Top Reads for Valentine’s Day

I thought that you might like to see my favourite books for Valentine’s Day. I have been busy updating my library and these are my latest purchases. You have just enough time to order them for your littles one’s Valentine gift so don’t delay…

The first is Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. This book is just adorable.


This cute book explores what love means: ‘You are the cherry on my cake’

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‘You are the bees knees’


It’s a small book with lots of sentiments. It would be a lovely gift for a Grandparent either… Just saying…

Click here to purchase Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

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I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is another heart-warming  book. A real feel good factor. It just warms your hear to read. How wonderful to hear someone telling you that:

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‘I wish you more stories than stars’


It’s one for my top new finds. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon and The Colour Monster make my current top 3 book purchases. Click here to purchase I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

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Love Monster is a slightly hairy monster trying to fit in with the cuddly residents of Cutesville. But as it turns out, it’s hard to fit in with the cute and the fluffy when you’re a googly-eyed monster. And so, Love Monster sets out to find someone who will love him just the way he is. His journey is not easy―he looks high, low, and even middle-ish. But as he soon finds out, in the blink of a googly eye, love can find you when you least expect it.

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I won’t spoil the ending for you…!!! It’s a great book to explore how we all need someone to love and that we should never give up on finding it. Click here to purchase Love Monster. 

I hope that you have found a book or two to add to your Valentine collection.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh


Platypus Reader Response Activity

I think that I might have Platypus, by Chris Riddell, for as long as I’ve been teaching. Well, maybe not quite that long but it’s a firm favourite.

“A big rock. Some slimy seaweed. An old shoe. None of these is quite what Platypus wants for his special collection. Then he finds a beautiful curly shell–perfect! But the next morning his curly shell is gone. Where can it be?
The star of a brand new series from acclaimed author-illustrator Chris Riddell, the thoughtful, lively, and always curious Platypus is a wonderful companion for every young child.”

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Platypus is just beyond adorable to read. I like to do so early in the year as it’s a very simple read and visiting the beach is not a dim and distant memory. It’s easier to make a “text to self-connection” to the beach in September than in December.

Now that I am teaching Senior Infants I have created a more text rich reader response activity to accompany our reading of Platypus by Chris Riddell. Platypus is a fan of collecting little trinkets and is looking to expand his collection. I have created two different reader response activities to accompany our reading of Platypus. Both involve making a “text to self-connection”. Here they are:

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Click here to download both

Platypus by Chris Riddell is a series of books. Unfortunately, I only own one. They only seem to be available on Amazon at the moment. Click here for a link. I’m a Book Depository kind of gal so I am a little bit disappointed by this. I’d really love to have the entire Platypus series.  I might have to bite the bullet and order them from Amazon. I know that they will be well worth it.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh

The Gingerbread Man Dolch Pre-Primer Game

Today’s post was heavily requested following the photos I uploaded to Facebook last week. It was a big hit with my kiddos so it should go down well with yours too 😉

I am always trying to create fun ways of learning/practicing Dolch Words. I will be teaching my class to read the Pre-Primer List:

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Click here to download the above sheet from

I created the Gingerbread Man game as we were reading it for our story that week. I try to theme teach where possible. I found some fabulous glittery pipe cleaners in the art section of Tesco. The red ones were just perfect for a mouth, after I cut each pipe cleaners into thirds. I also used buttons and mini pop-poms from Mr. Price to allow them to “build” their gingerbread man. I slipped 5 words and fox into my Carson-Dellosa Differentiated Instruction Cubes. Regular followers will be acquainted with my long running obsession with my Carson-Dellosa Differentiated Instruction Cubes! Once they had coloured in their Gingerbread Man, we were all set to play!

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They just roll the dice and read the word The first person to complete his/her Gingerbread Man shouts “Run, run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!”. Rolling a fox is effectively “miss a turn” and the game rotates back the following direction. You should hear the groans and moans when the game swaps direction around the circle!!!

I create the Dolch Pre-Primer words and the Fox to exactly fit my Carson-Dellosa Differentiated Instruction Cubes. You could print multiple copies of the words,  place them face down and have pupils draw a card to play. I would highly recommend purchasing the cubes if you are a classroom teacher!

