Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Happy Holidays!

We did it!!! We finally made it! Here's to a happy Christmas spent with your family and friends! No doubt you've worked hard this year. Now enjoy the holidays - eat, drink and be merry! I'm off to do the same. 

See you in 2016!

*graphics from My Cute Graphics
*fonts from Kevin and Amanda

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Christmas Symmetry

Less than a week to go to the Christmas holidays! We've just had our dress rehearsal and are looking forward to our show on Friday. Here are some pics of how we did a very Christmassy but still a "real" maths lesson. 

I showed the children how to do four symmetry activities - an angel on a grid in pairs and a Christmas tree, a snowflake and a bauble on a grid independently. They began with the paired activity and then chose the order they did the other activities. They listened to Christmas songs and drew/cut away happily.

Here are some of the children finishing a symmetrical angel in pairs and a bauble independently. I got the angel and bauble from Activity Village. 

Here is one of the children's Christmas tree. I showed them how to do their half-tree shape on the board and they got cracking on their own.

 And here are two of the very unique snowflakes they made. They're so simple - start with a circle template, fold in half three times and then cut out bits of it.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Christmas Tag

Hi folks,

I was tagged on the Irish Primary Art FB page to take part in "The Christmas Tag." Not sure who wants to know about my Christmas memories but here goes anyway!

1. What's your favourite Christmas movie? Love Actually. I'm usually in floods of tears right from the airport scene at the beginning.
2. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Christmas morning. 
3. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory? All of my Christmases have been very happy and it's hard to choose a standout memory. I'll go for a funny one. My mother asked me to turn on the oven but, having not been living at home in years, didn't realise I had turned on the grill function (the symbol was not as obvious as you'd imagine) and we ended up grilling the turkey for an hour. We then cooked it upside down . It turned out misshapen but delicious!
4. Favourite festive food? Roasted chestnuts, washed down with mulled wine.
5. Favourite Christmas gift? A trip to Barcelona!
6. Favourite Christmas scent? Cinnamon and cloves.
7. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions? When we were children, we all went to Christmas mass together. Nowadays, we make the most of use coming together from different cities/countries and go for a drink together.
8. What tops your tree? A long-legged Rudolph teddy bear (see the pic above!)
9. As a kid, what was the one gift you asked for but never received? Same answer as Irish Primary Art... Mr. Frosty!
10. What's the best part about Christmas for you? Having my whole family in the same place at the same time. It's such a rare occurrence for us!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Christmas Wreath Crafts

Hi everyone,

At our school, we purchased polystyrene rings to make Christmas wreaths. As I've never used them before, I popped over to Pinterest for some inspiration. Before I begin with the polystyrene ring crafts, these are some simple ways to make wreaths without spending lots of money!

Cut out the centre of a paper plate:
Cheap, simple and effective.
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I like how they've used painted pasta to decorate this one. You could also use pom poms.
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This one is made with scrap fabric. Perhaps you could get some festive fabric in the reduced section of a fabric shop (like Hickey's) or from some clothes/sheets from a charity shop.
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Make the circle from green cardboard hand prints: 
This would be a lovely way to make some class wreaths in groups.
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Use an old wire hanger as a base:
Ask the children to bring in one/two hangers and you don't need to buy any base. You could then scrunch up old newspaper and tape it on to create a thick base.
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.......so now that you have a thick base, here are some ways to decorate them!

Pin ribbon on, wrap around and pin again.
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This one could be done by gluing on strips of wrapping paper.
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You could paint the wreath green (mix PVA glue with the paint so it sticks to the polystyrene) and wrap pipe cleaners around some of it.
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Saturday, 5 December 2015

The Foos - coding from 5 years old

Hello folks!

I'm really excited to share my latest discovery with you. We've been making a big effort to get the children in our school coding. The classes with children aged 8 onwards are currently using Scratch to code. This is going down a treat! They absolutely love it! The teachers are using the free lesson plans developed by LERO as a guideline. You can log in and download them for free from here. The great thing about these plans is that they give open-ended challenges so children can work on the same concept in their own way.

