Category Archives: Teacher Articles

Sensory Bins

A sensory bin/tray 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.

Providing this experience enables you to identify preferred items and sensations that can be used as motivators or calm an individual when stressed.

This sensory play will develop fine motor skills as the explorer manipulates the objects, problem solving skills through experimentation, creativity and imagination through exploration and the opportunity to build language and communication skills.

If working in a group this activity will aid social and emotional development and skills as learners engage in turn-taking, sharing, cooperation and listening to others’ ideas.

How to Make a Sensory Bin

Find a container

A large tray, cardboard box, bucket, large plastic storage box, plastic paddling pool

Add a Base Layer

Dried rice, pasta and pulses, dried oats, dried cereal, shredded paper, straw, Pom Poms, flour, cotton wool balls, coloured water, sand, moon dust, packing peanuts, feathers, buttons, shells, leaves, wood shavings, corks, bottle tops, edible herbs and flowers, potting compost, foam, ice, pine cones, slime, goop, cloud dough, wool, ribbon, confetti, sponges…the imagination is the limit!

Add Fine Motor Tools

Cups, spoons, forks, measuring jugs, colander, whisk, sieve, funnel, pipette, food tongs, wooden utensils, scoops, paintbrushes, chopsticks, moon dust (see recipe below)

Encourage Exploration

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.

Supervise Play!

  • Ensure that play is supervised at all times by a responsible adult,
  • Be aware of any potential choking hazards or allergies.

Moon Dust recipe

Add ½ cup Olive Oil to 2 cups of cornflower and rub together using the tips of your fingers and thumbs, adding extra cornflour if needed, to form a moon dust consistency. Add silvers of aluminium foil or a sprinkle of glitter for extra sparkle!

Chinese New Year Sensory Bin

  • Layer the base of a tray, bucket or paddling pool with dried rice or noodles, red or gold shredded paper.
  • Sprinkle with Chinese five spice/star anise/ginger.
  • Scatter cinnamon sticks/ star anise/chocolate coins.
  • Add spoons, bowls, chopsticks or tweezers for sensory explorers to practice their fine motor skills.
  • Add toy animals to represent the animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

Winter Themed Sensory Bin

  • Layer the tray with ice cubes (for igloo making), fake snow, cotton wool balls, shaving foam or polystyrene packing peanuts.
  • Sprinkle with silver glitter or slivers of aluminium foil.
  • twigs, tweezers, polystyrene packing peanuts.
  • Provide gloves, scarves and hats for the sensory explorer to wear.
  • Add a torch and magnifying glass for scientific exploration.

The Three Little Pigs Sensory Bin

  • Layer the tray with straw/hay/dried grass/shredded wheat/vermicelli, dried noodles.
  • Scatter sticks/twigs,lollipop sticks, breadsticks, Twiglets, cinnamon sticks on top of the base layer.
  • Add Duplo, Lego, rubber/stickle or wooden bricks
  • Add items to aid exploration of the cause and effect of blowing: feathers/tissue paper/recorder/whistle/bicycle/balloon pump/blowing bubbles/bellows/ balloons/hand held fan/battery operated mini fan/card or paper fan.

Other Ideas for Sensory Bins

Colour themed

Baking themed













Story Themed

Festivals & Holidays (Easter, Diwali, Christmas, St Patricks Day, Ramadan

Get in Touch!

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







Building Towers

Building Towers Aids Development in the Following Areas:

  • Motor skills & spatial awareness

  • Problem solving, critical thinking, scientific & mathematical skills 

  • Self-expression & creativity

  • Interaction & shared attention

  • Social skills.: Encourage sharing, turn-taking, co-operation & listening to other’s ideas

  • Confidence & self-esteem & the satisfaction of ‘completion’

  • Development of language skills: Model language:  ‘Brick’, ‘More’, ‘Build’ ‘On’

Explore Tower Building Properties using the Following Materials:

  • Cardboard Boxes

  • Cardboard Tubes

  • Counters

  • Dominoes

  • Dried Pasta & Play-Doh

  • Duplo

  • Lidded Tupperware

  • Paper Cups 

  • Sponges

  • Unifix (snap cubes)

  • Straws & Marshallows

  • Wooden Blocks

Create, Revise, Demolish, Repeat!

Build anticipation skills! Give the cue  ‘Ready…Steady…Go!’ before the sensory explorer knocks down their tower.

