Sunday, 19 November 2017

The Nativity - Teaching Ideas and Resources!

Can you believe it's almost Christmas again?  Today I'd like to give you an overview of how I like to help kidlets know and understand the Christmas story, as well as a peek into a new unit I've made that puts together some of my tried and tested activities and printables

Late November and December are my favourite time of the year by far - I love decorating for Christmas, shopping for gifts, spending time with family and eating good food!  The lead up to Christmas is also my favourite time in the classroom. :)  Here in Australia we only have a few more weeks of the school year left, usually assessment is all done and there's time in the schedule for a few fun activities and crafts.  Most of my teaching career has also been in a school where the focus of Christmas is the Nativity - and there's so many wonderful ways to teach this story!   (I've also got some great crafts to share, stay tuned for that post later in the week.)

I like to break the Christmas story up into 4 main 'events', teaching one each week with matching crafts and activities (usually on 3 days of the school week).  This gives kidlets an opportunity to really think about the story as they're learning about it, and it also means that you're not rushing through - because with end of the year concerts, parties and other things that need to be done we often have to reshuffle our planning as the weeks go on! :)  My Nativity resource includes a suggested teaching sequence, but you can take as little or as much time as you want (or have available!).

Before each lesson I like to go over the story in full - using a different Bible, storybook or video clip each time.  My favourite paraphrased Bible storybook is 'The Jesus Storybook Bible' - the language and illustrations are really engaging for little learners.


There's lots of clips on YouTube about the Nativity -  but be sure you watch them before you show them to your class to make sure they're accurate. :) Every year I use this one from 'The Beginners Bible'.  (This channel also has lots of other Bible stories presented in a really kid-friendly way.)


I also love this little video from St Pauls Arts and Media. It is just too cute!


Having Nativity scenes or puppets that children can retell the story with is also great - there's plenty of printables online but if you're after something a little more durable try searching Etsy for 'Nativity finger puppets'.  There are some seriously gorgeous sets you can buy!  If you have any Bible costumes, kidlets can also dress up and tell the story themselves.  This is a great opportunity for them to think a little more deeply about the story.  As children are becoming familiar with the Nativity story, we set up our word wall and use these sequencing posters during our whole class learning time. 


During week 1 of our Nativity learning, our focus is on the angel visiting Mary to tell her that she will be the mother of Jesus.  Taking this event and looking at it alone is a great opportunity for kidlets to think about Mary and the type of woman she might have been.  This leads perfectly into conversations about what personality traits we might have that let others know we are part of God's family (I like to link to the fruits of the Spirit).   This cut & paste worksheet lets kidlets choose adjectives they think might describe Mary.


Next up we learn about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  Now is the perfect time to teach your kidlets some traditional Christmas carols and songs!  'Little Donkey', 'Away in Manger' and 'Silent Night' are such beautiful songs that lots of children don't know.  Thinking about Jesus being born in such a humble place (even though He is a King) is a big focus of our discussions in this week.  There are so many gorgeous baby Jesus crafts to work on, too!  I'll have a post later in the week with the tree ornament we make, but I love this paper craft from Doodle Bugs that's available as a freebie! 


  We complete this 'Road to Bethlehem' maze and code cracker puzzle, too!



Our next focus event is the Shepherds!  I love talking about the Shepherds being chosen as the first to hear the Good News and go to visit Jesus, because it helps children understand that God doesn't care about what you look like, how much money you have or whether you have an fancy job!  We often talk about what a real Shepherd would smell like after living in the fields caring for their flock. :) Children complete a response worksheet after thinking about how they would feel after a chorus of angels visited them in the middle of the night, and a fun little 'Shepherd's Sheep Hop' counting maze.  We make a Christmas story booklet to take home and read to our family, too!



I think my favourite week of learning comes when we talk about the Wise Men and their gifts!  It's so interesting to see the links between the gold, frankincense and myrrh and Jesus' life.  Do yourself a favour and read up on this if you've never had the chance! (If you teach K you might like to enlarge this matching worksheet and complete it during whole class time - it might be a bit tricky for them to read alone.)


