Ask the Teacher! Your First Day at School Questions Answered. Part 2

Should be talk much about starting school this week?

Do not overemphasise “starting school”. Talking too much about school can backfire and result in your child worrying more. Try to keep chats short and pithy. If you did not particularly enjoy school yourself make a conscious effort to be extra positive about it!

Explain to your child that Miss X will take care of him/her. She will tell you when it is lunchtime, where to hang your coat and everything else that you need to know. If you need something to raise your hand. Remember to raise your hand and ask if you need to go to the toilet.*

Specify very clearly who will be collecting your child at home time and try not to change it for the first few days. Also, be early for collection time. A child who has been happy all day will panic if their carer is running late. Remember that most schools have an earlier finishing time for the first few weeks.

*This may be an important point to stress as children may have been able to just go to the one in pre-school without asking. Generally as the year progresses this will happen in school to. There will probable be a toilet pass system.


What should we be doing now? School is only a few days away!

Establish a good routine that will see you through the year. Start putting your child to bed a little earlier. Wake him/her in the morning at what will become his/her normal getting up for school time. Encourage independence in tasks such as putting on his/her coat, opening the tinfoil on lunches etc. Oh yeah cling film is a nightmare! Children really struggle to open it.


Do you have any other tips?

Come bearing a snack at home time. Sometimes children do not eat much the first day or two at school. There is so much going on and they are probably too busy chatting to the person beside them to eat! Either way, children are famished at home time.

Do not plan too much for after school. Now is not the time to start swim class and dance even though September is the start date for many of these things.  Allow your child some downtime to relax and energise. Starting school is enough change for a small child to contend with. Certainly keep on favourite activities but hold off on starting new ones.

Expect your child to be tired. He/she may even sleep on the way home in the car. It has been a big day! In fact, tiredness and the tears that go with it should not be discounted. Lots of children are fine for the first few days and then “bang” the tears start and he/she doesn’t want to go to school! This is the very reason that Junior Infants start on a shorter day.  Children are only able for small amounts of school as it is new and all the activities and “newness” tires them out. I know that early collection can be frustrating to parents who feel that they have only just dropped them off and are turning the car around again to go back. Don’t be surprised if your child if emotional and clingy later in the week. It is probably just tiredness. Your child is being challenge on every level in school; physically, emotionally and cognitively, until they become used to the routine of school it will be tiring.

Do not over stress the “first day”. It might sound crazy but children who are settled on Day 1 often cry on Day 2 as they were not expecting to be brought to school again. Nobody said anything about the 2nd day! Simple talk about “going to school” rather than “the first day”.

Anticipate a possible “speed wobbly” after the first weekend. Children perception of time is such that the weekend can seem a lot longer to them. School has become a distant memory. He/she has settled into a home routine and is reluctant to return to school. Don’t worry, this is completely normal. Your child’s teacher will be anticipating this! Revert to the “first day” talk that I have mentioned in Part 1 of this series. Be confident, calm and reassuring. School will be fun, you will be fine, and X will collect you at home time.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Ask the Teacher! Your First Day at School Questions Answered. Part 1

I have received some great questions as part of my “Ask the Teacher! Your First Day at School Questions Answered”!!! Here are the questions that I have received so far. I hope that those of you with children starting school/preschool find them useful.

1. I’m just wondering should both parents come into the class on the first day or just one and should we stay for long in the class?

 How many parents attend is entirely up to you and how practical it is for both of you to attend. If you feel that having another parent there would act as a support to you then it would be a fantastic idea. As strange as it may seem the “first day” is often harder for the parents. When you leave the classroom and walk down the path to the car alone it can be hard. If you cannot have a partner with you make an arrangement to meet a friend for coffee if you can or even flag it with a work colleague who has been through the experience. It is good to have someone there for you too!

2. If the child is upset – should I/we just walk away or does it make it worse to stay and reassure for a while?

It can seem that leaving an upset child is the worst thing to do. It can be a very difficulty thing to do. I can assure you that the best thing to do is, in fact, to walk away. I do not mean that you just drop and run. You need to set the scene for your child.

Firstly, tell Teacher that you are going to leave but “Ann” is still a little unsettled.

Secondly reassure Ann that you are happy with school: “ I love you loads. I know that Miss… will take care of you. Remember to put up your hand if you need anything or want to go to the toilet. I will be back in a little while to collect you. I know that you will have a lovely morning.” Finally: Kiss and leave promptly.

What you need to do is reassure your child. If you are emotional and reluctant to go, your child will interpret this as your not being happy to leave him/her there. “If Mom is crying this must be a bad place!” This will worry him/her.  You need to “seem” calm and certain that school will be a good experience.

There is a correlation to remember: the longer you stay the more upset you both become, the harder it will be to be to leave and the harder it will be to settle your child when you leave.

I have NEVER had a child who did not settle. It can take some time, but children generally settle. It can seem as though he/she did not because seeing you at home time may cause him/her to cry again. Then it looks as though he/she did not settle at all.