For more sensory ideas and inspiration visit the website


How to avoid a boring interview!


When they ask generic questions like these. •Why do you want to become a teacher? •Why are you choosing teaching at this point in your life? •What main qualities would you bring as a teacher?

Which response do you find is more genuine? 1.I want to change children’s lives as I am so passionate about working with children.

2.I used to have an amazing music teacher. She used to push us to be the best that we could be! She spent so much time giving us the advice we needed to improve! I was a singer so she gave me so many singing books and resources that really helped me improve! She really cared how we were all doing by continuously checking on our progress. She had faith in me! I want to give everything she gave me to my students! She really was the best teacher! That’s exactly why I want to be a teacher! She inspired me!


•I can’t emphasise this enough but TELL YOUR STORY!

•Learn to elaborate on anything! You can always direct any question back to what you are comfortable talking about! Example -your experience with teaching to date.

•Show your personality- don’t be afraid to laugh or tell a joke! I know this is a formal interview but it is OK to show your personality.🤗❤️

•Know how the course is structured- how many weeks of placement etc. If I was interviewing someone for a job and they didn’t know anything about the work or structure I would say ‘BYE BYE’. 😂 So please know all about Hibernia. 😁

•You are going to be nervous on the days leading up and the day of the interview! But please relax, breathe, take some time off away from preparing. The work you have put in so far is going to speak volumes! 😌

•Try and enjoy the interview- look at it like a conversation!

•Imagine the end goal and how you would feel when you got the news you have gotten into the course! It’s a feeling I can’t describe! 🥰

Zones of Regulation

Learning to identify how we are feeling is tough for everyone. I hope to master it one day myself! It is especially tough for many people with autism to learn. I was reading an article not long ago, where the writer (who was autistic) described how other people’s emotions seemed to rise up out of nowhere, and they (the writer) often didn’t know what triggered them, or even pick up on the fact that someone was getting upset or angry until it had reached a critical point.
For my daughter, Sophie, identifying other people’s emotions can be hard, but she really struggles with regulating her own feelings. She has ‘big’ emotions – she can be ecstatically, over-the-top joyful, or in the depths of despair and misery within minutes. She finds it hard to cope when things go wrong, or life doesn’t go as expected for her. She is very conscious of this, especially as she is getting older. A tearful tantrum in Junior Infants – nothing too unusual about that, but sobbing and running out of the room in 2nd class – not so usual.
The best way I have found of helping her to take charge of her own emotions is the Zones of Regulation. This is a programme for emotional literacy created by Leah M. Kuypers.
“The Zones is a systematic, cognitive behavioural approach used to teach self-regulation by categorizing all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four concrete coloured zones. The Zones framework provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of and independent in controlling their emotions and impulses, manage their sensory needs, and improve their ability to problem solve conflicts.”
It explicitly teaches the child to identify how they (or indeed someone else) is feeling at a given time, or in a given scenario. It divides our emotions into different colours. It also helps the child to create their own ‘toolbox’ of tactics to help them to shift mood from one zone/feeling to another one. These tools are individualised to the child. The child can be encouraged and guided to ‘use their tools’ when they are feeling angry or upset or too giddy and dysregulated, to bring themselves back to the green zone and feel ‘just right’. It takes lots of reminders at first, and lots of debriefing after meltdowns or upset, but it works.
Zones gives the child the language to talk about their feelings, paired with strong visuals (for our visual learners). We have found it has made a huge difference for Sophie. She feels more in control of her feelings and less of a slave to her impulses.
She can say to us that “I think I’m in yellow” and we know what she means. For Sophie, yellow zone feeling might be feeling anxious or giddy, or feeling overwhelmed sensory-wise. It helps us understand how she is feeling.
Sometimes, she needs us to remind her to ‘check her tools’ and will look at the visual we have printed and stuck up around our house, but more and more frequently, she is taking charge herself, and will say things like “I feel like I’m in blue. Can I have a squeeze to help feel better?”
Zones also covers topics such as ‘Size of the Problem’ which we are working on at home with Sophie at the moment. It helps her to put events in context and to learn what problems warrant a big reaction, and what is just a little ‘blip’ in her day. We’re getting there, but slowly!
Zones of Regulation isn’t a perfect solution to solve all life’s problems. Far from it! Self-regulation is something everyone continually works on whether they are autistic or not. We all encounter trying circumstances that test our limits from time to time. If we are able to recognise when we are becoming less regulated, we are able to do something about it to manage our feelings and get ourselves to a healthier place.
The actual book is a fantastic resource, and can be bought from . However, it is expensive. There are lots of free resources online, and lots of excellent information on the official website:
If you think Zones might be worth trying out for your child or student, I would suggest downloading one or both of the Zones of Regulation apps for tablets. They are game based and teach the child about the different zones and allow the child to work through lots of different scenarios. I really recommend them! They are called ‘Zones of Regulation’ and ‘Zones of Regulation – Exploring Emotions’.
Let me know if you try the Zones out, and how you get on! 😀

