# Preparing your Child for School: Sorting and Classifying Game

“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?

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 🙂

# Preparing your child for school: Sorting and Classifying Objects

Matching and Sorting/Classifying are likely to be the first maths activities that your child will explore in Junior Infants. I have to say that I love exploring Classifying. Its so much fun to see how kids will “sort” things out. I love giving them a “mystery box” a.k.a the contents of “the junk drawer” that never gets fully tidied. You know it, its the one with all sort of bits and pieces in it. Buttons, magnets, bits of lego, McDonalds Happy Meal gifts… The all sorts of everything drawer.

I would like to introduce you to some very dear friends of mine:

Meet the Venn Diagram:

It’s basically a circle. You can classify objects with your Venn Diagram in lots of different ways:

Sort by Colour: Here is a set of yellow bears:

Sort by Type: Here is a set of Bears:

A more advanced form of sorting by colour: Here is a set of yellow bears and a set of bears that are not yellow:

Now meet the Carroll Diagram. You can sort and classify objects in the same way that you did with your Venn Diagram. It’s a matter of preference as to which form of diagram you use.

Here I used the Carroll Diagram to sort my shapes into two sets. The one on the left is “a set of square” and the one on the right is a “set that are not squares’

These diagrams just as to help your child to organise his/her thought. I am sure that you all have lots and lots of bits and pieces that can be sorted and classified. If you would like to purchase some “counters” or “manipulatives” to use during the year then check out this link. I just LOVE Prim-Ed’s manipulatives. At a price point of 9,95 Euro,  for 144 plastic pieces, they are quite affordable. The quality of these counters is just fantastic. They are brightly coloured and robust.

I recently got the Vegetable Counters. I have some plastic fruit in my classroom . I think that sorting fruit from vegetables is going to be a nice maths/science lesson. I will be using them in lots of other lessons throughout the year.

I made a set of corn on the cob (my absolute favourite vegetable!!) and then a set of corn and a set of other vegetables.I’m pretty good at classifying, don’t you think?!

You could add some yellow apples to the corn on the cob and make it a yellow set. Think of the possibilities!!!!

Here are the objectives as laid down by the Department of Education and Science for Junior Infants:

Strand: Early Maths Activities         Unit:  Classifying

• classify objects on the basis of one attribute, such as colour, shape, texture or size
• identify the complement of a set (i.e. elements not in a set)

If you have older children then  print out the mats, pop them in polypockets and send them out to the garden on a scavenger hunt. How can they classify their findings? These “early maths activities” are not just “child’s play”. They prepare your child to collect, describe, assess and analysis data. Perhaps you could have a future scientist or engineer on your hands as a result 😉

Have fun sorting and classifying,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

# Substitute teacher essentials!!!

I am so excited to have Aishlín Brown as a Guest Blogger this week. She is the most “AMAZING” teacher. While I hate to be sick I can rest easy if I know that Aishlín is at the helm. She is 1 in a million. I know that she is just dying for a class of her very own. Principals out there take note!! I’d hire her in a heartbeat!!

Anyway, it’s over to Aishlín:

As a substitute teacher, I never know what school I will work in next, what class I will be teaching or what material I will be covering. Often, this is a really positive aspect of being a “sub”; your days are always different, exciting and challenging! At the same time, it can be difficult to teach amazing lessons in an unfamiliar classroom with no preparation time.

To help me with this, I have a few things that I always bring with me when I am subbing.

My bag

The foundation of my “kit” is a large and sturdy bag with lots of pockets. Mine is also unintentionally waterproof which has been useful this winter! In my bag I keep the things that I have found that I need on a regular basis. I will always have packets of reward stickers, my whistle, some post-its, tissues, hand sanitizer, a selection of children’s books, a book of quiz questions, some DVDs of Tom and Jerry for wet lunchtimes, a packet of Happy Birthday balloons, plain A4 paper and lots of children’s colouring pages.

My bag is from Tesco, they run a special on them every August/September for the back to school season!

If it is my first time meeting a junior class, I will also have my “treat bag”. This is a colourful bag that I fill with nice things from the “Euro shops” like pens, rubbers, bubbles, “slinkies”, whistles, stampers etc. When I meet a new class I always give out name labels. Children form the junior classes can pick something from my treat bag at the end of the day, as long as they have behaved well AND they still have their name label on them. This works really well as it gives you a good chance to actually learn the children’s names!

