Category Archives: Teacher Articles

3 Tech Tools to Try in 2020

We love our technology at Mash HQ and these 3 websites are on our hitlist for 2020.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is by no means anything new to the primary classroom but 2020 is where we think it’s really going to hit the mainstream. Just before Christmas, Google piloted two new features which we think are very cool. The first is a plagiarism checker. While probably not a massive deal at primary level, teachers can now check how original a student’s work really is or whether they’ve simply copied and pasted from the Internet.

The tool we’re most excited about is the rubric tool. This gives us great scope for assessment. For example, if you’re giving a project for a student to do with 5 criteria, you can now assess each aspect of the project using Google Classroom Rubric tool.

We’ve been playing around with Google Classroom for a good while. For example, in Simon’s school, they ditched homework journals two years ago and they are in the process of evolving homework from a traditional type of homework to something that fits more into a 21st century classroom’s needs.

Rozz has been giving her classes collaborative projects where group of 4 pupils have to work together (they don’t have to be in the same room!) to come up with a joint project. The results have been fantastic.

We often use Google Classroom for giving quizzes, sharing documents, videos and all sorts of other web-based projects.

Flip Grid

We’re in love with Flipgrid!

It’s such a simple, but amazingly effective way to get kids to answer questions or give their opinions or even review a book. The idea is that the teacher videos herself/himself asking a question or a prompt. It can then be posted to a Flipgrid (it integrates with Google Classroom) and then children can click on a link to record their response as a video. The teacher can set this to a limited amount of time so you might limit a child to 30 seconds for a short question or give them 3 minutes to review a book, for example. It’s so easy that even Junior Infants can do it!

Jamboard

While there are many online Interactive Whiteboard Software products out there, for us, Jamboard has an edge as it ties into Google’s suite of apps in Google Drive. One can share Jamboard files like one would share documents or presentations and multiple people can collaborate on a file at any one time. While one gets the full power of the Jamboard app on an actual Jamboard (pictured above) there’s enough in the basic app to satisfy most people’s needs.

5 Hallowe’en Tips from Teachers

Earlier in the month, we asked Mash users for tips to survive the last day of the Mid-Term Break before Hallowe’en. Here’s what they had to say!

michellesinnovativeideas's profile picture

michellesinnovativeideas

Drama is always a nice activity to keep the kids busy for a while! Especially if they are dressed up 🙈 I always get mind to made a drama with their friends or the people in their group pretending to be the people they are dressed up with! I give a small prize for the most creative drama and also for the best listening group to keep them all engaged!

ligood1's profile picture

ligood1

Just go with the flow and the madness! The only way to get through it all 😉😍

newmuinteoir2018's profile picture

newmuinteoir2018

Fun and games🤗 last year I had drama activities and an art lesson where the children made spider webs with wool!🤩 once they were all finished, the sweets made an appearance 😀

Mary Phelan

Mary Phelan Never dress up as a clown!!!!!! 🤡 Open the sweets on a wet gray day!! 😀

Sharon Tuthill

Sharon Tuthill Book a course day!

Well done to Michelle’s Innovative Ideas who was randomly selected from the tips above as the winner. She wins herself €20 to spend on Mash.ie!

A Little bit of info about me . . .

Good evening everyone,

I am a primary school teacher in Northern Ireland working in a Foundation Stage classroom (Junior/Senior Infants in the South). I am also the school SEN Coordinator and have a passion for Special Needs and working with children on the Autistic Spectrum. I have just started a part time masters degree in Autistic Spectrum Disorders (Wish me luck!)

I am brand new to Mash as a vendor and I’m feeling a little nervous. I’ve decided to take this next step as I have been so grateful to all the amazing educators out there for sharing their fantastic ideas and resources. I will only ever post anything in my store that I have tested myself and found useful in my own classroom and beneficial to the children I have worked with – I hope you will too. 

Looking forward to getting some feedback along the way!