Autism and the Behaviour Iceberg

Have you heard of the Iceberg metaphor to describe behaviour issues in children with Autism?
It was first used by Eric Schopler in 1995, when he was working in the area of Autism educational research at the University of North Carolina. The university is one of the top places in the world for autism research and have devised many of the systems and programmes that I use in my teaching to help my ASD students.
The basic premise of the Iceberg metaphor is that the things we see “above the water”, for example meltdowns, tantrums, violent behaviour are just the tip of the iceberg.
There is so much more going on with someone with autism than what is immediately seen.
Below the waterline are all the issues and stresses that are not apparent straight away. These could include anxiety, issues with understanding what is expected of them, lack of understanding of social norms and rules, feeling different from their peers, sensory sensitivities, and a buildup of little annoyances. The list could go on and on, and will be different for each person.
Keeping all this in mind can help us all to be more understanding and patient. I’m a big believer in the idea that all behaviour is communication. If we ate seeing challenging behaviours “above the water”, the onus is on us to look deeper, and try to figure out what is going on “below the waterline”. Some of these issues we will be able to help with, others may be harder to deal with or may not have a solution.
Either way, I think understanding is half the battle sometimes.

Emotional Literacy, Regulation and ASD – A Parent’s Perspective

Emotional regulation, or the ability to manage our feelings, is a crucial skill we generally develop as children that allows us to negotiate the world around us and build relationships with others.
This is not always easy! It takes lots of time, practice and modelling by adults for this skill to be learned, and even longer to master. I hope I might get there one day myself! 🙈
Add a diagnosis of autism into the equation, and it becomes an even harder skill to master. Studies have found that “autistic children have more trouble controlling their emotions than their typical peers do.”
When an autism diagnosis is made, one of the criteria for diagnosis is that there is an impairment of social communication skills, and this contributes hugely to the difficulties many autistic people face with managing their emotions. If you can’t interpret how another person is feeling, or label your own emotions, social interactions can easily go wrong. Actions can be misinterpreted and this can lead to lots of misunderstandings and upset, particularly when interacting with neurotypical peers.
This is something I am seeing more and more frequently with my own daughter, Sophie. She is hyper-social, if anything, and craves the company of other children. However, she finds it very challenging to keep up with the little social nuances of their interactions and games, especially if she is playing with other girls her age. She can’t understand how rapidly friendships can change from being ‘besties’ one day, to falling out the next, and back to being the best of pals the next day. This can cause Sophie to get very confused and upset, and has led to her shouting at the other girls or even lashing out physically on occasion.
It is as if it gives her emotional whiplash, and unfortunately it can have a really negative impact on her self-esteem. When she gets upset or angry in front of her peers, Sophie gets very down afterwards.
As a typical girl with autism, she wants nothing better than to blend in with everyone else and as she gets older, she is growing more and more self conscious and aware that her extreme emotional responses make her stand out from the other children her age. Shouting and stomping might not be unusual when children are of preschool age, but now that she is 8, Sophie knows that she needs to manage her feelings more appropriately.
We are working so hard to address this and to give Sophie the skills she needs to navigate the tricky world of female friendships, but it is very much an uphill battle. We have found some strategies that help us and I will share some of them in a later post.
From my own reading and research into this area it is clear that Sophie is not alone in her difficulties in this area.
“At every age, autistic girls score higher on measures of emotional reactivity than autistic boys do. They also score higher on measures of depressed mood, with the gender gap widening among girls older than 13 years.”
As someone who has had their own struggles with anxiety and low mood over the years, I am so conscious of the need to protect Sophie’s mental health, especially as she grows into a teenager. It is every bit as important as preserving her physical health.
We try our best to foster a culture of identifying and speaking about how we are feeling in our household. We are also working with Sophie to identify tools to help her when she is feeling sad, anxious or frustrated. Some days this helps. Other days, it doesn’t, and we all end the day feeling battered and bruised emotionally.
The main message we are trying to impart to our daughter is that all feelings are valid, all feelings are allowed. You don’t have to feel happy all the time. However, it is not acceptable to lash out when you are feeling sad or angry and hurt others.
Hopefully, this will help Sophie as she matures and the world will become a bit easier for her to negotiate in time.

