First Day at School Routine

I have received a number of emails and messages on Facebook about my “First Day at School” Routine. Drum ROLL… Here it is!

Classroom Set-up

I begin by placing a toy on each table. I try to put out an appealing assortment. Some that girls might gravitate towards and some for boys. I only set up table top toys for the first day. The Farm Set is usually used with the mat that you can see on the floor. For that morning only it was placed on the table.

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I also like to create an ambience by playing some fun kids music in the background. I think that it feels more welcoming. Especially for the first few to arrive. It can be a little quiet and serious if not.

I also ensure that coat hooks are tagged and that I have sufficient space for lunchbox storage. I’m all about routine people, even on ESPECIALLY on the first day. I feel that establishing routines from Day 1 gives my pupils a feeling of security and empowers them with independence. They will only need gently prompting the following day on where to put their lunchboxes etc.

I also have “Dropbox” on my windowsill ready for all of the notes and classroom expenses envelopes. I find it to be indispensable. The kids love popping notes, drawings etc. into Dropbox in the mornings. It also means that the likelihood of putting a note down somewhere and spending the next hour panicking about its wherebaouts  is gone. If I see parents with envelope/notes I explain that we will be using Dropbox and send them over to it

Here is a rather beat up Dropbox from the end of the last school year.

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I like to ‘Meet and Greet” each pupil, shaking hands, introducing myself and “stickering” them. Is “stickering” a verb? It really should be ;) Our wonderful secretary, Shannen, always has a set of stickers ready for the first day or too. She’s the bomb!

After Mom and Dad have left

If the kiddos are settled I just let them continue playing while I empty school bags. I remove all books and any monies that I find. I will sort through these after school.

I introduce the class to “Whole Brain Thinking” and we practice ‘Class? Yes!” and “Look at your teacher when she speaks”. These are the two class rules and procedures that we will focus on for the coming days. If you are interested in learning more about Whole Brain Thinking then click here. I have used it for the past 2 years and love it!

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We also learn about “Teams/Groups”. I use Colours to distinguish between each group. If you look below you will see that I use coloured lanterns to distinguish groups. I call groups to    hang up their coats, place lunch boxes on the shelf and to show them where the toilets. I also demonstrate our ‘Toilet Pass System’.

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Then we learn where to sit for ‘Floor Work’ and story time. This is how we will start our school day from now on. We read The Kissing Hand and met Chester.

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 14.59.22We then returned to our seats for our first piece of “work”. We had a Chester colouring sheet that read ‘Ask me to tell you about The Kissing Hand’. I thought that it might be useful for parents to chat about with their kids when they got home. I circulate and record who is right handed/left handed and who already has a well developed pencil grip.

After our colouring sheet we learned the “2 Little Feet” poem below. It will be one of our movement break activities for the year. Click here to download.

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Then we had our lunch and went out to play. When we returned from the yard I gave my class their gift of “Magic Play-doh”. Click here to learn about Magic Play-doh. It’s a really old blogpost. I seriously need to save up and buy a camera!!!

I then presented each child with a “Hoot Hoot Hurray'” certificate and we began packing to go home. Click here for  a link to the Hoot Hoot Hurray Certificate.

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Reading back over this post it seems like we did very little but honestly, we were flat out. We were even 10min late going home!!!

I know that you will not be able to find the same stories and certificates by Monday morning. Pick your own favourite kids story and see if you can find a corresponding colouring sheet. That allow parents a window into the world of their child’s first day. “So tell me about The Kissing Hand!”.  I would really encourage you to buy or create a certificate. Starting school is a huge milestone and should be celebrate. You certainly have time to make Magic Play-doh. It takes 4 min to make the doh and then a few more to roll into balls and add colouring. It’s great to see the excitement that it brings.