My folder

I always bring a large binder folder with me when subbing. In this folder, I keep photocopies of the paperwork that substitutes need to bring and sheets of printed name labels (for me and the children!).

Often, I sub for teachers who were not expecting to be absent so they have not left any plans for me to follow. I really like this as it allows for a little more creativity for me!

I have sections in my folder with lots of lesson ideas that require few or no resources. I divide these lessons into two categories (Junior Infants to Second class and Third class to Sixth class) so that I can always find something suitable. I have other sections dedicated to Art, PE and Drama that are full of activities that are adaptable for different classes. My favourite subject to teach is art, so I update this section all the time with seasonal projects.

My USB stick

This is by far the most useful thing that I carry with me. I have a huge 32GB USB stick that I keep all my interactive whiteboard presentations on. Every time that I prepare something for a class, it goes on my memory stick so that I can use it again. I file everything by subject so I can find things straight away. One of my favourites is a presentation of riddles and maths puzzles that the older classes love.

I make my presentations using Activinspire software or PowerPoint. For a substitute teacher, I would recommend using PowerPoint because lots of schools do not use Activinspire and you will not be able to open your presentations!

My stamp

My stamp is one of my newer purchases and it was inspired by Miss Mernagh who also has a similar one. It is a pre-inked stamp that says “Miss Brown says well done!” Younger classes (and sometimes older ones too!) become incredibly motivated to do great work when they know they could get “Miss Brown’s special stamp” on their work. It has definitely become a prized possession!

I ordered mine from https://www.thestickerfactory.co.uk/ and I delighted with their service and the quality of the product. I think my next purchase will be a date stamp which would be so handy for corrections!

My timer

It can be hard for some children to have a different teacher in their classroom, especially for the younger classes. Sometimes a child will have to take a break from an activity for a few minutes. When this happens, I like to use my “ink timer”. This is similar to an egg timer but it is filled with ink drops or “goo”. The child can turn this over and watch the ink/goo drizzle down into the lower chamber. This is very relaxing to watch and always calms the child down. The timer finishes after about five minutes and the child will be ready to return to their task. This is a wonderful resource that has never failed me!

I bought my first one on Ebay (search ooze timer or liquid timer) but Amazon also sell them. I found my ink timer by chance in The Art and Hobby Shop in The Jervis Centre in Dublin.

My music player

My last item that I want to mention is my Veho music player. It is a portable speaker that is about the size and weight of a large potato. I received this for Christmas a few years ago and I love it. It plays music from a micro SD card and it has really clear and loud sound: I have never turned the volume up fully on it!

I use it all the time whenever I need some music e.g. PE, art, drama, music, SPHE, the list goes on!  It can also be connected to a laptop for those times when the interactive whiteboard speakers just will not work.

Ebay have a great selection of Veho portable speakers that are not very expensive. “Groupon” also often run promotions where they sell them at discounted prices.

When subbing I feel that preparation is key, but it is also really important to be able to adapt and improvise to handle any situation. These items really help me to do that.

I would love to hear some more ideas of resources for substitutes, if you have any nice ideas please leave them in the comments below!

Thank you so much for reading,

Aishlín

# My Top 5 Teacher Resources!

This post is especially for Aishlin who requested it forever ago. Sorry for the wait. I hope that it was worth it!

I think that this has been one of the toughest posts to write. I have sooooo many favourite things. All of the items shown are reasonably priced and are used frequently,  by this I mean daily or almost weekly, in my classroom. The would be a great starting for for any NQT.

