Category Archives: Teacher Articles

September Teaching Calendar

Your free teaching calendar packed with sensory ideas and inspiration for the month of September!

From Rhyming Multisensory Stories

In September’s Edition

8th September: International Literacy Day – Explore phonics through the senses.

9th September: World Teddy Bear Day – Organise a Teddy Bear’s Picnic

10th September: World First Aid Day – Explore 1st Aid

11th September: 500th Anniversary of the Birth of Ulisse Aldrovandi – Engage the Senses

12th-17th September: Balance Awareness Week – Promote Vestibular Activities

13th September: Roald Dahl Day – Explore the characters of Charlie & the Chocolate factory through the senses

15th September: International Dot Day – Explore dots!

19th-25th September: Recycle Awareness Week – Ideas to get your students involved

20th-25th September: Fire Door Safety Week – Be Safe!

22nd September: National Fitness Day – Get Moving!

23rd September: Autumn Equinox – Suggested Resource ‘Autumn ‘ A Multisensory Exploration’

20th-27th September: Sukkot – Den Building

25th – 27th September: Rosh Hashanah – Explore the festival through the senses

Whole Month

Sourdough September – Mill flour

Whole Month Organic September – Explore sough dough and role play ideas

Sensory Phonics Bag

Exploring phonics through the senses is a fun and engaging activity.

Here are some ideas using the letter ‘S’ as an example.

  • Place a variety of items starting with the letter(s) you wish to teach into a non-see-through bag or a pillowcase.
  • When choosing items think of engaging all the senses: Add items that stimulate the vision, tactile items, items that make interesting sounds, items to smell and taste.
  • Offer the bag to the student to select an item. Can they use their senses to guess what the item is? (If the student is unsure then provide plenty of clues.)

Letter S items

  • Satsuma
  • Snake
  • Spaghetti
  • Straw
  • Soap
  • Strawberry
  • Stick
  • Sponge
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Spinach
  • Sprout
  • Saucer
  • Sand

(Look through a toybox/cupboard for items: snail, spaceman, spinner, spider etc.)

Build Functional Language skills.

Ask the student to tell you or show you what you might do with the item and where you might find it. (If the student is unsure, model what to do with the item and encourage them to copy your action.)

Keep Language Simple. Focus on phrases such as ‘Choose’ or ‘Take one’ when presenting the bag to the student.

Focus on the name of the object; ‘starfish’, ‘sponge‘, ‘snake’ and two-word phrases; ‘long snake’, ‘yellow sponge’.

Building Learning – Word Recognition

Place wooden or magnetic letters along with the corresponding item in your sensory bag e.g., the letters c-a-n, can, c-a-p, cap, c-a-r, car,

f-a-n, fan, f-i-g, fig, h-a-t, hat etc.

Can the student sound out the letters as they pick them from the bag?

Can the student put the letters in the correct order to spell the word? e.g., f-a-n

Place two items in the bag along with the letters that spell the word e.g., c-u-p. One item will be the correct item (the cup) and an incorrect item (a hat). Can the student select the correct item to match the word?

Phonics Sensory Bin

A sensory bin is a container filled with themed items that provide a calming activity and the opportunity to learn through exploration whilst engaging the senses and meeting sensory needs.

Layer your tray/bin/box with sand, seeds, straw, sawdust, spaghetti, or soil.

Scatter with items starting with the letter ‘S’ (see previous list for ideas)

Add fine motor tools: Cups, spoons, forks, measuring jugs, colander, whisk, sieve, funnel, pipette, food tongs, wooden utensils, scoops, paintbrushes, chopsticks.

Add items to encourage scientific investigation: Torch, magnifying glass, magnets, pen/paper, egg carton/ice cube/cake baking tray for sorting items, plastic tweezers, and a mirror.

Model mark making the letter ‘S’ in the base layer of the sensory bin.

Phonics Listening Game

Listening games teach sound discrimination, promoting the development of language, communication and comprehension skills and increasing attention span.

A quick search on the internet will provide you with access to a library of free audio clips and sound effects that can be played via your phone, iPad, Kindle or recorded on a Dictaphone.

There are also sound effect apps available.

  • Can the student imitate the sound using their voice?
  • Can the student correctly identify the sound? (Provide plenty of clues!)

Letter ‘S’ Sounds

  • Snake
  • Sneeze
  • Sealion
  • Siren
  • Saxophone
  • Snoring
  • Stream
  • Seagull
  • Seal
  • Storm
  • Squeak
  • Sea

Get Crafty! Stuffed Sensory Sock Snakes

This is an excellent activity for encouraging hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and gives you the opportunity to model language as well as providing a wonderful sensory experience. You will need

  • Old Socks or Tights
  • A Filler: Straw/Sponges/Sand/Sawdust/Soil/Spaghetti (dried)

Activity

Stuff the socks with items starting with the letter ‘S’; Sand, seeds, straw, sawdust, (dried) spaghetti, or soil. Tie a knot in the end of the sock to secure.

Allow supervised free exploration of the sensory snakes, they will differ in weight, length, smell and texture.

Tip! Adding a few drops of essential oil to the fillers will enrich the experience.

Use a range of Letter Resources.

I like to teach using tactile items. It makes learning fun and allows the student to manipulate and explore the letters and make words without having to write them down.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Wooden letter tiles
  • Scrabble Board and tiles
  • Magnetic Letters on a baking tray.
  • Paint pebbles and write letters on them.
  • Use letter stickers
  • Write in chalks on the patio/fence.
  • Write letters on recycled plastic milk bottle tops.
  • Mould letters using clay/plasticine or Play-Doh

Sept 10th World First Aid Day

Explore the contents of a First Aid Bag/Box This activity will raise awareness of the contents of a first aid box and reduce any anxiety some students may have around first aid.

  • Explore the contents of the classroom first aid box to the students.
  • Practice applying dressings and bandages.
  • Teach the students how to raise the alarm should there be an accident in the classroom or playground (tell an adult)
  • Teach students how to ring 999 for an ambulance. Engage in role play practicing making a 999 telephone, call using a toy or old mobile phone (battery removed)

First Aid Box Contents*

  • Burns gel dressings
  • Adhesive tape to secure dressings
  • An updated first aid guidance leaflet.
  • Sterile plasters of assorted sizes
  • Large and medium-sized sterile, individually wrapped, unmedicated wound dressings
  • Sterile eye pads
  • Triangular bandage
  • Disposable gloves
  • Foil blanket
  • Sterile wound wipes
  • Finger dressing

*The contents of your first aid boxes may differ to the items in the list.