I hope that this helps all of you new Junior Infant/Kindergarten teachers out there. If you have any specific questions leave a comment below or visit missmernagh on Facebook.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Starting School Series: Prim-Ed Pre-Writing Patterns Write On Posters

Well, it’s only 3 more sleeps until I meet my new class. I am pretty busy right now between setting up my classroom and planning for the first few weeks of school. Starting school means lots and lots of pre-writing activities. I am delighted to have a new “helper” this year ;)

Say hello to my new Prim-Ed Write-On Posters. I think that I might be in love! They are going to be a fantastic resource in the weeks to come.  I just “love” that they are:

  • A3 Sized- can be seen by kids when I demo. Hallelujah!!
  • Can be used with whiteboard markers or traced with fingers
  • Are double-sided: full colour on one side and blue and white on the other
  • Cute and colourful: I ♥ the Russian Doll and the birds!
  • They have all the patterns that I want to use. Yippeee!!!

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I know that they are  also going to be  an extra special support to children who struggle with pencil skills and directionality. If you have a kid in your class with fine-motor control difficulties then these will be indispensable. I just wish that I had them last year for one of my kiddos. It would have made a huge difference. I found myself photocopying sheets to A3 and laminating them to create my own home-made version of these. They were just black and white, though, and not so appealing.

I am looking forward to clipping my Write-On posters to my mini flip chart and giving hand-on demonstrations and practice. My kids will have no problem seeing or reaching the posters.

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If you are looking for whiteboard markers then these are my absolute favourites!!! They have a round tip like a marker and are nice and slim for little hands. They also rub away cleanly and easily. I have re-purchased them again for my class this year. Click here for a link. 

Don’t forget to check out my post on developing a good pencil grip. Click here to visit.

Prim-Ed New Wave Pre-Writing Patterns Write-On Posters are also a fantastic resource for Oral Maths and Mental Maths! I will be pulling out my Write-On Posters for lots of maths lessons:

Using the Christmas Tree for example:

  • Counting from 0-10:

How many candy canes/hearts/stars/baubles are on the Christmas tree?

  • Mental Maths/Oral Maths:

If there were as many gifts as there are hearts who many gifts would be under the tree?

How many children can have a candy cane if each child can only get one?

What season would it be? How do you know?

What else can you find on the top of a Christmas tree?

Let’s graph what we have on our trees and home and see which is the most popular: star or angel

  • Comparing:

Are there more baubles or hearts on the tree?

Which bauble is the biggest?

  • Algebra:

Who can find a colour pattern on the Christmas Tree?

I think that these Prim-Ed New Wave Pre-Writing Patterns Write On Posters are going to be a great addition to my pre-writing resources. At just under 20Euro they are not a bad price at all. Check back the week after next for some photos of the posters in my classroom.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Two little feet go tap, tap, tap

Well, it’s only two sleeps until I head back to school and only three sleeps until I meet my new class. My Mom and I spent Friday morning setting up the classroom and hanging some decorations to welcome my new class. It’s always such an exciting time. No major changes to how I decorated my room this year. We are moving to a new school building in December so it seems silly to do too much chopping and changing. I will wait until I am in my new school to purchase new bulletin board borders etc. I have no real sense of what my new room will be like. I have lots of ideas that I am hoping will work in the new space…

It’s always handy to have some poems and rhymes for transitions. x Here is a copy of the poem that I will be using to settle my kid for floor work or when they need to get some “giggles” out. Two little feet go tap, tap, tap is a really cute poem that I have used before but kind of forgot about until the other day. I thought that if I typed it up really cutely and stuck it on my wall that I might remember to use it. I like to have a “print rich” classroom. I can’t wait until my class will be able to read it for themselves!

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Click here to download Two little feet go tap, tap, tap

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Ask the Teacher: Sunday 24th from 7-8pm

Ask the teacher!

Do you have a little one starting school next week? Are you more nervous that he/she is? Is your head swimming with questions and concerns?
This Sunday evening from 7-8pm I will be available to answer any of your “starting school” questions on Twitter or Facebook.
Please like and share with your friends who might like to “Ask the Teacher” a question ;)

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Starting School Series: Developing a good pencil grip

Humor me… Grab a pencil  and hold it as though you are going to write.

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Take a moment to examine how you are holding your pencil. How many fingers can you see at the front of the pencil? How many are hidden behind? The way that you are holding your pencil now is likely to be the exact same way you held it when you were 4 or 5 years old! Now that’s what I call a well entrenched habit!