1. Jolly Phonics Word Book.  This is literally list after list of words sorted by group, initial consonant blends, final consonant blends, digraphs and tricky words. I would be completely lost without it. In fact, I am the proud owner of 2 copies just incase one went missing!!!  Sometimes it can be hard to think of 10 or 20 words that contain “oi” or “ai”. It’s great to be able to just open an book as see lots and lots of examples. It is an absolute bargain at 3Euro including postage! Click here to purchase your own copy of Jolly Phonics Word Book!
2.  Pocket Charts!! I recently purchased this very one to add to my growing collection! It is sooooooo useful. I currently have HFW word flashcards in it. I can take them down to use them and just pop them back. So simple, no messing with blu-tac or thumb tacks. It is pretty light so I have been able to attach it to my noticeboard with just thumb tacks. My “other half” at work, Aoife, recently acquired one for her classroom too and loves it.  It’s great having a double stream because I have a buddy to plan with. So much more fun! Pocket Charts would be great in a “Sub tub” for those of you subbing.  You can just take it down when you are going home. I also use one for my Focus Wall. Click here to visit the page. Click here to purchase  your own pocket chart. It costs 18.93 including postage.
3. I use this smaller one for my Classroom Management.  It is actually a Daily Schedule Pocket chart that I have re-purposed for my own use. Click here to purchase a Daily Schedule Pocket Chart. It costs 10.03 including postage. It is much, much smaller than it seems. I will take a photo of mine tomorrow and post it on my Facebook page. You will get a better sense of its scale and how I use it. It would be great for displaying the names of helpers and classroom jobs too. My positive behaviour programme is based on 3 different types of frogs: happy frog, uh-uh frog and sad frog. Children start the day on happy frog and stay there by making positive behaviour choices.I simple stuck the laminated frog onto the pocket chart with blu-tac. The name cards are laminated and are an absolute breeze to move up and down, if necessary, on this pocket chart. It is an absolute life saver!!
4. Two Sided Counters and 5/10 Frames. Possibly the greatest find of 2013!!! How did I survive so long without them?!!!Two-sided counters come as a pack of 200 and cost 9.73 including postage. Click here to purchase . Anyone who has taught composing/decomposing of numbers a.k.a combining/partitioning to 30+ kids knows how “hellish” it is to have the right  quantity and colour of counters. You also spend way to much time talking about the colour of the cubes to use. Ring any bells? This becomes a greater focus than the actual combing and partitioning.
Now we just count out  a defined number of counters eg 5  and flip them as necessary. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. And, oh yeah, the kids can actually do combining and partitioning without me dictating the colours to them.
I like to Play “spill the beans when teaching combining and partitioning . Give each child an empty plastic cup. Place the desired number of counters inside,  shake and spill. Teacher: What way did you make 5?   Child 1:  2 yellow and 3 red. 2+3 makes 5. Child 2:  1 yellow and 4 red. 1 +4 makes 5  Child 3:  5 yellow and 0 red. 5 +0 makes 5.  I also use them on 5 frames/10 frames and for patterning. They fit perfectly on the 10 frames that I created. Click here for a free download. I will be uploading the Monster 5 Frame Board in the coming weeks too 🙂
5. Listening Comprehension (Lower) by Prim-Ed. This was one of the 1st purchases I ever made as a teacher and I still use it 10 years on! Simply read the detailed instructions twice and then allow children time to respond on their worksheet. It is just a brilliant resource. When I taught Senior Infants I created a booklet per child and  completed one activity per day for the first week in school. It is a great way to reinforce and encourage good listening skills at the beginning of a school year. “Listen to your teacher when she speaks” is one of my class rules.  Listening is a ‘skill’ that young children need to be assisted in developing. This book is great for that. It also shows me who recognises their colours, understands ordinal language, positional language and can write their own name clearly. It’s a great beginning of the year assessment.Prim-Ed Listening Comprehension also has a few sheets that I saved for seasonally appropriate times of year: skeleton,  Snowman, Easter Bunny and Sandcastle.Prim-Ed Listening Comprehension (Lower) is 14.95 and can be used from Infants to 1st or 2nd class. Click here to purchase.
6. Behaviour Punch Cards. I know that lots of people are using Classdojo but I am still happy with my regular ol’ punch cards 🙂 I have had so much hardship with school laptops in the past few years, not to mention the endless wait for replacement bulbs for interactive whiteboard!  What would happen to my classroom management if I couldn’t access the programme?!For this reason I prefer my classroom management to be based on cardboard and a puncher.I use the Behaviour Punch Cards along side “smiley’s” and “frowney’s” for a whole class programme. It sounds kinda complicated but I assure you it isn’t. Perhaps it could be another post?! Anyway, I always feel for the “good kids”, you know the one for are always doing their best and keeping the rules, what is the gain for them? Poor behaviour by other class members can mean that they miss out. What’s the advantage to being perpetually good when  it’s only the “chatty” kids gets a prize for not talking!!!If you remain on “Happy Frog” in my classroom you are entitled to get your card punched at the end of each school day. Once you earn 20 punches you get to choose one of the prizes listed on my Prize menu. This is additional to any Golden Time etc. earned by the class. This is an individual prize that each child earns for himself/herself.The great thing about it is “eventually” everyone reaches 20. Even the “chatty” kid.  The closer they get to 20 the more motivated they are to get their card punched.