Practice simple first aid. Discuss how to raise the alarm in an emergency.

Sept 11th

500th Anniversary of the birth of Ulisse Aldrovandi

Modern history founder Ulisse Aldrovandi was known for his studies of animals, plants, and minerals.

Present a range of animals, plants and minerals for students to explore through the senses.

Animals: (Fake) fur, suede, chamois leather/leather, wool

Herbs: Basil, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, thyme.

Minerals: Calcite, crystals, rocks, stones or gold, silver and copper-coloured items (Coins, dress jewellery, foil, stainless steel items.)

Extend Learning

Can the students group the items according whether they are animal derived, plant or mineral?

Sept 13th

Roald Dahl Day

Explore the Main Characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory through the Senses

Suggested Props:

Augustus Gloop – Gloop. Mix cornflour and water to the ratio of 2:1, (Option to add food colouring and essences/flavourings)

Charlie Bucket – Bucket

Grandpa Joe – Slippers

Mike Teavee – Large square glasses, cardboard box TV, or old TV remote control (batteries removed)

Mr Bucket (Charlie’s Dad) – Toothpaste or fresh mint (this is a reference to the job he held screwing the tops onto toothpaste tubes)

Oompa-Loompas – Orange/satsuma or orange face paint

Veruca Salt: Salt Dough. Mix 1 cup plain flour, ½ cup table salt, ½ cup water. (Option to add food colouring and essences/flavourings to enhance the sensory experience)

Violet Beauregarde – Parma violets, violet essential oil, violet flowers

Violet flowers are edible. Ensure the flowers are freshly picked, washed, are disease and pest free and have not been treated with pesticides.

Willy Wonka – Walking Stick

Extend Learning

Describe the characters in the story. Can the students match the props to the characters?

Sept 20th – 27th Sukkot

Sukkot is a Jewish festival. The word ‘Sukkot’ translates to a ‘temporary shelter’

Build a Sukkot Hut

Den building provides an excellent opportunity to explore design and technology through building and construction, the opportunity to explore, experiment, make mistakes and problem solve in a safe environment, promotes physical development and co-operation, turn-taking, listening to others’ ideas and communication skills through teamwork. Dens can be built using everyday items found around the home and garden. Here are some examples:

  • Use items found in nature: straw, hay, dried grasses, twigs, and sticks.
  • Work around existing features such as a play equipment, trees, a gazebo, or a washing line.
  • If indoors, drape a sheet or blanket over two chairs, a table, or underneath open stairs.

Families eat and spend free time in their Sukkot shelters. Accessorise your Sukkot

  • Add cushions, beanbags, books, activities, soft toys, and a blanket.
  • Add crayons/pencils/felts and paper/whiteboard and marker pen.
  • String fairy lights, add glow in the dark stickers, glitter lamps and light up toys.
  • Add items to encourage scientific investigation: a torch, mirror, magnifying glass.

Sept 25th – 27th – Rosh Hashanah A two-day festival celebrating Jewish New Year which begins in the Autumn.

Apples and honey symbolise ‘Sweet New Year’ Activities

  • Cut apples into slices and drizzle honey on top.
  • Make a honey cake

Honey Cake Recipe Ingredients

  • 200g/7oz self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 170g/6oz clear honey
  • 140g/5oz butter
  • 85g/3oz light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp water

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 3
  • Grease and line the bottom of a cake tin with greaseproof paper.
  • Melt the honey, butter, water and sugar in a pan.
  • Remove from the heat and mix in the flour and (beaten) eggs
  • Transfer to the cake tin.
  • Bake for 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown.
  • Place onto a wire rack.
  • Using a skewer, make little holes over the surface of the cake then drizzle honey over the cake to sink into the holes.

A Honey Dipper

Guess the Item!

Give the students a wooden honey dipper to explore but do not tell them what it is.

Can the students guess what the utensil is used for?

Can the students use their fine motor skills to remove honey from a jar using the honey dipper?

Just for fun!

Can the students think of any other uses for the item?

Explore the Shofar Horn

This is one of the world’s oldest wind instruments (record an audio clip or watch a video of a shofar horn being played)

  • Can the students join in by playing a wind instrument e.g., recorder, whistle, or a harmonica?

Promote the development of the mouth muscles.

  • Can the students inflate a balloon using their breath, blow a party blower or feathers?

September 9th

National Teddy Bear Day

Hold a Teddy Bears’ Picnic Can the students make and send invitations?

Can the students help to choose the menu and prepare the food? (Discuss healthy eating options)

Make teddy bear shaped biscuits.

Make and wear teddy bear masks.

Can the students help to lay the table?

Can the students suggest any games they would like to play?

Join Goldilocks on her adventures with this fully resourced, step-by-step multisensory story!

https://mash.ie/goldilocks-and-the-three-bears

Table of Contents:

Introduction

Story Props Checklist

How to Tell a Multisensory Story

Goldilocks & The Three Bears Fully Resourced, Step-by-Step Multisensory Story

Developing Comprehension & Understanding

Storyboard

Themed Listening Game

Themed Sensory Bag

Hard and Soft Themed Sensory Bin

Oat Bear Art

Raised Bear Salt Picture

The Three Bears Kitchen – Oat Milk Recipe

The Three Bears Bathroom – Oatmeal Facemask & Oat Bath

Teddy Bears Picnic

Let’s Explore…Bears!

Make a Bear Habitat

Bear Hugs

September 15th International Dot Day

A day to promote art, creativity, and individual achievement.

Read or watch the story of ‘The Dot’ by Peter H. Reynolds, a tale of a young girl who thought she could not draw…until she discovered dots!

Create artwork using different tools and materials to make dots.

Dots: Bingo dabbers, cotton wool bud, fingerprints, paint brushes, pipettes, pom poms, sponges, stickers, vegetable printing, paint bubble wrap.

