Maths Journal for Mental Maths

I have had a great response to my “Maths Journal” photos on my Facebook page and on Twitter. In response to lots of questions I have decided to write a blog post in it!

Maths Journals are a wonderful teaching and assessment resource to have in your classrooms. They cost almost nothing and do not take very much time at all. I have used them with both Junior and Senior Infants in the past. I am currently teaching Junior Infants and we have started journaling. I am a huge advocate of challenging children with mental maths and oral maths problems. I mean why else do we need to learn maths if not to use it in our everyday lives!

How to Maths Journal:

Each child needs:

  • blank copy, non-lined type, per child
  • optional Maths Journal cover
  • glue
  • mental maths challenges
  • a 5 minute timer

How do I start?:

From their very first maths class my class are exposed to problem solving and mental/oral maths challenges. It is just a normal part of our day. I “maths talk” and show children how a problem can be solved while illustrating it it on my whiteboard or with manipulatives. I ask for children to suggest and model how they would solve a problem. By the time we come to our “Maths Journal” enteries my class have already developed problem solving skills.

About 2 weeks before children are given their journals I begin to work more formal on recording their answers. I write a question on the board  and “maths talk” what I would do. Demonstrating how to illustrate and record my answer. I try to do this daily during that two week preparation period.

One their first day with their Maths Journal I explain my expectations and the practicality of where they glue the question and how long they have to answer the question. What are my expectations?

  1. That children try to complete these challenges in 5 minutes.
  2. That they focus on the maths rather than the colouring. Its about good maths thinking rather than beautiful drawings.
  3. That it is a maths challenge so they will probably have to write a number to show their answer. That they do not look at another child’s work and if they do to remember that there are often multiple ways of solving a problem so both of them can be correct even if they look different 😉
  4. That the task is completed without talking to their friends about it. It is their challenge to solve

I will sometimes read the question and sometimes not, depending on the age of the children and their literacy levels.  That is as much help as my pupils are given. I ensure that the prompts relate to an aspect of the curriculum that we are currently studying or have already studied. Therefore the challenge should not required modelling. That is the beauty of these journals, I can see thought processes, strenghts and weaknesses at a glance. To my mind they are worth their weight in gold! I used handout last year and regretted it. It is so much better to have a running record.

Here are the Maths Journal covers that I designed for this year:

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Click here to download

Here is a photo of what they look like in real life:

maths journal cover ImageHere are some images of our very first journal entry. It was a revision page for the Number 3. I told my class that there was a “secret number” on their prompt. That number would tell them how many apples to draw. They had to draw that many apples, number them and colour them.
Image 1Image 3Then I set my 5 minute timer and wait to see how they would solve the problem. Click here for a link to the timer.
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That is pretty much it! I aim to complete a minimum of 2 entries per week. In an ideal world I would favour daily entries. With severe curriculum overload those 5 mins/day can be very, very elusive!!!

To encourage you to give it a whirl here is a Junior Infant, a Senior Infant and a 1st Class prompt 😉 Click here to download

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

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!phonic-word-bookjolly-phonics-word-book-inside-page-1
  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. 9781609962289I 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. 9780545114981My 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.
    10345DDI 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 🙂Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 18.11.57
  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.Image 2
  6. Image 3Image 4Behaviour 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.

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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.

I feel another ” Top 5 Teacher Resources” will be blogged about very soon. Thanks to Aishlin for requesting this. Keep your requests and comments coming. What would make it into your Top 5? Leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.

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)

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

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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!!

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I loved using this when I had Senior Infants. We had so much fun chatting  and laughing about the topics. I love that they are a bit “zany” and unpredictable. I always make children give the reasons “why” the made their choice. I feel that ‘Think, Pair, Share” works very well as a methodology for these cards.  You close your eyes and think about your answer, you talk to your partner, then you share your partners response and not your own. I like that there is a responsibility on partner to listen carefully and report accurately. No half-hearted listening will apply here!

listening comprehension lower

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.

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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 🙂

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

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 🙂

Igam Ogam Obsessed!

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I  have to admit that I have a bit of a problem… I am becoming obsessed with Igam Ogam on the Cula4 Player and so are my class!!!

Igam Ogam is a 10 minute cartoon series designed for toddlers. That is just about the perfect amount of time for a cartoon in a 2nd language. It is also a perfect duration for showing in class as part of your Gaeilge lesson.

Igam Ogam is an adorable and fun loving Stone Age cave girl. Igam Ogam is always looking for adventure with her pet dinosaur, “Madra” and her monkey friend, “Roly”. Each episode has a specific focus with a repetitive narrative line running through it. Last week poor Igam Ogam was “ró-te” because of a heatwave. After a few viewings my class were joining in and laughing knowledgeably. The next episode saw “Madra” begging Igam Ogam to play with her before breakfast. She was not at all ready to play as she had not eaten her breakfast or washed her teeth. “Ní anois” was the phrase that my class learned.

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I really would encourage Infant teachers to make use of the fantastic Cúla 4 player. It is not blocked by our internet security settings. Igam Ogam is a Telegael/Calon co-production for S4C, Channel Five, TG4 and ZDF Enterprises. It is great to be able to support  TG4 in our classrooms!

Here is a link to the Cúla 4 player.  Scroll down on the right and locate Igam Ogam. Bain triall as!!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

“Cracking the Code: Phonics and High Frequency Words for Beginner Readers”

I am delighted to invite you all to a talk that I am giving in Wexford Town Library on November 7th at 7.30 pm. It’s called “Cracking the code: Phonics and High Frequency Words for Beginner Readers”.  The lovely staff  have told me that booking is recommended. You can book your place by phoning +353 53 9196760

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I will be demystifying phonics. What it is. Why we teach it. How you can help your child successfully “sound out” words.

Phonics is only one aspect of literacy that beginner readers must learn.

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What happens when my child tries to “sound out” a word and it doesn’t “sound out”?!!! Children also need to build a “lexicon” or word bank. There will be lots to explore here:What are High Frequency words? Are they the same as Dolch Words?! Why should my child know them and what can I do to help?

Here are a few teasers! I am not going to explain. Hopefully you will be intrigued enough to come on the night!!!Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 15.04.01 Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 15.04.13

At the end of the night you will leave knowing all of my top tips, my favourite websites for phonics and HFW word games, and a list of my favourite authors for emergent readers and lots, lots more.

Please share this page with your friends who have little ones who are learning to read.

I hope to see you there!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