All you need is coloured card, a Sharpie to write their names and a puncher. It’s a single hole puncher that you need to purchase and they are not very expensive. I found on online for 4euro. I think that I bought me in Tesco? Not expensive at any rate.

“Google” the  phrase ” free behavior punch car printables” to find lots of versions for download. Notice that I it is the American spelling of “behavior” rather than “behaviour” that I used. If you are having any difficulties send me an email. I have one saved but I don’t know the original source 🙂

I hope that you found my Top 5 Teacher Resources useful. The total cost of my top 5 Teacher resources is 60.63 Euro. I know that they are so much more valuable than that to me. There is not one of these items that I could last a week without, perhaps even a day! Regardless of whether you teach Junior Infants, Senior Infants or even 1st class all of these items will be useful and worthwhile purchases. They are also all very small and portable for those of you who are working as substitute teachers.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

# Oral Language Resources that I use and love

I have had some questions about the Oral Language Schemes that I use so I thought that I would put together a small post about it. I just love, love, love getting comments and questions from you all. It is great to be able to blog about things that you are interested in and have questions about so keep them coming!

Here are the 4  Oral Language resources that I use and love, especially the last two!!:

• Chatterbox 1, EDCO
• Now You’re Talking, CJ Fallons
• Talking Tables Chatter Box Kids Trivia, Talking Tables
• Prim-Ed Listening Comprehension (Lower)

Here is a peak inside of “Now you’re talking” by CJ Fallon:

It is very nicely laid out and very user friendly. The objectives are very clearly marked and there are lots of ideas in each section. The downside is that lots of the book refers to the Starways Characters and Posters from their old reading scheme. I still have most of the posters so it’s not too much of hassle to use. Still, it’s a great resources and I am happy to continue using it.

I think that most of you are familiar with Chatterbox. This is still available for purchase according to the EDCO Price list that I just opened online. Again, very user friendly with lots of lessons to choose from. It is better than “Now you’re talking” in the sense that it does not refer to any particular literacy scheme so no posters or books are needed to supplement it. It looks a little dull but the games and activities held inside are certainly of a good standard and cover all of the necessary objectives. It is available at a cost of 27.95 and is worth purchasing if you don’t already have it.

I find that Oral Language Schemes can be a little, well…boring at times. It often seems to me that the topics are “serious” and children need to have a “worthy” conversation on the assigned topic. Sure, the above mentioned schemes have some fun games but I have never witnessed children rolling around my room in hysterics or whooping for joy when I read out the topic card. That was until I found this beauty!!! I found Chatter Box Kids Talk  in Paperchase in Chiswick while on my Summer holidays two years ago. It was on a bottom shelf and I almost missed what turned out to be the bargain of the century!

Just look at how much it cost!!

Prim-Ed have an absolutely fantastic Listening Comprehension book for 14.95 that I use every year. Click here for a link. I forgot to take a photograph from my book so here is one from their website. Each child gets a copy of the Lion and then completes the verbal instructions given by you. There is a record sheet provided for you to keep score is necessary. This was one of my “go to” resources for the beginning of the year when I taught Senior Infants. We completed one a day for the month of September to promote good listening skills. It’s worth purchasing if you don’t already have it. I intend on using it during the final term with my Junior Infants.

Is anyone using some other resources that they just love? Please leave a comment and let us all in on the secret 😉 Any one using the new Wonderland Oral Language Scheme? Curious to hear about it if you are!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

# Jasper’s Beanstalk & the Days of the Week

Have you noticed that now that children are back at school that they are ‘OBSESSED’ by the days of the week?! My Junior Infants are already quizzing me. What day  is “P.E”. When is “art”? The funny thing about it is they probably couldn’t tell you what today is so telling them that P.E is on Wednesday seems kind of pointless, no?

