Gruffalo Stuffalo

Our author focus this half term is Julia Donaldson, so OF COURSE we are loving all things Gruffalo in our classroom.

I’ve drawn an enormous Gruff to go up in our reading corner, and had the kids collage him with brown sugar paper and tissue. My Year Ones did a marvellous job: they only knocked a pot full of PVA onto the classroom carpet once, and they mostly remembered that the collage bits were supposed to be stuck on the actual drawing. (I wish I had taken a photo of the state of him directly after the kids had gone home, before my colleague and I tidied him up a bit…!)

Gruffalo

Anyway, he’s almost done now – I used poster paint to give him a bit of definition, and added some teeth and tusks and claws. (His feet and his tail aren’t quite done, as by the time I got to this point it was 6pm on Friday evening, my stomach was practically eating itself, and the pub was serenading me with its very best siren song.) He’s a bit wonky, but he’s recognisable, so I’m trying not to get all type-A about it…

Our TA found some lovely foam Gruffalo & Mouse masks in a cheapo shop, which we’re planning to use rather cheekily as templates so that the kids can all make their own to take home. The ‘proper’ ones will then be made up and added to our reading corner for role play.

Some gorgeous Gruffalo stuffalo on Pinterest:

  1. Favourite Character Pictogram

I love this simple idea for getting a cross-curricular English/Maths display up on a Working Wall. Definitely going to give this one a bash next week!

2. Gruffalo Puppet Spoons

These look quick and simple to make – far less faff than stitching together a load of felt puppets, which was what I had thought about doing. I am going to start keeping my eye out for wooden utensils in charity shops…

3. Gruffalo Classroom Area

This is seriously amazing. I love the miniature story world – could get the kids to scavenge materials to build that during a nature walk. And how clever to use one of those mini Christmas trees, undecorated!

4. Gruffalo Prickles Motor Skills

Always looking for interesting motor skills ideas for mini activities… This is a lovely one which would take mere minutes to prepare.

5. Gruffalo Shape Animals

Lots of scope here for some cross-curricular Maths / English work. I’ll be doing this one, too!

Do you have any good ideas for Gruff displays, or for using the Gruffalo in other areas of learning?

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STOP PRESS: TES Bundle Sale – Stone Age to Iron Age Resources

Reproduction Iron Age Sword HiltSword hilt painted 2

Psst… You’ve got until midnight tonight to take advantage of the fabbo TES Back-to-School Bundle Sale, which are offering hefty discounts on teacher resource packs.

I was really chuffed that my Iron Age Sword Hilts History/Art lesson pack has been chosen to be bundled with Stone Age and Iron Age Primary History – you can get more than 50 quids’ worth of Stone Age and Iron Age resources for just £8.

But, yes – midnight! It ends! So if you want to get yourself some bargains, go go go!

From Year Five to Year One: What I’ve learned so far…

So, I’m two weeks in to teaching Year One. Going from teaching ten-year-olds to five-year-olds has been a fair old shock to the system – I’m loving it, but it is taking some getting used to! Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Shiny stickers are basically magic.

STATEMENT: ‘Ooooh, isn’t Natalie sitting beautifully on the carpet? Natalie, have a shiny sticker.’

EFFECT: Twenty-nine children suddenly sitting up straight, arms crossed, ready to LEARN. And to get shiny stickers.

Five year olds need stuff to do in the morning.

Thank goodness for my sagacious job share partner, who casually mentioned that I might want to put out ‘jobs’ on the tables for the kids to do when they came in. I had not even THOUGHT about this. Talk about green. Can you imagine the chaos that would have ensued? The running around? The swinging from coat pegs? The tearing of hair (mine)?

(My Year Fives arrived to me each September ready-trained. They would come in to the classroom each morning, get out their reading books and their pencil cases, sit down, shut up, and crack on. I fondly remember one of my first days of teaching Year Five, when I’d written up a to-do list on the whiteboard. This to-do list was purely for my own benefit, as I am a scatter-brain and liable to forget anything that I don’t write down and superglue to my own face. Ten minutes into registration, I suddenly realised that my organised little kidlets had noticed the to-do list, and without my saying anything, were steadily working their way through the tasks. Bless their cottons.)