Star Star ASD – Who am I?

My name is Michelle Lyons-Doyle. I am a primary school teacher living and working in beautiful Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
I graduated in 2010 from Froebel College of Education and Trinity College Dublin. Since then, I have worked in a variety of educational roles and settings. While I have enjoyed each teaching role, my passion is for working with children with special educational needs.
Children with autism are especially close to my heart, as I have an 8 year old daughter, Sophie, who has a diagnosis of ASD and Sensory Processing Disorder.
I started Star Star ASD in 2020, as a place to share information, ideas and support for teachers, SNAs and families of people with autism.

Sensory Phonics!

My first teacher at primary school in the 1970’s was a very kind but strict lady!

Everyday the class would recite the alphabet parrot fashion until is was ingrained in our brains!

By the time we left her class that summer we could all recite the alphabet backwards!

Thankfully things have moved on!

In this blog I am going to explore how to teach phonics in a fun and engaging way through the senses.

For the purposes of this blog I will focus on the letter ‘S’ using the Letters & Sounds model.

Phonics Sensory Bag

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 that feel nice to the touch, items to smell and taste.

The learner selects items (one at a time) from the bag then uses their sense of smell, touch and taste to guess what the item is.

(If the learner is unsure then provide plenty of clues.)

Letter S items













Sunflower Seeds






(Look through a toy chest for items: snail, spaceman, spinner, spider etc)

Build functional language skills.

Ask the learner to tell you or show you what you might do with the item and where you might find it.

(If the learner 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 learner.

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

Click Here to learn more about Sensory Bags.

Phonics Sensory Bin

A sensory bin/tray 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.

Click Here to learn more about Sensory Bins

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

Scatter with items starting with the letter ‘S’

Add fine motor tools :

Cups, spoons, forks, measuring jugs, colander, whisk, sieve, funnel, pipette, food tongs, wooden utensils, scoops, paintbrushes, chopsticks, moon dust (see recipe below)

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.

Encourage mark making the letter ‘S’

Phonics Listening Game

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

Click Here to learn more about Sound Effects

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 listener imitate the sound using their voice?

Can the listener correctly identify the sound?

(Provide plenty of clues!)

Letter S Sounds














Get Crafty!

Reinforce learning with craft activities:

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)

Stuff the socks with items from the list above then tie a knot in the end to secure.

Allow supervised free exploration of the 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)

Building learning

Explore the letters ‘s’ ‘a’ t’ ‘p’ individually then progress onto mixing the letters together adding props starting with all those letters into your bag.

Tip! Check understanding my add an item to the bag that does NOT begin with the letters ‘s’ ‘a’ ‘t’ ‘p’

Teach the words












Use a range of letter resources.

I like to teach using tactile props, it is fun and allows the learner to manipulate and explore the letters and make words without having to write them down.

Here are a few ideas:

Wooden letter tiles

(I bought these from ebay approx £.2.30)

Scrabble Board and tiles

(Look in charity shops)

Magnetic Letters on a baking tray.

Paint pebbles and write letters on them.

Use stickers with letters on.

Write in chalks on the patio/fence.

Write letters on recycled plastic milk bottle tops.

Mould letters using clay/plasticine or Play-Doh

Treasure Hunt

Look around the house for items starting with the letter you are learning.

Give plenty of clues!

Health and Safety

  • The author has used their best efforts in preparing this blog and makes no representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness or completeness to the contents.
  • The activities are ideas and you are responsible for any activities you decide to carry out.
  • The activities are designed to be led and supervised by a responsible adult at all times.
  • If you are concerned or have doubts regarding any activity or prop used, then seek advice before starting.​
  • Be aware of choking hazards.
  • Check the ingredients in any items you may be using for any potential food or skin allergies or respiratory reactions. If you see any signs of redness, swelling or other symptoms of a suspected reaction seek immediate medical advice.
  • Most importantly….Have Fun!

Get in Touch!

Your questions, comments, ideas and feedback are always welcome!


Facebook: storytellingthroughthesenses

Twitter: @RhymingStories


Visit the Story Library on the website for your free, fully resourced multisensory stories and poems.

