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10 Steps to Helping Graduate Teachers

Let's be honest, being a Graduate Teacher is hard work. No university course or placement can fully prepare you for what you are about to be responsible for. The teaching, students, grading, reports, parents, school politics, after-school meetings, before-school meetings and lets be honest, running out of photocopier credits is enough to send us over the edge some days. I remember how hard it was to be a graduate teacher and I was so lucky to have some wonderful mentors in my first school, I just had to do a little bit of searching to find them! No question was ever silly, no assistance was ever knocked back and I received the love and support I needed. Not everyone is this lucky, so when I was given the opportunity to mentor a Graduate teacher, I took the role very seriously. We need to support new teachers and keep them in the profession!

Today I am not posting about advice for new teachers because really, they are already overloaded with information and they simply DO NOT have time to read yet another blogpost. Instead, I am sharing some things we, experienced teachers, can do to help new teachers survive the first month of teaching.

1. Put together a new teacher basket of treasures.
Some items you might include are:
- picture story book
- inside ball for games
- stickers
- whistle
- highlighters
- hand sanitiser
- antibacterial wipes
- foam dice
- sharpies
- correction pens
- bulletin board letters and borders
- sturdy box or container (teachers can never have enough storage)

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

I am a reflective sort, seriously, I am. Like when I had my son I wanted to start again at 12 weeks so I could do a better job. Typical teacher the Midwives told me.... But being a substitute or casual teacher has really had me reflecting lately. What is my behaviour management strategy? Why do I leave (most days) feeling calm and cool? Was teaching always like this for me? The quick answer is OF COURSE NO! But I do feel after more than a decade teaching, and teaching different year levels in different schools and different countries, that I have learnt a thing or two about behaviour management.

Do I have a quick fix for that student who stresses you out everyday, no sorry. Or that student who hurts someone at recess everyday, no, sorry I don't - but I do have some wisdom to share that has made my day to day teaching a better experience. So today I going to share how I use the power of positive reinforcement in my classroom.

As a disclaimer first, I am in no way an expert on behaviour management, I simply love teaching, try to teach as much as I can with minimal interruptions and reflect on my teaching on a daily basis.

Five Minute Fillers

Recently I blogged over at the Australian Teachers Blog about Five Minute Fillers and thought I would share the post here also! Enjoy - I hope you get some new ideas too!

Working as a relief teacher, I need to have a full bag of tricks to keep the children motivated and engaged throughout the day. That's when some handy, no prep, 5 Minute Fillers come in handy! 
Here are a few of my favourites that can be used across a number of year levels.

Children make a circle. Number the children off “one, two, one, two”. Holding hands, ask the “number ones” to lean in and the “number twos” to lean outwards, can you all stay up standing? Switch around. 

Number Heads
Two children sit on chairs in front of the whiteboard. Write a number behind each child and give them a clue (eg. Your number is between 1 and 100, or your number is a decimal number between 1 and 5). Children take it in turns to ask questions to the audience (only yes/no answers) to try and guess their number. 

Roll and Skip
Children sit with a whiteboard. Roll a dice to nominate the number they are counting by. Give children 1 minute to write down the correct number sequence starting from 0. How far can they go?

Tips for Teaching Calendars

We all know how important it is to read, interpret and manage a calendar, but my question is who should be the one teaching it? Should it be parents or teachers, or both?

As a relief teacher, I visit different classrooms and year levels on a weekly basis. I was recently in a Prep/One classroom (Kindergarten or Foundation) and was talking about the calendar when a little girl started to get very confused and worried. She stammered "but, but, what happens tomorrow?" She could see that June ended on the 30th and there were not more cards on the class calendar. So what about tomorrow? She had no concept of what exactly a month was and the idea that when July starts, the dates start at 1 again. As cute as her misconception was, it made me wonder how many other children are there in schools who haven't been exposed to calendars at home and haven't been incidentally or explicitly taught about calendars in the classroom.