Other ideas:

  • Spray paint through card templates/stencils using watered down paint in a water spray bottle.
  • Colour through the hole in an old cd to make a pattern.
  • Play dot-to-dot.
  • Take learning outdoors and draw in chalk around quoits and hula hoops.
  • Link to maths: make craft ladybirds, print, and count their spots.

September 20th – 26th Recycle Week

  • Collect clothes, electrical devices, crisp bags, or stamps to pass on to the relevant charities.
  • Have a team of students collect plastic bottles, and cardboard from classrooms to sort and recycle.
  • Recycle containers into planters.
  • Make bubble snakes from water bottles or fill with sand to make bowling pins.
  • Use old newspapers to make items from Papier Mache.
  • Play recycling bingo.
  • Print out items you can recycle (glass bottles, tins, newspapers, cardboard,) and items you cannot (used pizza boxes, waxed paper, stickers, bubble wrap, plastic bags, plastic coat hangers, plastic straws)
  • Can the students think of alternative uses for these items (re-use plastic bags, make hangers into mobiles)
  • Can students think of alternatives to these items (metal drinking straws, cloth or paper bags)

20th – 25th September Fire Door Safety Week

(Link to Great fire of London 2nd – 6th September)

Teach the students about fire doors.

  • Locate the fire doors within your school or setting.
  • Explain why fire doors must be kept closed.
  • Teach the students how to raise the alarm if they smell or see smoke or fire.
  • Show the students where their nearest exit is in the classroom if the alarm sounds
  • The new school term brings with it the inevitable fire drill. For some students, the fire alarm provides unwanted sensory feedback and the fire drill itself can be unsettling as it is out of routine. Have a ‘fire drill’ bag in easy reach in readiness for fire drill. This could contain ear defenders, a NOW/NEXT board showing what is happening and some fiddle toys/motivators.

Extend Learning

  • Look in the classroom for potential fire risks (electric heaters, electrical equipment, plug sockets)
  • Discuss the dangers of water coming into contact with electric appliances.
  • Explain why we do not place items on top of or cover heaters.

September 22nd National Fitness Day

  • Get Active: Balance, bounce, hop, jump, skip, run and crawl.
  • Throw and catch balls and beanbags.
  • Explore twirling ribbons, hula hoops, skittles, and other equipment.
  • Enjoy gentle yoga stretches, physio ball exercises, Dough Disco, or a hand massage.

23rd September

Autumn Equinox

Explore the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures of Autumn with this full resourced, step-by-step multisensory story.

https://mash.ie/autumn-a-multisensory-exploration

Table of Contents

Introduction

Story Props Checklist

How to Tell a Multisensory Story

Autumn Full Story

Autumn Fully Resourced, Rhyming Multisensory Story

Autumn Themed Sensory Bin

Let’s Explore…Dormice

Let’s Explore…Hedgehogs

Autumn Sensory Walk

Autumn Food Tasting

Make a Bug Hotel

Autumn Leaves Craft Activity

The Colour of Autumn

The Sensory Scarecrow

40 Autumn Ideas & Inspiration

Organic September

Make an Organic Farm Sensory Wall Display

Making a sensory wall display is a gradual process that all students can participate in.

Make you craft items during your art/craft lessons and watch as your working farm, sensory wall grows!

Make the Fences: Lay three, thin strips of brown card vertically then glue a strip of card diagonally across the three strips.

Add the Crops and Fields: Glue the textured items onto A4 thin card, covering with a thin layer of PVA then staple onto your wall: Grass, Yellow Field: Split Peas, Orange Field: Lentils, Pale Green Field: Split Peas Add a Barn: Use wooden sticks for a 3D effect.

Add Haybales: Cover a piece of thin card with PVA glue. Add the straw. Leave to dry. Add a layer of PVA glue to set in place. Leave to dry then cut into rectangular bales.

Add Farm Animals: Provide animal templates for students to decorate using sensory items e.g. A duck: yellow feathers, a chicken: red, brown, and black feathers, a sheep: cotton wool balls, a pig: pink felt or suede

Add Crops: ¾ fill a clear, disposable plastic cup/biodegradable plant pot with potting compost. Plant your seeds into the soil (Nasturtiums and peas work well). Ensure they are watered regularly and are not left to go dry. Staple the pots to the wall. The beans/peas will trail downwards as they grow.

(Tip! Wet kitchen roll or a wet paper towel are a substitute for soil) Add a Duck Pond: A circle of unbreakable ‘mirror’ or circle of aluminium foil.

Add Farmyard Sounds: Record farmyard noises on Talking Tiles (or similar devices) place a picture of the object/animal next to the Talking Tile. Press the Talking Tiles to bring the farm to life!

Assign Students Roles on the Farm: The crop farmers can oversee the watering of the plants in the cups, the sheep farmers will be responsible for keeping the sheep tidy.

Grind Flour

Promote fine motor skills using a pestle and mortar to grind foods make flour.

Explore:

Barley

Coconut

Millet

Oats

Pumpkin Seeds Quinoa Rice Rye

Sunflower Seeds

Explore the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures with this fully resources, step-by-step multisensory story (includes 101 farm themed extension activities!)

https://mash.ie/the-farm-a-multisensory-story-teaching-resource-101-farm-themed-sensory-activities

Table of Contents

How to tell a Multisensory Story

The Benefits of Multisensory Storytelling

Story Props/Resources Checklist

The Farm Full Story

The Farm Fully Resourced, step-by-step Multisensory Story

Farmyard Art

The Sensory Cow

Farming Culture & Celebrations Around the World

D & T

D & T Food Technology & Healthy Eating

Trips, Visits & Enrichment Activities

Traditional Farming Methods

Farming History: Children on the Victorian Farm

Farm Themed Literacy

Farm Themed Mathematics

Farm Themed Counting Songs & Activities

Farm Themed Sorting Activities

Farm Themed Mathematics (Weights & Measures)

Farmyard PE

Farmyard Yoga

Plants & Life Cycles

Role Play

Farm Safety

Farmyard Science

The Sensory Farm

The Sensory Farm Classroom Wall Display

Spotlight on…Fairfield School, Batley, Yorkshire

Farmyard Small World Play

Understanding the World Farm Animals

Amazing Facts About Farm Animals

Want to learn more about multisensory storytelling?

