Teaching Plant Life Cycles

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.


Studying plant life cycles is one of those lessons that students can get some great hands-on real-world life-experience from. This is where you see learning in action!

You can do the plant life cycle activities whenever you want in the school year but it does work better in spring or autumn (when it's not too hot or too cold).

What you will need:

  • seeds (I have found beans the best option as their seeds are big and don't get dropped/lost on the floor as easily and they do grow well under most conditions)
  • Soil
  • A container of some kind
  • Water
  • A sunny place where students can place them each day or a window sill that catches sunlight
  • Count down to see germination chart
  • Recording sheet

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.

I got these little jars from Kmart. They come with a lid you can screw down to keep the moisture in (creating a temporary terrarium for the seed).

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.

I also love that they come with a blackboard lid so you can write each student's name on the top of the jar (comes with chalk as well!). The lid kept the frost out and the moisture in but soon the plant outgrew the top of the chair so we had to remove the lid altogether eventually (so put an additional label on that jar with the child's name on).

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.

Get the soil ready and soak it with some water (warm water if you're in Autumn so this can start the germination process a bit quicker). Then place the seed inside (one per jar).

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.

Get students to cover the seed. Screw the lid on and then write the process they took on the recording sheet.

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.

Keep coming back to the recording sheet each day and counting down the days to germination (this will help impatient kids to pace themselves while they wait).

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.
Soon (for us it was around the 9th day) we saw the first shoots appear from the soil. It's important to explain to students what is happening under the soil prior to the first shoots popping out of the soil.

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.
Don't forget to keep the countdown going till the plant has fully emerged from the soil.

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.
Remember to water them a little each day and to record the features of the plant in the seed diary.

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.
It won't be long till the seed is fully grown.

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.

Then what? Well, students can take the seeds home and plant them in their garden (you could rehome them in a plastic container if you want to keep the glass jars to use again).

You can get all the printables for the plant life cycle in my TpT store here or on my website here.

If you have any tips or hints to share about planting seeds in your classroom, please leave them in the comments below.

Explore the plant life cycle with these handy set by step lesson idea for teachers. Perfect for early years students. Teaching resources you can download today.  #foundationintofirst #science #techteacherpto3 #lifecycle #plant #teaching #resources

5 Ways to Teach Animal Habitats to Keep Kids Engaged

5 Ways to teach animal habitats, such as creatures who inhabit the reef, to keep kids engaged in their science lesson.


Exploring animal habitats is one of those engaging elements of the curriculum and is actually fun to teach. Students love learning about new creatures and it's one of those teaching units where you can hear students saying "Cool!' - how often does that happen in your classroom?

Recently we started a study on animal habitats and as we live Queensland I thought, why not study creatures that inhabit the reef? I know my students would love learning about sharks and clownfish (Finding Nemo anybody?). Lots and lots to explore... so here are the little tips I did to keep the learning fun while still achieving learning goals.

Connections to the curriculum: 
ACARA Year 1 Science
  • Living things and basic needs including food and water
  • Living things live in different places where their needs are met

1. First, we made sure we had a good solid understanding of the word 'habitat' and then built up some keywords on our learning wall for 'shelter', 'predator', 'burrow' and 'hollow'. The time you spend unpacking these words will help your students build upon that knowledge as your lesson progresses. 

5 Ways to teach animal habitats, such as creatures who inhabit the reef, to keep kids engaged in their science lesson.


2. Next, we watched a video on the Great Barrier Reef and aimed to answer the question 'what is a reef?' with the help of a worksheet containing definitions of the different types of reefs.

5 Ways to teach animal habitats, such as creatures who inhabit the reef, to keep kids engaged in their science lesson.

3. After that, I divided the class into groups and gave them one creature each to study. However, as the shark was everybody's favourite we did that one first as a 'we do' example. We studied the fact sheet for the Whitetip Reef Shark and looked at some pictures. Then each group took one of the remaining sea creature each and did a group read of the fact sheet. 

5 Ways to teach animal habitats, such as creatures who inhabit the reef, to keep kids engaged in their science lesson.


4. Each student then completed a recording sheet on their animal and the groups presented their findings to the whole class. We used the slides to show the class what each animal looked like and discussed their findings. 

5 Ways to teach animal habitats, such as creatures who inhabit the reef, to keep kids engaged in their science lesson.

5. Lastly, students put their own diorama together. Each student brought in an old shoe box and we used the templates to cut out the creatures and place them into the box, remember first to paint the background (or use the background sheet if you want to reuse them). We used fishing wire to hang the fish in place and used bluetak on each end because we needed to keep reposititioning them (plus it means we can use the box again by not making holes in it). This was THE most exciting part of the lesson and students love hands-on activities to demonstrate their learning. 

