Friday, 26 October 2018

10 Favourite Halloween Activities for Young Learners

It's almost Halloween and the kids are so excited!  Today I'm sharing 10 of my favourite Halloween activities to do with young learners

Rhyming Word Potions - Halloween is the perfect time to do a little  rhyming word activity - I mean, bat, cat, rat! I love to begin with a basic witch spell and let children change the ingredients to make their own rhyming word potion. It's an activity that really gets children excited about writing. Naturally, they get to make their potions after!

Monster Playdough - Giving children some colourful playdough and lots of craft materials can lead to the most unique and creative monsters I've ever seen. Children love to them play with the monsters they have created and develop stories with them. I have also used vegetables for them to  make monsters which the children loved too.
Image by The Tiptoe Fairy

Witch Slime
- What child doesn't love slime? Halloween is the perfect time for slime! I usually add in some glitter, googly eyes and mini-beasts too.

Pipe Cleaner Spiders - This is a fun maths activity. Roll a dice and children count out the correct number of legs (pipe cleaners) to attach to the spider. They could add or subtract to find an amount to add extra challenge. Children love that they have a product to take home at the end of it too.
Image by Pre-School Activities

Shape Monsters
- This is a really easy activity to set up. All you need is some coloured paper, shapes to draw around and craft items to decorate monsters. It's fantastic for teaching shape and children get really creative about the monsters they make. It's easy to extend this activity to talk about monster powers or descriptive language, or even a writing task or story about the monsters they have created.

Silly Soup - Such a fantastic phonics activity! It's an activity that I use regularly throughout the year but ts especially fitting for Halloween. Have a big cauldron with some coloured rice or liquid inside. Place lots of objects on the carpet and only items that begin with a specific letter can go into the potion. There's also a cute song to go with it:
We're making silly soup
We're making soup that's silly
Put it in the fridge
To make it night and chilly
Click to buy
Funnybones - Funny Bones is a great story to read at Halloween. The repetitive nature of the story means it's more accessible for EAL students and perfect for young learners. It's great for teaching body parts to children too!  Got to cover those objectives! I usually set up a small world area in the classroom for children to make their own skeletons and act out the story.

Spiders Web - It's fun to create a spider web by wrapping string around posts to make a giant web. The children really enjoy climbing through the web and it's great for teaching positional language. I usually put minibeasts on the floor for children to collect and count as they climb through the web.
Image by Here Come the Girls

Cone Witch Hats
- Kids love to make a treat that they can eat and these ice-cream cone hats are so easy! Just dip them in chocolate and let the kids go wild decorating.

Magic Wands - Such a great activity at Halloween and the children absolutely love it. I usually lay out twigs or rolled up paper with loots of different resources for children to decorate and make their magic wands. This usually leads to lots of excellent play after and usually shapes our learning for the following weeks.

What are your favourite Halloween activities for young children?

Friday, 19 October 2018

Essential Resources to Teach Numbers to Young Learners

Teaching maths to young learners is so rewarding because it's so easy to create the most fun lessons and see huge progress in a short space of time. Maths for young learners is all about developing a deep understanding of basic concepts, deep enough to allow them to transfer their basic skills and knowledge to various different contexts as they move through the school.

For this reason, maths is always very resource-heavy, particularly for young learners. There are so many fantastic resources out there but there are some staples that are absolutely essential in order to teach an outstanding lesson. I firmly believe that children should have a range of resources that are always available for them to self-select in maths and all of the resources I am sharing today are very versatile.

Numicon - Numicon is a fantastic  resource for teaching basic counting, matching and understanding place value. Each amount is in a different colour and it's particularly great when looking at number bonds. It is also weighted so it's great to use with balance scales to teach more or less and help children to understand the value of each number. I particularly love this because when it is left out in the classroom, children will often select it to use in their play so they are learning so much about numbers without it being directed. 