However, we felt the younger classes weren't quite ready for Scratch just yet. We wanted something a bit easier to introduce the basics first. I went hunting and stumbled upon The Foos (developed by CodeSpark). It was exactly what I wanted for my 7 year olds and it's also suitable for younger children too. It is a fantastic way to work on developing logical sequences and problem-solving (If you're in a PYP school, it perfectly fits the definition of learning through inquiry!).

Here's a quick video intro where you'll see how different blocks can be put together and you can use loop functions and "if" commands.

Before I continue, I'll mention the best part - there is a 147 page curriculum available for free from The Foos website. Each lesson in the curriculum has a particular focus. They recommend which levels of The Foos to play to reinforce this learning and they provide resources to do "unplugged activities." Don't worry if you, as a teacher, don't feel confident about coding. The curriculum guide lays out all the required coding language simply. By working through the lessons yourself, before doing so with the children, you should feel fully confident!

I'm going to introduce The Foos to my class after the Christmas holidays. I am certain that they'll love it. I tried out the lesson plans myself, playing each of the associated levels and I got completely hooked. I even brought the iPad home one weekend to continue doing it! If a teacher can get sucked into it so easily, I'm sure the children are going to love learning in this way! In fact, I'm pretty sure they won't even know they're learning because they'll be too busy having fun. 

In my school, each child has an iPad so we're going to use the free Foos app. It's also available for free in the Google Play Store for those of you who are android users. The Foos is available to use online for those of you with computer rooms. Please note that they recommend using Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera (I was using Chrome and it's not supported) and you'll need to download the Unity3D browser plugin.

Please comment below if you've been using The Foos and want to share your experiences!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

NO PREP activities for surviving THAT Monday and Tuesday

Hi all,

It's December and Christmas is just around the corner. If you're in school on Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd December this year, then you'll probably be counting down the hours and minutes until the holidays. 

What better way to pass the time than cram those days full of Christmassy activities? This post is here to take away some of the doom and gloom of planning and suggest some ready-to-go activities.

1. Let A Crucial Week teach your class:
Yep! Let me in to your classroom. Well, not literally! Last year I (mortifyingly) created a video tutorial for a dance to Jingle Bell Rock (child-friendly, NOT Mean Girls style!). It's 14 minutes long and you can happily sit back while your children learn the dance from me! The dance is all performed on the spot so it can be done in the classroom, at their desks. Click here to find out more!

2. Have a Christmas karaoke session:
I've created a YouTube playlist with Christmas karaoke videos. Maybe your students are comfortable to get up and sing solo or in small groups. Otherwise, you could have the whole class sing together. Check it out here.

3. Have a table quiz:
Being a self-confessed quiz nerd, I can't resist the opportunity for a good aul quiz. This one from Nollaig Shona (by the man behind our beloved Seomra Ranga) on Powerpoint has a beautiful background and consists of 8 rounds of 6 questions, a tie breaker round (and answers) along with cute Christmas jokes at the end of each round. You'd be mad not to download this 145 slide freebie!

4. Throw on this Christmas playlist:
Whether the children are having a party, doing arts and crafts, stuck inside during wet weather or just singing/dancing along, this Christmas party playlist will keep them happy. Please be aware that you might have to skip a few ads at the start of these videos!

5. Have your own Late Late Toy Show:
Ask the children to bring in their favourite toy. Have the children do an oral "review" of the toy for the class. Don't forget to don a Christmas jumper to rival any that you've seen on Uncle Gaybo, Pat or Ryan! In my school, we allow the children to bring in one toy and they all play together in the gym. They love the novelty of it!

6. Watch a Christmas movie:
Some seasonal favourites are: 
Polar Express
Frosty The Snowman
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Kung Fu Panda Holiday
If you're allowed to put on PG-rated movies with older classes - Elf and Home Alone are good choices...
but the best way to organise this is to get the children to bring in some DVDs and vote on their favourite.

