Friday, 27 July 2018

5 Picture Books to Spark Imagination

As a teacher, I get way more excited about children’s books than is socially acceptable. Any other teachers out there will understand, right? Books can lead to some of the best learning, most fun and engage the most unlikely of students. Books have many different purposes, and today I’m sharing my top 5 to promote imagination in the classroom. 

I absolutely love this story and kids get so completely engaged in it. It’s about a boy who gets sick of his little brother so decided to climb into the empty box of the washing machine that has just been delivered. He designs and crafts and eventually he has a machine that will transport him to different places. He visits pirates, rides on a roller coaster and flies into space. Eventually he realises he’s a little lonely and misses his play companion. 

This is such a fantastic book to get children’s imagination going as they think about the places they would fly to and what they would do there. It’s also a lovely book to get children designing and crafting; it’s amazing how creative they can get!

Another of my favourites! Albie hates to garden and it super grumpy when his mum makes him. After planting the seeds he goes to bed, but when he wakes up there is a jungle outside, filled with dinosaurs who chase him. He manages to escape and when he checks the seed packet he realised he planted dinosaur seeds. He’s just safely got home and his mum shouts of him to plant more seeds. He looks at the packet and sees aliens on the front…

A great story for children interested in dinosaurs as they explore the jungle with Albie. I love the ending of the story as it allows children’s imagination to go wild. They could explore space, completely from their imagination as the story plants the seed but nothing more, or they could plant their own seed of absolutely anything they want; the opportunities are endless.

Kids love this book, particularly because they get to put their finder into the page, and into the food. The book is filled with different foods and in each food there is some form of monster or animal, such as the ‘spaghetti-yeti’ and the ‘meringue-utan.’ It’s repetitive too, so great for EAL learners and young children. 

Such a fantastic book that you can do so much with. Kids love getting actual food out and sticking their fingers in. Kids can use their imagination to create animals or monsters in the different foods and even develop their own stories with them.

 It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton
Liam wanted something exciting in the mail so he wrote a letter. As soon as he put his letter in the mail, the mailbox began to make lots of strange noises. When he looked inside he found a fire-breathing dragon! He continued to write to his mail box requesting more mail and he got all sorts of things each day. It also has a lovely ending as he shares his mail with the other children. 

It’s amazing the ideas that children have about what they would like to arrive in their mail box. You can get so much from this story, with the children writing letters of what they would like, to the weird and wonderful things they would find. It’s great to have a special mail box in the classroom so children can find unusual things to spark their imagination as well as make their own things to go inside.

The perfect book to take a young child on an adventure. The story is repetitive so children can easily engage and participate. The characters hop on the train which takes them to lots of different places, from the jungle to under the sea. Each time they hop back on the train and repeat the repetitive lines of the story before arriving at a new destination. 

Similar to The Nowhere Box, this story is great to get children’s imagination going by talking about where the train would take them. They come up with some incredibly unique ideas of places they would like to visit.  They could also change the form of transport and create their own transport systems to travel in. 

I’ve used all 5 of these books in my classroom and have absolutely loved the outcome. I love nothing more than letting children explore their creativity and these books do just that. Some of the favourite lessons I have ever taught have come from these books as an initial motivation. 

What books are your favourite for sparking children’s imagination? Share them in the comments below...

Friday, 20 July 2018

Top Organisation Tips for Teachers

You teachers out there will know that a teacher's to-do list is never-ending and we need all of the classroom organisation tips we can get. Even when you do manage to tick things off at the end of the day, there's always at least another 10 to add to it. There's no denying it's a busy job with a lot of work, but if you use your time effectively, I think you can easily have a good work-life balance. 

When I'm at work I'm usually able to plan ahead and manage my time so that I can leave work behind at a reasonable time, so here are my top organisation tips for teachers.

To-Do Lists - Every morning I write a to-do list with 10 things I want to accomplish that day. I always include a mix of things for work and things for myself as it's so easy to only focus on work and forget about the things I need to do for me. I try really hard to tick off all of the things on my list each day, and I'm usually successful. If you're anything like me, I hate having 1 annoying item left on the list. It really does help me focus on the things I need to do. I recently discovered Wunderlist and its  my new favourite thing for creating lists. Check it out!
Utilise Breaks - This is one of my top time-management tips for teachers but it depends on how you prefer to work. Some people may want to take their breaks during the day, but for me, I prefer to work through them and get those little annoying tasks done. During break times, I identify the jobs on my list that I can do quickly and get them done. It's also a time that I use to check and respond to e-mails and tidy the pile of papers that magically accumulate on my desk.

Make Use of Adults - If you have a teaching assistant, make use of them. Often, during carpet times when I don't really need an extra pair of hands, I give my teaching assistant jobs that will save time later on. This is usually cutting, tidying, laminating, finding something from lost property or delivering messages. It's a small job but it saves me and her time later in the day. 

Be Prepared - Each night, I take a little bit of time to prepare things I need for the following day. For example, if I know I want my teaching assistant to make a support pack for a student, I will save all of the printable needed to my USB so they are ready to be printed, rather than having to search for them at the time. It can save so much time!

Don't Procrastinate - I'm lucky that procrastination isn't something I suffer from at work (although it is in life!) If you know you have a job to do, just get it done quickly and efficiently. Don't get distracted and don't jump between jobs, thinking you're being doubly effective, because usually you're not. The quicker you complete the task, the quicker you can move to the next, or maybe even reward yourself with some Facebook time when the task is done. Also, if you find yourself staring at the computer and being unfocused, scrap the task for now and move onto something else. Staring at a blank computer screen isn't going to save anybody time! 

Keep it Simple - So many times I hear people talk about the classroom management systems they have in place that seem really over-complicated. I'm all about simple! If it doesn't need to be done, or won't benefit me or the kids then I'm probably not going to do it. If a system is too difficult, I'm probably going to scrap it. Teaching is hard, time is limited and there is always somebody wanting more from you - so why put more on yourself than you need to?

Tidy Up - Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place, this is the best classroom management tip I can offer. When you know where things are it makes everything quicker and easier. Having a clear workspace definitely helps you to organise your mind too.

Have a Limit - You could work and work and work and never be done in teaching. It's one of those jobs where there's always something more to do. Working constantly isn't going to make you a better teacher, healthier or happier human or a person people want to be around. All it will do is make you miserable, which will lead to you being less effective, not more. Have a cut off and stick to it. You're only human and you can only do so much in a day, and one of the most important things you have to do, is live!
Prioritise You - Look after yourselves teachers! The job is mentally and physically exhausting and you need to keep yourself healthy in order to do the job. Always remember that YOU are the most important part of the equation. Take time every day to look after yourself and do the things you love.

What are your top organisational tips?

Friday, 13 July 2018

How Leadership Changed Me

Leadership changes people, or at least leadership has most definitely changed me! Had you asked me four years ago whether I wanted to be a school leader I would have given you a resounding no, nope, definitely not! However, on writing this post I have been in school leadership for three years and leadership has changed me in many ways.

Friday, 6 July 2018

11 Essential Traits of a Great School Leader

In my 3 years of school leadership I have learnt a lot about the qualities of a great leader, from my own practice, professional development courses and from working with various leaders, both good and bad. Of course, there are so many traits that a great leader should have and wouldn't it be great if all leaders could be perfect? But they are human and nobody is perfect!
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