Well is it stressful? If yes who for - the teachers, parents or the kids who sit it?
I'm a teacher and I teach in the foundation stage and yet I am trained to teach Key stage 2. Have I ever taught up the school? The simple answer is yes. One year, I was asked by the headteacher of my school to move from Primary 1 to Primary 6. Did I find that stressful? - Ohhhhhhhh yes!!!!!! At the time AQE tests did not exist; it was the 11+ tests and that summer I was STRESSED. Not only was it a big jump from foundation stage to Keystone 2 but also your style of teaching needs to change. I managed it BUT it was stressful - sorry with a capital "S" - Stressful.
I enjoyed it in the end because I love this age group - let's face it - these kids can write, read and tie their shoe laces and button their coats up unlike the Primary 1 children in September. But I did work every night that year and the marking never seemed to end. I even stayed in P.6 the next year and the next...but I did go back down the school when an opportunity came up. I couldn't wait to move back down the school.
As a result, I would like to send a BIG SHOUT OUT to all the Key Stage 2 teachers for the preparation, planning and the big one..... the marking that occurs everyday in their classrooms and late into the evenings at home. Would I move back to Key Stage 2?...... eh no - and that is the bottom line. Remember I am the stress-free teacher and the thought of moving to P.6 or 7 would just change that dynamic of my character.
WHAT ABOUT THE PARENTS - does AQE stress out the parents?
I'm also a parent to three lovely KeyStage 2 children. The twins did their test last year and looking back I was stressed as a parent. The twins both had picked their favourite schools and these were both Grammar schools. As a parent I knew that these two needed to work hard to get that "pass" into the schools of their choice. We worked hard the summer before the tests and with Grace I had to demonstrate the reflex angle with mad gymnastic moves. (Grace doing the gymnastic moves not me). The three mornings of the tests came and went in a flash and I managed the smiley mummy act each morning despite my stomach doing the somersaults. When they were doing the test I prayed hard for them and couldn't believe that these two days would decide the schools that they will go to in September!!!!
This year is a different type of stress. My other daughter has decided that our local secondary school is the place for her. In my heart I know that she would suit a secondary school more than a grammar school- so why is this stressing me? Well the first thing is I had to make a decision before Easter as to whether or not she will be doing the practice AQE papers in her school. She point- blankly does not want to do the AQE. And yet as a parent I don't want her to miss out in any important concepts. What will she be doing if she is not doing the practice tests? Time will answer that question. I will blog on this as it happens.
What about THE KIDS WHO SIT THE AQE? Is it stressful for them?
Finally, is it stressful for the kids who sit the tests? Of course it is! Is that not why we got rid of the 11+ in the first place? Now the children have to sit the tests in another school rather than in their own primary school.
Saying that - the schools are brilliant in our area at supporting the children through this process. The twins did their tests in Glenlola Collegiate, Grammar School, Bangor - this school was outstanding at preparing our twins for the test and they did their test in a classroom rather than in a daunting assembly hall.
I asked the twins how they felt about the AQE and one said, "Yes it was stressful - I panicked through the first test." And that says it all.
So how can we help as parents or as a teacher. Do we need more support? I believe that we do. Is there a solution? This week I just heard about a fantastic workshop that might just be the solution that we all need. It's for Parents and children who are sitting the AQE tests this year.
In the workshops you learn skills and techniques that will help you to relax and reach a deep level of calm. Each child can then face each test feeling good and stress free. Having a positive mindset is the aim and surely everyone reading this would agree that that is exactly what we want our children to have. Could this be the solution? All I can say is if I had heard about these workshops last year I would have been there.
So if you are a parent or a teacher - I would recommend that you check these workshops out. In the end of the day we want only the best for our children in Northern Ireland and this could end up helping them to achieve their hopes and dreams. Press the button here to find out more:
I have been teaching for 20 years and there is a possibility that the school that I am in will be receiving a new-build. This is a VERY exciting prospect ...... until I look around my classroom and think to myself, "Wow! Look at all my stuff! How the heck would I even start to move all my items to a new building?"