‘An Introduction to Multisensory Storytelling’ Course

Training (1-1, Groups & INSET)

Exclusive offer to Mash subscribers only

Save £5 discount of the price of a 1-1 course when you mention ‘Mash’ when you book.

Offer ends 31st Aug 2022

Who is the Course Aimed at?

This is a bespoke course aimed at Parents, Guardians, Childminders, Carers, Early Years Educators, Teachers, HLTA’s, TA’s, SENCO’s, Speech Therapists, Play Therapists, Support Workers, Activity Coordinators, Librarians, and anyone with an interest in exploring storytelling through the senses with pre-school, early years, SEN students, SALT students and teenagers/adults with complex needs.

Course Content

What is a multisensory story?

The benefits of multisensory storytelling.

Sourcing story props.

Sound effects.

How to tell a multisensory story.

Adapting an existing story into a multisensory story.

Incorporating extension activities into your session.

Using the story props as a tool for individuals to explore & express their likes, dislikes and sensory preferences, giving them a voice and a choice.

Case studies

Extension Activities

Ideas to stimulate the five main senses.

In addition to this we will explore in depth, a multisensory story of your choice from the latest story catalogue, how to deliver this story and how to use the story props promote communication and areas learning.

You will receive a digital copy of the full resource.


How is the Training Delivered?

The course is delivered as a friendly and informal session via Zoom and can be tailored to meet your training requirements.

Any information you may wish to share regarding the needs of your child/student will be treated in strictest confidence.

How Much Does the Course Cost?

£45 1-1 Training Session

£250 Whole School/Setting INSET

(For smaller group bookings please contact me for a price)


Course Length

The course is 90 mins.


Will I Receive any Course Notes?

Yes. Course summary notes will be sent as a word document.


Course Summary Notes Contents

What is a Multisensory story?

The Benefits of Multisensory Storytelling

Sourcing Story Props

How to tell a Multisensory Story

Developing Understanding & Comprehension

Ideas to Stimulate the Tactile System

Ideas to Stimulate the Gustatory System

Ideas to Stimulate the Olfactory System

Ideas to Stimulate the Auditory System

Ideas to Stimulate the Visual System

Extending Learning (Developing Understanding and Comprehension)

Sensory Bags and Sensory Bins

Useful Links

Are There Any Other Free Resources Included?

Yes

You will receive a free digital download of ‘Listen – An A-Z of Sensory Ideas to Stimulate the Auditory System’

This comprehensive guide explores fun and engaging sensory ways of stimulating the sense of hearing. The A-Z of sounds is divided into the following categories: Animals, Transport, Musical Instruments & Home. It also includes fun, motivating sensory themed extension activities. This resource is suitable for working with curious pre-schoolers to teenagers with complex needs.


You will also receive a free digital download of your chosen story.

How Do I Book?

email rhymingmultisensorystories@outlook.com or send a message via the chat function on the website or through social media

How Do I Pay?

Payment is accepted through BACS and PayPal.


I am a School/Company/Setting, can you send an Invoice?

Yes. Rhyming Multisensory Stories is fully registered with HMRC and can invoice.

Will I Receive a Certificate?

Yes. You will receive a digital certificate of completion

Get in Touch!

Your questions, queries, comments & feedback are always welcome!

email: rhymingmultisensorystories@outlook.com

Website: www.rhymingmultisensorystories.com

Facebook Page: Rhyming Multisensory Stories

Facebook: Victoria Navin RMSS

LinkedIn: Victoria Navin Rhyming Multisensory Stories

Twitter: @RhymingStories

Instagram: rhyming_multisensory_stories

MySpace: Rhyming Multisensory Stories

Tumblr: rhymingmultisensorystories

Reddit: sensorystories

Pinterest: Rhyming Multisensory Stories

YouTube: Rhyming Multisensory Stories

Games Aren’t Just For Kids – They Help Us Learn Languages!

When you think of how to learn a new language, playing games might not be the first method that comes to mind. It’s a shame; as uTalk’s Language Guru, Brian, points out in this post, games are a great way to encourage learning and – spoiler alert – it’s not just because they’re fun!

Games are a lot of fun – not only are winners rewarded with prizes, bragging rights and the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve done a good job, they can also help us learn a new language.

Think about it, games give us context: we get rewarded for our efforts when we win; in the case of classroom games – we get to communicate and interact with our opponents (or rather, our fellow classmates); a little adrenaline and anxiety (but hopefully, not too much!) helps make the challenge of learning a lot more fun; and finally, games offer us a break from the usual learning routine.

When our brains associate learning with fun experiences, we actually maximise the retention of new information. The less stressed we are, the more we remember! And what better way to reduce stress than to have an impromptu session of fun and games after an intense language lesson?

Some of the potentials of classroom games are:

• Motivation – games promote the spontaneous use of language as well as encouraging communication

• Games reinforce learning – we learn to apply what we have learned. If you’ve just learned how to order a vin rouge in French, wouldn’t it be fun to have little make-believe game involving say, an imaginary trip to a fancy bistrot in Paris for a classic French déjeuner?

• Healthy competition – humans thrive on competition and what better way to remember new vocabulary than to have a fun memory game? Or perhaps a facilitated classroom role-playing game to help remember those complicated grammar rules?

• Stress-free learning – games are so much fun that we become less self-conscious about making mistakes. Learning becomes less threatening and students who are not as confident actually become less concerned about saying or spelling new words wrongly.

• Practice – games encourage students to practice the language without even knowing it! In the heat of the moment, we don’t worry about such things as “Did I conjugate that Spanish verb properly?” or “Goodness! Which Russian case do I use?” or “Which is the correct tone for that word in Mandarin?”

• Active versus passive learning – games encourage students to learn actively, often requiring the use of different senses (sound, hearing, kinaesthetic movement etc.) which are great for those who prefer learning in combination with other forms of stimulus.

Playing language games of all kinds is certainly not a waste of time! With so many benefits, the question is not “why?” but rather, “why not?”