Snap Cubes - Snap Cubes are another  great resource that children often select to use in their play, ensuring they are learning without it being forced upon them. They  are perfect for so many different mathematical activities, from addition, matching, counting, repeated patterns and so much more. No matter what concept I am teaching, I usually find myself pulling out the cubes in order to reinforce it.
Double Sided Counters - I love double sided counters and they are another resource that I regularly pull out when teaching maths. The two colours make it so much easier to explain tasks to children and demonstrate concepts. They are particularly good for addition and subtraction as you can differentiate the two amounts using the colours.
Place Value Cards - These are an essential when teaching place value. There are different views on whether place value should be taught to young children, however, it is something I choose to teach as I think it helps children to understand the value of the numbers they are working with. I generally find that when taught at an age appropriate level, the children grasp the concept and this sets them in good stead for KS1. They're great for helping children to understand the value of numbers in a visual way.
Base 10 - Base 10 is another great resource for helping children to understand the value of digits. I find that children grasp this concept much easier. They love to make different numbers using the Base 10. I often get the children to play a swapsie game with them with a friend which the children absolutely love and it's such a great way for them to learn.
100 Square - Most curricula for young learners only require children to know numbers to 20, however, I think it's so important for children to know that the number system doesn't just end at 20 so I always like to have a 100 square on display. It's also great to support those children who are ready for an extra challenge.
Counting Animals - Counting animals are great for play scenarios. Having counting animals in play areas around the classrooms makes it easy for children to incorporate counting into their play and for adults to quickly and effectively direct play in order to incorporate counting. They are also great for word problems and real life scenarios, such as ...more get on the bus, ...sheep run out of the field. 
Wipe-able Dice - These are great because they are so flexible. They can contain number, spots, word problems, operations or whatever you want. They add an extra dimension to a lesson and help to keep kids engaged. 
If you would like to purchase any of these items, I would love it if you used the affiliate links below. I will receive a very small percentage of each sale. I have also included a few more of my favourite items for teaching numbers.

What are your favourite resources for teaching numbers to young learners?

Friday, 12 October 2018

10 Favourite Autumn Activities for Young Learners

Oh, hello Autumn! Isn't Autumn such a fantastic season for learning all about changes? I just love doing Autumn-based activities with the kids! Here are my ten favourite activities to do during Autumn.
Image by Daisies and Pie
Leafy Animal Art - Aren't these pictures just the cutest? I love to do art projects with leaves during Autumn. It creates great conversation points as you discuss the colours of the leaves and which colours represent various parts of the picture they are creating. They also make a great display!

Autumn Walk - I love to take my class on a nature walk to take in the environment around them and talk about the changes that are taking place. The children often notice things they haven't previously noticed and this leads to lots of new learning points and often shapes future learning. I usually let children collect things that have fallen onto the ground to use in their play.

Habitats - Talking about hibernation with children is a great conversation. I usually set up a table with shoe boxes, toy animals and the resources that the children collected from their Autumnal walk and let the children go wild creating their habitats. The children get so creative about the process.

Autumn Sensory Spot - Similar to the habitats activity, I also like to set up an Autumn sensory tuff spot for children to explore. I usually add in lots of natural materials, as well as some writing and maths materials. I then let children do what they want with the items and see where the play goes.
Image by Wings and Roots
Autumn Tree Threading - I'm big on fine motor activities and always try to have them available in the classroom for free-choice activities. I love this Autumn tree activity to develop fine motor skills and it is great for teaching repeated patterns and counting too.

Autumn Leaves Talk for Writing - I'm a huge, huge Talk for Writing fan and incorporate it into most Literacy lessons. I love to sing this song with my class then plot it onto a story map. The children then change elements of the song to create and perform their own songs. To extend this, I sometimes develop the task into a writing activity too.
Image by Go Explore Nature
Natural Magic Wands - I love these magic wands made from natural materials. They children love to make them and get really creative with where their play goes with them. They also lead into Halloween nicely.

Rangoli Patterns - Diwali falls right around the time that the natural materials are in abundance so I like to use them to create Rangoli patterns to celebrate. My current school doesn't touch on religious celebrations too much, so I have also provided children with picture frames and let them arrange the natural items within the frame to create their own artwork to be displays.
Image by Nurture Store
Leaf Printing - Leaf  printing is such a great activity to teach children about colour mixing and to allow them to explore and investigate for themselves. It also sparks lots of conversations and the children are always so amazed when they make a new colour.

Harvest - Harvest is the perfect time to talk about healthy eating as well as food and where it comes from. I give children real fruits and vegetables to explore using their senses. I also raise conversations about children who do not have the food that they need and raise awareness. I also encourage children to sort foods and talk about the importance of being healthy.

What are your favourite Autumn activities?

Friday, 5 October 2018

How to Communicate Concerns to Parents

Communicating concerns to parents is one of the hardest things for a teacher to do. Children are their parent's world and nobody wants to think that there may be an issue with their child. The way in which the concerns are approached is crucial in order to move forward in a positive way for the child, which is the most important thing.

Regular Communication - This goes without saying but it's so important to communicate to parents as soon as issues begin to appear. Parents shouldn't feel like they need to worry at this point, but they should be aware that there are some minor concerns. It's important that parents aren't blindsided by larger concerns later in the year, there should be some pre-warning and discussion before this point.

It's also really important to communicate the positives as well as the concerns. Nobody wants to hear negativity about their child all of the time and it will lead to a poor relationship with parents, so always try to spot the child making good choices or achieving well.