These 'My Gift for Jesus' flip flap pages make a gorgeous bulletin board display in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and you'll be amazed at the thoughtful responses you get from your kidlets!


This week we also make a cute Christmas story sequencing crown which is always lots of fun.  Wearable craft is the perfect way to spark discussion at home!  My Nativity pack includes the option to sequence pictures or sentences - but I find that using the pictures encourages children to retell the story in their own words.  


I usually leave the last week (or lessons) to go back and talk about any concepts that my class found either really interesting or difficult to understand.  Sometimes we have a worksheet or craft that we didn't have time for, too.  I've included a 'Find-a-Word', puzzle and question page to complete if you need them - but you might like to let your class lead you towards the activities they need to reflect on the story. :)



Enjoying the spirit of Christmas and reflecting on the birth of Jesus is such a great way to connect with your class!  Click on any of the images in this post to see my Nativity resource on TpT - and please leave me a comment if you have any other activities that you love to complete in your classroom.  I'll be back in a few days with a post all about Christmas crafts!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Making the Most of Classroom Volunteers!

Having parent (or other adult) volunteers in the classroom can be one of the best assets a teacher can have!  Allocating some tasks to others leaves you more time to plan amazing lessons and create resources for your kidlets.  Today I'm stopping by to share some of the best ways I've found to make the most of your volunteer time.  You'll hopefully pick up some new ideas to make the weeks leading up to Christmas less stressful, and also a few tricks to implement right from the beginning of the year.  


Let's start with a few easy things you need to make sure you have set up before your helpers start any task:

Check your school's visitor policy.  In most schools, volunteers will need to sign in at reception before working in the classroom.  If they are not a parent/guardian of a child at the school, they may also need to have a working with children safety check done first.

Display a volunteer timetable.  This ensures that your classroom helpers know exactly when they are required to be in the classroom, and also communicates the message that help is welcome but does need to be organised.  There's nothing worse than well-meaning mums and dads popping in to help at a less than convenient time! :)

Provide clear, simple instructions.  For helpers who will come in regularly and complete the same activity, it's useful to hold a ten minute meeting before their first day to demonstrate exactly what they'll need to do.  For one-off tasks, a few written instructions should be fine.

Don't share confidential student information.  This might seem obvious, but often it's tempting to ask parent helpers to assist with completing assessment tasks - like phonics or maths checklists.  This is something that needs to be done by the teacher.  Have a few volunteers in the classroom assisting with another task while you take children to complete their assessment.

Ensure your volunteers feel appreciated.  This might include a small gift at the end of each term for those who've committed regular time to help out.  

Now that you've thought through the basics, what will your classroom volunteers actually do??  Here's some ideas to help you make the most of their time!


One-on-one work with students.  In every classroom there's a group of kidlets who need time each day to practise reading, phonics, counting etc.  Provide your parent helper/s with a list of children to work with each day, the resources they need (books, flashcards, counters etc.) and ask them to pull kidlets out one at a time.  Make sure they have a quiet space to work, too!

Small group help.  Although it would be awesome if small groups of students could work independently during literacy or maths small group time, this doesn't always happen.  Classroom volunteers are especially helpful for those groups completing games or technology-based tasks.

Help during art activities.  Sometimes it's easier not to plan activities that involve paint, collage, glue, glitter or clay... simply because the idea of setting up and cleaning afterwards can be off-putting.  (And which teacher wants to spend their afternoons trying to wash dried paint brushes that were used hours before?)  Parent helpers can make art activities so much easier!  Ask them to come in to help you set up during break time, and provide cloths, tubs of water and a dustpan to make the clean up quicker.  Of course, children should be expected to tidy up their own mess, but some tasks are tricky for little learners.

Sharpen pencils.  In my classroom, kidlets have their own pencil bucket that's kept on their desk.  While they can usually manage to sharpen the odd pencil or two during the day if needed, it can waste a lot of their learning time if they sit down to complete work and have a bucket of broken pencils to use.  The easiest way to have this task done is to have the sharpeners out first thing in the morning, and have parents who are able to stay for a few minutes quickly check each bucket for blunt pencils. They may also replace supplies (gluesticks, scissors etc.) that are missing or looking a bit sad.

