Friday, 16 September 2011

Literacy groups- ideas?

I'm always scouring the net (Pinterest in particular!) for good ideas to use during literacy groups. I have quite a good selection now but I find these session quite hard. It is hard to get to all students and for them to stay on-task while I am working with a small group. I find it tempting to just spend all weekend making new games, because I know they will love them, but then I realise I won't have a life and that they are still learning the game I made for them last week.
Here are two of the latest activities that I have made-- I stress to add that these are not my ideas originally.

Rainbow words:
This idea came from this great site and again, I have just modified. The students choose a word, trace it with a rainbow texta (separated into warm and cool colours) and then cross it off their list. They love it. I think it is the textas that they love, mainly.

Peg words:
This idea is from this lovely lady. I bought a Little Golden Book picture dictionary, cut out the best pictures, and made these labels. I then made corresponding pegs to be clipped on to the right letters.

The labels can also be used for look, cover, write, check activities.

Quote of the day

Quote of the day:

"Ms M-- whacked me!"

It was a complete accident, of course, but she did end up with a bloody nose. Whoops.  Anyone else ever done that?!

Fairy tales crafternoon

I thought I would share some lovely fairy tale craft we did one Wednesday crafternoon in KM. I must credit Ms Leslie Ann's Life in First Grade blog with the idea, which I just modified. Hers is much better, I must add.
The students, even the boys, in KM are pretty obsessed with fairy tales. We talked about elements that all fairy tales have, such as villains, love, magic etc. We also discussed the common beginning 'Once upon a time' and ending 'happily ever after'; a concept they have really latched onto. If I read a story that starts with 'Once upon a time', they say "That sounds like a fairytale to me!" And one child in particular likes to add 'happily ever after' on the end of ever story I read, ranging from The Adventures of Spot, to Avocado Baby. It is endearingly exasperating.

The craft is made from strips of colourful wrapping paper, bought for 50c a piece from the Reject Shop. I provided them with the bed template and they drew a pea and their princess. I think they look great! It is a good idea to read them not only The Princess and the Pea, but also The Princess and the Bowling Ball (part of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales book, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith) for a comparison.

Lids and kids

 KM have been pretty mad on lids. We began collecting them after I watched a Maths consultant demonstrate a great Lids Kit activity* she made for emergent Maths students. I collected them originally intending to make Lid Kits but then the collection just took on a life of its own...

Everyone I knew was giving me lids. I put a sign up on the staff room whiteboard, which was a real boon. But my biggest stroke of genius was getting the students involved. Every lunchtime was spent scoping out the playground for lid potential. While I sure didn't want to pick up grubby lids I found in the playground (despite the temptation), the kids really didn't mind. They would come and show me their haul if I was on playground duty and I would just encourage them to go and give them a little wash. I like to think it kept them out of trouble.

 The lids provided quite a scope for Maths lessons. Instead of counting from the 100s chart, we counted lids. We graphed them. We ordered them. We sorted. We made videos about the lids. The kids made castles and snakes from the lids during developmental play sessions. And yes, I did make the Lid Kits, but we've hardly touched them.

Eventually, we made our final graph, using catagories the students chose themselves. We stuck the lids on with blue tac and then I put sticky tape over the top of them. With great difficulty (and with the help of a colleague) I got them up on the wall. Every now and again, a lid pops off. Worth it though.

*Lid Kits, in case you do want to make them:

Make numeral cards, 1-6 and the corresponding number of lids. Eg: 1 red lid, 2 blue lids, 3 white lids etc. The students have to order the numeral cards, then match the groups of lids to the correct number. Good for numeral ID, ordering, 1:1 counting, etc. I stored them in press-sealed bags. Quite good, except be sure to sit the students far enough away so that the lids don't get mixed up into other kits! Learned that one the hard way....

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Ferry love

Girl Next Door and I have decided to conquer as many different modes of transport these school holidays as we possibly can. So far: bicycles and ferries.
GND always complains that whenever she is with me, she ends up running. In my defence, I just don't see the point in wasting time. I like to run for traffic lights, trains, etc in order to make optimum use of my time. GND does not share this world view.

Anyway, since both moving to suburbs on the local ferry route, it has been a dream of ours to take the ferry into the city. On Monday, we decided 'today is the today' to realise this dream. Our first thought was to cycle to the ferry wharf, thus utilising two favourite modes of transport in one outing. Decided against cycling when we realised we were not 100% confident we knew where the local ferry terminal was. Cue a trip in Marion, the car, with me hurriedly trying to find the wharf location on my iphone.

Unless you wish to pay for parking at the ferry wharf (we did not wish to do this), you need to park a fair way away. Enter the first running opportunity for the day. With most of our lower half aching from the previous day's bike ride (including parts of our body we were not previously aware could be affected by bike-riding) the run turned into a kind of half-run, half-hobble. GND had mad spurts of running, followed by a determined "I'm walking!" slow-down, causing me to modify my speed accordingly, only for GND to decide she really ought to be running.

GND and I share a common excitement in new, local experiences. The ferry did not disappoint. The novelty of travelling on water was not lost on us. We read all the signs in the ferry, noting we could bring out bikes on, should we feel the need. We gleefully bought tickets from the roaming ticket instructor. We speculated on the prices and owners of the waterside properties. We predicted where the next stop would be, and where else we could take the ferry on one of our next, many outings. (Balmain? Yes, Balmain. Oh no, we would need to change at Birchgrove. Birchgrove. What a nice name.)

