Thursday, 12 January 2017

Teaching Word Families to Infants: 'a' Words

Each week my Senior Infant class study a different word family. I teach these word families in the following ways:

1. On a Thursday I introduce the word family we will be focusing on over the next week. We then read a story which features a variety of these words on the interactive board (see end of post).

2. After we have read and reread the story, I have the children use their mini-whiteboards to draw a picture of each word which appears on the PowerPoint. We then compare their drawings with the revealed image.

3. I show them a picture of a word from the word family and they must try to write the word on their mini-whiteboards.

4. I print off the stories (print the PowerPoint slides to feature multiple slides on one sheet) and then send them home with the children the following week to read at home. Throughout the week we also practice reading the words in school.

5. One of the literacy centres they will complete the following week will include an activity based on this word family.

6. On a Friday we have an informal spelling test of words from this word family and some others we have covered previously, to check their learning.

Over the coming weeks, I will be posting the PowerPoint resources I use with my class during the year to teach these word families. Some of these links will include PowerPoints I have made for these word families which you can download and use and others will bring you to stories you can find elsewhere online. I hope you find these useful!

Word families featuring 'a' vowel;
The Cat on the Mat (Dropbox PowerPoint file that can be downloaded to your computer)
The Gingerbread Man (Dropbox PowerPoint file that can be downloaded to your computer)
Hap Can See (Link to PDF file that can be downloaded)
Shhh (Link to PDF file that can be downloaded)

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

My Aistear Journey: Myself and My Family

Book Corner
The theme I chose to use to begin our Aistear journey in Senior Infants was 'Myself and My Family'. I am planning to keep this theme going for the rest of the month as we get used to this new play system.

My centres are as follows:

1. Roleplay: Home corner

For my home corner I set up my Ikea kitchen in the library area. I have some Home Corner Display Resources on the walls (pictures, a fireplace, a flower pot, a T.V., labels, etc.). I also leave a box full of extra items in the play corner for them to use in their roleplay too. These items include copybooks, notebooks, crayons, dolls, pens, a phone, a newspaper, etc. During the day I have a storage box located under the noticeboard and in front of the kitchen for the children to sit on when they read library books. For Aistear time, we move this and use it as a table/bed/chair/food preparation surface in the house. It also creates a separate space for the play area as it sections it off from the rest of the classroom. 
Home Corner
Playing tennis and Playstation
Washing up

While they are playing we discuss who each person is in the house and what they are doing. They make dinner, wash up, set the table and eat. The 'children' take part in other activities in the house, while also helping their parents with jobs around the house. During the playtime, we use vocabulary based around food, utensils, parts of the house and various kitchen processes. It also offers an opportunity to discuss things like fire safety, food safety, turn taking, being responsible, etc.

2. Arts and Crafts: Playdough Figures

I printed and laminated a class photo of the children for them to use when making themselves out of playdough. The children practice rolling shapes, making marks on the figures and we discuss the various body parts and their proportions.

3. Sandplay:

The children can practice writing their name in the sand, drawing some of their favourite things  in the sand and building their house using the buckets and other equipment.

4. Construction: Lego/Blocks

I give each child a laminated picture of their school and request that they build their school out of lego, blocks or cubes. We discuss how many windows they need to include, which parts of the building are tall/small, etc. Sometimes they end up building more of an indoor floorplan of the classroom or the school so I get them to name the rooms, point out the furniture, show me where the office is, discuss who works there, etc.

5. Small World: At School

The children have the opportunity here to play with the Happyland school children, teacher, family, pets and the school building. We discuss and act out what things the children will be doing during the day, what the family do after dropping their kids to school and what the children will do when school is over at the end of the day. One day, the Happyland children even went to visit the park that one of the children in the construction area built outside the school!

Some children went to learn how to swim!

Next week, I will be writing about some ways I structure my Aistear lesson and practical organisational advice if you decide to use Aistear in your classroom. If you missed last week's post on organising your room for Aistear, you can find it here.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

My Aistear Journey: Starting Out

This year I am heading back to Senior Infants after spending 4 years in senior classes. I can't deny that I'm feeling slightly anxious about the move (despite having taught this class level before!) but I am excited about the year ahead.