Thank you in advance,

Miss Mac 🙂 

5 Amazing Web Sites to Try Right Now

With the millions of educational websites out there right now, I thought I’d share 5 that I generally have open all the time on my browser in school.

1. Calm.com

If your class ever need some mindfulness practice or just some chill out music in the background, Calm.com is one of the best web sites I’ve ever come across. I even use it at home. It’s also now completely free for teachers.

2. Class Dojo

Class Dojo started off as a small but cool concept for behaviour management in the classroom. The teacher sets up her class and can reward points to individuals, groups or whole classes for positive behaviour. (You can also subtract points for lesser desired behaviours) Many teachers already use this free web site for their classroom management already but if you haven’t, you really need to start! There are lots of new features added since it began, which are also well worth checking out.

3. Multiplication.com

It’s fairly easy to guess what this web site does. I find it great for consolidating multiplication facts once they have been taught well. There are tons of games to choose from, which is great so children have a huge choice of games to play.

4. Symbaloo.com

Symbaloo is a place where you can store all your favourite websites on a grid so they are easy to access. I have this as my homepage on my browser with links to the sites I use most often. You can even divide the grids into different sections/tabs.

5. Book Creator

Probably a mainstay in most people’s classroom. Back in the olden days, Photostory 3 was king and this is probably its heir! Book Creator, unsurprisingly, allows you to create online books. It’s so easy to use, even Junior Infant pupils can work away at it.

An Aistear Tale

Hi everyone,

My name is Clara, I am a primary school teacher in Kildare. I am teaching almost ten years, it is hard to believe as I still feel like I am constantly learning with every class that I have. I completed my teacher training in London and came home to the Emerald Isle after 3 years. I have taught in a number of schools with varied settings since being home and have really tried to continually progress and adapt my teaching skills to suit each of the settings. 

Last year, I left school in June feeling like I was facing into my toughest school year yet as I had been allocated JUNIOR INFANTS. During the summer, I completed three summer courses, trying to prepare myself for what for me seemed like a huge challenge. I had always loved teaching older children and really didn’t think my personality would suit such young children. But just a few days had passed in September and my mindset had completely changed. I loved every minute of it!

One aspect of the school year that really captured my love of teaching was Aistear. I completed a face-to-face course that summer to understand what this term, I had heard thrown around, was all about. It wasn’t until I was planning and creating Aistear play areas that I truly understood its benefits for the children and how much my teaching skills were actually needed to form its success. It was so much more that play. 

One morning in September last year, I trawled the internet in search of an example plan that would help me know where to start. I came across mash.ie and purchased a plan from a vendor on the site. It helped me form a basis for the planning process but I realised it wasn’t as detailed as I needed it to be to completely get my head around a few things.

  1. What would the activities look like?
  2. What were the children learning?
  3. What cross curricular links were available?
  4. How was I going to achieve all of the above?

Through out the year, I made it my mission to keep improving my Aistear topics, plans, resources and outcomes. There is so much scope for learning for the children and I really felt an excitement in them every time we revealed a new topic especially the ones they helped me plan and prepare for. 

Around Easter time, I felt I had fully adopted an Aistear based teaching methodology in my class room and my students were reaping the benefits and I, as their teacher, gained so much pleasure out of the outcomes they were achieving. It also allowed me to cover so much curriculum objectives in such a fun and engaging way. At this point, I thought back to that morning in September when I landed on Mash.ie. I decided there must be others in a similar position, daunted initially about Aistear and all the preparation involved. So I set up an account and put two or three of my Aistear plans up hoping that someone like I did, would benefit from a reference point and forge their own way of delivering Aistear in their classroom.

Thank you for reading.

2019 Updates to The Primary Language Curriculum

This article will discuss what to expect from the release of the Primary Language Curriculum for Infants – 6th Class due in September 2019, and will provide some guidance in how to use and plan with it.

I am currently teaching First Class and have used the 2015 Primary Language Curriculum (PLC) for teaching and planning for the past two years. It seemed very daunting at first, but once I got my head around the terminology in the new curriculum, it became no more challenging than using for the 1999 curriculum.