Here is a great little song to help them to learn the sequence of that days of the week. Always a good starting point!

Days of the Week Song

(to the tune of  Oh My Darlin’ Clementine)

“There are 7 days, there are 7 days,

there are 7 days in the week.

Monday, Tuesday,

Wednesday, Thursday,

Friday, Saturday,

Sunday.”

It’s based on the Barney song. They start on a “Sunday” in their version.

I have recently stumbled upon and fallen hopelessly in love with the following book: Jasper’s Beanstalk by Mick Inkpen. It would be a fantastic buy for parents or teachers.

Jasper’s Beanstalk tells the story of a cat who finds a bean on Monday. Each day of the week he tends to it: Tuesday he plants it, Wednesday he waters it… and so on. On Sunday he waited. On Monday he could wait no more and dug it up! It was still a bean! A while later, on a Thursday, it had become a giant beanstalk!!!

Jasper’s Beanstalk is  not only a fantastic way to introduce children to the days of the week but it also a great Science lesson on growing and caring for plants. There is only so much of the Very Hungry Caterpillar a person can take. I have been reading it for over 11 years now to my class. I still love it but and am glad to have found an alternative.

Jasper’s Beanstalk  is only 6.74 Euro on Book Depository with free postage. Click here of a link.

For those teachers among you here are some curriculum links for Jnr/Snr Infants:

SESE: History: Story: Stories:

• discuss the chronology of events (beginning, middle, end) in a story
• display storyline pictures showing episodes in sequence

Science: Living Things: Plants and Animals

• explore conditions for growth of seeds
• observe growth and change in seeds

Music: Performing: Song Singing

• recognise and sing familiar songs : The Days of the Week Song

• Listen to, enjoy and respond to stories and songs (Jasper’s Beanstalk, The Days of the Week Song)

Check back next week for printables to go with Jasper’s Beanstalk!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

# Junior Infant Maths: sorting & classifying

I am so excited to be teaching Junior Infants again! Junior Infant maths is so much fun. Next week we will be exploring the Early Maths Activities Strand (EMA) of Classifying. We will learn to:

• classify objects on the basis of one attribute, such as colour, shape, texture or size
• identify the complement of a set (i.e. elements not in a set or the “odd one out”)

We will be making closed sets where the teacher defines the sorts and gives the category by which the items will be sorted. Once children are familiar with the concept of classifying objects we will move onto open sets. Children will decide for themselves how to sort the objects in front of them. This encourages divergent thinking, problem solving and logical thinking.

When teaching all maths topics is it crucially important that we move from the concrete to the abstract. Children need to have lots and lots of hands-on -experience physically sorting counters, bottle tops, buttons, counters, animals, transport items… The list goes on…

Here are a few ways that you could suggest if you are making closed sets:

• by colour (red set, green set and yellow set or  red things and things that are not red)
• by size ( big and small, big animals and small animals, small red car and small green cars)
• things I eat and things I play with
• thing we find in the sky, on land, in the sea.
• zoo animals and farm animals
• spotty socks, stripy socks, plain socks or my socks and Mom’s socks (help with the laundry anyone?!!!!)

There are a staggering number of ways that things can be sorted into sets. Sometimes children amaze me with the classifications that they create during open sets. Often they see ways of sorting that I had never thought of!

Here is a really fun Sesame Street game that encourages children to sort animals by colour, big/small, long ears/short ears… It’s called Zoe’s Pet Shelter

Can you guess the rules for the set below?!!!

I am crossing my fingers and toes that my school laptop will be replaced by Monday so that I can play these with my class. It completely died on Friday afternoon and I am frantic. I use my Interactive Whiteboard all the time. Last year it was out of use for a few months when the bulb went. Then my laptop went shortly after the bulb was replaced. The computer memory was wiped and returned to me minus my work!! I have way, way too much to back it up on a USB! Now its gone again one day into the new school year! I am cracking up!!  Sorry for the rant. It might not have fixed the computer but it sure make me feel better?! Anyone else in the same boat?

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