Organise classroom supplies or resources.  This can mean a quick tidy up of the library shelves, checking that all the maths resources are in the correct container or straightening up the games corner.  It can also be useful to hold a 'working bee' day where volunteers come in and do a complete overhaul of your storage space.  This would include checking that puzzles and games have all of their pieces, making sure that resources/materials are in the correct containers, washing plastic toys (or any manipulative) in disinfectant and drying them in the sun (so important after flu season!!), wiping shelves, getting rid of rubbish etc.  For a job like this, you should also supply tea/coffee and morning tea, as it can take a few hours!  Some parents don't feel super comfortable working with kidlets, or are unable to come to school regularly, so a task like this can ensure they get a chance to help out in the classroom.

File work samples in portfolios.  Having volunteers spend a few minutes each week slipping art or other work samples into portfolios will save you a tonne of time!  I'm guilty of leaving this task until it's way too late, and then wanting to curl up and cry when I see the piles of paper waiting to be filed.  As mentioned earlier, you shouldn't give parent helpers access to assessment tasks, but general work samples (like those that may be part of classroom displays) are fine.

Cut or laminate resources.    Have a tub next to your laminator with any paper resources that need preparing.  Allocate one of your volunteer timeslots to this task - helpers know to come in, check the tub and cut/laminate/staple as needed.  It's best to leave a few written instructions (just as you might do for your teaching assistant), or a sample of the finished product.

Create bulletin board displays.  Hands up if you're guilty of having the same bulletin board displays up all year?  The idea of changing up displays of kidlets' work regularly is great, but it takes time!  Provide your volunteers with the items to display and they can swap your bulletin boards for you.  If you're lucky and have a creative helper, they might even do a much better job of it than you would! :)


Parents who work or have small children might be eager to help out, but simply can't make time to spend in the classroom.  (And let's be honest, for some adults a room full of 5 year olds is not a place they want to hang out!)  Helping out from home can be just as valuable!  Here's a few ideas of what you could have them do.

Donate items.  This is probably the easiest way for a busy mum or dad to help out in the classroom.  I have a laminated piece of card on display near the classroom door, and simply add items there as they are needed.  It can be simple things like empty boxes or containers for craft projects, grocery catalogues for maths tasks, old clothes for dress ups, puzzles/toys/books no longer being used etc.  Before you spend money on supplies for resources you should always ask your classroom community first.  Years ago, I wanted to make a class set of 'Whisper Phones' and left a note (with a photo as an example) asking if anyone knew a plumber who might be able to give/sell me scrap pieces of pipe to glue together.  One of my kidlets' uncle was a plumber and he bought new pipe with his trade discount, turned them into 'Whisper Phones' and donated them for free.  Although I hadn't expected that kid of generosity, you'd be surprised that many families are able (and happy!) to help out with things like this. :)

Cut/laminate resources.  Pop your portable laminator, a pair of good scissors and the items you need prepared in a basket or bag for parents to take home after school.  Like magic, they will appear the next morning all ready to go!  (Do make sure you're only sending home what can easily be done in one sitting - you probably won't have repeat volunteers if you ask for a whole term's worth of maths games to be prepared overnight!)

Prepare craft supplies.  Look ahead to see what art and craft activities you have coming up.  Do you need more paper/ribbon/fabric cut for collage?  Do templates or samples need to be made?  Would it be easier if kidlets had their own set of supplies ready to go in a ziplock bag?  These tasks are great for working parents to do from home.

Make playdough.  Provide a recipe and ingredients for playdough to volunteers and they can whip up a batch or two in the evening and bring it back the next day! (Find the best no-cook playdough recipe here.)