Evidence - I can't stress enough how important it is to build up a log of your concerns. This not only helps you when communicating with parents, it also allows you to build a picture of the child and identify patterns in their behaviours - dates, times and basic details of issue as well as how it was resolved is useful. This will help you down the line when you begin to put strategies in place.

It's always beneficial to keep work or video evidence that you can use to back-up your concerns  when discussing them with parents. Tread carefully when using them though and always act based on the parents reactions. Video evidence can make parents more defensive and open staff up to criticism too.

Trial and Error - For any barrier that a child faces, there are always lots of different things to try. As a class teacher it is your job to trial different strategies to support children with their needs and identify the ones that work best for a child. There are so many ideas out there on the internet and speaking to other teacher,  SENCO and outside agencies can also offer lots of ideas.

It's good to keep parents informed of different strategies you are trying, particularly if there is something they can do at home to improve the consistency of the technique. It's also helpful to have a list of the strategies tried so parents are clear about the things you have put in place.

When parents see the effort you have put in for their child and all of the things you have put in place, they are more likely to get on board with what you are saying to them.

Documentation - The initial meeting in which you share your concerns can be overwhelming for parents. Some parents will ask lots of questions and want to gather as much information  as possible, but some may find it difficult to take in what you are saying to them and focus on the issue instead. Taking brief minutes of the meeting that parents can have a copy of to read at a later date when they are more ready to accept and understand the concerns would be very helpful.

Note:  You need to be careful that these meeting minutes are not something that could be held against you at a later date if the home-school relationship doesn't move forward as positively as you would like. In fact, this goes for all documentation that you share with parents. Once shared it can't be taken back so ensure you only share copies of things that you are completely certain about.

Don't Diagnose - We're not doctors and we can't diagnose children. As teachers we often recognise symptoms of various conditions in children as a result of our experience, however, mentioning names of these conditions to parents will often freak them out and it's possible that we may be wrong. Put the strategies in place that you may use for children who are diagnosed, however, if you have genuine concern that a child may have a specific condition, ensure they have the appropriate tests and are diagnosed by the correct people. It is not our job to diagnose and we never should!

No Blame - When sharing concerns with parents, they can often feel that you are personally attacking them and if this situation arises it's very difficult to move forward in a positive way. Reassure them from the start that you're aware of how much they have done for their child and that you want to  work together with them in order to do the very best by their child. Once they know you are working with them and not throwing blame the meeting will be much more effective.

This is one of the most difficult things to do as there are, of course, cases whereby parents don't do the best by their child, whether this is through choice or lack of knowledge. Often parents need help but don't know how to ask, or sometimes don't even realise they need help. Be the person that offers them the help they need, without judgement.

There are so many factors to consider when talking to parents and ensuring parents don't feel threatened or blamed. You need to be supportive without being patronising. You need to be firm and clear without being harsh. You need to ensure that your body language and tone of voice is supportive as well as the words you are saying.

The first meeting needs to go well in order to move forward successfully, which is what everybody wants to happen in order to meet the child's needs.

Strategies - There is absolutely no point in a meeting to identify concerns without having a clear plan to move forward. This will likely anger parents or make them unnecessarily worried. While you will have already trialled some strategies, you should also have some further possible options to try. These strategies could include further  in-class support, intervention groups, support from the SENCO or referral to outside agencies for assessment. Parents are not professionals; they don't know the steps to take and are often relying on you to provide them so you need to give them confidence.

Move Forward Together - Finally, and most importantly, move forward together. Consistency is so important for children and implementing the same strategies at school and at home can have a much bigger impact. You both need to be on board with the next steps and the relationships needs to be strong in order to move  forward positively.

A communication book  is a great way to share feedback about the day in a positive way. I like to get  the children involved in the use of the communication book too so that all parties are involved. A communication book needs to be in a format that suits the child's needs and is easy to use for both the parents and staff.  There are so many different formats that this could be in, but the images below are flexible formats that I have used effectively in the past.

4 Targets - The child is given 4 targets to work towards which are monitored by time periods throughout the day. This helps to identify patterns in when particular challenges occur and you can begin to identify causes or strategies. If the child achieved the target independently they receive a stick to put on their chart, if an adult support them to achieve they get a sticker with 'A/S' written beside it and if they don't achieve the space is left blank.

There is a space at the bottom to write comments and parents can talk through the book with their child at home and identify whether the child had a good, average or sad day overall and colour the relevant face. This makes the child answerable at home and promotes consistency while also informing parents about the child's day.

You can get an editable version of this chart on my TPT Store and TES Store.
Do you have any tips for communicating concerns to parents? Let me know in the comments...
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