 Thanks for reading:)

Teaching in a Pandemic February

January normally feels like the longest month ever. That’s because it is! It is a full 5 weeks and this year, 2021, in particular I am sure that you are keen to shake off January and get going on a fresh new month of teaching and learning. Whether online or in-person, here are my top teaching ideas for the month of February!

  1. The first day of February means Lá Fhéile Bríde to most Irish people and whether or not you teach in a christian school or not, the story and myth of Saint Brigid is one that is prime for lots of learning activities! Imbolg or Saint Brigid’s day marks the first day of spring. It lands half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It is believed that Imbolg was a pagan festival and that Saint Brigid became the christian symbol of the feast day. On St Brigid’s Day, in Ireland, Brigid’s crosses were made and a doll-like figure of Brigid (a Brídeóg) would be brought  from house-to-house by girls, sometimes accompanied by ‘strawboys‘. People would make a bed for Brigid and leave her food and drink, and items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless. Brigid was also invoked to protect homes and livestock. Special feasts were had, holy wells were visited, and it was a time for divination. A teaching idea could range from historical research into her background and the many stories created about her. Go the Ask about Ireland at for heaps of information and a good starting point for any Imbolg fan!
  2. February has to be associated with LOVE! 14th of February will be Valentine’s Day for most children and teachers. If we do end up teaching remotely as Micheal Martin recently hinted at, the SSS Teaching website has some excellent ideas for remote teaching about LOVE from February scavenger hunts you could run on your live classes to a Would you rather Valentine’s activity? 
  3. The third theme we might look at as teachers, whether online or in-person, is Chinese New Year which is on 12th February this year and it is the year of the Ox. the teacher website red ted art has lots of crafty ideas for celebrating the year of the OX and if we do happen to be back in the school building, you can switch these easily to do as a clas project. There are some easy and wonderful ideas on that you might assign to your class. The Dublin Lunar New Year Festival website runs from 14-21st February. There are loads of good films for your class to watch, perhaps at a live Zoom and then discuss after. There are also some cute Chinese recipe cooking ideas, if you live near Dublin you can buy the cooking kits in the Asian markets and cook along online!

I hope these have whetted your teaching appetite! You might also check nearer to home, Irish-made resources on! There are cloze procedures, vocab packs and lesson packs all on the theme of Saint Brigid here 

We have Valentine’s day theme in the Write the Room/SCavenger hunts from our lovely teacher seller, Busy Books and Binders here at

From our very popular and lovely teacher-seller, Muinteoir Ni Mhuircheartaigh a fabulous Chinese New Year teaching pack and powerpoints as Gaeilge. You cannot go wrong! Check it out at 

Let us know in the comments if you have seen any brilliant Irish-made resources on Saint Brigid’s, Valentine’s or Chinese New Year. Happy February!

Kitchen Table Stations

I’m not sure if parents realise that teacher-parents also despise remote learning. If I wanted to spend 2 hours a day fighting with someone, I’d just go on Twitter. Instead, I spend every morning sitting at the kitchen table thinking of any way I can make the remote learning any more interesting and if there is any way I don’t have to sit there with my 6 year old.

Our son’s teacher has been amazing. She sends us activities to do on SeeSaw every day and there is great variety in them. We also have his textbooks so there’s points in the learning where he can work away in these. On these small occasions, I pop on to Google Classroom or my email to check in with my class or answer a quick question.

Inevitably though, the remote learning takes twice as long because we spend half the time fighting about whatever activity we’re doing.

I came up with a really simple idea to make by life more bearable. Don’t get too excited but it made the remote learning a little easier. I noticed we have 6 seats at our kitchen table and we were only using 2 of them – one for him and one for me. What if I turned each seat around the kitchen table into a learning station? Better yet, what if it could be an independent learning station so I could get some proper time to catch up on my own work? The Kitchen Table Stations were born!

The idea was to set out 2-3 stations that were from his school, so I’d have to help with these, and the rest could be independent problem-solving tasks. OK, there was some initial teaching him how to do the tasks but after a couple of goes he worked away on the daily tasks. 

They included a daily LEGO challenge, a colour mixing challenge with paint, some sort of colour-by-numbers or wordsearch type activity, a sentence building activity, a word-building activity, and lots of others. The pictures around this article should give you a flavour and we posted up what we could on our Instagram channel with the hashtag #kitchentablestations