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Sunday, 5 October 2014

A very creepy crawly review!

A few weeks ago this big box of goodies arrived on my doorstep from Learning Resources UK.

I was seriously like a kid at Christmas!! 

I have been meaning to do this review for the last week, but I have been poorly (there's a horrible bug going around and kids and teachers are dropping like flies!) and next week we also have observations - the second most dreaded O word in teacher vocabulary.

...anyhow, I tore open the box to find these 3 GORGEOUS games inside!!

Now, I'm really grateful that these games had a maths focus. My Reception room is the 'Creative/Literacy/Investigation' room, so my kiddos don't always access maths resources as they tend to follow where I am. Therefore, I was pleased that I had something that would allow me to bring maths to them!

Firstly, I'll talk about the 'Shapes Don't Bug Me' set. This set is SO cute and my kids LOVE playing this game - it's now a part of their every day play.

It has 20 double sided activity cards and loads of translucent shapes which means that they can still see the picture underneath - which is the main thing that I really liked about this!! I laminated the cards for extra durability (and because my manager says that I LOVE laminating things - she's right, I do!)

Next up is the 'Buggy Balance' game. Firstly, I put this on my investigation table for the children to 'have a go' - but they soon discovered that it makes a phenomenal catapult and there were little buggies and leaves flying all over the classroom!! 

I promptly put it back in the cupboard until I had time to sit with them and show them how to use it properly!! Haha!

When I sat with them, they spent AGES investigating how many leaves weighed the same as 3 caterpillars etc. This is a GREAT activity for mathematical language!! They really enjoy this, and now I can put it out without risk of losing an eye from a kamikaze caterpillar! I can't wait to use this when we move on to measurement, and this would be a great activity from Reception - Year 2, plus you don't just have to weigh the bugs, you can use the balance to weigh anything!!

They really enjoyed using the lovely counters on their own, sorting, counting and even making patterns using them - again, this is a super versatile product and it can be used in so many different ways - the children thought of loads of ways to use them that I hadn't even thought about!

Finally is the '100 Ant Picnic' - when I first opened this up, I didn't think I would be able to use it until the end of the year with my Reception kiddos - but I have some super high flyers who already recognise most numbers to 100 (even at 4!! Can you believe it?!) so this activity has actually been reeeeally great for my higher achievers! 

Out of all of the resources, I have used this one the least, but I know that once my kiddos build upon their mathematical knowledge this resource will be absolutely invaluable because it is SO versatile!! We can practise odd/even, we can skip count with it, look at number patterns, use it for working on 100 square to add/subtract etc.. it really is a fantastic resource - and if I was still in Year 1 I know that this would be getting use on a daily basis!!

I really cannot recommend Learning Resources UK enough - their products are such fantastic quality (these games have withstood 60 Reception children, that's testimony enough!!!) and I cannot wait to buy more of their amazing products - I have my eye on their super cute Maths counters!!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Trying to avoid teacher burnout!!

This picture sums me up at the moment.

I've been back for 3 weeks and 1 day, but it feels as though I've been back for 3 months!! Today my colleague and I FORCED each other to leave at 4.15pm, the first time we have left so early since we started - the first day where we haven't been at school for 11 HOURS.

I can't remember if I just block out how difficult the start of the school year is, or whether it just gets more difficult each year. Unfortunately I think it's the latter.

This is my fifth year of teaching, and at times I feel as though it is my first.

Don't get me wrong, it's not the children. I LOVE love love my class - they are definitely up there competing for the loveliest, sweetest class I've ever had award. You would think the little cherubs have been in school for months - they are so settled and just adorable. If it wasn't for the kids, I think I would have burnt out already.

It's the paperwork. Mountains and mountains of paperwork. Not just from lesson plans, but from assessments and assessing assessments, and copying assessments and copying copies of assessment, and copying out endless forms for reasons which I sometimes have no clue why I'm even doing it.

I'm spending evenings and weekends working. I think I've forgotten what my boyfriend looks like. I'm not sure I even have a boyfriend anymore? I think he still lives in the same house, I hardly come out of my office for long enough to see him - and generally crash out before he manages to get in to bed.

Thank goodness I don't have children - social services would have been called months ago. They would be wearing month old clothes and probably would have been fed leftover processed food.

I've been meaning to blog forever. I have loads of saved photographs of ideas I'm super keen to share, but I never get time. Then I feel guilty for neglecting my blog.

I just want people to know that blogs can sometimes make it look as though we are super teachers. I often look at other blogs and see perfect classrooms, and perfectly cut out and laminated resources PLUS copies of plans and I think - how do they have the time to do it all and blog about it?

I'm sure I'm not the only person who is feeling like this. I'm sure there are hundreds of teachers out there thinking - that's me!! Just know that you're not alone.