5 Ways to teach animal habitats, such as creatures who inhabit the reef, to keep kids engaged in their science lesson.

All the material for this activity can be found in my TpT store or over on my website

5 Ways to teach animal habitats, such as creatures who inhabit the reef, to keep kids engaged in their science lesson.  #foundationintofirst #techteacherpto3 #animal #habitats #science

Using Fairy Tales To Teach Grammar

Using fairy tales to teach grammar concepts to early years students. Gingerbread Man, Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk. Teacher ideas and hacks for teaching English language arts.

Teaching grammar to young students can be difficult because of the abstract nature of some grammar concepts.

Using fairy tales can make your English lessons fun and will certainly engage your students better than a stand-alone grammar lesson.

Here is how I use fairy tales in my classroom to introduce the basics of pronouns, nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

BUILD CONTEXT

Using fairy tales to teach grammar concepts to early years students. Gingerbread Man, Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk. Teacher ideas and hacks for teaching English language arts.
With all students, regardless of age, context is everything when learning a new skill. What is a pronoun and why do we need to know what a pronoun is? It's very difficult for young students to learn a set of grammar rules if they don't understand why it's important.


KEEP IT SIMPLE
Using fairy tales to teach grammar concepts to early years students. Gingerbread Man, Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk. Teacher ideas and hacks for teaching English language arts.
Explore one grammar element at a time and build on previous knowledge. It's tempting, as a teacher, to say 'oh look and there is an adverb!' unless your students really understand what an adverb is and why it is necessary. Pulling texts apart, sentence by sentence, allows your students to highlight relevant grammar elements that have been used by the writer and how they elaborate on what is happening in the story. Extension activities can involve getting students to re-write sentences to improve or change them to a different point-of-view.  


KEEP IT FUN
Using fairy tales to teach grammar concepts to early years students. Gingerbread Man, Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk. Teacher ideas and hacks for teaching English language arts.
Learning grammar rules should be fun for both the student AND the teacher! Keep making relevant connections to the real world. Take words from the page and turn them into a dramatic play. Students will soon make connections to the power of verbs and adverbs to describe what the character is doing and how they do it. Adjectives and noun groups help the audience paint a picture in their mind.


USE VISIBLE LEARNING TO HELP SOLIDIFY LEARNING


Using fairy tales to teach grammar concepts to early years students. Gingerbread Man, Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk. Teacher ideas and hacks for teaching English language arts.

Posters, signage and student work. All should be on display in the primary classroom. Keep learning walls relevant and put connected work samples up there. 

I encourage my students to walk around the room and use the signage and posters to help them with their writing. Remember, this is not 'spoon-feeding' as students are still learning. They need scaffolded learning in order to demonstrate what they know and understand.  

You can find all of these fairy tale literacy packs in my store 

Using fairy tales to teach grammar concepts to early years students. Gingerbread Man, Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk. Teacher ideas and hacks for teaching English language arts. #foundationintofirst #techteacherpto3 #grammar #ela



Is a work-life balance possible for teachers?

Teacher work-life balance. Can teachers manage the stress and workload of teaching in today's modern classroom?

We've all heard the term 'work-life balance' but how realistic is it for teachers?

Teachers. By their very nature give until they have nothing left.

Gone are the days a teacher could just coast along with their lessons and if a student was failing it was their own fault for not listening in class.

Teaching is now run like a business with data cycles, data analysis and monthly reviews. 

In some ways this makes sense. Why shouldn't teachers be held accountable just as every other profession is held accountable for their work? Data cycles, for example, can prove to be very useful in identifying learning areas that need re-teaching.

However teaching, unlike other professions, requires so much more from its employees. Teachers are paid a salary (not as much as you'd think) to work an unlimited amount of hours. Most teachers I know start work at 7 am and don't leave work till 5 pm and those who do leave before then always bring a bag of work home with them. Most teachers are spending their Sundays lesson prepping or marking... and data gathering. 

If you're new to teaching or are not a teacher, let me list the workload for you:

Teaching: this, most people would believe, is the majority of the teacher's workload and in some ways they are correct. Teaching is what happens between 8.45 am and 3 pm. Administrative work must wait during this time.

Data gathering and lesson preparing: this occurs in between lessons and lunch breaks, before or after school hours. Many teachers forgo breaks or talking with colleagues in exchange for tackling the mountain of paperwork building up in their classrooms. Whereas other professionals would gather this data during their work day, teachers are required to do this in their own time outside of teaching hours. 

