Setting up your classroom for a productive new year

Setting up your classroom for a productive new year. Back to school decor ideas that are purposeful and don't over stimulate your students. #foundationintofirst #teacherblog #decor #backtoschool

Setting up your classroom can be daunting and fun. The thrill of decorating and creating a stimulating learning space is all new teachers can think about (and a lot of not-so-new teachers as well!) but how do you make sure it is not OVER stimulating?

I've been in some classrooms that have been Pinterested-to-death. Every idea, every thought the teacher has seen has been stuffed into that classroom. I even saw a classroom with flashing fairy lights around the board! Classroom decor should enhance the classroom, keep it feeling homely but should not over stimulate the students. This will allow students the space to think... and we want them to think, not be told what to think all the time.

My personal rule for classroom decor is:
  • keep it simple
  • keep it purposeful
  • keep 50% or more of the wall space for student work
Here is a snapshot of my classroom and the resources I use (shown below).

Student Name Plates (a MUST for the first day)

Setting up your classroom for a productive new year. Back to school decor ideas that are purposeful and don't over stimulate your students. #foundationintofirst #teacherblog #decor #backtoschool

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Keep fonts bold, big and easy to read. That running writing font across the top of the whiteboard might look pretty in a show home but in a classroom it can be a huge distraction as students try to figure out what it actually says! I do love a bit of cursive though, but use sparingly in early grade classrooms. Overwhelming fonts and colours can also be a big distraction. Pick a colour scheme and try to stick to two or three colours. This will bring your classroom together in a calming way but keep things fun! 

Setting up your classroom for a productive new year. Back to school decor ideas that are purposeful and don't over stimulate your students. #foundationintofirst #teacherblog #decor #backtoschool

Watch your hanging space. Some students, especially those with attention or sensory issues, can find flapping paper very distracting, even upsetting. I've found using my hanging space only for seasonal celebrations, as the wonderful mrsc_in_year3 has done for Australia Day (below), is a good way to display student work. Once the season is over, pull it down and give students a break from hanging material. When you DO put some more up, it will be far more engaging and exciting for students if it isn't done too regularly. 


Setting up your classroom for a productive new year. Back to school decor ideas that are purposeful and don't over stimulate your students. #foundationintofirst #teacherblog #decor #backtoschool

KEEP IT PURPOSEFUL

That alphabet chart across the top of the whiteboard...see how pretty it is? Why is it there? Unless you're referring to it throughout the day, then it's just another distraction. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE some pretty alphabet posters, but use them wisely. We're aiming for minimal distraction. 

Word walls are a great idea, but do not put every word on them at the start of the year, otherwise they are pointless. As you come to one of those words, then purposefully place that word on the word wall, this way students will make a connection to the context of that word, and be able to refer back to the wall for spelling and contextual clues. 

Rules. They are one absolute MUST of any classroom, but where do you place them? I've personally found that they are of most use at locations of, shall we say, conflict. So the 'no running' poster sits near the door, so they can read it on the way out to break as a rule reminder. The 'whole body listening' poster work will near the whiteboard as a rule reminder. Be strategic. For more on setting up classroom rules click here.

Setting up your classroom for a productive new year. Back to school decor ideas that are purposeful and don't over stimulate your students. #foundationintofirst #teacherblog #decor #backtoschool


KEEP 50% OR MORE OF THE WALL SPACE FOR STUDENT WORK

At the start of every year I see teachers falling into the trap of covering their walls with beautiful artwork they have made themselves. To students, this tells them that a) their work couldn't possibly compare to the perfection of your work and b) it's not their classroom - it's your classroom. 

Students need to feel ownership of their space at the start of the year and refresh that work on the walls throughout the year. The space is theirs, not yours. When students have ownership of classroom space they are more compelled (I've found from my own experience) to take better care of it.  Classroom Jobs also help students to feel a sense of ownership.

What do you think? Does your school have a 'less-is-more' approach to decorating your classroom? I'd love to know in the comments. 