Here are some photos of the game being played last week I particularly like to one with the sad face. Clever, no?!

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Click here to download the Gingerbread Man sheet (available as colour and B&W)

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Click here to download the game cards for your Differentiated Instruction Cube:

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Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂


The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

It’s that time of year again… Strawberry time!! I had a whole punnet to myself on my journey home. Never mind, they were 2 for 5Euro so I still had one to share with Ed. I won’t tell him if you won’t 😉 Speaking of strawberries, here is a brilliant, brilliant story: The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear   51QPZ986TFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_   The illustrations are just superb. The facial expression on the mouse conveys such emotion, don’t they? He is starting to look a little worried. LOL! 22072b little mouse4-thumb-400x257-44229 For those of you who don’t know, I come from the home of Irish strawberries, Wexford. We are renowned  for our strawberries and are very, very proud of that. I am so blessed to be able to purchase amazing strawberries at the exit of my school. It’s so hard to drive past them and not purchase a punnet or two. County_Wexford As a strawberry lover a book about a big, red, ripe strawberry is to hard to resist ! I can completely make a “text-to-self connection” with this book. How far would you go to hide the red ripe strawberry from a big hungry bear?! Pretty far I think…Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 08.34.44 Hmmm. Looks like I can make another “text-to -self connection”. I would completely give in and eat it. No bear is going to put me off eating a red, ripe strawberry. IMG_3817   Click here to purchase the book. Strawberries must be purchased separately and from a roadside seller! Here are some fun facts  to accompany your reading of The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear . Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 08.39.12

Click here for a link

I never knew that strawberries were a member of the rose family? I also adore roses! Incredible! I am fighting a battle with aphids at the moment who seem to love my roses as much as I do!!!

Calling all teachers:

If you don’t have it then you really should! I just love it! I attended a professional development workshop last year on storytelling and the whole workshop was based on this book. As you can see Book Depository have The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear in a large format book also, which is what I purchased. Click here to purchase  Do you have a favourite summer read? Please leave a comment and share with the rest of us if you do!   Have fun, Miss Mernagh 🙂

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch

With that blast of sunshine last week we were starting to get into Summer mode. Should have known that it wouldn’t last! Still, we can escape from all dreariness with the help of a good book. Speaking of good books, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch, is a great read!

Every day, Mr Grinling, the lighthouse keeper cleans and polishes his light to make sure it shines brightly at night. At lunchtime he tucks into a delicious and well-deserved lunch, prepared by his wife. But Mr Grinling isn’t the only one who enjoys the tasty food. Will Mrs Grinling think of a way to stop the greedy seagulls from stealing the lighthouse keeper’s lunch? Click here to purchase


I have created a free “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch” Book Report for you all to use!


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Click here to download The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch Book Report

Here are a few snapshots of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch Book Reports that my class have been working on.

WARNING: Seriously Cute!!!

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The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch is a wonderful story. If you happen to be visiting the library this week I would highly recommend it.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

You, Me and the Big Blue Sea

You, Me and the Big Blue Sea is a beautifully illustrated Irish publication. Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick takes us back in time to the 19th Century in this adventure filled voyage on The Colander.

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We see a mother sharing some photos with her son:

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On each two page spread, she remembers things they did, saw, and heard, followed by “But you were only a baby. You wouldn’t remember.” Keen and careful observation of the illustration reveals that Baby see more than his Mom or Aunt Alice sees! He sees he young stowaway in a lifeboat, a man falling overboard, a man falling from the ship’s mast, the Captain asleep at the wheel,  the whale outside the cabin porthole, and even the eventual fate of the Colander.