For those who haven’t used the PLC before, below is a very simple explanation of the terminology that I used to help me transition from the 1999 curriculum in my planning and teaching:

  • Elements are listed instead of Strand Units.
  • Learning Outcomes are listed instead of the Content Objectives of the 1999 curriculum.
  • Progression milestones (which is where you think the children are now) and progression steps (which describe what children’s learning looks like) are included as a tool to help in achieving the learning outcomes.
  • In your planning you will have sections for strands, content & learning experiences, methodologies, assessment, linkage & integration, and differentiation, as was the case with the 1999 curriculum.

The Infants – Second Class part of 2015 Primary Language Curriculum was scheduled for full implementation in schools since the 2017/2018 school year. According to a letter that the DES sent to schools in May 2019, the PLC/CTB for Infants – Sixth Class will be launched in September 2019. The curriculum will be available online and teachers will also be sent a hard copy.

Along with seeing the portion of the curriculum for 3rd – 6th class for the first time, many teachers who have been teaching in Infants – 2nd class, and who have been implementing the curriculum for the past few years, will be surprised to see changes to the Infants – 2nd class part of the curriculum also. Some of the changes that are speculated for the 2019 version of the curriculum are summarised below:

  • The progression continua (the colorful, fold out accordion style part of the curriculum book) will be extended for 3rd – 6th class with the addition of additional progression steps i, j, k. The “early a” step will be amalgamated into the steps. However, the progression continua will no longer part of the actual curriculum, but will become a part of the online support material instead. This will certainly simplify planning for the PLC and give clarity to teachers that it is the learning outcomes, and not the progression continua that are the core part of the curriculum.
  • There will be multiple changes to the learning outcome numbers, labels and descriptions. Some additional ones will be created, and others will be deleted. There are too many changes to list here, and to spot them all you would need to go through the 2015 and 2019 versions line by line and compare them. All of the plans for the PLC on my Mash store have updated to reflect these changes!
  • There will be more of a focus on developing skills in “other languages” alongside developing the skills in the target language of the curriculum and the phrase “other languages” will be added to a few of the learning outcomes. This will represent an acknowledgement of the diversity in Irish classrooms and the importance of the mother tongue of children who speak languages other than English and Irish at home.
  • The aims of the PLC will remain unchanged, save for the addition of one more aim under the “Children’s language learning and development” section. This new aim will state that the PLC aims to support teachers to “enable children to use language imaginatively and creatively and to appreciate its aesthetic aspects”.
  • Finally, the 2015 version of the PLC specified that children would “Write using cursive script” from First Class. In the 2019 version, Cursive script will no longer be obligatory for any class level as children may write “in a chosen script”. Furthermore, “presentation” of texts will now be incorporated into this learning outcome.

All of the Primary Language Curriculum plans on my Mash.ie store have been fully updated to reflect the above changes. I spent many weeks creating these plans which have been purchased and given 5-star reviews by hundreds of teachers so far.

If you are interested in  purchasing these plans, click on the links to take you to my short term planning templates for the PLC suitable for all classes, or my long term plans for the PLC below:

Infants

First and Second Class

Third and Fourth Class

Fifth and Sixth Class

I also sell these plans as a bundle with plans for all of the other subjects at a discounted price for the class levels below. Check out the links below:

Plans for Junior Infants here

Plans for Senior Infants here

Plans for First Class here

Plans for Second Class here

Plans for Third Class here

Plans for Fourth Class here

I hope that the above has been helpful in getting to grips with the changes to PLC. I put a huge amount of research, time and thought into the plans that I have done, and I am confident that you will be satisfied if you purchase one.

Best of luck with the return to school!

Top Teaching Resources

iPads in the Primary Classroom

I’m very lucky that we have a set of iPads in our classroom for the children to use throughout the day. The iPads always begin as such a novelty for the children and are a hassle as they end up being so overexcited about the fact that they will have the use of an iPad that they can be careless and irresponsible with them. However, after a bit of training, they are a great asset to have in the classroom.