(This in itself put me off going of on my second career break, as now, apparently, all items need to be removed from the classroom during the time that you are away!!!!! That for me would be a massive ordeal. Not worth taking on. I'm a stress-free teacher who no longer takes on drama. I'm happy going on my long holidays instead throughout the year. Career break on hold!)
Where was I? Oh yes - a teacher with lots of "stuff". I am the teacher who loves to create an environment that can constantly change and in doing so keeps every child interested and inspired. That involves collecting a lot of "stuff".
Looking around my room I thought it would be interesting to compile a list of classroom items that are my definite must-haves.
If I had to pick 4 items that would have to be in my new room - they would have to be the most useful items. Here are my top 4!
Number 1 baskets and tubs
Every teacher needs baskets, tubs and boxes. These hold all your clutter within the classroom. The baskets in my room holds my "Home reads" , library books, games for my group work and all the little items I mentioned in my previous blog for the guided reading area. My baskets are mainly from the pound shop, Home Bargains and Amazon and basically anywhere I have been that sells cute baskets including car-boots. Here is a link to the baskets you can get from Amazon. These guys are sttttttrrrrrrrooooooonnnnnngggggg and at a great price:
I particularly love the fabric baskets that you can buy in Home Bargains. You need to check these guys out! I purchase a variety of sizes and in different colours. A bright room is an interesting room. A room that children want to explore.
I also like these baskets from Amazon - these are great as the pupils can use the handles to carry the resources back to their desks.
Baskets and tubs will keep your items organised. But what about your paper work? Hence, my next item would have to be my personal filing system that works for me.
An organised teacher means less stress. Less stress equals a happy teacher. Remember - I don't do stress.
Number 2 : My filing system
You can use a filing cabinet or you could have the same as me - my must have empty box. I simply took a sturdy empty box and covered it with lovely paper. I have my filing dividers inside. The dividers are labelled. My CAs know how this system works and they use it to organise paperwork, copy papers, file work to be marked etc. I keep this under my desk and it keeps me mega organised.
I also have a smaller version that I keep on my desk. Here it is:
I posted a video of this on Instagram - Press the button to check it out. Don't forget to follow me on Instagram as I regularly post photographs of the "stuff" in my classroom.
This one I got in Sainsbury's - my go to shop for pretty stationery. These are out of stock at the moment but you can purchase similar desk planners from Amazon:
Here is a smaller version on Amazon:
Number 4: Pocket charts
My last item was hard to pick. Looking around my room it was either going to be my guided reading, horseshoe desk or my pocket charts. The pocket charts won as these are really good for visual learning and my pupils love working with words/ pictures/ sentences within these. There are three types. I have this one that I attach to my Flipchart. Children can work at this area in small groups -creating sentences or for going over key words.
This one is great for displaying a visual timetable or for children to sequence a story.
The third one is a small stand - this one I keep at my guided reading area. A definite must-have for small group activities.
So if I had to lift 4 items and transfer these to my new classroom - I now know exactly which 4 items I would lift. Luckily for me I'm not limited and also it might take a while for the new build, so in the meantime I will be happy in my classroom full of "stuff" and write blogs on the items I have in there, for you guys to read.
So I'm happy and stress-free. And I wish you all a lovely day!
Check out my other blogs:
Deborah White - Primary School teacher in Northern Ireland - presently teaching primary 2.
Phones - mobile phones and telephones and pretend-phones
I always ask the parents at the beginning of the year to donate their old phones to my classroom. I use these in my reading area and if I am getting ready to start and need 5 minutes I will simply ask the group to read their story down the phone. The pupils select their phone and read their reading books quietly.
Funny Glasses (bought in the pound shop in a variety of colours)
I use these when we are trying to work out a tricky word. These glasses are of course magic and the children know that we only use these on special occasions. I usually say, "Let's look at this tricky word (and then say the word - giving away the information.) We then take turns to put on the glasses and read the word. This works exceedingly as the children are keen to try on the glasses and learn the word.
A box of pieces of card - variety of sizes - index card/ sentence strips
I hand these out for the children to write certain words or to draw a quick picture.