You, Me and the Big Blue Sea is a perfect book to explore Building Bridges Comprehension Strategies. We have explored predicting, inferring, visualising and making connections. My class just loved it! We also:

  • added sound effects
  • explored “thought tracking” and inferred what the Baby and other characters might say
  • made Text-to-Self Connections: some us have taken the ferry from Rosslare
  • made Text-t0-Text Connections: we read another book about the sea called Platypus
  • made Text-to-World Connections: the ship in the story reminded some of us of Dunbrody Ship, New Ross

You, Me and the Big Blue Sea is also a wonderful portrayal of 19th Century life and fashion. I really wanted to explore this aspect of the book with my class but felt that the images were too small. I could hardly believe my luck when I stumbled on Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick’s own website. It contains a number of illustrations from the book. I used these images to create a very basic PowerPoint Presentation that I intend to use as part of a History Lesson next week. These larger illustrations will be perfect for this! Click here to download.

I have also created this fun Reader Response sheet that encourages children to look very carefully at the illustrations and to consider the story from the perspective of the Baby rather than Mom or Aunt Alice.

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Click here to download

I hope that you like “You, Me and the Big Blue Sea” as much as my class and I do!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

p.s Clipart is from

Maths Lesson for Who Sank the boat?

Who Sank the Boat? is just a fantastic resource for maths and science lessons! It is a no brainer for integrating “prediction” as a comprehension strategy. We follow Building Bridges of Understanding and have termly strategies to teach and revise.


I integrated “predicting” and Data Handling for this fun opening activity to Who Sank the Boat? In Junior Infants we are asked to:

  • represent and interpret a set of simple mathematical data using real objects, models and pictures
  • sort and classify sets of objects by one criterion
  • match sets, equal and unequal

Firstly, I displayed the prediction chart below:

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Secondly, I asked my pupils to “predict” who might sink the boat. They then completed the following sheet. Because my kiddos are still learning to write I had labels for them to choose from and glue on the line.

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Click here to download Prediction Sheets.

Finally, we recorded our predictions and created a graph using Unifix cubes and larger images of the animals. Click here to download images.

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Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Who Sank the Boat?

I am making it my mission of 2014 to source some great stories that will supplement maths/science learning.  This beauty recently arrived in the post and I was chomping at the bit to use it!


“Beside the sea, there once lived a cow, a donkey, a sheep, a pig, and a tiny little mouse. One warm, sunny morning–for no particular reason–they decided to go for a row in the bay.”Do you know who sank the boat?


I love the “open ended” way in which the story is presented. Click here to purchase!

Shame that I have already completed my Maths Unit on weight.  It would be a great way to combine weight with sinking & floating. I should jot that down for next year!!!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Free Valentine Printable

As you have probably already worked out I tend to “theme” teach. Every story on our literacy scheme for February has a “love” theme to it.

On my suggestion  Aoife and I spent a lot of time way back in August searching our  book shelves for stories relating to lots and lots of themes. She assures me that she did not think me mad, but I am not sure! It was, however, time well spent. Our Literacy Scheme has been a huge success. Each week there is a different story that is ‘integrated’ into as many aspect of learning as possible.

I am not sure which one of us found this beauty, Love is a Handful of Honey. Could it be that it was languishing unnoticed in my room? Hardly!!!


Love is a Handful of Honey is a wonderful rhyming story where a young bear discovers that love can be found in everything you do — from the time you wake and jump from your bed, until the time you snuggle and hug and say good night. It is a very nice price at 4.80 Euro. Click here to purchase

With Valentine’s Day only around the corner I thought that you might like cute printable. It was created as  a Reader Response Sheet to “Love is is a Handful of Honey”. It would be a perfect “gift” for a parent as an alternative to a traditional Valentine Card.

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Click here to download

Have a lovely week,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Squeezing a story into your day! How story time integrates with other learning.

You might have spotted from my frequent “Reader Response” posts that I love to have a book at the centre of my weekly scheme. Every single week of the school year has a book timetabled. My poor teaching partner, who has the other half of Junior Infants, must be driven mad with me! I am completely obsessed with exposing children to stories, having them engage with them and respond to them in an age appropriate manner!!!Incase you thought that I was joking about how seriously I take literacy and stories I thought that I would include a screen shot of my Long Term/Termly Planning for Literacy.