7. Christmas Memory Game (IWB):
Put this interactive memory game (from primarygames.com) on your whiteboard and let the class have turns to play it. As it is timed, maybe you could divide them into teams and see who could find the most pairs/ find all pairs the fastest. Be sure to check out the other Christmas-themed interactive games on that site too. 
If you'd prefer to have a hard copy of this type of game, you can download it for free from my TPT store.

8. Calm everything down with a softly-read story:
You don't even need to read it. This lovely rendition of "Twas the Night Before Christmas," read by Janet Lanier, accompanied by a harp is soothing to the ears.

9. Your Classroom's Got Talent / The X-Factor:
Unleash your class members' creativity by holding a "(Insert town/school name)'s Got Talent" or "X-Factor" show. Give the children some time to prepare a Christmas rap/song/dance/short sketch and then perform for their peers.

10. Classic party games:
Let's not forget the obvious. Some classics never fail to disappoint. Pick up a few cheap Christmas-themed stationery bits and bobs or candy canes, wrap them up and play "pass the parcel." Play musical chairs, musical statues or musical bumps with upbeat Christmas music.

*background and clipart in the title image from My Cute Graphics

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

IT room makeover part 2

Hi all,

I've been up the walls busy lately (literally!). One of the things ticked off my "to do" list is finishing the IT room displays. Here's what I've been up to since I last wrote about it.

I really enjoyed putting up this timeline. I decided to do it as a wavy line rather than a straight one to make it a bit more interesting. This is part of an IT room decor set I made during the summer. In case you're wondering, the bird templates are to preserve the lives of the birds who mistakenly fly towards their own reflection and meet their end!

 And here are close-ups of the start and the end!

These other posters like the welcome sign, "Caution: Coders at Work" and reminders to save, click undo or think before you post are also part of the IT room decor kit that I made.

And here are the keyboard shortcuts, coding (Scratch) and robotics displays that I posted about the last time. Click here to view that post.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Elapsed Time Station Cards (Freebie)

Hi all, 
We've been working on calculating elapsed time. I created these cards, stuck them around the classroom and the children worked in pairs to move around the room, filling in the answer sheet. They had to name the start and finish times and calculate the elapsed time. I've also included an answer sheet. Click here or on the image to download this for free from Google Drive.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

IT room makeover (work in progress)

Hi there,

It's been a while since I've posted! Now back to business. As the ICT coordinating teacher in our school this year, one of the jobs on my list was to do up our IT room. I haven't had the time to do all that I want to do but here are some updates on the progress and where to find the resources.

We've had a big push on getting coding this year. Some of the classes have been introduced to Scratch and they are absolutely loving it. Many of the children work on their own Scratch projects at home without being asked to! 

I wanted to do a big Scratch display to show the different blocks as a point of reference during IT sessions. After a quick search, I found these Scratch blocks ready-made on Twinkl. You need to have a platinum classic account to download them. 

As we're a PYP school, I decided that coding really helps to develop the learner profile attribute of being "thinkers." Hence the lightbulb overload!

I also wanted to put in something to explain why we are coding in the first place. I found some lovely quotes from Stephen Hawking, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs about programming. Who better to tell us what to do than some modern greats? The keyboard style lettering is so easy to make - simply add a white letter on top of a rounded black box - BAM!

I've also put up this keyboard shortcuts display that is part of my IT room/computer lab classroom decor kit. If you're interested in just the keyboard shortcuts part of the pack, comment below and I'll add that to the store. I could also make a Mac version of it with the command button instead of the control one - just let me know what you'd like!

The last display that I'll show to you today - which is still a work in progress is our robotics board. Two teams in our school are going to take part in the Jr. FLL (First Lego League) robotics competition. The challenge this year is called "Waste Wise." Here we hope to document our progress between now and the end of the competition.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Halloween bubble-wrap craft

I stumbled upon this idea last year but it was too late to post it in time for school so I've saved it til now!

It's a very cute idea from Crafts by Amanda. Click here to view the tutorial!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Halloween Decorations and Worry Monsters

Hi all,

Last week I posted about some mindfulness techniques. One that the children really enjoyed was making "worry monsters." I cut out a mouth shape from some inside-out cereal boxes, left out lots of materials and let the children at it! Then they wrote down their worries and "fed" them to the monsters. I'll give some time over the coming weeks for the children to write more worries if they wish.

