Monday, 19 March 2018

Free Easter Paper Chick Template

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Easter has so many meanings for different people. For some it's a religious time of year and a day of commemoration and for others it's a time for some quality family time, chocolate eggs and a long weekend. 

Classrooms are a microcosm of society and, as such, if your class is anything like mine, it contains children from different faiths and cultural backgrounds. I don't like a seasonal celebration to slip by without discussing it, especially in the early years classroom where social studies discussions all year revolve around celebrations and commemorations. As such, I introduce the concept of Easter and how different people in the community either commemorate or celebrate this special time in an inclusive way by using recognisable symbols of chicks, eggs and rabbits in my materials. 

Easter is a great time for craft and this month I'm giving away a Free Easter Paper Chick Template (just click the link and download). He is super easy to make, but I recommend you use card stock rather than paper as he will be firmer this way and less prone to falling over!

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Other Easter activities I like to include are Easter decorations with either this fantastic exploration of warm and cool colours (these look very impressive as a classroom wall display and are great for grades 2 - 6). 

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Younger grades always love a simple colouring activity and these Easter colouring sheets make a super fun and easy afternoon activity. Once decorated, cut them out and create a classroom wall display!

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I love squeezing a seasonal theme into a regular classroom activity and at Easter I pull out these Easter Sight Word Bingo Cards. They are even editable! So with my levelled literacy rotations, I can create custom bingo cards that will help students address their learning needs with each play of the game.

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Maths Problem Solving is also a fun way to squeeze in some real-world problems into problem solving tasks. Students really relate to everyday problems and solving them can be fun with these part part, whole and number line activities which you can find in the Easter Pack along with some other useful classroom Easter activities.

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Don't forget to grab your free Easter download above and have a great Easter!

Friday, 16 March 2018

10 Tips for when you're too sick to teach!

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Mid-term and the teaching workload is full on. We are heading towards testing time (in more ways than one!) and I have a LOT of work to do. What I really don't need is to get sick. Of course. I get sick! I'm off work for several weeks and can do NOTHING about it. What can I do? Who can I turn to?

As I'm too sick to write a new blog post this fortnight I thought I'd ask my teaching buddies what THEY do when they are sick and still have so much work to do. Here are their recommendations...

Jennifer from Teaching Products Online suggests...
At the beginning of the school year, create a folder for relief teachers. Include class timetables, routines, general overview of your lesson structure, important information about students, yard duty roster, who to contact if things go wrong, where to find equipment/resources and some general activities that will get them through the day.

Melina from Galarious Goods suggests...
Once you've done all you can do for your class/s, try to let it go. Worrying about what's happening at school won't help you get better. Relief teachers walk into schools without planning, more than you'd think - they've got tricks up their sleeve for that. Trust them, trust your students, and concentrate on getting well as fast as you can, so you can be back in the classroom, strong and ready to teach again.

p.s. have plans in place for students who struggle when you're away. Have a buddy class with a trusted teacher who can help them calm if required. Older students may have classmates who can help them walk through some calming steps.

Tess from Big World Teaching suggests...
When you are sick, you are sick! Take the time to rest away from school so you can be the best possible teacher for your class when you return! We all feel guilty when we take sick days, however looking after ourselves makes us better teachers!

Elaine from Thinking Challenges suggests...
Give yourself permission to concentrate on getting better and not go back to work early because you feel guilty. Once you DO go back, resolve not to spend time making any resources that you only use once because it's a waste of energy. I am a fervent believer in teacher time savers to keep you sane.

Karen from Karen-Langdon suggests...
Do not let your sickness get so bad before you take time off. I have spent far too many days teaching when I should have been at home, and I know too many other teachers are the same - teaching with a bad cough, barely any voice, or being so run down, but we 'push through'. I have come to believe that we really and truly should use a sick day for those days to get better before it gets worse. It really is better for our students, and us, in the long run!

Amy from Aussie Star Resources suggests...
Include a class list with photographs of each student alongside their name. As a relief teacher I find this really helpful! I always get a couple of students who try to 'swap'!