Ok, so here’s the bit when you are likely to become a little nervous and perhaps start to squirm around in your chair…I have something of an obsession about children using a correct pencil grip when holding their pencil.

Pencil grips are something that naturally evolve over time from when children first start to scribble with a crayon. They go from wrapping their fist around the crayon, to holding a pencil at the top, then with lots of fingers around the middle of the pencil and finally with a tripod grip. Phases 1-3 generally happen naturally and without any adult prompting, the same way children go from pulling to stand, to cursing to walking.

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However, that final step from the modified tripod grasp to the tripod grasp does require some “teaching” and “encouragement”.

So what is the Tripod grip?

In the Tripod grip, the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger form a triangle, with the ring finger and pinkie supporting the middle finger. The pencil should be positioned between the three key fingers – the pad of the thumb, the side of the middle finger,and the tip of the index finger – so that there is equal pressure from all three fingers.All three fingers should be bent slightly. The tripod grip facilitates the proper control of the pencil, allowing your child to write more quickly and easily. It also prevents wrist fatigue when writing for long periods of time.

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Grab that pencil again. Do you use a Tripod Grip? Perhaps you don’t and your writing is legible and your wrist never tires. The thing is, it’s really about habit. If as a parent or teacher you demonstrate a Tripod Grips and gently support and prompt children then it will become their default pencil grip. If you don’t, then they won’t, but the world won’t fall off its axis. Here’s a close up view of a right handed grip:

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Here’s a close up view of a left handed grip:

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Here’s a close up of the fingers:

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Click here to download these images as a handout.

I use this fun rhyme with my kiddos to help them remember the fingers to use and where to position them:

First your pointer.

Then your thumb.

Give a little squeeze.

Hide the others underneath and writing is a breeze!

Check back later this week for my favourite pre-writing activities for kid to practice their Tripod Grip!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Teacher Prep. for Back to School: E.M.A Matching

I am so excited that I finally got around to ordering “A Pair of Socks” from MathStart, Level 1 by Stuart J. Murphy and Lois Ehlert. For those of you who don’t know, Lois Ehlert is the  illustrator of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!!!! This is for the benefit of those of you who are new to following me ” I LOVE CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM“. Click here for a link!

Of course, the illustrations are just to die for in “A Pair of Sock”. I mean just look at this!

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The idea of Mathstart Books just rocks my world. A whole series of books, across multiple levels, that explores maths. I just want to give a big shout out to Stuart J. Murphy and Lois Ehlert for such an inspired and amazing series of books. I literally want them all!!! Even the ones that are beyond what I would teach in Junior/Senior Infants.

I found it really difficult to get photos of the inside of any of the Mathstart books and just decided to take a chance on buying it, based primarily on the reputation of the author and illustrator. I have taken a few snaps so that you can get a feel for the book. They are iPhone quality. Need to save up for a camera…

 

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The whole book is about finding a “matching sock” to make a pair. I think that “A Pair of Socks” is a great resource for teaching EMA Matching and Classifying. It’s also going to be useful for Algebra. There’s a whole lot of patterning going on in her peeps. Drum roll of the price reveal… About 5 euro including delivery :) Click here to view or purchase. It seems to be out of stock today. It would be worth

I will be blogging more about EMA Matching over the coming weeks. Please leave me a comment if you have any  “go to” resources or games. We would all love to hear from you!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)

Preparing your Child for School: Sorting and Classifying Game

This is a follow on from a previous blogpost about sorting and comparing objects. Please click here to visit this post.

“What’s the Difference?” is my favourite online sorting and classifying game. It covers lots of different categories of sort: by colour, safe/unsafe objects, objects that float/sink, 4 wheels/2 wheel… There are 10+levels for your child to play and explore. Why not see if you can re-create some of the classifications using  my Sort It Out sheets from the previous blogpost?

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Click here to play What’s the Difference?

I hope that you have enjoyed using the sorting and classifying resources and games suggested in the last two post. Check back soon for matching activities!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh :)