Christmas Stocking Fillers: Storybooks for 5-8yr olds

Here are two amazing Chapter Book Series for you to consider as stocking fillers. Remember, it’s equally as important to read to your child as it is for him/her to read to you. It exposes children to language that is beyond their capacity to read themselves. Modelling reading also acts as a support and encouragement to your child to read.

Junie B. Jones is a fantastic series of Chapter Books to get your littles ones hooked on reading. There are soon many books it this series. I love when you can get a kid hooked on a “series” of books. It takes the guess work our of “what will we read next?”. It’s worth noting that Junie B. Jones is available as box sets too.

“Barbara Park’s New York Times bestselling chapter book series, Junie B. Jones, is a classroom favorite and has been keeping kids laughing—and reading—for more than twenty years. Over 60 million copies in print and now with a bright new look for a new generation!”

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Here is an example of the antics that lay ahead is you purchase/borrow Junie B. Jones:

“Meet the World’s Funniest Kindergartner—Junie B. Jones! In the second Junie B. Jones book, it’s pooey on B-A-B-I-E-S until Junie B. finds out that her new dumb old baby brother is a big fat deal. Her two bestest friends are giving her everything they own just to see him. And guess what else? Maybe she can bring him to school on Pet Day.”

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Click here for a link to Book Depository to see the entire series of books.

Junie B. Jones has they cutest website for her fans! Check out Junie B. Jones by clicking here.

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Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown is another one of my favourite Chapter Books. It your child is not familiar with Flat Stanley it’s imperative that you purchase this book first: Flat Stanley. It explains how Stanley came to be “flat”. All other books can be read in any order of your choosing.

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There are lots of books in the Flat Stanley series with more due to be release. Again, Flat Stanley is available as a box set too. As he’s been around for a while your local library might be a good place to start. Click here to visit book depository to see the entire series.

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Flat Stanley is also available in an easier to read format for younger/emerging readers.

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Flat Stanley is available in the Level 2 “I Can Read!” series:

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Here is a peak inside Level 2 “I Can Read!” series to see if it is a good fit for your child”

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Again, book depository has lots and lots of these available. Click here.

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 🙂

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,


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.

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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!!!

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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

English: Reading: Receptiveness to language:

  • 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 🙂

Summer Read No. 3: Handa’s Surprise

Here is another story with a fruit theme!! Handa’s surprise with all its exotic fruit will transport you to a sun-kissed land.

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Handa puts seven delicious fruits in a basket to take to her friend, Akeyo: pineapple, mango, guava, passion fruit, avocado, tangerines and banana.But Handa and Akeyo are not the only ones who find it hard to resist delicious, ripe, juicy fruit! When Handa reaches her friends’s hut and lifts off her basket, it’s Handa who gets the biggest surprise.

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Handa’s surprise is a fantastic way to introduce children to both fruits  they may not be familiar with: guava, avocado, passion fruit and antelope.  Next time you are in the supermarket why not pick up one or two and make a Handa’s Surprise Fruit Salad?

Most of the animals  in Handa’s Surprise will be instantly recognisable. The antelope might be the exception.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Thoughts on Summer Reading & Learning

The sun has been shining for weeks now in Ireland. It is absolutely glorious! It has been a fantastic start to the school holidays for all of us!

While school might be out for Summer learning certainly is not! I am busy completing a course on Junior Drama. I can’t wait to try out all the new games and techniques that I am learning this week!

I always encourage parents to continue reading to and with their children over the summer. It has been proven that  reading for 20 minutes per day has a hugely positive impact on literacy rate and reading fluency. In fact reading for 20 min per day equates to 10 school days per year according to U.S  research.  Click on the link below if you are curious!

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                                                                                                                                                    Click here to read

I just love to read. I think that it is probably one of my favourite things to do when on holiday! I am loving the fact that I can buy books instantly on iTunes for my iPad. My latest download is “Orange is the new black” by Piper Kerman. Netflix have adapted it into a tv series. I just love true stories and this one is fascinating!

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I will leave you with this poem to reflect on. It certainly got me thinking! Check back tomorrow for the start of my summer reading for kids. It promises to be fun!!!


Read to your children
Twenty minutes a day;
You have the time,
And so do they.
Read while the laundry is in the machine;
Read while dinner cooks;
Tuck a child in the crook of your arm
And reach for the library books.
Hide the remote,
Let the computer games cool,
For one day your child will be off to school;
Remedial? Gifted? You have the choice.
Let them hear their first tales,
In the sound of your voice.
Read in the morning,
Read over noon,
Read by the light of
Goodnight Moon.
Turn the pages together,
Sitting close as you’ll fit,
‘Till a small voice beside you says,
“Hey, don’t quit.”

Author Unknown


Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Split Digraph Game

I am busy revising split digraphs (a_e, e_e, i_e, o_e, u_e)  with my class this week. I had my fingers crossed that their knowledge was not displaced by Easter break! I think that Hot Potato was a great help with consolidating split digraphs! It was so much fun to play that we practiced them more than any other year. Will be rolling it out again next year, that’s for sure 😉

As we are having a  week long break from “Power Hour” I was on the hunt for a fun, interactive game for split digraphs. I struck gold with this one! It is fun but pretty tricky. You really do need your wits about you!

The link below is for u_e words. They are the trickiest to decode and pronounce by far. The object of the game is to spell the word by tapping on the correct tiles. You must tap them in the correct order. Sounds simple, right? It would be if it wasn’t for the fact that the letter tiles keep moving!!!! You can, thank goodness, use the small arrow key to delete a letter if necessary.

I dare you to play is before your child/class. It is tricky to tap the tiles before they move. Lot of fun and laughter in my room when we played this. I had pupils decode the word before spelling it on the tiles.

tile tap

Click here to play

I hope that you have lots of fun playing this game. Oh yeah, there is a harder, timed level for those of you who dare!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

My Favourite Things for 3-4 year olds

Hi Everybody,

Following some requests and queries I thought that I would share with you my “favourite things” for preschoolers or emergent readers, 3-4 year olds. I have reviewed all of these before but decided to put them together to make them easier to find.


Chicka Chick Boom Boom, Dr Seuss’s ABC, Sesame Street , My First Bob Books, Starfall

Do you have any favourite things for 3-4 year olds? I would love to hear from you if you do! It is great to get recommendations and to expand my collection of teaching resources. Mind you, the study and attic are already stuffed 😉

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Literacy Lift Off & “Power Hour”

I am delighted that my class has started the literacy initiative “Literacy Lift Off”!!!  It is an intensive programme of Reading and Writing. Over the course of 1 hour pupils engage in a number of “stations” where activities are tailor made to their own level of competency over time we  gradually lift the complexity of  the what they can do in both reading and writing.

The aim of Literacy Lift-Off is to make pupils constructive learners. It teaches them ‘how’ to problem-solve independently.


Click here to view a video of LLO

Children are divided up into small groups ( max 7 per group). There are 5 stations and children spend 10 minutes at each. By the end of the hour they will have visited each activity and will take home their “new read” for homework.

There are now 5 adults in my room from Monday-Thursday and this is what we are up to!!

Station 1: Familiar Reading

Pupils read previously seen PM+ Readers.

Purpose: Development of enjoyment, fluency, comprehension and speed.

Station 2: New Reading 
Children will explore and then take home a new reader each day. This challenges the pupils to discover new ways to go beyond their current operating ability and lift their literacy processing.

Purpose: Pupils learn to use strategic activities to read new texts.

Station 3: Phonics
Children are supported to improve their abilities in  blending & segmenting words ( to make and break words) through lots of games and activities.

Purpose: To show children how words work, so that they can make a fast visual analysis of their reading

Station 4: Writing
Pupils write sentences using words that they encounter in their readers and the high frequency words that they are studying.

Purpose: That they will learn how they can write their own messages by hearing and recording sounds in words, using analogy and learning unusual words.

Station 5: High Frequency Words
Through games and small group instruction pupils learn to read the most common HFW appropriate to their age

Purpose: Children become aware of “tricky words” that allow them to access text with greater ease and to increase their reading fluency and accuracy.

“Power Hour” as we are calling it is a fantastic reading initiative and I cannot wait to see the results. The school has invested thousands of euro and lots of “teacher power” into Literacy Lift Off !!! I am so grateful to all of those who have  been involved in fundraising over the last number of year.

The kids are LOVING it so far. Mind you, I have never been busy. The team have been meeting 2o minutes early every morning since it started. I spent a few hours planning this weekend for the coming week only!!!

Watch this space as I will be keeping you up to date on our “Power Hour” activities.

If any of you are already doing LLO I would love to hear from you. Any tips or advice for newbies?!!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

I love “Bee the Book”!

My class had a tonne of fun with this book today!  It’s called Bee the Book.

My class laughed so hard that some of them almost cried! When I read out the “pig” page I swear they could hardly breathe!

The design is so novel and interactive that you can’t help but love it. You hold the book up to your face and look through the hole.

bee the book 2bee the book 3

Click here for a link to the site










There is a little flap that opens to reveal a little story about the animal that you are “beeing” ;). The words are nice and simple and written in a large font size. Senior Infants should have no problem reading it.

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I was thrilled to come across 100% Irish publication to support. It’s an absolute bargain a 9.99 Euro!

I have to admit that I actually used the book for Oral Language and Drama rather than story-time. We love to play Hedbanz and this book can be used in a similar way. Children can give clues to the child “beeing” the book to help him/her guess the animal. There was lots of descriptive language going on. For an extra challenge we had a round where the child with the book could only ask ” yes/no”questions of the class to figure  out who he/she is.

I also did a quick review of  farm animals “as Gaeilge”. I will be doing lots more of this next week. The animals in the book are perfect for Junior or Senior Infant Irish. I will be using it to review the phrases:

  • An… me?
  • Is… tu.


Bee the Book has teamed up with Bee for Battens. They are currently donating a whopping 50% of profits from the sale of the book to the charity. Battens disease is a rare neuro-degenerative and always fatal condition that affects children. At 9.99 Euro ” Bee the book” would make a great stocking filler and support families and children affected by Battens Disease.

 Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

For Parents of Junior Infants: Brush up on your (Jolly) Phonics!

This one is especially for parents of children who have just started school. If your child’s school is using Jolly Phonics chances are your child has already begun to learn his or her sounds.

Jolly Phonics is a form of synthetic phonics. This means that it  first teaches the letter sounds and then teaches children to “blend” sounds together to read and write words eg. cat = caat. Blending is often referred to as “sounding out”. Children are also taught to “segment” which involves breaking words up into sounds eg c/a/t. We do this when spelling words.

Your child will probably already have completed the Sounds in Set 1 and perhaps Set 2 at this stage. Here they are:

Click here to download Glance Card

Download this free glance card and save it for when you are doing homework.

You can use it in 2 main ways:

  1. Randomly point to a letter and ask your child what sound it makes.
  2. Call out a sound and ask your child to point it out.

You now have an easy way to check your child’s sounds 🙂 Just remember that it is letter sounds and not letter names that children learn in the beginning.

Be careful when pronouncing these sounds. Think of a simple 3 letter word eg sat and sing it rather than say it! It is easier to hear the constituent sounds if you do.

Here is an explanation of the sounds covered is Sets 1-2. It is always tricky to write down phonetic sounds. I hope that they make sense 😉

“s” is a long sound as in sssssnake and not suh

“a” is a short sound as in a/nt

“t” is a short sound as in t/ap and not  a harsh tuh ( the “uh” at the end in soft)

“i” is a short sound as in it

“p” is a short sound as in pig. It has a very gently “uh” sound at the end. Curl your lips in around your teeth & push them out like a little explosion. The “uh” sound is subtle rather than pronounced.

“n” is a long sound as in nnnnet and not nuh

“c”  and “k” are a short sounds as in cap and kit. It has a very gently “uh” sound at the end.

“e” is a short sound as in egg

“h” is a soft, short sound and not huh. Take a deep breath and sigh to hear it 🙂

“r” is a long sound as in rrrrip and not ruh

“m “is a long sound as in mmmat and not muh

“d” is a soft, short sound as in dip with a quite rather than pronounced uh sound at the end.

I hope that this helps :). It is so important to get it right in the beginning. If you have any further questions please feel free to email me

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Keeping on top of sounds!

I don’t know about you but sometimes it is hard to keep on top of who knows what in phonics! With 33 children in my class this year I have to be on top of my game ;).

I created a  Sound Identification Sheet that I find great. I use it at the beginning of the year and at the start of each term to see who knows what. You would have to check more often if children are struggling or if you teach Infants etc.

Please click here for a link to this post

I also have these rather nifty sheets to help me check sounds. They are based on the Jolly Phonics teaching order, as are the Sound Identification Sheets.

Please click here for a link to this post

*Please note that you no longer need Google Docs open. Just click on the image!

As a teacher I also need to know what sounds are proving tricky over all for my class. This helps with my planning. I usually use post-its and hastily scribbled notes. They do the job but I figured that I could do better than this!

Voila, my new sheet!!!

Click here to download

It is soooooo much easier to see where generally difficulties and weaknesses are. I hope that you find it as useful as I have.

How do you keep track? Do have any tips that you would like to share?!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

ps The cute ABC graphic is from

Free Sight Word App

I had a rummage around last weekend for an iPad app for high frequency words. There are lots of great apps available but I was looking for one that was free 😉

I was delighted to find this one by “Teacher Created Materials Publishing”.

As you can see it covers 25 high frequency words (HFW) that children need to learn to read  “by sight”. This means that they are not phonologically regular and cannot be sounded out.

I love the fact that the words are broken up into bite sized chunks. Your child can then learn or revise just a small number, experience success and move on to the next level. It can be frustrating to be staring at a very long list of words!

The app is very user friendly for children. It is brightly coloured and nice and large for little hands to use and to read.

How to use this app:

  • To hear the word- click on the “star” on the left of the screen
  • To record yourself saying the word- click the microphone button and keep it depressed while you say the word.
  • Write the word- use your pointer finger to write it on the screen
  • To erase the word- click the eraser icon

At the end of your 5 words you make a jigsaw, play hangman, concentration or Tic Tac Toe. Kids are all about the games…!

It’s nice to find an app that you can use as a test. You could use it to test your child’s level of recall by not pressing on the “star”. In fact, if you go to their website by following this link you will get a printable  checklist for sight words 1-25.

You can also download  these free printable flashcards from You could print a double set and play “snap” or “go fish”. I just love how well thought out these games are.

I can hardly believe that this app is free! I was pleasantly surprised to see the cost of purchasing the full app. Please click here to be taken to app store.

I hope that you find this post useful. Are any of you already using this app? Have you others that you can recommend?

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

My Little Box of Books

I came across a really lovely new series of books for Junior Infants last week. It is produced by Edco Primary English and  it is being launched for the start of the next school year.

” My Little Box” is a lovely concept and very well thought out. The box contains 10 little stories books for small little hands. The stories are about the adventures of Danny, Zeb ( his stuffed zebra), Emma and Josh. Not a weird alien or odd sounding name in sight for a change! The stories are based on topics that young children can easily relate to: Halloween, the market, saying hello and goodbye, the playground, “I can”, the telescope, tree houses, the swimming pool, Danny and his Mum and making a spaceship from an old box.

I love that they books contain lots of high frequency words and that each book only covers 6 new ones at most. They are also repeated over and over in the book. The controlled introduction and frequent use means that children will find them easier to learn to read. The HFW are based on the Dolch list.

The back of each book clearly lays out the HFW that will be focused on:

Inside the text is lovely and clear and well spaced. It also has a font similar to that used in Jolly Phonics. I love joined up thinking!

I am delighted to see that Irish textbook manufacturers are finally waking up to the importance of these for beginner readers.  I have spent far too many years teaching children words that are not “valuable”. By this I mean words that are not likely to pop up in the next book they read. I think that Infant books should be based on Dolch words and the others should be decodable. There is no point in teaching phonics if the first book you hand out contains precious few words that can be sounded out!

I love the idea of beginner readers getting to take home 10 stories rather than 4 big books. It can be demotivating for struggling readers to be faced with a large book and lots of words to learn in one go. This format means that children only need to learn a few words before they can take a book home and read it for Mom. How motivating!

“My Little Box” costs 9.95 Euro. Follow this link for further details. Edco have even thought of Reader Rental schemes and will allow you to purchase books individually to replace books that are sodden with orange juice ;).

Unfortunately, my school is not searching for a new scheme at present. I really wish that we were! It is one to keep in mind for supplementing your classroom library even if you, like me, are stuck with older schemes.

If you are a parent of a Junior Infant next year it is worth buying and reading with your child to supplement other schemes used in your child’s school.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

The Pig in the Pond Reader Response Activity 2

This reader response activity ties in nicely with Science and Geography- keeping cool.

I explained to my class that the duck and geese have forbidden the pig from every jumping into their pond again! As it is summer, the pig is likely to get hot again. The ducks are looking for useful suggestions to offer the pig when he needs to cool off.

Click here to download

My class came up with some fantastic ideas during our brainstorming session: ice-cream, a cold shower, a sun hat, water guns and even his own paddling pool! I just love to see children becoming so absorbed and so engaged with text and creatively responding to it.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

The Pig in the Pond

My class and I have been exploring water, water conservation and uses of water as part of our Green School Campaign. I thought that this Martin Waddell book was a great literature tie in.

When I asked my class if they had every heard of Martin Waddell there was a resounding “no”. Isn’t it strange how children never seem to notice authors?! When I showed them Owl Babies they all recognised the book. They were surprised to discover that Martin Waddell had written both!

Owl Babies is and absolute classic and worth including in your library if you do not already have it. Please click here for a link to Owl Babies at Book Depository.

The Pig in the Pond begins with the  fact that most pigs don’t swim. The heat of a hot summer day gets the better of the pig and he dives into the cool pond. This throws the entire farm and Nelligan himself into uproar!

The Pig in the Pond is laugh out load funny for little children. My class loved the poor ducks and geese being splashed out of the pond. The highlight had to be Nelligan stripping off and joining the pig in the pond for a cooling dip. My class howled with laughter every time…

Click here for a link to The Pig in the Pond at Book Depository. It is only 5.43 Euro.

Join me later this week when I will be posting some reader response activities that my class enjoyed.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