Kim from Stress-Free Teaching suggests...
Sometimes it's beyond your control. We were at a point in math that was tricky. I decided to create slides for my lessons and recorded myself explaining it. I even mentioned some of their names while I was doing it. They loved it!

Shanon from OCD in Elementary suggests...
You're down, nothing you can do about it - so focus on getting better so that you can go back to work. Worrying about the students and the work load will not get you better any faster. Let it go, and let others do what they want to do to help - friends and family are feeling pretty helpless watching a loved one go through tough times - so let them help with the things you can't do! It makes them feel useful.

Janice from Cook Family Resources suggests...
Launch work on Google Classroom! Record videos in advance, setup an auto grade assignment for instant feedback. Be the teacher with content you recorded in advance. There are many fun projects that are rich in content that can stand alone in the middle of what you are currently working on and still be much more than busy work. With Google Classroom I could even check in and leave comments or feedback when I was feeling up to it but not have the pressure of needing to deliver live instruction at certain times.

This tip comes from me TechTeacherPto3!
I was literally too unwell to write this fortnight's blog post and so asked my teaching buddies for some help and look at all the fantastic suggestions I got! There were MORE but I just ran out of room! Thank you to every teacher who gave me ideas and, let's face it, wrote my blog post for me this fortnight! The moral of the story is... the teaching community is always there to help a fellow teacher in trouble so use them (secret: teachers love being asked for 'help' and seriously.. trying to stop them giving advice is pretty hard!) so let them help. You won't regret it. Teachers rock!

Thank you to everybody that contributed suggestions for this blog post. If you have a suggestion that we have overlooked, please leave it in the comments box below.

I'm on the mend.. I promise.. and next fortnight (positive thoughts) it will be business as usual.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Fun ideas for using Kmart Rainbow Post It Notes in your classroom!

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Have you seen those super cute rainbow post it notes available in Kmart (Australia) at the moment? 

I just love using them in my classroom as visual aids.. here are some ways you can use them too!

MATHS: number facts, friends of ten and fractions!

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ENGLISH: graphic organisers for story themes, note taking or shades of meaning!

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HISTORY & GEOGRAPHY (HASS): Interactive notebook ideas for recording complex information and definitions!

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If you can think of some more ideas for using these cute post it notes then leave them in the comments below!

Also, don't forget to subscribe to the Foundation into First monthly newsletter and you'll be getting this free download at the end of the month! Each month a new download!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Positional language and map making

geography, social studies, mapping, maps, map, making, prepositions, prepositional language, ACARA, HASS, Australian, Curriculum

Understanding how to use prepositional language is a fundamental skill children require for a number of curriculum subjects such as Maths and English, but the place where this skill is required the most is in the subject of Geography.

Last fortnight I discussed how to teach the concepts of special places and today I want to build on that blog post to discuss the importance of prepositional language in map making.

In the Australian HASS curriculum, Foundation students are required to discuss and map the features of special places using prepositional language and in Year 1 students need to label and map places using directional language. So a solid understanding of prepositional words and their use is essential before you can begin map making.

A good test of your students' understanding of prepositional language is the Drawing Game. This is always a good warm-up as well, before starting your Geography lessons.

Students take a blank piece of paper and follow each instruction you give them (give them slowly so they have processing time).
  • Draw a sun in the top left-hand corner
  • Draw a hill in the middle of the paper
  • Draw a house on top of the hill
  • Draw a road below the hill
  • Draw a flower in front of the house
  • Draw a cat next to the flower
  • Draw a bee in between the flower and the cat
And keep going to cover any new prepositional words you might want to use that day. When done, review student work and see who is the good listener and who doesn't know their prepositional words (listening is also a skill required for following prepositional directions). 

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You can make all sorts of fun games with prepositions such as using the Prepositional Flash Cards (found in my store) to play a very funny classroom game. Give a student a soft toy (or any object but soft toys look funnier) and then pull out a prepositional flash card and the student must demonstrate the preposition with the toy. So you may pull out 'in between' and the student has to place the soft toy in between themselves and another student, 'on top' they might place it on their head! 