Each week teachers need to gather data on (some not all):
  • English pre and post test data
  • Spelling pre and post test data
  • Maths pre and post test data
  • Reading data (all students tested twice a year, each test taking approximately 10 minutes and often repeated multiple times for students that keep passing each level - undertaken during lesson time)
  • STEM data
  • STEAM data
  • HASS pre and post test data
  • Science pre and post test data
Teachers are supposed to know where every student is placed on an A-E scale, where they need more work, who they should differentiate for and how/when this is to occur and most teachers have between 25-30 students in their class. 

Teachers should communicate with parents weekly about any difficulties their child could be having (again in their own time outside of school hours) and often they are left to deal with difficult and demanding parents alone without support or guidance.


This is a LOT of extra work and is the reason a lot of teachers are leaving the profession within their first 5 years. Teachers are only human and the stress that this can place on a teacher is more than many can carry. Add to this stress any additional outside pressures with family and you have the makings of a breakdown - just read Gabbie Stroud if you need any more convincing.

This does not mean teachers are weak. They are simply overloaded with work based on the number of hours they have to achieve this workload. Often they cannot meet these expectations and, as teachers are somewhat perfectionists, they blame themselves. As you read this, you will probably already know a teacher that is struggling under the weight of work pressures or perhaps that teacher is you.

Teacher work-life balance. Can teachers manage the stress and workload of teaching in today's modern classroom?


I have come to the conclusion that teaching must take a backseat to life. I recall moaning to a non-teacher once that I couldn't call in sick as it would mean so much extra work, their response was 'just call in sick who cares'.. teachers care. This is the crux of the problem. We care until we crash and burn - and then we blame ourselves. 

Family must come before teaching. I can't stress this enough. Teaching, at the end of the day, is just a job and you are only human. If you're feeling overwhelmed, like I have done this week, please take a step back and look at what is important. Your family needs you well. Take a breath, take a break and step away if you must. There will ALWAYS be marking and data to collect but you cannot do it all and nor should you try. We need to send a message to our managers that there is a gap between expectation and reality.

Teachers. You are enough.

Teacher work-life balance. Can teachers manage the stress and workload of teaching in today's modern classroom? #techteacherpto3 #foundationintofirst #blogpost #teacherblog

How to make Whisper Phones

How to make Whisper Phones. Teaching reading to early years students. Primary school students reading centers/centres.

Whisper phones. If you've never tried them, you're missing a trick! Students just love them! 

If you've never heard of them, let me tell you all about them, how to make them and how you can use them to help students in your classroom.

What they are?

Whisper phones are plastic tubing that students hold to their ear and whisper into to hear their own voice. They work particularly well in a busy classroom as students can literally whisper words into them and can hear themselves clearly in the classroom. 
How to make Whisper Phones. Teaching reading to early years students. Primary school students reading centers/centres.



How you make them?

Whisper phones are so easy to make. I actually went to Bunnings hardware store (but any hardware store would have them) and grabbed some pieces of plastic plumbing tubes. I then asked a Bunnings employee to show me where the elbows were to fit those pipes. Once I had enough elbows for each end, I asked the staff member if they would cut them for me. I'm not sure if they normally do this, or they felt sorry for me! However, he cut them into roughly 10 cm lengths. I had a few pieces which were smaller  but that ended up working out just fine for those smaller students. I then used some colourful tape (from Kmart) to decorate them. 
How to make Whisper Phones. Teaching reading to early years students. Primary school students reading centers/centres.


How to make Whisper Phones. Teaching reading to early years students. Primary school students reading centers/centres.



How do they work in the classroom?


My Prep students use them during Guided Reading groups. Whenever they are required to read quietly to themselves, they grab a whisper phone and hold it up to their ear. This keeps the classroom noise to a minimum and encourages reluctant readers. I use my Guided Reading Emergent Reader Cards with my whisper phones and my rotations run much more smoothly. 

I have seen older students use them when proofreading their work, so they're not limited to Prep/Grade 1 students. How do YOU use them? Answer in the comments below. 

How to make Whisper Phones. Teaching reading to early years students. Primary school students reading centers/centres.
How to make Whisper Phones. Teaching reading to early years students. Primary school students reading centers/centres. #foundationintofirst #techteacherpto3 #whisperphones #reading #teaching



How much can you control as a teacher?

How much can you control as a teacher? What is within your control and what is out of your control? what is worth stressing about what should you try to let go of?

As we roll into a new year, I've been reading some fantastic books (Girl Wash Your Face) and inspirational quotes about how to live your best life.