I did a quick scan of the Australian Curriculum and the US Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
In the US Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten I found no mention of teaching days of the week, months of the year, weather or calendars. I looked at the First Grade and Second Grade outcomes, then decided to do a keyword search. I found nothing! We can be thankful that teachers have common sense and many explicitly teach calendars as part of their morning routine, I just can't find the specific standard that addresses this!
In the Australian Curriculum I found links at Foundation and Year 1 beginning with making connections to events and days of the week, then naming and ordering the days of the week and months of the year. In Year 2, students should be reading and interpreting calendars.

So I thought I would share a few tips with your for teaching calendars in your classroom. Many require very additional work and can be easily implemented into your classroom routine. In the early years, the easiest way to teach calendars is through daily discussions.
  • Have a calendar on display in your classroom with birthdays and special events marked
  • Discuss the date on a daily basis
  • Say "My turn, Today is Monday July 3rd, your turn" and children repeat back "Today is Monday July 3rd"
  • Ask students to identify days 3 days ago, what day will it be in 2 days and how many sleeps until a certain event
  • When switching months and seasons, discuss the change with the students
  • Sing days of the week and months of the year songs (there are some great ones on youtube)
  • Encouraging students to record the date in their reading diary
  • Using a date stamp on work if children are unable to write their date
  • Encouraging families to make a family calendar at home
You could supplement your calendar activities with this easy to use Weather Booklet.

In older year levels, often the assumption is made that children know how to read and manage a calendar and in the increasingly overloaded curriculum, it is often overlooked. But there are some simple things you can do that don't take up much of your day.
  • Have a calendar on display in your classroom with birthdays, special events and reminders (eg. homework due)
  • Always encouraging students to write the date in their workbooks and on worksheets
  • Using a diary to record home reading, homework assignments and special events
  • Date Math - If the date is 09/12/2017 then children make up as many sums as they can using only the numbers in the date. eg. 7+2=9
You could also download my Calendar Worksheets that can be completed on monthly basis. This product is updated on a yearly basis and is also available in calendar year format.

Happy Teaching!

Charting the Weather

Today is a total promotional post. This activity is something I have done for so many years, but have never really shared so I thought now would be a great time!

As many Kindergarten/Foundation teachers will know, understanding calendars is an integral part of early number work and measurement. Everyday we practice counting and naming the days of the week.

Introducing my Weather Calendar Books! This activity can be easily integrated into your daily routine as part of a weather investigation. And best of all, children love completing their little books on a daily basis!

After making up a book for each student for the month, students number the days and colour in the front over. Students chart the weather on a daily basis across the month using pictures typically seen on the news or in newspapers to represent weather patterns. I have always found there are a few students who are obsessed with checking their parent's phone every morning and have the temperature and predicted weather report ready to share.

Included in this pack are both Northern and Southern Hemisphere front covers as well as a Celsius, Fahrenheit or blank calendar page. Simply copy off a front cover for each student and 4 or 5 calendar sheets and staple. The making of the books will take a little bit of time so a paper slicer and a parent helper would come in handy!

Fall in the Northern Hemisphere!

Spring in the Southern Hemisphere!

The MATHS BOX! Part 4

It's time for Part 4 of my review of the RIC Maths Box. If you have missed my previous posts, you can click below.

Part 1 - Organisation & Teachers Guide
Part 2 - Review of Activities
Part 3 - How I would use it in the Classroom
Part 4 - Differentiation


Today I am going to investigate the activities a little further and show you how you can easily differentiate an activity to suit the needs of your students. For me, I would not be expecting to use the Maths Box activity cards in the same way every day/week. Sometimes the activity cards that meet your focus might be better as a one-on-one assessment, other times a whole group activity and other times small group. And sometimes I might need to be creative about how best to use it for all students. Here is a small sample of some activity cards that I looked at in more detail. 

Box 1 Card 15 Number - Popstick Bundles

This is a great activity card and if you have taught Grade 1, you know it's a skill you definitely teach (and in many cases you revisit it often too!). For students who might find this task difficult, simply make the bundles and talk through the questions. Being able to touch and count the sticks will help them understand. For students who finish the activity card quickly, the ADDitional activity is perfect, calling for students to make their own 2-digit numbers using the popsticks. 