Cover classroom library books.  I'm one of those teachers who covers all of my classroom library books with clear contact!  I find they last so much longer in the hands of eager little readers if they are covered.  Every year there are a few parents who are more than happy to cover a few books at a time - I just leave the ones that need covering with a roll of contact paper in a basket and they take it home when they can. :)

Washing and cleaning resources.  If you've taught little learners for any length of time you'll know just how dirty resources and toys can get.  Towards the end of each term (or before you store them for the next year) it's good to freshen things up again.  Provide volunteers with a box of lego/blocks/maths manipulatives/puppets/art smocks/dress ups etc. to take home over the weekend to soak with disinfectant or pop through their washing machine.  Some items - like scissors and hard plastic toys - can even go through the dishwasher on the top shelf.  It's amazing what a huge difference it can make to the start of a new term when you walk into your classroom knowing that everything has had a good clean!

Making special projects come to life!  I'm not what you'd call handy with a sewing machine or craft supplies.  I often have amazing ideas that I simply can't complete with my own skill set. :)  Luckily, not everyone is like me!  Over the years I've had volunteers (usually mums and often grandmas) sew items like curtains, chairbags, tablecloths and costumes at home, make items for classroom displays (for example turning pool noodles and tissue paper into giant Dr. Seuss Truffula trees) or cook special treats to celebrate the end of a unit or theme.  I buy everything needed to create the special project and clever classroom volunteers make my crazy ideas happen.

I hope by reading this post you've got some new ideas to make the most of your classroom volunteers!  Pleave leave a comment if you've got another great idea that others might find useful too. :)

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Meet the Teachers! Aussie Sellers on TpT

I'm not sure about you but I just love getting to know more about the friends and acquaintances I make in cyber space!  When I first started reading teaching blogs my favourite posts were the ones that really put a face to the name of the author - tidbits about who they were and why they loved to teach.  It's the same when I buy resources from Teachers Pay Teachers!  I know that when I buy from an Aussie seller they will be familiar with the expectations of our curriculum, and lots of times the themes and language used are more relevant to my kidlets.  Plus, it's always good to 'shop local' and send your money to another Aussie teacher!  If I'm ever teaching something particularly Australian - our history, currency, ANZAC Day, and sometimes even phonics - I always search for local stores to buy from first. {I'll show you how to search by location at the end of this post!}

Today I'd like to introduce you to a few awesome teacher-authors who are waving the Australian flag over on TpT.  I bet you know some of them already!  If it's the first time you've met them, I'd encourage you to click on their info to pop over and check out their resources. 

I'll start with a bit of info about myself, just in case you're new to my blog:


Next up is a teacher whose resources cover just about every subject area in the primary years:


If you're looking for STEM resources, you need to meet Sarah:


There's something for all teachers on TpT!  Kim has your Music needs sorted:


Last but not least, Jennifer has resources in English and other languages - perfect for language teachers or those with ESL kidlets in their class:


If you'd like to find all of the Aussie sellers on Teachers Pay Teachers, it's really easy to search by location and see us all in one handy spot!

First up, hover over the 'All Categories' button to the left of the search bar on the TpT home page:


Move down to 'Sellers by Location', then click 'Australia':


There you have it - easy peasy! Once you've arrived at the full list of sellers, you can refine by grade or subject, just like a normal TpT search.

I hope by reading this post you've discovered some new Australian made resources that will be perfect for your classroom!  

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sight Word Sunday! Beach Ball Sight Words

Today's idea is a very simple one that's lots of fun - Beach Ball Sight Words!


All you'll need for this activity is a soft ball.  Inflatable beach balls work best because you can flatten them back out for storage, but if you can't find one any large ball will work.  Write your focus sight words right onto the ball using a permanent marker!

If you have outside space (and weather permits) have kidlets stand in a circle and throw the ball to each other.  It's best if the kidlet with the ball calls the name of the friend they're throwing to, so they're prepared to catch it!  When they do, they need to read the sight word facing them, before passing the ball on.

This game is best if played in small groups so that everyone gets lots of turns, but you can also play it with the whole class.  If you need to play inside, have kidlets sit in a circle and roll the ball to each other!


I hope this is an activity that your wriggly little learners will love!