I unintentionally timed it very well because they look like they're part of the Hallowe'en decor! Delighted!

Bring on the spooky season!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Multiplication by arrays

Hi there,

I just wanted to share a resource that made my life so easy today! I stood there, looking around the room at all of my children, in pairs, ON TASK for 20 minutes, walking around to different stations. 

We were using these multiplication by arrays task cards from Tucker's Mama. You can download them FOR FREE from her TPT store. Well worth it! 

There are 24 task cards. I stuck them up around the classroom and divided the children into pairs. I placed each pair at odd-numbered stations (so there is space between each pair) and they worked together to solve the multiple choice questions on the cards. The free pack includes an answer sheet for the children and a solution sheet for the teacher. Then, the children swapped sheets and corrected their peers' work (obviously this was re-checked by me afterwards!). The children loved getting up and moving about and really enjoyed this introduction to multiplication.

Another lovely thing to use when teaching arrays is Lego bricks. 
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I also like to get the children to roll a dice and then show an array of those two numbers. They can draw it in any way - footballs, hearts, smilies or create it using toys, counters, pasta.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Mindfulness teaching resources and ideas for children

Hi all,

My current unit of inquiry is about keeping our bodies and minds healthy. We have done lots of inquiry into keeping our bodies healthy and we are going to focus on our minds in the coming weeks. Here are some of the techniques we are going to try out.

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I was wondering how to introduce the concept of mindfulness to children. An classmate of mine from university suggested starting with a bottle of water and glitter. Shake it up and explain that this is what our mind is like when it is full of thoughts - really all over the place. Then allow the bottle to have some time to settle and watch as the water clears and the glitter settles. It's a very simple and effective analogy. If you want to be super fancy, follow this recipe for a mason jar version.

Thanks to Ms Forde's Classroom's lovely blog post, I've now ordered Mindfulness Matters' "The Zone" resource. The download hasn't worked yet but I'm hoping to get that sorted ASAP. I am really looking forward to trying it out with the children. 
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We're going to do some Yoga as mindful moving. I don't know a lot about yoga. I've used videos on YouTube in the past but I wanted something that I would be able to teach myself. I decided to purchase this yoga resource made by Dancing into First for $4 on TPT. It has instructions for 20 different poses, written in easy to follow language (Good for teacher as well as students!!) and each pose has a child-friendly name such as "dog," "plane" or "tree."
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A thoughtful friend of mine got me a book entitled, "Art for Mindfulness: Geometrics." It's basically an adult colouring book - right down my alley! I found lots of "mandala" colouring sheets available to download for free from Education.com. You'll need to create a free account to download them. It's worth your time as there are lots of great free resources on there! 

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Creative Playhouse has a wonderful post on how to make child-friendly sensory balloons which work similarly to stress balls. Here you can see how they can be made with different household materials. The children can then play with them and feel the different textures, describe how they feel and discuss which ones they prefer. 

Mindful eating is another area that could be discovered. As my school has a very strong healthy eating policy, perhaps we will do this with fruit. The idea is to get the children to really focus on the process and sensations associated with eating. The Guardian has a free PDF with guiding questions about mindfully eating chocolate. Again, you need to sign up for free to download it.

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We will focus on recognising different feelings and finding strategies to control negative feelings and help us to calm down. Last year we had a worry box in the classroom. There the children could anonymously write down their worries and then "send them away!" I also encouraged the children to make their own worry box to keep by their bed. I absolutely LOVE Kristina Marcelli's take on this where she made a worry monster who "eats" the worries.

I came across the resource pack, "A Volcano in My Tummy" while doing some work as a substitute learning support/resource teacher a few years back. Brown University have shared a preview of the book. You can download it for free here. I really like the outline of the person where the children draw/write what happens to their body when they get angry. More of that resource pack has been shared here.

So there you have it! If you have any other mindfulness resources/ideas to share, please comment below!