (6 oz) plain white flour
– 300 ml (1/2 pint) hot water with a few drops of food dye
– 75 g (3 oz) salt
– 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
– 2 tsp cream of tartar (Found in the baking section alongside baking powder. Cheap and last forever)

Put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Pour in the hot water/food colouring.

Stir until the mixture thickens and becomes a ball of dough. ( I pour in the hot water and stir it a few time until it cools a little and then pass it over to the kids to do the rest ;) )

Remove the dough and roll/kneed/squish/smush until it is smooth and ready to play with.

Scrape out the dough, allow it to cool a little, and knead it until all ingredients are evenly distributed and you’re left with a smooth ball of dough.

If the dough is a little hard add a tiny drop of water until the desired consistency is achieved.

If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour.

Now that you have your play-dough why not use it to encourage some STEM

Make 3-d geometric shapes with play-dough and cocktail sticks/bamboo skewers (cut the sharp ends off for smaller kids)

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Click here for a link

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Click here for a link

Play-dough fun with straws and cocktails sticks:

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Click here for a link

Make a play-dough boat:

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Click here for a link

These STEM activities should keep your little ones entertained and challenged over the next few hours.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Teacher “must have manuals” for the next school year.

I thought it timely to sit down and blog about some of my favourite resources. Some are old favourites that have been indispensable over the years. Some are new finds that I wanted to share. So, without further adieu here we go!…

  1. Prim-Ed New Wave Pre-writing patterns  (ISBN 9781846546365). Click here for a link. Finally, a stand alone pre-writing workbook. I am so tried of Junior Infant writing workbooks that have a few token pre-writing pages. Pre-writing skills should not be rushed! Well done to Prim-Ed for producing this fine publication.Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 16.51.32 Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 16.51.16 Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 16.51.02 Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 16.51.43
  2. Prim-EdListening Comprehension Lower  (ISBN 9781864000382). Click here for a link. This has been a favourite of mine for years and years. Its suitable for Junior-1st. I’ve even used it “as gaeilige” with older kids. A real must have in my opinion.

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3. Jolly Music: The Music Handbook: Beginners.  Click here to learn more about Jolly Music.  I would highly recommend the Jolly music Course on offer with CPD Colleges. It is fully accredited and approved for EPV Days. I learned an amazing amount from it. It is the most enjoyable summer course that I have taken. Click here to learn more about the CPD course. My class are literally jumping for joy these days when I ask them if they want to do some music! They absolutely love the programme and are learning so much about musical literacy. It is just incredible. I wouldn’t be without this book! Here is a short clip showing how the programme works:

4. Developing Fundamental Movement Skills by Sport New Zealand. This back to basics PE programme is fantastic! This is my second year using it. It matches really nicely with Irish curricular objectives :). Did I also mention that its a free download?!!!! Seriously, you need to nab this one! Click here for a link to Developing Fundamental Movement Skills. It covers most objectives as laid down the Gymnastics, Dance, Athletics and Games strands of the P.E Curriculum. Here is a list of what is covered by the programme.

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I hope that you found this blog post useful. I am always curious about the resources used by other teachers!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Pocket It template for Combining and Partitioning Number

I posted some photos during the week of my Pocket It template on my Facebook Page. Please hop on over and give me a “like” if you haven’t already done so. I often post photos of what is happening in my classroom on this page. It’s a great way to see what I am up to on an almost daily basis.

Here are some of those photos:

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I use my Pocket It template for Combining/Composing and Partitioning/Decomposing number. Apologies for the duplication of maths terms in the previous sentence. I am conscious that  different terms are used in different parts of the world. Here in Ireland we use the terms Composing and Decomposing. It seems that the U.S and Australia use the tees Combining and Partitioning. I thought I would use both terms as I like to be inclusive :)!

My photos generated some requests for the Pocket It template. It seems that when I originally created it I inadvertently forgot to save the copyright information for the clipart :(. I searched my computer and the internet, but alas they exact images eluded me…

I hate to disappoint so I created a new version of Pocket It, complete with copyright information. So… Here it is…

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I hope that you will love this version too! Click here to download Pocket It.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Dolch Word Cut-out sheets

I am a HUGE advocate of teaching emerging readers Dolch Words. As you all know, I am a massive advocate of phonics, but only as part of balanced approach to literacy instruction. Sure, kids need to learn the “code” behind our language so that they can “sound out” unfamiliar words. We also want to develop fluent readers, however, and not the have him/her sound out every word on the page. To do this we need to build up a “Lexicon” or library of words that children instantly recognise and read. Sight words account for a large percentage (up to 75%) of the words used in beginning children’s print materials.
Dolch words offer serious bang for your buck in this regard. There are 220 words in the carefully graded list. (adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns, and verbs) along with a supplementary list of 95 simple nouns. Ideally, all young readers should learn these words by sight.
I teach the Pre-Primer level to my Junior Infant pupils. We are making pretty good progress if I do say so myself :) I create the following format of worksheet for the first 16 words:

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I am sure that  some of you might find these Dolch Word Cut-out sheets useful with your class or indeed your own child. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. Would you like to see more of these Dolch Word Cut-out sheets for the remaining Pre-Primer words? Would some of you prefer Comic Sans as a font? We teach pre-cursive so these worksheets are perfect for my kiddos. Anyway, let me know your thoughts.

Please click here to dolch word cut out worksheets of Dolch Word Cut-out sheets. Apologies for the typo in the earlier version.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

More Easter Egg Hunt Printables

Last year I used a different format for our Easter Egg Hunt and it worked WAY, WAY, WAY better. For obvious reasons we will be using the same format this year. Intrigued…? Well then read on!

We held our Easter Egg Hunt inside the school building as we were effectively a building site on the outside. Hiding treats amid the rubble and diggers didn’t seem like such a great idea. As a Green School, we didn’t particularly like having to wrap each treat in a plastic bag before hiding it in the garden. We did so for hygiene reasons but wrestled with the waste that it generated. Finally we had children with dietary needs/allergies that could not eat chocolate. We did not want them finding and munching on eggs. So here was my super-duper plan!

I created blank name tags. I created 2 tags per child. The Students’ Council stuck these tags all around the school. Some were under benches, others on the floor, others still on skirting boards… You get the general idea. Tags were low and accessible to our kiddos. Each child needed to find the 2 tags with his/her name on it. Once found, they cashed them in for treats. This allowed us to ensure that those with dietary needs only got what they could eat. The Easter Egg Hunt also took a lot longer and seemed to be much more enjoyable. The treats we provided were: Easter Themed Rice Krispie Buns, these had jelly beans on top and  easter themed chocolate lollipops. I almost forgot, we gave out ‘Bunny Tail” marshmallows to buzz them up before they started their hunt.

Please click here for your own Easter Egg Hunt Printable name-tags.

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Don’t forget to download and print my free Easter Egg Hunt Printables too.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)