I am pretty confident that no teacher would leave a child completely distraught in school for the day. Your child’s teacher will want your child to settle and do everything possible to make this happen.  I always tell parents that I will phone home if I cannot get their child to settle. I would, but I have never needed to.

If it would reassure you, have your telephone number in an envelope and hand it to teacher. Then she doesn’t even need to look it up on the system.


3. When do the children have their break times – is it usually one break where they eat sandwiches or are there two breaks (one long, one short?)

There are 2 distinct lunch breaks: big break and small break. Little break is approximately 10 minutes long, 11-11.10 approx. Big Break is about 30 minutes long, 12.30-1pm approx. The timings are based on a 9.20 am school start. If your child’s school starts at 9am they will be earlier but of a similar duration. Just bear in mind that this includes actual “playtime” so your child will not actually have 30 minutes to eat. I would approximate 10-15 of actual time to eat.

Most Junior Infant classes start on a short day for the first few weeks. This means that there will only be one lunch break, “little break”.

Little Break- perhaps some chopped up fruit, cheese or a cereal bar and a drink.

Big Break- a sandwich or wrap, rice cakes or fruit and a drink.

4. If I am upset, should I just try and hide it and leave the classroom quickly?

It is best for your child if you try and hide your upset as best you can. Seeing you upset will unsettle your child. “Act” calm and confident. Tell the teacher that you are leaving. Reassure your child. Say goodbye and leave. The aim is to keep you both as settle as possible.

5. Do they usually bring a school bag and a lunch bag to school? Or should I put lunchbox in school bag?

Lunch boxes with handles  are the best choice in my experience. Some have a section at the side where a drink can be stored and others are just the right size to hold a beaker. Having a separate lunch box and beaker to carry is cumbersome. At snack time then you have to locate your drink and your lunch box. Try and have a lunch box that will hold both.

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Should your child’s lunch box be carried in his/her hand or placed in the school bag? This will vary from class teacher to class teacher.  I like children to put lunchboxes on a shelf rather than in their bags incase their drink leaks. Do whatever seems best to you on the first morning. The class teacher will explain to the class what the routine is for lunch boxes and he/she will know for the following day.  Just ensure that you have clearly marked the outside of the box and beaker with your child’s name and teacher will do the rest.

6. Do they need copy books for Junior Infants or is it just workbooks?

Your child will use wide-ruled copies but not until later in the year. Your teacher will either purchase them for you or send you a detailed note outlining what you should buy. All copies have codes on them. Different codes denote different line dimensions, space for a picture etc. Check your child’s booklist. You may find that you are paying for them as part of the monies that are collected at the beginning of the year.

7. When do they get homework?

This will completely depend on the Class Teacher and how he/she has planned the year out. We have lots of detailed plans to write! That said, Junior Infants beg their teacher for homework. You may find that “homework” in the form or a coloring sheet or pre-writing sheet, where your child traces over patterns, will come home pretty quickly. I am using the term “homework” loosely. It is generally something sent home so that children have the all important homework to do.

More formal homework will be sent home during the year. Again, how quickly it comes depends on the Class Teacher’s planning.  When it does come it is likely to be some phonetic sounds that have been covered in class, some word and or a reader. I will be covering phonics, reading and words on my website so visit it regularly to keep up to date on these topics.

8. Should they bring a topper/sharpener in pencil case to school?

It is no harm to send one in. Clearly label it with your child’s name. Very often it is the teacher who will sharpen pencils so that children do not top them away! After a while I leave one out for children to use.

9. Do Junior Infants need change of clothes in school bag?

Yes and no. Accidents happen. Your child’s school will have a policy on how this is handled. Generally if your child is able to change him/herself and is not too upset you will not be phoned to come in. If a child needs assistance changing we would generally phone for Child Protection reasons. We have spare underwear and clothes for children to borrow. Some children are uncomfortable with the idea of “borrowed underwear”. I think that keeping a change of socks and underwear in your child’s school bag is no harm. They won’t take up too much space. Send teacher a note telling him/her that it is there and remind your child.

I am thrilled to answer any of your questions or concerns. If your question has not been asked please contact me by email:,  on my Facebook page or by leaving a comment below.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Ask the Teacher! Your First Day at School Questions Answered

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Dear Parent,

I am sure that many of you are preparing for your child to start school. You will be there to hold your child’s hand and reassure him/her before saying goodbye. This can be an emotional time for parents and raises lots of questions and concerns.

I am holding an ‘Ask the Teacher’ Week to hold your hand 🙂 No question is too small. If it is playing on your mind then I want to know!

Please email your questions to or leave me a message on my Facebook page. I will post all questions and answers on my website. No names will be mentioned on the website so your privacy is guaranteed.

I hope to hear from you soon,

Miss Mernagh 🙂




Free First Day at School Certificate

It’s hard to believe that the summer is drawing to a close. I am busy preparing myself for going back to school. Classroom theme chosen: check. Decorations ready to be hung: check. Scheme of work for 1st week: check. Photocopying complete: almost! Classroom decorated, cleaned and tidied: on Monday’s to do list!