As Aistear was only in its infancy (no pun intended!) when I taught Senior Infants before, I didn't have an opportunity to try it out. While I did use structured play in my classroom, it was unrelated to the theme I was covering with the class that month.

While I have attended workshops based on Aistear in my school, over the summer I completed the 'Infant Education' summer course offered by CPD in an attempt to brush up on my knowledge. I had a look at various Aistear plans online (Infant Teaching Ideas has lots that you can download for €2, Twinkl also has some available if you are a member) to get ideas for what kind of equipment I would need, activity ideas I could use, etc.  I also gathered information from anyone with any experience of using the programme in their school to get as much practical advice as possible.

Thus begins this series of posts about my Aistear journey in Senior Infants. As I am posting this during my Back to School week of posts, I am going to begin the series with a look at how I have prepared for using Aistear in my classroom. Keep in mind that I am in no way an expert in this field but some of this information might give you a general idea on how to organise your classroom before returning to school.

Step 1: Prepare the Room:

My classroom has not been used for Aistear before, so it was laid out as a traditional classroom. I drew out a floorplan of the room so I could decide where I wanted to place various stations. Firstly, I moved my desk to the side of the room to create more 'carpet' space in the front of the room for circle time discussions before and after play.

Next, I created a book corner using two sets of shelves, which sectioned off an area of the room. This will be used as a library area during the day, but will also provide a space to use as a roleplay area during Aistear.

I have a cupboard that is quite a substantial size located at the bottom of my room, sitting on a tiled area. I have allocated this surface for my sand/wet play area.

The desks will be organised in groups in my room, so I will use one group for construction, one group for lego/blocks and one group for art (I have large plastic tablecloths to use on the table). Equipment needed for these stations will be located in boxes that the children can bring over to the table during Aistear sessions.

Step 2: Prepare the Groups:

I downloaded, printed and laminated group names from here. One sign will be stuck to each table and one will be used on the play rota chart. I then used these Play Station Signs to add to our play rota chart. These will be moved daily so that each group will have a chance to play at each station once a week.

Step 3: Create an Inventory:

It's important to utilise what is already in the room for Aistear. I made a list of all the toys/materials already available in the classroom (lego, blocks, finger puppets, jigsaws, animals, etc.). This way, when you are planning your activities during the year, you know what you have to use and where it is located.

Step 4: Buy/Borrow/Make Some Extra Equipment:

Despite having some equipment already in school, there were a few extra materials I needed to acquire based on some themes I am thinking of covering. Some materials I was able to find at home (an old phone, old cutlery, etc.) and some I knew I could make at a later date. However there were some that I needed to buy/borrow also. If you have been given a budget to spend on Aistear or are interested in buying some items yourself, you may get some ideas here for things to buy/download:

1. Play Kitchen (Ikea): €69 (utensils and pots are also available)
2. Play Food (Smyths): €14
3. Happyland Figurines (ELC): €11 (Regularly on sale for around €7)
4. Cars/Trucks/Diggers/Garda Car/Fire Trucks/Letters/Numbers (Dealz): €1.50 each
5. Doctor's Kit (Smyths): €8
6. Cash register (Ikea): €16
7. Tool box (Ikea): €9
8. Finger Puppets (Ikea):  €6
8. Small Storage Boxes (Ikea): €1 - €4  
9. Reusable plastic table cloths (I got the linked ones in Lidl but I'm sure you can get them elsewhere)
10. Make your own playdough
11. Roleplay Resources (Twinkl - membership required)
12. Roleplay Resources (Sparklebox - free)

I stored all of my equipment in labelled boxes for easy access.

Once I have begun using Aistear I will discuss the layout of my lessons and topic ideas however, for now, best of luck with your back to school preparations!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Suitable Songs for a School Choir (Part 1)

Looking for inspiration for some non-religious songs for your school choir? Try out some of these:

1. Touch the Sky:
This upbeat song from the movie Brave sounds wonderful when performed by a children's choir. 

2. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For:
A song originally sung by U2 but covered by many gospel choirs, this song lends itself well to part singing.