 

During our first week  I spent a lot of time talking about the rules of the iPad. We have a school policy that each child had to read and sign, so as a class we discussed every rule and why it was in place. The main reason for all our rules were to keep ourselves and each other safe so this point was really being hammered home to the children. In the classroom we have our school rules on display and I also put up a set of the iPad rules so that the children can be directed to recheck them during the day if anything isn’t going as it should be.

 

Below are a few of my favourite apps…

 

Apple Classroom

This app allows you as a teacher to view what the children are doing on the iPads in your class. On my iPad I can also lock children out of their iPads, so they can’t use them anymore if they’re not using them properly. I always have this open when the children are doing any work on their iPads, then I can easily keep an eye on what all the children are doing whilst I too can be working with children around the classroom.

 

PicCollage

Handiest app ever for quick reviews and summaries. Children can create posters on it to review their knowledge. For example this week we were examining rocks in Science and the children made a poster of the three types of rocks, a definition of these types and a picture of a sample below as well. The children enjoy being able to change the font/colours and add in little emojis.

 

SeeSaw

SeeSaw is how we stay in touch with families. Every time the children do a piece of work, I get them to upload it to SeeSaw into the subject folder. Their parents will then be able to see their work and comment on it. Some teachers keep SeeSaw for just the children’s best work but I get them to upload all pieces of work, as I find it helps me for parent teacher meetings to back up the point that they may not be getting much work done in a lesson due to being chatty etc and the parents will have seen proof on SeeSaw.

SeeSaw is also helpful as I can post reminders for PE, tests etc.

 

EPIC!

This is a reading app which the children adore. The children all have their own accounts and can go on to read for pleasure. They really enjoy it as there is a huge range of books for the children to choose from. The teacher can also create collections of books and send it to the children, so if you are researching a certain topic you can put a collection of books together for the children to do their research from.

 

I love having iPads in the class as I feel it has opened up a lot of new possibilities for the children. I also don’t feel the need to use them in every lesson, pen and paper are still very much used the most as I am conscious of screen time and ensuring that I’m not just using them because they are there, it must be as a valuable resource. The children love them and also teach me loads about how to use them. It has helped with behaviour management as if you are not responsible enough, you will not have your iPad and the children really don’t want that to happen.

10 Tips for Interviews

While job interviews can be stressful, there is a lot you can do in advance to make sure you are prepared and that you give yourself the best chance possible at getting the job. The following are 10 tips that should help you put your best foot forward and make sure you impress the interview board.

  1. Punctuality – Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get to your interview, particularly if it is in a location you have never been before. If possible, it would be a good idea to go to the school the day before to check where it is if you are unsure. Arrive at least 10 minutes early so you have time to settle yourself and you are not arriving flustered when you are called in to your interview.
  2. Professionalism – Dress appropriately and professionally. Be polite, shake hands with the interviewers at the beginning and the end of the interview and thank them by name.
  3. Body language – Make sure your body language conveys confidence and enthusiasm. Be sure to sit up straight, make eye contact, and smile.
  4. Confidence – Speak slowly, clearly and with confidence. Don’t panic if you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to. Take a second to think. They may be trying to see how you cope under pressure.
  5. Listen – Be a good communicator and listen carefully to what the interviewers are asking and make sure you are answering the question you have been asked as you will not be given marks for answering incorrectly. If you do not understand a question or forget part of a multi-part question, don’t be afraid to politely ask for clarification or to repeat the question.
  6. Be memorable – State what you can do and back this up with examples of when you have done it in the past. Tell short anecdotes to make your answers more interesting and memorable. Be honest in your answers, and if they ask you something that you do not know, admit this and say that you are willing to learn.
  7. Know your CV – Be sure you know what your CV says – where you worked, what you did and when etc.
  8. Getting the marks – You must mention the seemingly obvious or you cannot get marks for the answer. Always mention teaching experience e.g. teaching practice/ subbing before other experiences that are also relevant e.g. other work you have done.
  9. Prepare – Practice your answers in advance – there is no way of knowing what will be asked in the interview, but there are some questions that are very likely to be asked and you should plan your answers in advance of the interview. It is very hard to think of examples to questions such as “can you tell me about a time when you showed initiative?” on the spot so prepare an answer for these types of questions in advance. You want to give the impression that you are interested in the school and not just trying to get any job. Research the school and the locality in advance and show this information where appropriate in your answers. Start by looking at the school’s WSE report, website/ Facebook page and research the area online.
  10. “Is there anything else you’d like to add”? – Use this time to say anything that you really wanted to say but may not have gotten a chance to using the interview. If you are asked if you have any questions, have one prepared in advance that will show your talents/ enthusiasm, for example, if you play a sport or an instrument, you could ask if there will be opportunities to coach a team/ set up a school band/ choir etc.