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The Irish Curriculum is severely overloaded and it can be so hard to squeeze everything in! I make story-time an absolute priority in my classroom. In fact, it is the starting point of all of my planning. Every other subject planning happens after I have planned my stories for the year. This allows me to use these stories to their maximum advantage, tying them into seasonally appropriate terms, matching them to maths/science topics so that the story becomes the springboard for my maths/science lessons that week.

Below I have listed some of the Strands and Units that I have found myself integrating through my story of the week. I hope that you find it helpful!!

I like to integrate my weekly Drama lessons into my literacy. It is much, much easier to explore Drama with small children when you have a familiar topic as your starting point.  Often times I will integrate Music also through creating soundscapes to accompany stories that have strong “sound” under currents. Here are some objectives that I have found relevant to responding  to stories with music:

Strand:Listening & Responding  Unit: Exploring Sounds

  • discover ways of making sounds using body percussion
  • listen to, identify and imitate familiar sounds in the immediate environment from varying sources
  • recognise different voices
  • explore ways of making sounds using manufactured and home-made instruments

Strand: Composing     Unit: Improvising & Creating

  • select sounds from a variety of sources to create simple sound ideas, individually and in groups
  • invent and perform short, simple musical pieces with some control of musical elements

History is another subject that has a natural synergy for story telling with infants. Here are some of the main objectives that I try to meet on a weekly basis for History:

Strand: Story   Unit: Stories

  • discuss the chronology of events (beginning, middle, end) in a story
  • express or record stories through art work, drama, music, mime and movement and using information and communication technologies
  • display storyline pictures showing episodes in sequence

Depending on the story you might be able to explore other elements of the science curriculum. For example when we read “Aaaaarrgh Spider” we explored spiders, their body parts, diets…

Strand: Living Things   Unit: Plants and Animals

  • recognise and identify the external parts of living things (spiders)

Data Handling is another great reader response or even pre-reading activity that I love to engage my class in. It makes maths so meaningful and children can see the power and influence of maths in their own lives. I have some printables for download that create graphs for a number of books. Check out the Maths Section of my blog.

Strand: Data   Unit: Representing  &  Interpreting Data

  • represent and interpret a set of simple mathematical data using real objects, models and pictures

I hope that my Teacher followers will see the fantastic opportunity books offer from a teaching & learning perspective. If you haven’t tried using a story as the centre of your planning I would urge you to try doing so next week. Just give it a go for me! Please! Let me know how you get on 😉

I hope that my Parent followers enjoy reading how teacher’s brains work and how we set about planning for your child’s learning!It is complex and time consuming when you consider how many subjects we have to plan for and the fact that each subject must have long-term, short-term and weekly/fortnightly plans and then monthly accounts of what exactly was covered.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Peace at Last & Shadow Puppets

For those of you who are reading Peace at Last and want to integrate some science lesson here is a fun tutorial on making shadow puppets with your hands.

If you are teaching young children you might prefer the following download.The National Wildlife Federation has some cute animal templates: backyard animals and ocean animals as a free download! Click here. I just love the idea of using a paper puncher to make eyes and other features. I am totally doing this one!!

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Peace at Last is a fantastic story for integrating science and literacy. The objectives of the Science Curriculum for Junior & Senior Infants that can be met through exploring the themes in the book are as follows:

Strand: Energy & Forces         Stand Unit: Light

  • discuss differences between day and night, light and shade
  • explore how shadows are formed

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Peace at Last

Tomorrow is the first day of term and I am looking forward to reading “Peace at Last” by Jill Murphy to my class.

Here is a brief summary of the story for those of you not familiar with it:

It’s late at night and Mr Bear is desperately trying to sleep–but Mrs Bear snores so he tries Baby Bear’s room, but Baby Bear is pretending to be an aeroplane so there’s no peace there. Room by room Mr Bear goes through the house trying to find somewhere to sleep.

It’s a fantastic story for children in terms of participation opportunities, it is chock full of “night time sounds” that just beg to be shouted out at the top of your lungs not to mention a really cute repetitive line: “Oh NO! said Mr. Bear, I can’t stand THIS!”.  One thing is certain, it won’t be a quiet start to my day!!!