The MATHS BOX! Part 3

It's time for Part 3 of my review of the RIC Maths Box. As a recap, you can click on the link below to read more about the organisation of this resource and what is included in the Teachers Guide as well as a review of the activities.

Part 1 - Organisation & Teachers Guide
Part 2 - Review of Activities
Part 3 - How I would use it in the Classroom
Part 4 - Differentiation


There are many ways you could use the RIC Maths Box in the classroom, here are just 5 ideas...

1. Small Group Maths Centres
These activity cards would be just perfect small group Maths Centres. Although the Teacher Guide includes an answer sheet for students to fill out, I would teach my students how to write the answers in their Maths Book to save on photocopying. I could use the activity cards to highlight what I have been teaching in class, or expose the students to a new topic. Either way, activities are straight forward, easy to understand and engaging. With younger year levels I would use a mixture of activity cards and hands on activities. I don't ever want my students to become stale with an idea, so wouldn't use purely activity cards.

The MATHS BOX! Part 2

It's time for Part 2 of my review of the RIC Maths Box. As a recap, you can click on the link below to read more about the organisation of this resource and what is included in the Teachers Guide.

Part 1 - Organisation & Teachers Guide
Part 2 - Review of Activities
Part 3 - How I would use it in the Classroom
Part 4 - Differentiation


In this section for the review, I will look more closely at the activity cards and the types of activities you will find. I received a sample of each year level during the week so I can discuss different year levels also.

The MATHS BOX! Part 1

It's review time! I was contacted by RIC Publications and asked to review their newest addition to their resource line - The Maths Box! I jumped at the chance to get a sneak peak, RIC Publications produce great quality resources that strongly align with my teaching pedagogy.

The box was delivered during the week and I was so excited to open up the box that little 1 year old got excited too - he is into exploring at the moment so any chance to see what's inside a new box.

I immediately knew that the Maths Box would be something I would use over and over again (and I would want all boxes just in case I changed year levels) and I knew one blog post simply wouldn't do the product justice. So I am breaking my review into 4 parts to be posted over the next couple of weeks.

Part 1 - Organisation & Teachers Guide
Part 2 - Review of Activities
Part 3 - How I would use it in the Classroom
Part 4 - Differentiation


The Maths Box contains:

Blog Re-design

Hello friends! Any loyal followers may notice the change in my blog recently. While I loved the old design, I wanted to move with the times and work with a different platform. I toyed with the idea of switching to wordpress, but instead found Design with Christi who could do everything I wanted, and very quickly! I love it - Thank you Christi, it is everything I wanted!

What prompted the change in the blog was the completion of the course "Expand your Brand" by Angela Watson - I have learnt so much already (and haven't finished) and wanted a fresh new look. So, with the new design, I have decided to change the focus of my blog - I had thought that since I didn't have a classroom (as I am still on family leave), I couldn't blog because I couldn't share the happenings in my classroom. What I had forgotten is that I can instead share the wealth of knowledge I have after teaching for so many years. New teachers are turning to the internet to help, and I can help - I would LOVE to help you all! So my new focus is:

Purposeful Teaching with Practical Resources rings true to my way of teaching. With the already crowded curriculum and the constant feeling of not being able to achieve everything I need to, I don't want to do activities that are purposeful. Time fillers, worksheets for the sake of worksheet (you know the ones, 5 minutes and they are done!) and activities without a direct purpose are not on my radar. What will the children learn? Why am I doing this activity? These are questions I ask myself with every lesson and this style of teaching is what I am promoting. The resources I will direct you to and the resources that I create will have this in mind "Purposeful Teaching".

As an Primary School Teacher, I am teaching all subjects all the time. And while Maths and Science have always been my favourites, I have grown to feel more comfortable across the board and no longer feel I have a favourite! Previously I have posted things about Literacy and Humanities activities, but from now on, I will stick to Maths - Teaching MATHS is after all the title of my blog!

In the coming blog posts I hope to strike a chord with you all, reach out to those of you in need of guidance, give a new idea to those who need it and for others, just another perspective on how to look at teaching something.

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