Needless to say, my Year Ones do not do this. So every morning, I bung a box of building blocks and a carton of felt-tips on the tables. Works like a dream.

Five year olds need their lunch cutting up for them.

I was so useless on my first Key Stage 1 lunch. First, I tried to send them out to the playground at the start of lunchtime. They all just lined up outside the classroom, clutching their drinks bottles.

‘What are you waiting for?’ I asked.

‘You need to take us to the dinner hall,’ they said.

Because of course, Year One go into lunch first. Hadn’t thought of that. So I led my little crocodile of kidlets into the hall, got them all sat down, and then the lunchtime assistant asked me for the lunch list.

‘What lunch list?’ I asked. (Can you see a pattern emerging?)

Turns out, there is a list of what each child has ordered for their hot meal, which I have to bring with me to the dining hall because five year olds can’t be expected to remember their dinner order.

Lunch list obtained, I headed over to the benches to check that my kiddos were okay, ready to disappear to snatch a few mouthfuls of lunch myself in the staff room. But, wait… There is a little voice by my elbow…

‘Please can you help me cut up my fish?’

‘And my fish…’

‘And mine…’

Yeah. My lunch had to wait a little while.

Five year olds cry. A lot.

Oh man.  They cry over flipping everything. Saline and snot dot com. However, whereas Year Fives are less likely to cry, when they do cry (because they have, for example, fallen out with a friend at playtime) they are likely to sulk for the remainder of the school day, no matter how much their teacher entreats them to cheer up and join in with the rest of the class. A Year One’s tears, on the other hand, can be quickly dried by the appearance of a shiny sticker. (See above: Shiny stickers are basically magic.)

Five year olds don’t generate much marking.

Seriously now. A sentence instead of five pages per child. TOTAL FREAKING BLISS.

Five year olds join in when you tell them stories.

Hands down, this is my favourite thing so far about Year One. They listen to stories, and they LOVE bits that repeat so that they can join in. Reading Room on a Broom the other day, that chorus of ‘Whoosh! they were gone!’ from thirty little voices pretty much slayed me.

So, yeah: Year One, I am becoming a convert.

What’s your favourite year group to teach? Have you ever done a major year group change? How did you find it?

How to survive your first year as a teacher: Hoard glue sticks

Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/ntr23/
Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/ntr23/

I’ve got to say, my NQT year wasn’t exactly a peach. I had what was widely acknowledged to be the trickiest class in the school, and six weeks in, the school had a nasty Ofsted inspection, for which they had expected to receive Outstanding – but actually got Requires Improvement.

A lot of that year was about pure survival. Everyone was stressed out to the eyeballs, under all sorts of pressure from governors and the local authority and HMI, and, kind as they were, probably didn’t relish little NQT me dancing about their heels, asking annoying questions about how to level pupils and how to teach ratio and proportion. For reasons which couldn’t be helped, I worked with six different Teaching Assistants that year. It was a bit complicated. It was not the best of starts.

However.

I did survive, and I did pick up a thing or two that year that made life easier. And then I picked up a thing or two more the following year that made life easier still. This new term marks the beginning of my fourth year as a qualified teacher, and I’m still learning things all the time that make me want to smack my head and go: ‘Well, DUH!’ because they are so obvious and because I so much should have been doing them since Day 1. (Such as hoarding glue sticks at the back of your stock cupboard, so that you don’t run out halfway through the autumn term, leaving you with NOTHING to stick glitter to card with at Christmas.)

So what did I do? I wrote a practical guide for rookie teachers – the guide I would have liked to have read three years ago today – and it was published on the Guardian online today (and in the actual paper too!), and I hope that it helps at least one newbie teacher survive that rollercoaster of a first year. You can read it here.

Enjoy!