Setting up your classroom for a productive new year. Back to school decor ideas that are purposeful and don't over stimulate your students. #foundationintofirst #teacherblog #decor #backtoschool


Teaching Aboriginal Country and Place

Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understanding of Country and Place. Teaching tips for early year primary teachers or Year 1 Geography aligned to the Australian curriculum.

The Australian Curriculum (ACARA) tells primary teachers that they must teach children about Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples history and culture.

In Foundation Year ACARA expects teachers to explain the concepts of Country and Place to 4 and 5 year old children. However, most non-indigenous teachers are struggling with these concepts themselves!

So what do you do? How do you teach something so complex to little learners whilst still meeting the ACARA objectives?

Let me run you through the basics...

TERMINOLOGY

I have worked with many Aboriginal elders in my time as a teacher and researcher for the government and most tell me they do not have any particular issue with the term Aboriginal. The term actually means "inhabiting or existing in a land from the earliest times or from before the arrival of colonists" so Aboriginal can refer to Native Americans and to Australian Aboriginals.

The term 'indigenous' is no longer acceptable to use when referring to Aboriginal peoples.

It is important to always say Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples as these two groups are very distinct from one another. You can read more about this here.

WHAT IS COUNTRY?

Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understanding of Country and Place. Teaching tips for early year primary teachers or Year 1 Geography aligned to the Australian curriculum.

The reason why it is so difficult to define an Aboriginal person as 'an Aboriginal' is because most Aboriginal peoples identify themselves with the tribe or part of Australia their family ancestry stems from. For example, a person might refer to themselves as a "Yuggera woman" or say "I'm a Simpson of Gamilaraay Country".  Belonging to Country (always with a capital C) is important to Aboriginal peoples. You will find a fantastic map outlining all the tribes around Australia here (it's important to note these boundary lines often change with changes to Native Title claims). Always seek clarification from your Aboriginal elder.

Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understanding of Country and Place. Teaching tips for early year primary teachers or Year 1 Geography aligned to the Australian curriculum.

Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understanding of Country and Place. Teaching tips for early year primary teachers or Year 1 Geography aligned to the Australian curriculum.

This may all feel like semantics but what we are teaching children is that it is important to be culturally aware.

WHAT IS PLACE?


Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understanding of Country and Place. Teaching tips for early year primary teachers or Year 1 Geography aligned to the Australian curriculum.

The meaning of 'Place' is far more complicated than just naming a place you might visit or live in. To Aboriginal peoples 'Place' means to have a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection to the land. Aboriginal connection to the land is through every animal, tree, mountain, river and rock, it is a constant place of learning. Aboriginal people consider themselves custodians of the land, not owners as such. Click this link to watch a wonderful video of an Aboriginal elder discussing the concept that the '... land owns us" rather than 'we own the land'.

Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understanding of Country and Place. Teaching tips for early year primary teachers or Year 1 Geography aligned to the Australian curriculum.

So why discuss Country and Place with young students?

Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) aims to build a student's understanding of Australian history through the exploration of its first peoples. By the time a Foundation Year student reaches upper primary they have the groundwork complete on the importance of Country and Place to Aboriginal peoples.

HOW DO YOU TEACH THESE CONCEPTS TO FOUNDATION YEAR STUDENTS?

Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understanding of Country and Place. Teaching tips for early year primary teachers or Year 1 Geography aligned to the Australian curriculum.

The same way you teach all of their other subjects - by keeping it fun and engaging!

Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understanding of Country and Place. Teaching tips for early year primary teachers or Year 1 Geography aligned to the Australian curriculum.

It is crucially important to get advice from your local Aboriginal elder or Torres Strait Islander elder. They will be able to tell you which tribe has native title to the land your school is located on (most schools already have a strong connection with their local elder). Invite the elder to your school or contact the local authority within your area to get confirmation of:
  • who has native title in your area?
  • which languages are spoken in your area? (some areas cross over boundaries of tribes or languages)
  • what the local sites of historical importance are?
  • what is the local history of your area?
You will find a wealth of information on this at this website

You'll also find teaching materials shown in this post within the Foundation Year Geography pack.

Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander understanding of Country and Place. Teaching tips for early year primary teachers or Year 1 Geography aligned to the Australian curriculum. #foundationintofirst #techteacherpto3 #aboriginal #torresstraitislander

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the ACARA elaborations

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers.

If you're new to teaching HASS this year or just need a refresher about the Australian Standards (ACARA) for History this is the place for you!

I'm an experienced HASS teacher for early years so over the next few months I will guide you through Foundation to Year 3 HASS expectations based on the ACARA.

First things first, HASS means Humanities and Social Sciences (if you didn't already know) and covers History and Geography in Foundation (Prep) to Year 3. In Year 3 onward you now get the joy of teaching Civics and Citizenship as well as History and Geography! More about THAT later..

For now.. Foundation Year teachers. 

What does HASS History cover, when should you teach it, how should you assess it and what resources you will need?

Let me guide you through.

Firstly, if you haven't already purchased my Foundation Year History Pack (available in my store in AUD here or my TpT store in USD here) then why not join over 850 Aussie teachers and download a pack today. It will save you a LOT of time, worry and stress. NB: if you've already purchased this pack, be sure to download the updated version (as of 22nd December 2018).

Inside the pack you will find curriculum-alignment sheets, such as this one below, to guide you through the curriculum elaborations and step-by-step instructions on how to implement each activity.

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers.

What does Foundation Year History cover?

As with all other Foundation Year subjects, History moves students from their known world to the unknown world. The known world of your Foundation Year students is their family. Foundation Year History explores who their family members are, how their families are structured and how family traditions and memories are shared.

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers.

When should you teach Foundation Year History?

I strongly recommend you begin the year with History and finish with Geography. The reason for this is that you can easily integrate the History curriculum with the activities that are already being undertaken in your classroom at the start of the year. These activities include making a birthday wall with students (not before they arrive) and creating a classroom calendar (sequencing events), getting to know students (family structures and photographs of family members) and exploring celebrations early in the year such as ANZAC Day (how events are celebrated or commemorated).

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers.

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers.
How should you assess Foundation Year History?

Any new Foundation Year teachers will possibly panic when they see the standard of work expected from 5 and 6 year olds by ACARA but any experienced Foundation Year teacher will tell you it IS possible to gather evidence through work samples and prompted activities.

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers.


The key point is to keep things simple. Be clear about what you want your students to say or do to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts covered. For example, show students pictures of families and see if they can establish who the father, mother, grandparents and children are. Ask them; how do you know this? to assess their vocabulary and visual comprehension skills. Undertake LOTS of modelling of your own family - this is me, these are my children etc.

Use vocabulary cards to build students' understanding of key terms, this will assist students in providing a clearer response in their final assessment.

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers.

Undertake one-on-one assessments such as the family sequencing activity. Can they name the members of their families? Who is the oldest, who is the youngest? Use a tick and flick sheet to quickly record students' responses in a busy classroom (aim to do this activity for 2-3 minutes each student over several days).

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers.

Think about what you want students to say. What is the expectation of this unit? This is something your year level will need to agree on. What does an A look like (there are assessment examples in ACARA but remember the guidelines expect students to be taught to a C standard). 

What resources will you need?

You can use a lot of your own items from home, in fact this should be essential to keep the content relevant to students. Bring in photographs of your own family, draw up your own family tree as an example and discuss your own family memories. How do you remember events in your family? What celebrations do you have?

There are a great range of early years books for discussing family celebrations. I have discussed these before in this blog post - click here.

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers.

You will also find the Foundation Year History Pack an absolutely must in your planning, especially if your school works directly from ACARA.

Here is what other teachers have said about the pack:

"This resource is a life saver ! thank you for taking the time to create it. I can't wait to use it"

"I cannot rate this product any higher! It is fantastic!"

"Great unit. Can't wait to use again next year!"

"Great to see more quality Australian based resources."

"Everything I needed to cover the entire curriculum. Thank you."

"Great thank you, fit in perfectly with our unit!"

"Can not wait to use for our family unit next term. so clear and concise."