I have been giving a lot of thought to the “first day” experience that my class will have. It is quite a while since I thought Junior Infants. It is a very different “first day” scenario in Senior’s. I do love children taking something home in their hands to share with Mom/Dad. I think that it creates excitement, a sense of achievement and an easy way to broach to topic of school.

With this in mind I have created some free “First Day at School” certificates and free” First Day” certificates. I thought that the “first day” cert would be useful for play school or other grade levels.

Here they are:

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                                                                      Click here to download free First Day at School certificates

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Click here to download Colour version of First Day at School certificates 

There are two certificates per page. Both my First Day at School and First Day certificates come as a single download. You might need a different one next year so it is a s well to save both ;). You can choose between B&W certificates or  a full colour version.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

ps: both the clipart and font are by DJinkers. I am not sure as to the origin of the frame as I downloaded it a while ago. If it is your please let me know so I can credit it you for it 🙂

Even more Roll and Cover Games!

I have been asked to create some Roll and Cover Games that are in full colour. It seems that lots of you have colour printers at your disposal. Lucky you! I am still living in black and white land with my printer at home and at work.

Here are some Roll and Cover Games that are full of colour and summer fun!

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                                                                                                                                                    Click here to download

  (scroll down past the B&W ones to find the images above)

I hope that you have lots of fun playing  my Roll and Colour Games. Any requests? What theme are you using this year? Please leave a comment below!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

ps: the cute bee and apple graphics are from

Seriously Cute Classroom Rules Posters

It is that time of year again! Teachers are readying themselves for returning to class. I am sharing with you the seriously cute classroom rule posters that I created for my classroom last year. They were one of the most popular downloads from for 2012. I wonder if it will be the same this year?I have to say that they worked out really well and will be remaining in my classroom management plan for the coming year.  I have tried to cover all bases while keeping the number of rules to a small number.

I have used the term” she” in the final poster as it is applicable to me. If you would like a poster that says “he” drop me a email to and I will create one especially for you!

Here is a quick refresher on some key points with regard to classroom rules:

  •  There are two types of rules: positive and negative . Positive rules focus on what a pupil should do. The focus of these rules are to encourage pupils to adopt suitable and appropriate behaviours. Negative rules state what should not be done and their main focus is on misbehavior. Positive rules encourage use of positive interactions, while negative rules focus on punishment (Bicard, 2000)
  • Classroom expectations must be clear, concise, and explicit so that students can understand them and how to behave in order to follow them (Quinn et al., 2000).
  • An optimal number of rules is between 3-5.  (Bicard, 2000; Heins, 1996; McGinnis, Frederick, & Edwards, 1995; Short, Short & Blanton, 1994)
  • Classroom rules should be stated in the “positive“, presented visuallyand consistently enforced.
  • Classroom rules should focus on specific observable behaviors rather than nonspecific generalities (Kostewicz, Ruhl & Kubina Jr, 2008)

What do you think? Cute or what?! I still love them even after looking at them for a year. That NEVER happens. I always create new resources each year. Maybe you will love them too?!

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Click here to download my Seriously Cute Classroom Rules Posters 

Are there any rules that I have missed out on? What are your classroom rules? Please share by leaving a comment. I am sure that we would all like to know!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Roll and Cover Maths Game

I am super excited about going back to school! I am really looking forward to teaching Junior Infants again!!! I loved every minute of Senior’s but it was time for a change.

I have been planning my theme for the last while. Gosh it was hard to choose. I have been conflicted for a while now. I finally settled on it when I found the right props. Poor Mr. H ended up spending part of his Sunday shopping for school. I found it so hard to decide and to keep to a reasonable budget. Bless him, he didn’t complain at all.

Following on from our shopping trip I created these fun “Roll and Cover’ maths games. I think that they will be lots of fun to play! It will encourage number recognition and one-to-one correspondence.  They are in black and white as we don’t have a colour printer :(.

Just print and colour. Roll the dice and cover the number. The first person to cover all of their numbers wins!

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Click here to download!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

PS: The flamingo is a colouring sheet from: The coconut tree is one that i have had for years and don’t know who to credit it.

Free Back to School Name Tags

Some of you must be reading this and thinking that the sun has gone to my head! I just had to share these seriously CUTE tags with you! Just save them on your computer now and forget about them until the night before school. All you need to do is download these free Back to School name tags, write your child’s name, laminate and attach!

Please, please, please TAG your child’s lunchbox and school bag clearly on the OUTSIDE! I’ll settle for the inside but outside is better.  You’d be amazed at how many people don’t tag lunch boxes at all. I cannot tell you how much time I have spent over the years playing ” match the lunch to the child”. “Did your mom pack ham sandwiches for you or crackers or rice cakes or a roll or a wrap…… Guaranteed they have noooo idea at all! It’s not much fun, it’s distressing for the child, not to mention dangerous due to possible food allergies. I know that I am sure to be playing it again this September ;).

Seriously, are these not the cutest?! I can’t believe that these back to school name tags are  free!!! The last one is very Monsters Inc.

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Click here to download free back to school name tags

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