Arriving at our destination was somewhat of a disappointment, because it meant getting off the ferry.

Sometimes I am not sure why GND and I go into the city. It is crowded, and we don't really like crowds. We did however, do relatively well. I got samples of lovely skincare and GND bought a year's supply of comfortable, practical underwear. She is, obviously, a Sensible Girl too.

The next highlight of the day was the discovery of a new food court selling macaroons. GND has recently been diagnosed as needing to be gluten-free, and so we needed to make sure the coveted macaroons were suitable.
GND: "Do the macaroons contain flour?"
Salesgirl: "I don't know....but I do know they are gluten-free."
(non-specific excited noise from both of us)

Strawberry shortcake macaroon and a raspberry yoghurt macaroon carefully purchased and equally carefully placed in my bag, to be consumed later. Macaroons seemed so special, it was decided unequivocably that they should be consumed in an appropriately special location. The ferry home seemed a good choice.

Imagine our disappointment when we checked the ferry timetable and couldn't find a suitable time. Train it was. As we entered the train, I let GND go ahead and choose our seats. She chose an odd, one-and-a-half-sized seat, meant for luggage or one very fat person. I looked around the train carriage: there were plenty of seats available, yet GND had chosen this one and was giggling like crazy as we squeezed ourselves, our year's supply of sensible underwear, our skincare samples, our macaroons and our books and bags into the ridiculous seat.

It was no surprise, therefore, that the special macaroons were rather squashed by the time we found a special location (the kitchen, standing at the bench) to consume them.

An excellent day.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Splish, splash, splosh.

Oh the rain.
It has been raining in Sydney for three days straight. Or maybe it has only been two, but man it feels like three. I don't mean for this blog to turn into a rant about teaching and the trials and tribulations, but please, hear me out:

Why do we have to go to school when it rains?

We can't leave the room, for starters. As the rain pounds against the walls, we become locked in a battle of wills as to who will break first: the students or myself, in this brightly-coloured prison. Yes, I like a positive learning environment, so my walls are a thing of beauty, but that does not mean I want to stare at them all day long without a break. Who will need to go to the toilet first, me or them? Who will hit someone first, me or them? Who will attempt to sneak out of the classroom first, me or them? Strange things happen on a rainy day at school.

I spend much of the day chastising children for getting wet. I am not really sure why I bother. They do take umbrellas with them when they walk around the school, but I am sure they only take them to humour me. Umbrellas seem to serve mainly as an obstacle against collection of rainwater in one's mouth, or to hamper optimal puddle-jumping velocity. They come back with the bottom of their trousers soaked, their shoes muddy and the tell-tale sign of excited, pink cheeks. They've just had the time of their lives.

Wouldn't it be good if we all lived in a Shirley Hughes book? That way, puddles could be celebrated (and even encouraged, by the purchasing of special puddle-jumping boots) and birds could be chased and we could get muddy, grassy and wet and it would be nothing but exhilarating. We could wear 'macs' and 'wellingtons' to the park, and to school, we'd wear sweet little brown t-bar shoes and corduroy trousers.Then we could all go home and dry out wet clothes on the hearth, with a mug of steaming cocoa warming our hands.

All images by the lovely Shirley Hughes, from her must-read book 'Alfie's Feet'.

Monday, 16 May 2011

In her prime, but teaching has taken its toll.

I think I mentioned in my first post that I am a teacher.

I teach very small children. They are in their first year of primary school, and most of them haven't had any kind of schooling before now.

Sometimes I love them. Sometimes, they do things that make me want to tear my hair out, run for the hills, scream and throttle them. All at once.

I find that most of teaching is common sense, particularly dealing with the age group that I have. It is less about teaching content (although there is plenty of that) and more about teaching them the social skills and routines required at school. Still, sometimes I am stumped. 

What do you do, for example, when you spy one child roaming around the other side of the playground, lost, but you have your whole class with you, with nobody else around. My approach was just to take them with me, like a mother duck and her ducklings, however things took a turn when one child fell and another child vomited. Thankfully the roaming child came back.

Then what do you do, when said roaming child puts her empty bag over her head (with her head inside) and promptly trips over a group of seated children, like a wild, two-headed bowling ball? Not much, actually, except watch with a faint sense of amusement mixed with the familiar feeling of dread.

What do you do when one child screams blue murder, furiously rips leaves off the nearest bush and tries to kick you when all you did to warrant this type of behaviour was to ask him to stop pushing his classmate? I ignored him and ate my sandwich.

What do you do when a child turns up to school with no sandwich and no socks on a freezing cold winter's day?

What do you do when a particularly overzealous parent demands to know why her son cannot read? When every fibre of your being is concentrating on not yelling out "Because your son is super-dumb!" 

What do you do when the children put stickers on your skirt, hug you spontaneously, write their first sentence, remember your name and where the homework belongs and how to get to the library? When they make you pretend choc-chip ice-cream because you requested it or find where you left your sunglasses? When they notice your new haircut as soon as they see you or are so passionate about your new shoes that they feel the need to rub their hands and face all over them and occasionally clean them with their own spit?

Sigh, tie their shoelaces, send them home and thank your lucky stars you are not their parent.

Until you pull up at your local supermarket and one of them bloody pulls up* in the carspace next to you.

*in the back seat of course!