The added bonus of all of this soundscaping is that our music lessons for the week can be nicely packaged up/integrated in a fun and meaningful way:

Strand: Music        Unit: Listening & Responding, Composing

  • discover ways of making sounds using body percussion
  • select sounds from a variety of sources to create simple sound ideas, individually and in groups


We will fulfil our science objectives by documenting the differences between night and day. If I can manage it time wise we will explore shadows. Must google how to make some cool shapes!

Strand: Science        Unit: Energy & Forces

  • discuss differences between day and night, light and shade
  • explore how shadows are formed

With out further ado here are my Reader Response sheets for Peace at Last. I hope that you like them!

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Click here to download Peace at Last sheets

Peace at Last is a well loved story and is probably available from your local library. If you wish to purchase a large format version for your classroom click here. It costs 16 Euro including postage and packaging. I just love my copy!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂


Funnybones is another Allan Ahlberg book. I have already posted my Reader Response Activities to The Black Cat which is another in this series of books. Funnybones is an absolute classic. If I could only have two Halloween themed books in my repertoire it would be Funnybones and Room and the Broom.

Funnybones is just such a fantastically easy book to integrate into classroom  activities. I lends itself to Drama, Art, Music, Creative Writing….

Anyone care to make a skeleton?! Click here

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What about a complete drama lesson? Any takers? Click here! I have tried and tested this lesson over a number of years now. I think that it is the most popular drama class every year!!! The soundscape element integrates nicely with music. You just have to try this lesson. Please let me know how your class like it when you do!

Sparklebox have some really neat play-doh mats. Click here.


Here is my Reader Response sheet. It’s pretty simple but then again I am teaching Junior Infants 🙂 I tried so hard to add more skeleton graphics but I think that some gremlins are lurking inside my MS Word this weekend!!! Every time I tried all of the boxes move and were superimposed on top of each other! It was seriously frustrating. Any way, I am sure that my class won’t complain. Hopefully yours won’t either 😉

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Click here to download

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

The Black Cat Reader Response Activities

The Black Cat by Allan Ahlberg is another wonderful story choice for this time of year. If you have not already done so please check out my other “Halloween” suggestion: Room on the Broom.

The Black Cat is one of the titles in Allan Ahlberg’s iconic children’s picture book series, Funnybones . There is nothing scary about The Black Cat in spite of  being set in a dark dark town. The book is brightly coloured and has lots of repetitive lines for younger readers to join it with.The skeleton friends go sledging – whee! And crashing – bang! They can’t see their bones in the white snow but they can see a black cat …until she slips into their dark, dark cellar.

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The Black Cat isn’t just a fantastic story for a classroom. It would make for wonderful reading at home at this time of the year! Click here for a link to purchase it.

The Black Cat provides lot of learning opportunities. It would make a fantastic starting point for  Music, Drama, SESE and English.

Music: Composing: Improvising & Creating:

  • select sounds from a variety of sources to create simple sound ideas, individually and in groups
  • invent and perform short, simple musical pieces with some control of musical elements

There are so many sound effects that could be created to accompany the story-telling- sliding, shouting crashing, barking, banging., bumpety sledge…


  • explore the use of “camouflage” in nature. ” A white leg in the snow is hard to find,  A black cat in show is easy to find’, ‘A white dog in snow is hard to find”, “A black cat in a cellar is hard to find’.
  • body parts -function of our skeleton

English: Reading: Receptiveness to Language:

  • listen to, enjoy and respond to stories
  • become an active listener through the development of a range of listening activities based on stories read or told (linkage with Music above)

English: Reading: Developing Cognitive Abilities through Language:

  • re-read, retell and act out familiar stories, poems or parts of stories

nglish: Reading: Emotional and Imaginative Development through Language:

  • record response to text through pictures and captions

English: Writing: Receptiveness to Language:

  • write and draw

Here is my Reader Response Sheet for The Black Cat. What else could be sliding on the sledge? Encourage children to imagine for themselves.
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Click here to download

Check back later this week for more spooky reads  😉

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