The uTalk app incorporates games into language learning to encourage everyone to have fun as they learn! If you’re a teacher or parent/guardian and have pupils or children who like to learn languages, then make sure to check out the uTalk Language Games. The Games run from September – July every year and all participants have the chance to learn up to three languages, culminating in a competition that takes place in June. Want to take part? Registrations are open for 2022/23!

What happened on May 29th?

I am fascinated by the amount of “International” and “Special” days there are in the world or even in one day! There seems to be a special day for everything from bees (May 20th) to porridge (10th October) – yes really!

Let me share with you an important day coming up that you might be able to discuss with your class or even work on a lesson or two! On May 29th, there is an “International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.” The U.N. was organised at the close of World War II in the hope of preventing another World War.

UN peacekeeping has been developed to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for lasting peace since the first mission was established in May 1948. There have been a total of 63 UN peacekeeping operations. Currently, more than 100,000 military and civilian personnel serve in 20 UN peace operations worldwide.

Some resources on Mash.ie to promote peace:

Here are some ideas for this day that could be used in the classroom!

  1. Organise a National Class or school “Peace Day”.
  2. Look at your class, which countries do your class represent? Draw flags of that country and write a simple greeting in that language on it!
  3. Locate some other flags and information of other flags from different countries.
  4. Look at the flag of the U.N. It shows how the earth might look from the North Pole. You can see every continent except Antartica. The leaves around the map are olive branches, ancient symbols of peace.
  5. Have an International Food Day, everyone is to bring something typical of their homeland or their ancestors’ homeland.
  6. Have a big class debate- What would happen if (in 100 years time) if there was only one nation-and it was called THE WORLD- List 3 good things and 3 bad things.
    Some ideas to get you going, you could get mileage out of this theme if you wanted!

So, just in case you need a filler or an emergency lesson plan- why not give peace a chance!

Edtech Products from BETT Conference

After a 10 year hiatus, I finally had the chance to return to the BETT Conference in London. For the uninitiated, BETT is the largest educational technology conference in the world. In this article I’m going to showcase some of the products I saw.

Clever.com

I’m definitely underselling it when I say that Clever.com is a single sign-on service for your students’ devices. In other words, rather than your students having to remember a username and password for logging on to their Chromebooks, iPads, and so on, they get a special card with a QR Code and when the device opens, they flash it in front of the webcam and it logs them in, so they don’t have to remember their credentials. It saves so much time because, if your classroom was anything like mine, we used to spend half the day logging into devices. On top of that, there were always a number of children that lost their passwords so they had to be reset and by the time everyone finally got logged in, an hour might have passed! Even if all Clever.com did was log students into their device, it is absolutely worth it.

However, Clever has a few other cool features that we use. (I like that the students don’t even realise they are using them.) When the student logs in, they are brought to a portal with a bunch of apps they can use. For example, the most popular one in my school is Mathletics, a fantastic Maths app from 3P learning. I don’t know if they even notice, but when they click on their Mathletics app, they don’t have to log in to it. Clever is clever enough to link all of their apps with their Clever account so there isn’t the need to remember a single password. Well almost.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason why my school is the only school in Ireland using the service. Clever is an American company and it is tailored exclusively to an American audience, which means that it caters to districts. We don’t have this sort of set up in Ireland as all schools are individual private entities. This means that a huge number of integrated apps in Clever won’t work in single units. Oh, and one other thing, I shouldn’t have managed to have a Clever account because it shouldn’t have been available to Irish schools. One of my goals for visiting BETT was to find an alternative or two, and I found two.

ClassLink

The first was ClassLink. The video on the side tells you nothing about it but it’s worth watching for the merch. What ClassLink does is the same as Clever.com but it also has a few extra tools that might be of use. For example, as well as Single Sign-On, students can access their files on various platforms such as Google Drive and Dropbox. The site has a number of videos to explain what it is so here is one example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VKnT8sXe60

COOL from Cloudwise

Cloudwise is the European equivalent of Clever and Classlink, and they are based in the Netherlands and Belgium. I came across them a few years ago but went with Clever in the end because Clever, when it was available, was free. Cloudwise is more than Single Sign-On as well, although, for me, this is the main thing I care about. To complicate things further, it seems to be going through a rebrand and seems to be called COOL, which, to me, makes it even less obvious to what it does.

Anyway, apart from Single Sign-On, it also incorporates monitoring of what students are doing, which is a very nice feature. This means the teacher can see exactly what is on every students screen at any time. It also allows the teacher to send files and show a particular website on all students’ screens. The teacher can also temporarily stop access to the Internet when he/she needs the students’ attention. There are other features for older students such as plagiarism checkers but probably not needed for primary level. Here is COOL’s way to log in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VKnT8sXe60

I must say, I really like the look of COOL over the other two especially as it incorporates monitoring as an all-in-one package. It’s definitely something I think I’ll be looking into in the not-so-distant future.

Ocram Learn

This device on the left, while small, was the only piece of technology that made me go “wow!” Many of you will be familiar with Reader Pens, small devices aimed at people with reading difficulties, which scans what they are reading and then reads it out. Many of these “pens” are able to read out definitions of words and a few other ideas. However, this all pales into insignificance with this yolk. The ORCAM Learn is an upgrade to the ORCAM Read which was similar enough to the regular Reader Pens that you might be familiar with.

However, what this particular thing does blew my mind, and for someone as cynical as me, it takes a fair amount to do that. Scanning the page initially, you won’t be surprised to hear that it will read the full page to you if you wish. You’ll notice, however, it is clever enough to understand intonation so it actually sounds like a real person is reading it. However, there’s more. You can ask the pen some questions. Simply press a button and ask “find me a six letter word in the text” and in seconds it will read out a word. You can ask loads of different types of questions but even better than that, the pen can ask you questions. It might ask you similar questions and it will understand your input, but it will also be able to ask more complicated questions such as comprehension questions. I’m really not doing it any justice here. It isn’t on the market yet but, in my opinion, if the price is right, it is revolutionary. I asked the lads whether it would be under €1,000 and they weren’t budging.

Interactive Projectors

The era of the projector hasn’t completely gone away and I was interested to see two products which might be of interest to you. One of them is “affordable” and the other is a luxury item that I can’t see any primary schools managing to buy.