I've seen many control diagrams about the things you can and cannot control and felt I should apply these to teaching. All teachers know there are SO MANY things you cannot control but because teachers are passionate about teaching, we often beat ourselves up about things that are, perhaps, out of our control.

How much can you control as a teacher? What is within your control and what is out of your control? what is worth stressing about what should you try to let go of?


Here are my list of things you can and cannot control. I'd love to know if you think I should add to this?

WHAT I TEACH

You cannot control the curriculum you are set, however you can control how you teach that curriculum. Okay, it's boring, it's dry, it's not particularly 'student friendly' but how can you make it engaging for students? What can you do, with that curriculum, to make learning fun?

'Nothing!' I hear you say..

However, if you're a teacher, you're creative. Good teachers take bad curriculum and make it work in the classroom. You might not like it but you MUST not show that to students.

'Oh wow! We're studying Federation! Hurray!' - okay you get my point.

How much can you control as a teacher? What is within your control and what is out of your control? what is worth stressing about what should you try to let go of?

HOW I TEACH

Even the most experienced teacher has a disastrous lesson from time to time. Nobody is a perfect teacher, everybody is still learning their craft right up until they leave teaching. So the lesson didn't go as planned... what's new? Learn from it, improve it next time, get that behaviour in the class under control, remember all the rules you learnt at teacher college. You cannot always control outside influences during your lesson but you can control the standard you set for yourself and your students.


How much can you control as a teacher? What is within your control and what is out of your control? what is worth stressing about what should you try to let go of?

WHEN I TEACH

The amount of teaching time you are given for subjects is often so tightly formulated by a whole school timetable with reading groups, specialist lessons and assemblies - that you are often left to shoehorn subject matter into a smaller and smaller amount of time. Again, this is where your flexibility and creativity need to shine. What WILL you teach in that time given? What areas do your students need to work on to meet the learning objective? See my previous blog post about managing and collecting student data to indicate areas you need to teach. The amount of teaching time might be out of your control but what you DO with that time is up to you.

How much can you control as a teacher? What is within your control and what is out of your control? what is worth stressing about what should you try to let go of?


HOW OTHERS FEEL ABOUT MY TEACHING

Schools are full of teachers with different backgrounds and teaching experiences. You're not here to make friends (although that does make teaching fun), you're not here to impress any other teachers. What you do in YOUR classroom is YOUR business. If others don't like it, too bad. Do your own thing. I wrote a useful blog post here about working in toxic teams. If other teachers are making you feel inadequate or you're making them feel inadequate - that's unfortunate. It would be nice if everybody got along and agreed with everything you did but it is not within your scope of control to make them feel a particular way about you.

How much can you control as a teacher? What is within your control and what is out of your control? what is worth stressing about what should you try to let go of?


THE STUDENTS IN MY CLASS

The students you are given to teach are rarely within your control (sometimes there are special circumstances for being given a particular student) but how you treat those students is very much within your control. Their learning abilities will vary, their engagement will come and go and their behaviour will sometimes be good and sometimes it will be downright annoying. If you have set behaviour standards in your classroom and reinforced those regularly and consistently, then sometimes you have done as much as you can to control the issue. I read somewhere, that teachers should keep students engaged all the time. I do not believe that is humanly possible. Students, like adults, have various levels of interest in particular topics, combined with how tired they are (did they even sleep last night?) and their skill level (and willingness to try new things) will all dictate how engaged they will be in a lesson.

You cannot always control how engaged students are or how much they participate in the learning activity but you can control how you treat students, the words you use and the feeling you impart about 'learning' to them and how interesting you make the lessons.

How much can you control as a teacher? What is within your control and what is out of your control? what is worth stressing about what should you try to let go of?


IF PARENTS LIKE YOU

This is a big one. It's one I struggle with so often and I have to keep telling myself 'not everybody will like you' - it isn't so much that I'm a people-pleaser but I do try so very hard with my students that when parents complain constantly I do take it to heart. Some parents, no matter what you do, will believe YOU are the problem and nothing you say or do will change that. This is not something you can control. You can control how you engage with them and how often, but you cannot make a parent like you  if they are determined you are bad for their child. Often parents listen to gossip about previous students, or misinterpret communication and will set themselves against you. There is really nothing you can do. The customer, in this instance, is NOT always right. You are a human being with feelings and it's unfortunate they may not like you as their child's teacher, but it not within your control to force parents to like you.

How much can you control as a teacher? What is within your control and what is out of your control? what is worth stressing about what should you try to let go of?

I really would love to know what I should add to this diagram about the things I can/cannot control. What do you think?

How much can you control as a teacher? What is within your control and what is out of your control? what is worth stressing about what should you try to let go of?

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