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Sight Word Sunday! Sight Word Squirt

I love having kidlets up and moving, especially outside!  The change of scenery is often exciting and engaging for them, and a bit of sunshine and fresh air can help to clear their minds after time inside the classroom.  Today's sight word activity is one that you will definitely want to do outside. :)


'Sight Word Squirt' is the perfect summertime activity, although here in Queensland we can play it pretty much all year except in the middle of winter. :)  It's super easy to set up and lots of fun!


Simply write your focus sight words with chalk on a patch of concrete path.  Press kind of heavily because the words are going to get wet and you don't want them to wash off!  If you don't have a path outside your classroom, try writing on an outside wall or blu-tacking laminated words to a fence.  Now you'll need something to squirt water with - a water pistol or empty cleaning bottle are the best.  
Playing is easy! Words are called out by either the supervising adult or another kidlet.  The child/ren with the squirter shoot the word on the path!  You can give kidlets a turn one at a time, or make this a competitive game by having 2 players and seeing who can squirt the word first. :)  Depending on how much energy you want to burn, you could also have them run a short distance to get to the words, which also gives them a bit more time to think about which word they'll shoot.  

One tip - make sure you have access to water in case your water pistols or bottles become empty! You'll need a tap close by or some bottles to top up with.

I hope this is an idea that you can add to your sight word teaching bag of tricks!  


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sight Word Sunday! Sight Word Hide & Seek

Hello again! I'm stopping by today with another interactive sight word activity that you can (hopefully!) use in your classroom.  


This activity is one that is perfect to use during your whole class teaching time.  It's also a great time-filler if you ever have 5 extra minutes that haven't been planned for. :)  I call it Sight Word Hide & Seek!


As you can see I use my pocket chart to play this game - but you really don't need one!  Blu-tacking the words to a white board or wall is just as effective.  To prepare this activity you just need some cards with your focus words written on them.  I use the flash cards I already have - you've probably got some made up, too!  On the back of 4 cards you want to tack on some little characters for your kidlets to find.  I used monsters but you can use any images that fit your classroom or current theme.

The aim of the game is for all of the monsters (or whatever) to be found.  Kidlets take turns to ask the question "Is there a monster behind ____?"  Flip the card around to reveal if there is or not.   (This is a great time to create a bit of drama just for fun!)  When a monster is found everyone cheers and whoever asked the question basks in their 5 seconds of fame. :)  Keep playing until all of the monsters have been found!  Usually this game is nice and quick so you'll have a chance to play a few rounds at a time.  Just turn your board around (or have your class cover their eyes) to hide the monsters again. 

My class loves this simple game - I'm sure yours will too!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Sight Word Sunday! Tower of Power


Sight words are a super important part of the learning our kidlets do in their first year of school.  Due to their frequency in simple texts, and the fact that many can't be decoded by 'sounding out' the letters, it's so crucial that little learners have a bank of words they can recognise instantly when they're reading.  We need to work on sight words every day.  The only problem? Sometimes sight word activities can be a little *cough* boring.  Sometimes it's tricky to think of hands on, engaging tasks that our kidlets will be excited to try, and that also flash those important words in front of their eyes as many times as possible.  To help you out, I'm going to stop by on Sundays and share a simple idea that you can use to spice up your sight word teaching time each week!

First up, my all-time favourite sight word activity: Tower of Power!


All you need to play this game are a bunch of plastic cups with sight words written on them.  I use about 40 cups with 10 words per set - that way each word is seen and read multiple times.  Just give each group of kidlets the set that contains the words they need to practise.  The best way to store your cups is in empty Pringles tubes. :)  Writing words on cups is a great job to give parent helpers, too!

Tower of Power can be played in pairs, small groups, or individually. Kidlets take turns to choose a cup, read the word and add it to the tower.  If the tower falls, all the cups go back into the pile and the game starts again.  The aim is to have all the cups built into a tall tower!  I use this game as a literacy centre activity, then add it to 'Fast Finisher' tubs for the following weeks.

I hope you'll try playing Tower of Power in your classroom! Please let me know if your kidlets enjoy it. :)