In my Mash store I have a very comprehensive document with sample interview questions and answers for Primary School teaching jobs. It is available here . It will prove invaluable in your preparations for a job interview.

I also have sample AP1 post interview questions available here.

Best of luck in your interview!

Top Teaching Resources

Top ten tips for supporting children with ASD in the classroom

Top 10 tips to support children with Autism in your classroom

1. Build good relationships.
Strong relationships between students and teachers is key in any classroom. Get to know your student and find out what they love, build their trust by showing them that you understand and want to help them in any way that you can. Your student will respond much better to you once that trusting relationship is in place. 

 
2. Create a safe environment. A classroom can be a busy and noisy environment for any child. Setting up supports for the child with Autism can avoid sensory overload and meltdowns. Create a calm corner in the classroom away from the hustle and bustle, maybe include headphones, calm down strategies, deep breathing visuals and some sensory toys. 
 
3. Use visual schedules. Visual schedules help children with Autism as it allows them to predict what comes next therefore reducing anxiety and giving the children a sense of control. Set up a picture schedule for the child or whole class and work through it ticking things off as they are completed throughout the day. 
 
4. Positive reinforcement. Positive reward systems such as token boards can help children with ASD to stay on task and motivated throughout the day. Instead of attending to the negative behaviours, spot the good behaviours, and reward them. 

 
5. Movement breaks. Children with ASD need to move. Sitting for a length of time can be hard so incorporating scheduled movement breaks into the child’s day can help him/her to feel comfortable and engaged when at the desk. Simple activities such as exercises, dance, games or jobs around the school that allow the child to get up and move!
 
6. Simple instructions. Don’t give too many instructions at once, break them down for the child with ASD and tell them one thing at a time. Use visual cues and gestures to support your instructions. Eg when telling the class to take out their Maths books, you might hold up the Maths book as a visual cue at the same time. 
 
7. Communicate with parents. This one is so important for children with limited verbal skills in particular. Create a good relationship with parents so that they are open and honest with you, eg if their child has a tough morning they might let you know so that you can alter your instruction on that day. And vice versa, let parents know what’s happening in school but be kind always follow a negative with a positive. 
 
8. Create an awareness and understanding in your classroom.Celebrate Autism Awareness day. Study autism with your class, build a positive attitude to difference in the students in your class. Encourage your students to be kind to those who may be different or need more help. A child who feels valued and liked by his peers will be happier in school.
 
9. Work with SNAs and other professionals. Make sure you are all working off the same page. Consistency is key. Talk to other professionals such as SLTs and OTs and ask for advice where needed. 
 
10. Accept them as they are. Help them to learn and develop new skills and strategies without trying to change them. Autism is a part of who they are. 

Senior Infants

Hello everyone, 

Just wanted to introduce myself. I am an NQT who will have Senior Infants this year. I am very excited to meet them this week. I have been into my school trying to sort out my classroom, and plan on sharing any resources I make with you all. 

I worked in learning support over the past two years so I’m really looking forward to the change in pace now. 

 

I will be writing more blog posts soon I hope, and I will be adding resources whenever I can!