Whiteboards and markers and sponges
For the same reason as my little box of card. Sometime we look at one word and play scrambled egg. I cut up the word and then scramble up the letters. The pupils then put these back together in the correct order and write it down on their whiteboard. I sometime use the markers to write directly onto the table. Kids love this as they know that we shouldn't write on the furniture.
I keep a packet of baby wipes and we use these to write on the desk too! Yes we use the baby wipes to write words on the table. Good tip to do at the end of the lesson - keeps your reading area clean.
Pound shop / Ikea lights
When you sound out CVC words press each light. c. a. t. That gives a clear visual - particularly good for the children who are struggling.
Magnetic letters and a baking tray
To make words that we find in the reading book. Promotes children to spell.
If you want to be mega organised you can use a tool box and put each letter in order. Great for alphabetical order. I plan to do this in term 3.
Great for finding letters or dabbing over the punctuation marks.
For the same reasons as above and also to highlight keywords.
Novelty pointers - can be handmade or use a lolly-pop stick or a magnifying glass
These just make it fun. Hand out the little pointer or the magnifying glass and ask a child to find a certain word with it.
Let me know what you use in your guided reading groups in the comments below.
We need music in the classroom. Children naturally love music. I have tried numerous songs in my classroom over the years - the songs that work I keep and the others I simply delete. Here is my list of the songs I still have on my playlist for my classroom.
I don't play an instrument and my singing goes on and off key so as a teacher I have to rely on music found online. I'm an iTunes girl:
My morning songs are very calming and relaxing. We like to start our day thinking about what we are going to learn.
Getting ready to learn song
Tidy up songs
Number 1: This song is great for the foundation stage. The ultimate "Tidy up song!" My class love this song and as soon as it starts playing the children start to tidy up - a win-win situation!
Number 2: This is my second tidy up song. Boys love this and suddenly become involved in the tidy up process.
When the weather changes and your pupils go a little crrrraaaazzzzzy this is the song to play. We made up actions for this song:
Number and Numeracy Songs
This is the song I play just before number work. The pupils dance to their seats. You can't not move to this beat.
Music I use within my topics:
The next list of songs I use for my topic "Deep, Blue Sea"
Deep, Blue Sea!
Topic: Special Days
Topic: Knights and Castles
And finally - The Ultimate song - At the end of every year in P.2 we always vote for our favourite song. This is always number one; voted as the ultimate, favourite song. You must download this song for your class!!!
Well that is my list. If you have any other songs that you use within your classroom comment below. I would love to hear your favourites.
The only job in the world that you really feel that you can't possibly take a sick day is - teaching! It is dramatic enough that you are feeling awful but now you have to phone in sick and organise your classroom (over the phone) for your sub teacher. Aghhhhhhhhhh! The main thought running through your head is, "It is easier to drag myself in and struggle on."
The ironic thing is - we are working in a place where we can pick up so many germs and illnesses! One child in a class of 30 kids can spread chicken pox in 3 days! The truth is we are going to get sick. We simply can't always keep going!!!
I remember 7 years ago falling down the stairs and my knee blew up like a balloon and thinking I can still do this. Needless to say I borrowed crutches and got myself into my classroom and taught mainly from my desk. Did I make my leg worse? - YES! Would I do that again? - NOOOOOOOO! From that moment on I knew that I had to be the teacher that plans for the unexpected.
So how do we plan for the unexpected!?! One way to do that is to have a sub-tub in your classroom.
What is a sub-tub?
You need a box and a label on it saying, "Sub-tub". I have a sturdy, see-through box. I love these boxes from Amazon as they have great lids that remain closed when these are not in use and these are LARGE. But you can check out the variety of containers on Amazon. Check out the Easter Deals this week on Amazon, as there are lots of deals on boxes that you should check out.
Inside I have sub folder with the information about the class inside. I have a page for each child - with a blurb on them, a medical section, daily timetable, classroom management plan and classroom routines. If you are interested I can do a separate blog on my sub folder. Let me know in the comments.
Then I have a plan for a week. I use the topic - Birthdays. I reckon that any sub. coming into my classroom could interrupt a topic and do a random week on a topic that all children understand and can relate to. If you end up being off for longer than a week then that would be when you would be referring the sub. teacher to your 6 weekly plans. I have my sub plans on TPT if you want to check these out - Press the button here:
Here are some photographs of the children using these pages:
You should make a copy of each page. There are 40 pages in total in this resource and these are cross-curricular. Copy each page X36. I have 30 children in my class - but I always do spare copies - again preparation for the unexpected. Pop these into a folder or use paper-clips to keep together and simply set these in the box. The order of these worksheets are irrelevant - these work well in any order. You simply tell your head-teacher to refer the sub. teacher to the sub-tub. I always keep my box at the front of the classroom so it is easy to find.
Finally, when you return to your classroom after being sick , remember to go back to your sub-tub and add more work....just incase it happens again. Always be prepared for the unexpected.
There are so many items that a teacher should have in his/her classroom. I've decided to make this a monthly feature on my blog. Here is my list for April - enjoy:
Number 1 - This is a must!!! You neeeeeeed lip balm. Over the years I have tried many but this is definitely my go-to product: EOS Visibly soft Lip balm. This is a great all-rounder as it not only smells great but also keeps your lips kissable soft! No chapped lips when it comes to this teacher. I also am a sucker for cute packaging and this ticks that box. Cute round container that you unscrew before whipping onto your lips. A good talking point for my 5/6 year olds too. Main question, "What's that?"
Number 2 - You need a bullet journal (reasons given on my website - "Organised using planners" page. Check this one out. I have my eye on this one:
But also this one!! And if you know me - I find it hard to make a decision!! Both lovely!!
The price might sway me - and you can't go wrong with a moleskin!
Number 3 - another beauty product. I have to put Coconut oil onto this list!!! Firstly, I use this for hand-cream in the classroom. It is a natural skin moisturiser and it absorbs quickly. At home I use it in my hair when it is looking particularly dry. Living in Northern Ireland and promoting outdoor play - can play havoc on your locks. I simply take a chunk of it and paste it onto my hair, eh pants on my head or a shower cap and a towel on my pillow and WOW the next morning (after I wash my hair) it is looking SHINY and healthy!!! Girl we have to look after ourselves when we teach. Make sure that you buy 100 percent organic with this one. I have tried both and there is an amazing difference with the organic one. Here are my two favourites:
I also have bought the cheap version in Home Bargains. I keep that one in my classroom too. Check their one out the next time you are in.
Number 4 - Pens!! And I am going through a mad stage of using pink pens at the moment. Very girly!!! I will have to do a youtube video on my mad pencil-case but in the meantime check out these beauties!!
Number 5: A fly swatter! I use these for games, "Write the Room" activities and pointing to areas of the whiteboard and for swatting wasps! The latter is a main issue in my room - I reckon there is a wasp nest somewhere near-by!! My pupils loving using the one that is a hand!
Number 6 - Place mats! I use the lovely stripey ones from Ikea for my desk. But also use some from Amazon for my children to do individual work on. Play dough/ slime play being good examples as why we need these in our classroom.
Number 7 - Cute file folders and wallets!!! I love Sainsburys for their lovely stock on folders and matching accessories. That isle makes me happy and my 3 children groan!!! I spend far too long in that area of Sainsburys. Here are lovely items directly from Amazon:
Number 8: WASHI-TAPE
Oh how I love wash-tape. I decorate my planners with it, my filing cabinet and anything that moves in my room that doesn't look cute. My latest set is goooooollllllllld:
Number 9: Stones - eh no link to Amazon for this one. I use stones for the self-registration in my class, story stones, to decorate outdoor tyres for small world play, I number stones for the children to put into the right order.
Finally number 10: 3 for this one: Marbles, Golf tees and tweezers.
The reason for these being in my top ten - this is my favourite finger gym to promote in my classroom as I have witnessed kids with poor fine-motor skills developing their little muscles as they play the finger gym games within my room. Check out my blog on finger gyms - down this page:
Well that's this month's top list of the 10 essentials for the Primary School teacher. Comment below on your favourite and suggest another item that teachers must have. I will check it out and feature it in May's Top 10 list. It should be something that you can't live without! Have a lovely day and keep smiling.