Let’s start with the affordable one, around the same price as an Interactive Screen. The Didactix Interactive Projector hangs from a ceiling and projects images on to the floor. While there were a few of these dotted around the Expo, this one stood out in terms of education. Maybe it was just the demo that caught me but it seemed to be aimed at Sensory Rooms as well as learning. The other ones seemed to be variations of Whack-a-mole. In essence, an interactive image is projected onto a floor and can be manipulated depending on the software. It comes in around the €4,000 mark and ships from Poland.

The Lü Interactive Wall is a similar concept but it projects on to a very large wall, like a PE Hall. The demo consisted of people rushing around throwing balls at the projected image, knocking out teeth. It’s easy to see how this could be used for throwing games in PE but if you look more deeply, you can convert walls into various types of goals – from football to basketball, which is very clever.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VKnT8sXe60

I imagine it could also be used as a basic projector so you can have your backdrops for your winter concerts ready. I must say I was deeply impressed with this, and it was a bit of a “wow” moment. However, my bubble burst when I heard the thing cost €20,000.

Blocksi

If you are as old as me, you probably remember a program called AB Tutor. The idea behind it was that the teacher could see what was on every student’s screen. It is still around and it works very well but Blocksi, for me, works really well, in particular with Managed Chromebooks. On top of being able to monitor what pupils are doing, it tracks the pupils’ every click and every visit to every site. Many teachers will find that particularly useful. However, on top of this it has an anti-theft feature that tracks exactly where the Chromebook is in real time so if it gets lost, you can find out exactly where it is.

There are some other cool features such as being able to run assessments where you can lock down the Chromebook so only the test is on the screen but probably not that useful for primary schools. This video gives a full overview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VKnT8sXe60

2Simple

I’ve been a long time fan of this company and I’ve written about them a few times on this site. Sadly, an interview I did with Andy Hopkins back in 2012 has disappeared from the Internet. I forgot I was podcasting before it was cool! I went up to the stand to see if Andy was still there as it’s been 10 years since that interview, and sure enough, there he was! 2Simple is no longer the very simple software it once was, and it has grown into a colossus!

Many people will be familiar with their main offering, which is called Purple Mash. It’s a bunch of mini-programmes, which these days would be called Apps, which encourage creativity through learning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VKnT8sXe60

Reading Programmes

Reading on your Head and Bookr were two of the more interesting options on show. Reading on your Head is a big collection of reading comprehensions, 2,000 of them in total covering all sorts of aspects of comprehension strategies. It’s simple enough but really stood out as an up and coming company with a nice idea. Bookr seemed to be a more established company and their unique selling position was a complete reading scheme for EAL.

There were three small stands that I hadn’t planned on seeing before I left for BETT but they are all worth a mention.

Edpuzzle

Edpuzzle is a website I had heard of but never used that much. It’s a simple enough concept in that its concept is to make any video into a lesson. Essentially, pick a video with a particular lesson and add some questions. The software will tell you if the student actually watched the video and how they did with the questions. According to their website over 50% of American schools use their service, so not so small really.

Skewb

This unusually sounding website doesn’t give much away as to what it is about and I walked by the stand a couple of times until I saw that it is focused on teaching about Climate Change through Minecraft. Skewb Climate to give it its full name uses the platform to teach children about all things Climate Change. The only issue for schools is whether they have a Microsoft 365 account, because Microsoft bought Minecraft and you need an account to access it otherwise it costs an absolute fortune. Microsoft, as I said earlier, have been busy buying up services that primary school kids are more likely to use. Google take note.

Imagi

One of the biggest issues in the edtech world, which doesn’t seem to be answered is how to get girls into coding. There have been several failed attempts. Imagi aims to change this with their offering. Their About Page says that they are:

building the only mobile-first community targeting 300 million pre-teen girls worldwide with the goal of encouraging them to start coding. The imagi apps introduce Python programming through a visual and gamified learning journey, where colorful designs can be created + shared. We also made a programmable accessory, the imagiCharm, which enhances the learning experience by making code projects more tangible and easy to show off!

https://imagilabs.com/pages/about-us

The video below tells you what you need to know, and to be honest, I can see this working quite well. This was another stand I wouldn’t have spotted but the two women at the stand called me over because I was wearing my Sheffield United lanyard. Sadly they were more interested in the fact that it is a rainbow lanyard rather than being interested in the Sheffield United logo. In fact, I could sense their disappointment when I turned out to be a middle-aged, white, straight man, the privilege dripping off me. Anyway, they were pleasant enough to me and I’m really considering looking into the product.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VKnT8sXe60

I want to go through two last products, one which you will be familiar with and one you may not know. My school uses both and I bet you have used one of them while drinking alcohol. Let’s start with the one you’ve definitely heard of, and yes, also the one you’ve drank wine while using.

Zoom

Apart from having the best merch, Zoom have some amazing stuff for the edtech world. I had a long demo from one of their people about a VOIP phone system, and I am definitely sold. In fact, if we can afford it, it’s one of the first things I will do. Essentially, Zoom can replace your regular phones in school and join them up with all of your staff so that the school secretary can transfer a call from a parent to your mobile phone, for example. Basically it ties together all your phone and video conferencing in one place, and you get to keep your phone number.

There is too much to talk about with this service so I’d recommend searching for Zoom VOIP schools to find out more. It was also the only stand where all members of my family were catered to – a pair of socks for me, a notebook for Rozz and one of those popper fidget toys for Emrys.

Impero

The one you might not have heard of is one that I’ve spoken about before, which is called Impero. Impero is all about Internet Safety and Security, but also about Child Protection. You can use it for monitoring children’s use of technology in the school like AB Tutor or Blocksi as mentioned before. However, I really like their child protection software called Edaware, which we use in our school for tracking behaviours, child protection and first aid. It’s a really good tool and if I could get it integrated into my Aladdin, it would be even better!

Despite the fact that the really big tech companies have probably taken the soul out of a lot of it, squeezing out the small interesting companies, BETT is still well worth seeing. It’s so big that it’s impossible not to find something worth looking at for your school. If you haven’t been, see if you can get there sometime.