...and just when I begin to wonder why on earth I'm in this profession I hear a little voice behind me say 'Miss Lynch, I'm really going to miss you when I go home' ... and suddenly I remember that it's all worthwhile and it will eventually get a little easier.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

SitSpots Winner!!

...drum roll please...

the winner is Jessica Hamilton!! Congratulations!! I'll email you the address for you to claim your prize! I can't wait to see what you choose - and thank you everyone for entering. Check back in a few days for a big post about how I use assessment and encourage resilience in my class :)

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

First day of Reception!

So today was my first day back with my initial bunch of kiddos - we have half of the class in for the first few days and then gradually introduce the new children over the space of a week - so I only have 15 children in for the first 3 days, which is really lovely and I'm going to make the most of the more personal time I get to spend with them.

I've been busy making lots of resources and activities for the kiddos to use for the first few days - our topic is 'My Family and Me' so I've been trying to make activities that fit around that theme, as well as starting school.

These are the activities that I had out today for the first day back;

I saw this idea on abc does but I cannot for the life of me find the link - I was sure I saw it on there, but went back to find out how to make them and couldn't!

Anyway, I had to guess and they turned out really well! I cut out a selection of face parts from some magazines, then found some appropriately sized stones - whacked on loads of PVA glue, placed the picture on and put lots more glue over the top - then left them to dry.


I bought the blank face mats from Busy Little Bugs on Etsy - they're super cute and can be used for so much!!

I then made up a batch of skin coloured play-dough so that they could make themselves - the mats were free from picklebums and again, they're brilliant!! 

I made the dough using coconut oil - this really makes the dough silky smooth and last. I left one uncoloured, added cherry Kool Aid to the pink one, some cumin to the slightly pale brown, and the other 2 darker coloured doughs were just varying amounts of cocoa powder. The dough is completely edible so won't harm the kiddos if they do shove some in their mouths! 

I also set up my writing area using write the room and name crowns - which I forgot to take a photograph of in my excitement!! 

I also had my visual class schedule up so the children could see what our day will look like when all of the children have started. We're a little off schedule at the moment, so it's a bit difficult! If you like the schedule cards you can get them from my TPT shop or my Teacher's Notebook shop.

Last year I used my IKEA frames for table name groups and writing reminders but this year is different, so I am using them to show parents/children how to use the activities that are set out in the classroom. 

Tomorrow, I have seen this SUPERCUTE idea on pinterest and I have cut out the children's photographs so that they can give their friends a crazy hairdo! 

I have also put out my sorting arrows from Green Grubs Garden Club that I bought on TPT - I love these, and I can't wait for them to sort the natural objects.

I couldn't resist sorting some myself!! 

The kiddos will also be rainbow writing their names! I love this activity, and hopefully the kids will too! 

Finally, I thought I would leave you with this! My year partner's very clever Mom made us these fab aprons with pockets so that we can carry around our cameras, post its and pens at all times! I am COMPLETELY in love with it! It's so cute! 

Hope you enjoyed reading about my first day and could use some of the ideas! 

Monday, 1 September 2014

How SitSpots saved my life and a SITSPOTS GIVEAWAY!!

This post has been in the pipeline for a while and I am SO excited that I finally get to let it all out!! If you know me then you will know that I am TERRIBLE at keeping things quiet.

My mouth normally blurts things out quicker than my poor little brain can react - so how I have kept this a secret is beyond me!!

Anyway... this is my old classroom (ignore the walls, just look at the beautiful tiled flooring - PERFECT ready made spots for my little darlings to perch their bottoms on - just enough individual space without sitting on top of their best friend!)

This year I have moved over to Reception (PreK/Kinder) and when I saw the flooring I had a little panic attack about where my lovely littlies were going to sit and how they would know where to sit without any visual guidance! 

I remember seeing SitSpots on a few US blog posts and had lusted after them for some time, so eventually thought that the time was right to get my own to save my sanity this year...

The other day these BEAUTIES arrived - I settled on pink and green because I have bought baskets in those colours so thought it would tie in with my classroom. These badboys are BRIGHT - but I like that they're so bright (my phase leader would disagree haha!) 

...and now my problem is well and truly SOLVED!! Look at this amazingness! (Yes, that is a word!) 

If you look at the front by my chair I have 2 little stars for my super star sitters - the kiddies who have worked super hard or had an excellent attitude will get to mosey right on up to the front and sit proudly on those beautiful little stars! 

If you can see from my flooring, it's the scratchy tile flooring and this is PERFECT for SitSpots - as they are made from velcro they NEED something to latch on to - if you look at the rug in my picture, they won't work on this sort of material, or if you're lucky/posh enough to have beautiful plush carpet in your room. They also won't work on tiles/wooden flooring, the scratchy material is what they need.

However, the GREAT thing with SitSpots is that you can order a sample completely free of charge to see if they will work in your classroom - amazing, right?!