First of all - What is going on? Am I turning into a daily blogger? 3 days in a row! As a teacher I feel that it is important to celebrate the small steps so I am always expecting a certificate or a sticker to appear from somewhere/anywhere and land on my desk when I do something that surprises me. Of course It never happens ... but a comment from you might give me that same feeling that a sticker would. Is that a hint? lol
I know these wee blogs are being seen out there. My last blog write up received 2,056 views!!! Wow! So maybe that has inspired me to write this one.
Well it all comes down to simplicity this week. It is the final week before my class run off to see the Easter Bunny and eat lots of chocolate. I still want all of them to read and think mathematically - that may be only a wish that I will send off to all as they leave my classroom on Friday. Saying that I did ask my lovely parents via Seesaw to work with their children over the two weeks and sent home voluntary homework. You see Seesaw is a cool app. (read my earlier blog on seesaw).
Anyway where was I? Oh yes- I'm tired this week and so are my class. We need to do something "simple" this week and yet connected to our topic, "Special days". Flicking through my own resource file just didn't inspire me this week so of course I checked out the lovely website Twinkl. And low-and-behold there was the perfect worksheet for my class - Easter Egg Doubles Colouring Activity. I have set a link below the blog as it screams out simplicity and straightforwardness and the lovely part is - the children learn, will be developing their skills in The Arts and they will go home with a colourful Easter egg at the end of the day. Win-win situation.
I will of course have to enlarge it to A3 and set out a variety of painting tools for my class to experiment with - who needs the basic paintbrush? Saying that my CA might insist that the odd paint brush is put on the craft table. I love the way she returns me to reality every now and again. Thank you Caroline.
I did see a post on pinterest - painting with pom-poms - I might try that out today. Anyway whatever I do with this great resource I will post on instagram - northernirelandteacher and here on my website - watch this space.
Finding simple, straightforward worksheets isn't always easy. That makes me want to shout out to the lovely teachers who work in Nurture groups. The teachers who are always on the lookout for simple, straightforward worksheets without the clutter and worksheets that stick to the basics. I would recommend Twinkl to all of them. Check it out. Anita you know I am talking directly to you - after our chat on Saturday.
So that is my blog today - oh and I started this at 5am! Miracle morning! If you don't know how that works check it out on Facebook. Don't if you looooovvvvvveeeee your sleep. Do if you want to work at your peak performance! Teachers if you want inspiration read Hal Elrod's book - it might just change your outlook on life itself.
Stay strong and keep smiling.
Who is the main person in a Primary School? Well my opinion hasn't changed over the past 20 years I have always believed that the main person in a school is the caretaker. This character neeeeeeeds to become your best friend. Not just your friend! He or she needs to be your best friend!
Here is the caretaker - who works in my school. Check out his website.
Why is this important? Well he is the guy who:
I love listening to Jim Rohn. Jim Rohn was an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker and yet when I listen to him I can easily link his advice to my teaching. Here are a few examples that have helped me:
Check out Jim Rohn on youtube - you will not regret it. Enjoy!
Seesaw - where can I start? Seesaw describes the app best in their mission statement.
At Seesaw, our mission is to create an environment where students can be their best.
For us, this means:
As for my opinion - well it is hard for me to express how much I adore it. I have been using the app for 2 and a half years now and I LOOoOOOOOVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEE it. The main reasons for this endless love of seesaw are:
I like the way you can create folders on the app too. Of course I linked mine all to the Northern Ireland Curriculum - and colour coded them. Here are the folders I created:
The great thing is you can video an activity which is cross-curricular and select several areas . My favourite folder is the I.E.P folder as I pop in evidence that the pupils are reaching their SMART targets and this is great when you are asked my the SEN co. how the children are doing.
You can also send links to the parents. Great for posting Youtube videos on a skill that you wish to reinforce.
Overall, this is by far my favourite app for teachers.