Resources for teaching children about the war in Ukraine 🇺🇦

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has understandably caused much anxiety in the world and, as teachers, one of our jobs is to help our pupils to understand what is happening in the world. Many of them will have some idea of what is happening and may have questions. Thankfully, there is some good advice available from experts in the field. The following are links to resources we have found, which might be useful to you:

Miss Walsh, one of our sellers on Mash has created a product where all proceeds will go to Ukraine Crisis – UNICEF Ireland. Click on the image below to see the product.

Festivals you might not know happening in March

March feels like it’s full of festivals in Ireland with Engineering Week, World Book Day, International Women’s Day and Seachtain na Gaeilge all happening in the first week or so. And that doesn’t even include St. Patrick’s Day – our national festival! However, March is home to lots of other festivals that you may not know about so if you’re looking to do something a little different, here are a few festivals that might add a splash of colour to your classroom.

Fancy a second Halloween?

The Night of the Witches is a festival that takes place in Catemaco in Mexico. It’s much more about shamans and healers than ghosts and witches and there’s lots of music and celebration. If you missed out on a Halloween celebration because of COVID19, now’s your second chance to get in on the action!

Another Costume Party

If witches aren’t your thing but dressing up is, how about joining the Jewish community in celebrating Purim. Although this year, the festival took place in late February, it generally does land in early March depending on the year (The Jewish calendar is based on the moon and they have a leap month every few years.)

The story of Purim is a good adventure story of good against evil with an heroic queen thrown in, but one of the traditions of Purim is to dress in costume.

Holi

If you’re looking to brighten up your life, look no further than Holi – a major Hindu festival. Holi is the ultimate festival of colours. It is celebrated for two to three days in spring. Hindus believe that spring is full of colours so they throw coloured water and powders on each other.

Cherry Blossom Season

If you’re ever in Japan around the end of March, you’re likely to see thousands of Cherry Blossom Trees in full bloom. There’s even an entire festival centred around it in Kyoto and it’s just beautiful. Get your red and white paint out and mix up lots of pinks and make your very own Sakura Tree prints!

Student Blogs or Social Feed?

School websites have gone through a few evolutions since the World Wide Web was invented in the early 1990s. At first, web sites were static affairs which were generally updated by one person who would upload content from one computer to a server via FTP. Then Web 2.0 came along, which allowed multiple people to log on to a shared backend and update the web site in real time, and hence the start of the blogging phenomenon. Many schools had class blogs and some were updated regularly and others…well, let’s say, were updated less regularly. The birth of social media was a game changer where people could update what they were doing in the tap of a screen. While there are hundreds of schools updating their work on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there are still quite a lot that are still using a blog based web site.

Hold on! What’s wrong with blogging? Isn’t this a blog?

There’s nothing at all wrong with blogging, and almost every guru on the Internet will tell you that every organisation should keep a blog. The blog, however, has evolved and is now best suited to longer articles (like this) or for sharing tips and ideas. One has to ask what good does a blog do for a school anymore?

Apart from the practicalities of space, content on a website can become a little tired looking especially if the website isn’t updated very regularly. While we can persevere with asking people to log on to the website and add photos and videos and news, it’s so much quicker now to use a social media platform like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to share what a school is doing – simply snap a picture and 2taps later, it’s online for everyone to see. Another reason for moving content off a website and on to a social network might be summed up with the phrase: “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.” Most people don’t go on their phones and think – I must check what my kid’s school is doing; most likely, they go to Facebook or Instagram or Twitter and because of the algorithm these services use, it’s most likely they will see your news there.

A good school website will now have a lot of static information like policies, enrollment forms and constant information. However, it should also be able to embed the feed of whatever social network the school is using. So which one is best? Unfortunately there isn’t a straight answer to this question so I’ll stick to 3 – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

For me, each of these platforms have separate aims. I find that Twitter is probably the least useful place to add school news. Twitter invites conversations and debates rather than likes and shares. While one can like and reshare (retweet) content on Twitter, it doesn’t really feel like the best fit when it shares the stage with debates on politics, news and celebrity gossip. That’s not to say it can’t. Twitter, to me, doesn’t really have that vibe. However, one thing in its favour is that it is really easy to embed your tweets into your website and this is why many schools do this. The only trouble is after a while it can become unwieldy to find what you’re looking for as Twitter is such a busy place.
Facebook is probably the most popular platform for schools to share their news. It’s definitely worth considering for a school. However, it can be tricky to embed your Facebook content onto a website and often requires an add-on like Smashballoon if you are using WordPress.

However, Facebook is brilliant for reaching most parents in 2022. This demographic are still most likely to be using the platform though this is starting to change. Facebook, in some ways, is becoming the platform of choice for older people. Having said that, nearly 3 billion people use it and not all of them are old! Facebook’s culture or vibe is wide ranging and is suitable for schools to share their news. It’s a great way to share news to the widest audience – the only danger is that Facebook has more potential than Instagram for online bullying. For example, there are a number of “reactions” one can give on Facebook and some passive aggressive people out there might get a kick out of hitting a “sad” reaction to stir up a bit of trouble. Comments can be problematic if not well managed but the same could be said for any social network. Another minor thing is that Facebook posts comes in different shapes and sizes and if you are embedding them into your site, it can make your posts look a little messy. Again services like Smashballoon will sort this out for you, but it’s just a minor thing to be aware of.

Instagram was bought by Facebook a few years ago for over €2 billion before it was a big thing. At the time everyone thought that Facebook were mad but they either got lucky or somebody knew exactly what they were doing. Facebook has also bought a few other companies, the other big one being WhatsApp, and all these services now fall under the umbrella of a company called Meta. As you can probably guess by now, I’m going to gush about Instagram!

To me Instagram ticks almost every box but the most important thing is its vibe or culture, which tends to verge on positivity. Sometimes it’s the small things such as the fact there is only the ability to “like” a post or that users cannot see how many likes a post gets (which can be a source of online bullying) and maybe it isn’t anything particularly big. For me, it’s in its simplicity – take a photo or two, maybe a short video, upload it with a short comment and you’re done! There are no further complications when it comes to posts. It’s easy enough to switch off comments if that’s something one wants to do but it’s not necessary. (Although, make sure to have a good AUP.) Another small thing with Instagram is that all posts are the same size and always a square shape. This makes it really nice for embedding pictures on your school website. You can do it with most popular website tools such as WixWeebly, or WordPress but it seems easy enough whatever website tool you use. Your website now shows your most recent number of Instagram posts and you can always be sure it looks the same way because of the size of the images. As long as you are updating your Instagram feed, your website never grows tired.