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Once your students are familiar with prepositional words, then move on to some Prepositional Activities such as the sentence pull through (also available in my store). Get students to practice creating and working with sentences with prepositional words in them.

Now the ground work for prepositions has been done, you can move on to map making. Begin with front view (birds-eye view is harder to explain at this point but you can move on to more advanced map making later, but the purpose just now is to understand the reason you make maps; to state where objects are). 

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As with all subjects, move from what the student knows and understands to the unknown. So begin with mapping the classroom, the most familiar place to your students. Start by brainstorming the features of the classroom and move to mapping out those features on your whiteboard. 

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After the classroom, you can move to your discussion of special places (grab my freebie in my last blog post) and move to the school playground. You can take map making further by discussing what makes this place special and build upon this with a daily writing task. 

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Lastly, get students to demonstrate what they have learnt by getting them to map a place very familiar to just them... their bedroom! This is a great homework task and will really let you see what they can do with their map making. If parents do decide to help students at home, this is a double bonus as they can reinforce the skills they have learnt and see what their child is capable of doing on their own. 

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You may find these products useful for map making and all are available in my store bundle

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Exploring the Geographic features of special places with your early years students

early years, prep, foundation year, year 1, grade 1, first grade, geography, social studies, mapping, features, curriculum

I've enjoyed teaching Geography to Preps (Kinder) for many years and thought I'd share some ideas I use teaching Geographic features of special places from the Foundation Year Curriculum.

What is a feature?

A feature is something that is distinctive to a person, place or thing. 

For example: your eyes are a feature of your face, a desk is a feature of a classroom, a runway is a feature of an airport.

As with all teaching, start with what the students know. Get students to draw their face, then label and record their features. Explore the features of the classroom (chairs, tables, windows), the features of their library (books, tables, seats) and the features of other places such as supermarkets (trolleys, checkouts, food).

Practice observing, recording and labelling these features over and over again and the students will start to understand the term 'features' plus they will get some practice observing, recording and labelling (a process that is used in nearly every subject from Science to Maths). 

What is a special place?

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A special place is a place that is special to a person or group of people because they might have special memories there or it might hold religious or cultural significance (this term 'significance' is used over and over again throughout the HASS curriculum from Prep to Year 6 so you may as well start to use it with the students and get them familiar with it!).

Bring in a photograph of your favourite place and discuss why it is special to you. Make a comparison between an 'everyday place' like the supermarket and your 'special place'. 

Discuss culturally significant places such as Uluru or religious places such as churches. What makes these places special to some people or groups of people? Brainstorm the answers with students so you eventually have a list of what makes a place special. You can keep referring back to this anchor chart when you ask students '... what makes this place special?'. By the way, I am terrible at making anchor charts by hand so have created this free download for you, should you want to use it in your classroom!

Encourage students to bring in photographs of their special places and create a wall display in your classroom. This also fits in nicely to the History curriculum with regards to events that are special to families (such as holidays). 

Now what?

Now the fun part! Now you can take students exploring! 

Ask students where a special place might be in the school (they will undoubtedly say the playground) and run it through the test of 'what makes a place special?' before you decide to go there. 

Pair students up and give each pair a piece of paper and a clipboard. Tell the students that Person A must describe the features of the special place and Person B must draw them on a map. After a while students can swap roles. This encourages 'think, pair, share', keeps students focused (hurray for 'allowed talking time'!) and stops students from going off track. Of course, you'll want to pair your high and low students together but both will get an opportunity to write/draw and give oral descriptions. 

Once you have finished your observation  of your special place, return to the classroom and pull up each example the students have created. Let each pair discuss the features they found. The added oral element will encourage students to be accountable for their work and will help build their conceptual understanding of the key vocabulary used.

Where to next? Prepositional language!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

How QR codes can create a seamless digital classroom for you

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You're trying to integrate digital technologies into your classroom in a seamless way, but when you do get access to the school iPads, you don't know what to do with them! Your early years students can't find the website you want them to go to and they can't remember their password anyway! Does this sound like you?