The other amazing thing is that they have given me a whole class set to GIVE AWAY to one lucky reader!!! I am SUPER excited about this! You can browse the store here and lust over what you would like to win! It took me SO long to settle on these.

I've also seen loads of other uses for SitSpots, you can write on them with Sharpies so you can have Math, Literacy or Phonics activities! Your imagination really is the limit - and did I mention they are machine washable?!

Can you tell how in LOVE I am with SitSpots?! 

I can't wait to order some more - I'm planning on getting some cute little green feet for when those pesky leprechauns come to visit in March! 

You can enter the giveaway below - good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway bsp;

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

2 for Tuesday

So today is 2 for Tuesday and here are my products that you can get for 50% off in my TPT store!!

First up is my Classroom Schedule Cards that I JUST finished!! They're on sale for $2.25 - I think this is a steal!

and finally there's my Window Viewers which are GREAT for science centers, literacy and numeracy centers - or just for kids to have fun with!! I'm going to be putting these in my investigation area in my classroom!

Hope you find something you like!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Reddit Teacher Gift Exchange

I just thought that I would quickly share this with you all,

This year I signed up for the Reddit Teacher Gift Exchange, I'd never signed up for an exchange before and didn't even know that they did one for teachers!

When I saw how many people had signed up, I wasn't really expecting a match but I got one and a few days later these beautiful goodies landed on my doorstep!!

I received a gorgeous Julia Donaldson book, some super cute reward pencils with lovely phrases on, story cubes to help my kids speaking & listening skills, and a poppin' for sight words game that I have been lusting after since forever!!

I don't know who the kind stranger was who donated these items, but they really have helped me out and I'm really grateful for their generosity!!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Teacher Week - When plus a Freebie!!

Hi Y'All!!

I can't believe I have posted 4 days in a row!

Today is WHEN and I'm a bit stumped for this blog post because I don't really know for sure when I am teaching anything, haha!

We have half termly topics that we teach using a thematic approach, meaning we try to tie each lesson into the theme, which is really lovely. However, because I'm now a Reception teacher (Kindergarten) we also try to teach from the children's interests - so the topics are VERY loosely planned, and if the children get bored after a week or two and decide they want to learn all about Unicorns or Spacemen, then we get to go with it!! That's the joy of working in Early Years, the children lead the learning and you never know where you're going to end up! 

So this is a VERY loose overview of my topics this year;

The children spend lots of time learning through play, where we support the children in their learning and also provide additional learning opportunities based on their interests. We then have a set phonics sessions every morning for about 20 minutes, a numeracy (math) lesson in the morning for around half hour and a literacy/topic based lesson in the afternoon for another 30 minutes.

I have been working my BUTT off to make my phonics printables to try and make life a little easier when I go back for me and my colleagues, and I have JUST finished up my Phase 2 Phonics Pack - it's perfect for early readers and to celebrate my 50TH blog post (woohoo!!) I've added a freebie sample of the pack - just click on the image to download it!!

If you like it then you can buy the full pack from my TPT Store or my Teacher's Notebook Store which is currently on sale at 20% off until tomorrow! 

I'm also hosting a giveaway of the pack, if you'd like to enter you can below;

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

I can't wait to read how everyone else organises their day, and hopefully get some inspiration!!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Why Wednesday - Organisation Tips

So I'm back, today it's with some organisations tips - which is quite ironic because at home I'm the LEAST organised person EVER.. although at school it's a little different!

I inherited a SUPER HUGE cupboard this year to store resources - but it came with a catch.. you literally couldn't get through the door it was such a super huge mess. I wish I had took photos of how bad it was before I started! 

Anyway, I ordered a ridiculous amount of storage boxes and had the caretaker put up some shelving units to organise it and turn it in to this beautiful space;

I have a shelf for each area of learning with all of the resources labelled and organised accordingly - in a chevron theme of course!!

There were also lots of books which were all mixed up, so I sorted those out while I was at it too;

I think that labelling is really key to organisation. I've also labelled everything in the classroom so the kiddos knows EXACTLY where everything goes.

I've also tried to organise my thoughts - the children do a lot of 'learning through play' in Reception, and I was trying to think of ways that I could enhance the provision for the children, either based on the topics we are learning about or seasons/holidays etc. I often pin a million things on pinterest, but forget about them until it's too late! 

Therefore I made a document (one for each area of the provision within my classroom - I have malleable/fine motor, home corner, writing area, reading area, puzzles/jigsaws and investigation area) then made some pages for each month of the school year. I then proceeded to search pinterest for ideas and placed them on the relevant page. 

Now all of my ideas are in one place, and I can easily see what I need to make/place in each area month to month! I am so excited about this idea, it is going to make my life SO much easier.. If you click on the picture below you can download my malleable/fine motor area example.

I didn't include the links to pinterest, as I am far too lazy and that would have took FOREVER - but it may give you some ideas or inspiration to make your own!

Happy organising!