Some people might like to look back at older posts on Instagram. This isn’t any better than Facebook or Twitter to be honest but it’s very rare to be in a situation where you might be looking for a picture from several years ago. Having said that, when it comes to graduations, often schools will use older images so it might be worth taking that into account and having a place to store school photos. You could use something like Zapier or IFTTT to instantly save any posts uploaded into a Google Drive for access in the future.

All in all, for schools, I think Instagram is best for embedding posts in a website mainly because of the size of all posts being the same, but also because of those little things – the positive vibe of Instagram. There are other nice things about Instagram that you might learn along the way such as playing around with colour schemes and so on but, for now, the basics are good enough. Having said all of that, I’d put Facebook a close second in terms of social media. Thankfully because they run under the same company name, you can set your Instagram account to publish anything you post on both platforms at the same time, which is handy. You may wish to turn off comments on Facebook if you feel the need.

I hope the above is of some use. I had intended to simply send you a couple of lines but I ran away with myself!

Valentine’s Day Ideas

The month of February is always associated with love. The 14th February is Valentine’s Day, and although it is considered strictly-speaking a Christian festival, almost all children and teachers celebrate the day with or without reference to the saint behind it.

Of course, if you want to cover the history of St. Valentine’s Day, this video is a good place to start if you are looking for an explanation of who the man behind the day is according to Christian Tradition.

However, most teachers want to get to the ❤️ 💕 💝 so let’s give you some ideas!

How about an Art Lesson Plan for 5th and 6th Class on theme of love/Valentine’s Day in construction?

Here is a beautifully designed Valentine’s Day Bingo game, well worth checking out!

Want your pupils to make a lovely Valentine’s Day gift for someone at home? Bath Bombs are easy to make and great fun!

These are labels you can print and give out on Valentine’s Day.

We may not be in lockdown anymore but Digital Stickers are great to have when marking work on SeeSaw or Google Classroom.

Mash sellers have over 100 St. Valentine’s Day resources so it’s well worth having a browse to see if you can find something you like.

Advice for Parent Teacher Meetings

While it’s very rare these days for a teacher not to be in contact with families whether it’s a short chat in the morning or a phone call if there’s an incident in school, Parent Teacher Meetings are fairly formal affairs where there is a definite formula and format and expectation. Up until COVID-19 came along, these meetings always happened in the classroom. These days there are other options like a Zoom meeting or even one by phone. However, the format remains the same – it’s usually a ten minute chat with a summary of how a child is progressing. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume it’s a face-to-face meeting but you can transfer it to any other context.

Given that each meeting is only ten minutes in length, it’s important that you are in control of the meeting. You need to decide what you want to discuss but you also need to give the parent/guardian some time to raise any topics they want to talk about. Most parents will be interested in their child’s progress in literacy and numeracy, but also their general behaviour and attitude in class. There’s very little point in trying to tell parents about their progress in fabric and fibre in Visual Arts during this meeting. Save that for the end-of-year report! (Of course, if the parent is someone that makes rugs for a living, then it might be worth telling them about their child’s skills with hessian!)

It’s a good idea to have some notes pre-planned for each child. The templates above are a good guide. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of time on this – with 30 pupils in a class, you won’t have time! A few words to remind you of things you need to say is enough.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Try not to be too formal. Traditionally the teacher might sit behind their desk and have the parents/guardians on the other side of it. These days, a more round table layout will put people more at ease.
  • Speaking of which, while you might be nervous, don’t forget the parents/guardians will be too. Be friendly and welcoming and try to put them at ease.
  • Have brief notes on each child. While you’ll know each child in your class well, you may have something you want to say that you don’t want to forget.
  • Due to time constraints, it’s best to let parents/guardians know that the purpose of the meeting is to give a summary of progress and that if there’s a need to speak for longer, a follow-up meeting should be arranged.
  • If you feel confident enough, you might ask the parents to start the meeting with any comments or questions. Take notes.
  • If you’d prefer, you could start the meeting with a summary of the child’s progress and then ask parents/guardians if they have any questions.
  • In younger classes, the focus for parents will probably be on how well they are reading and on their basic maths. A lot of parents won’t realise how good their child is doing.
  • In the middle classes, parents may be interested in tips for learning tables and things like that. There are some ideas here on our Mash YouTube Channel
  • In older classes, talk will likely be of second level and the various options out there. It’s no harm to be familiar with the secondary schools in your locality.
  • Some teachers like to give the parents notes on their child but it’s not necessary. Keep things simple.
  • Consider preparing a one-pager to give to each parent/guardian with some websites, booklists, ideas, etc. that they can do at home. There’s no need to individualise them.
  • Many parents/guardians just want to know that you like their child. Don’t forget to let parents know how lovely their child is! All children have fantastic personalities – make sure to point out the best aspects, whether that is they’re funny, confident, quirky, always smiling, and so on.

We hope these tips will help you out for Parent Teacher Meetings. You can check out some of our Parent Teacher Meeting products here.

Making Hallowe’en More Inclusive

Not everyone celebrates Hallowe’en in Ireland. There are lots of faith groups, including many Christian faith groups, that do not celebrate the day. This is because Hallowe’en is a pagan festival.

Given that almost all schools in the country are not under the patronage of Paganism, it’s worth thinking about how one can make the day as inclusive as possible for everyone.

The one thing schools have in common, no matter what their ethos, is that on the final day of the autumn term, children and, often, the staff, like to dress up in costumes and play seasonal games.

In order to make the day more inclusive. Some schools rename the day to something like “Dress Up Day” or “Self-Expression Day.” While this might jar with you at first, ultimately, all you are doing is changing the name of the day to make it more inclusive. Teachers can still teach about Hallowe’en but it also gives them opportunities to teach children about other autumn festivals such as Sukkot, Samhain and Diwali.