Never, in the history of teaching, have teachers been expected to do more work with digital technology without the access to adequate resources.

So what can you do to seamlessly integrate digital technologies into your classroom?

I'll let you into a little secret - QR codes!

If you're familiar with barcodes on products in the supermarket, then you already understand the concept of QR codes. You scan the code with a QR scanner (visit the App store to find free apps for this) and it takes you to the website, image, picture etc.. that you want your students to go to. 

Okay, so some of you are familiar with QR codes but did you know you can create your own QR codes?

Yes, that's right. No more writing website addresses on the screen. No more http://...anything anymore!

How can you use them in your class?

Here are just a few ways I use them in my classroom:

1. Quickly accessing that regularly used website. It could be Mathletics, Reading Eggs or just an online dictionary. Copy and paste the url into the QR code generator and save the QR code. Copy and paste the code into a word document many times, print and cut, then give to students to stick inside their English/Math/Homework book for quick reference.

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2. When you want your students to visit one random website as part of a lesson. Create a QR code (as listed above) and save to your computer. With your computer plugged into the whiteboard, display the QR code and let your students scan the code from their desks.

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3. To show parents examples of student work. Save student work samples into a Google Drive document (one folder per student) and create a shareable code for that folder by clicking the three little stars on the top right hand corner (as shown below). 

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That then becomes your url and copy and paste this into a QR code generator. When you have parent/teacher meetings, stick the code to your student's folder and scan for parents, so they can view their work as you talk. Even better still, print a copy of the QR code so that parents can take it home and review their child's work in their own time! (Note: you don't need a Google Drive account to access the files via shareable urls but you will want to make sure the files are not editable). 

Those are just a few ways you can use QR codes to help you in the classroom. Can you recommend some others below in the comments section?

If you'd like to try one of my QR codes, scan the image below and you'll see how they work.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

4 Fantastic Chinese New Year Classroom Activities

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Chinese New Year (16th February 2018) is a fantastic opportunity for students to explore other cultures and traditional celebrations. 

The Australian History Curriculum encourages the exploration of other cultural celebrations:

Foundation Year
How they, their family and friends commemorate past events that are important to them.

Year 1
How the present, past and future are signified by terms indicating time, as well as by dates and changes that may have personal significance, such as birthdays, celebrations and seasons.

Year 3
Days and weeks celebrated in Australia...and celebrations and commemorations in places around the world such as Chinese New Year.

There are some easy ways to bring this celebration into your classroom, to not only keep your classroom inclusive, but there is nothing nicer than bringing that HASS curriculum to life in a fun engaging way. History is not boring folks!

One: Make Chinese hanging lanterns

These are so easy to make. You can find the template in my Chinese New Year pack or watch the directions in this video. Once they are strung together across the classroom they look fantastic!

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Two: Make Money Envelopes

Again, super easy to make and the students love them. You can discuss the significance of the red envelopes and how much money is usually given by visiting this website. I have used the envelope template inside Chinese New Year pack but you can use regular envelopes and colour them red. Obviously your students can't place money inside them but they can make some money (either Australian dollars or use Chinese currency on them if you'd like to explore that). You can also integrate these into maths rotations if you want to take the experience further in your classroom!

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Three: Chinese New Year symbolism posters

Students love to colour and teachers love a colouring activity that has meaning, so incorporate both with this free Chinese New Year Colour Page. You can use this website to explore the symbolism and the meaning with students or you'll find the Chinese New Year flip book a useful tool for taking students through the celebration in more detail.
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Four: Chinese Dragon Art Work activity

Explore the use of warm and cool colours in this simple but effective colouring activity. Show students how to colour the image in warm colours and the outside in cool colours. Once it is complete these make fantastic wall displays in the classroom or around windows.
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Learning about China can be so much fun! If you have students with Chinese connections, why not ask them to bring an item from China in for a show and tell or better still, bring some Chinese food in to share! Most students and parents are so excited to share an aspect of their culture with their school friends and it makes for an exciting History lesson as well!