"This is such an amazing resource!!! It aligns perfecting with Australian Curriculum outcomes. Thank you for all this hard work.

"Very useful for helping me to plan my HASS unit this semester. Thank you!"

"Love saving time with helpful resources well-aligned with our curriculum requirements. Thanks!"

"Great quality resource for Prep History. Thank you so much. It is exactly what we need."

"Absolutely amazing resource. I've been using this with my prep class over the past few weeks. The worksheets are very easy to explain and the kids have no trouble with them at all. I printed and laminated the family members and had my students order them from oldest to youngest and they loved it!"

"Fantastic thank you, saving me hours of work and making history so much fun!"


or visit my Australian shop here.

How to teach Foundation Year History to meet the Australian curriculum guidelines. HASS teaching ideas for primary school teachers. #techteacherpto3 #foundationintofirst #history #teaching #prep #foundation #year

Free Tangram Puzzle Card Download

Free download - Tangram Cards. Help your students with their spacial awareness with these fun free math puzzle cards.

The tangram puzzle is an ancient Chinese puzzle introduced to America in 1815. The puzzle became popular throughout the Western world in the 1920s and the First World War saw another resurgence of interest in the tangram.

Free download - Tangram Cards. Help your students with their spacial awareness with these fun free math puzzle cards.

Most classrooms today use the tangram puzzle pieces to help students with their understanding of special awareness. Students need to rotate and move the puzzle pieces to replicate an existing picture and for some young children this can pose a great deal of difficulty. Sometimes, how a child uses the tangram puzzle pieces can be an indicator of their understanding of two-dimensional pieces, shapes and space. For example, do they understand that by flipping a 'tan' (puzzle piece) around they can match what they see on the card with what they see on their table. Flipping, rotating and moving shapes around are great practice for early maths skills.  

You can download free printable tangrams here if you don't own any but most toy shops or classrooms have a set somewhere. 

Free download - Tangram Cards. Help your students with their spacial awareness with these fun free math puzzle cards.


Click here to download my Free Tangram Cards - print on card stock or laminate them to help them last. 

Free download - Tangram Cards. Help your students with their spacial awareness with these fun free math puzzle cards. #foundationintofirst #techteacherpto3 #free #math #download #tangram



Free Easy Last Minute Christmas Crafts


Free download. Easy last minute Christmas Crafts for kids. Free printable sheets and activities for young children. Perfect for teachers and early primary educators.

As the last few weeks of school loom before us, and for those in Australia and New Zealand it's also the last few weeks of the school year, teachers are looking for easy craftivities to keep little hands busy. 

I've thrown together a couple of my favourite Christmas craft ideas and you can download them all for free by clicking here

Firstly, the tried and trusted Christmas Tree. 

Free download. Easy last minute Christmas Crafts for kids. Free printable sheets and activities for young children. Perfect for teachers and early primary educators.

Depending on the age of your students, you may want to pre-cut the shapes for your students. 

Free download. Easy last minute Christmas Crafts for kids. Free printable sheets and activities for young children. Perfect for teachers and early primary educators.

Free download. Easy last minute Christmas Crafts for kids. Free printable sheets and activities for young children. Perfect for teachers and early primary educators.

Free download. Easy last minute Christmas Crafts for kids. Free printable sheets and activities for young children. Perfect for teachers and early primary educators.

These gingerbread people (men or women) look great decorating any classroom wall or window. Print on coloured card or let students decorate. 

Free download. Easy last minute Christmas Crafts for kids. Free printable sheets and activities for young children. Perfect for teachers and early primary educators.

Alternatively you can try some cute gift boxes. Let students go crazy and decorate them as they wish (glitter would look fantastic on these!).

Free download. Easy last minute Christmas Crafts for kids. Free printable sheets and activities for young children. Perfect for teachers and early primary educators.



Free download. Easy last minute Christmas Crafts for kids. Free printable sheets and activities for young children. Perfect for teachers and early primary educators.

Free download. Easy last minute Christmas Crafts for kids. Free printable sheets and activities for young children. Perfect for teachers and early primary educators.