3. Da Doo Ron Ron Ron:
My choir sang the 'Countdown Kids' version of this song, which you can download from iTunes or Amazon (it is featured on the album 'Rock 'N' Roll 101 for Kids, Vol. 1'). It sounds very impressive when sung with a harmony and a guitar. 

Guitar chords (play with a capo on the 2nd fret)
Song lyrics

4. I'm Yours
Released in 2008, some of your children may not be familiar with this song, but it is an easy, catchy song that they seem to enjoy regardless. I changed the pitch of the song when singing it with my class as originally it was a little low. I have included this audio track below - the quality is quite poor but it will give you an idea of where to pitch the song.
Higher pitched version
Guitar chords (the higher pitched version would be played with a capo on the 9th fret)
Song lyrics
Harmony lyrics

5. Lean on Me
The 'Glee' version of this famous song is better suited to young children's voices than the original. It is a little tricky to sing but accompanying it with a guitar offers the chance to slow it down a little and change the key to suit your children's voices.

Original song air 
'Glee' version
Backing track
Guitar chords (Play with capo on 2nd fret for Glee version)
Song Lyrics

6. All Star
Although lacking in harmony, this song (sung by The Countdown Kids and featured on their album 'Pop 4 Kids') is energetic and fun and features in the movie 'Shrek'.

Original song air
Original song backing track
Countdown Kids version
Song lyrics

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Local Studies: 4 Hands-on Geography Lessons

Locality based learning is a huge part of the Geography curriculum. With that in mind, here are some simple lesson ideas and resources that can be connected to the children's local natural and human environment. 

1. Rocks and Fossils:
Discuss the PowerPoint below. If you are teaching in a 5th/6th class you may want to bulk out the information by mentioning the specific categories these rocks fall into: Metamorphic, Sedimentary and Igneous and explaining how they are formed.

Types of rock from SeniorInfants
You can download and edit this PowerPoint from Dropbox here.

After they understand the different types of rock in Ireland (and how they are formed), give each group a set of three rocks (marble, limestone and granite) to draw, name and answer questions on using this worksheet for a 3rd/4th class or this worksheet for a 5th/6th class. As a follow up, the class can be brought out on a nature walk to find specific rock types in the locality. 

2. Transport in the Locality:

In pairs/small groups the children can complete this worksheet. It includes activities where they: name different modes of transport and list ways transport could be improved in their area, survey what transport children in the class use most often, and map out their school's catchment area. 

Note: Since this activity focuses on local transport, it is necessary to edit some of the activities to suit your own school. My school is situated in a rural area so some of the questions about the school's catchment area may need to be altered if the activities are being covered in an urban environment.

3. Mapping The Locality:
Begin the lesson by discussing the purpose of maps. Look at some sample maps online (I like this map) and ask why there are pictures, letters and different colours on the map. Discuss what a key is and how symbols are used to represent some important things in the area. Show them a map like the one of Dublin Harbour and ask what symbols they can spot on it and what they might stand for.
After this, they could complete the Make a Map Key activity on this page, by finding the symbols used in the map of Raheny. They could also play this matching game as a class or on their computers.
As a follow up lesson, have the children draw a map of their journey to school including symbols to represent features of the local environment (roads, water, forestry, bogs, churches, schools, etc.) and a key. Give an example of how this would be done on the board by describing and drawing your own trip to school.

4. Trees of Ireland:
Having discussed the different types of trees that can be found in Ireland using the PowerPoint below, each group can be given some leaves to trace around and name in their copy. 

Trees from SeniorInfants
You can download and edit this PowerPoint from Dropbox here.
In the following lesson, the children can be brought on a nature walk to answer questions on this activity sheet.

If you are interested in more lessons ideas for senior classes check out my posts on the following topics: MyselfItalySpaceFood and the Aztec Empire.