Pinpicks: Earth, Moon & Sun

Reason #1 why being a Year 5 teacher is excellent: no SATs.

Reason #2 why being a Year 5 teacher is excellent: I GET TO TEACH SPACE!!!!!

Oh yes, Earth, Moon & Sun belongs exclusively to the Year 5 Science curriculum, and I could not be happier about it. Stars, eclipses, the fact that right now, right this instant, we are hurtling through space at 100,000km/h? How often do you get to teach ANYTHING that thrilling, brain-bending or humbling? Oh, I love space and all its possibilities.

Want to see some fun Pinterest ideas on how to teach it?

Of course you do…

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1. Demonstrate the distance of planets from the sun… using toilet roll. I say no more. (Except to add that messyjofu has listed a handy website which gives you the distances, already converted into toilet paper squares. Amazing, yes?)

Graphing the constellations

2. Plot the constellations onto a coordinate grid. This would make a lovely little space-related Maths homework – I love a bit of cross-curricular homework, me. Way more exciting than a bog-standard worksheet!

Seasons foldable

3. Kidlings always find understanding the ‘reasons for the seasons’ kind of tricky. This super little foldable makes for a very visual diagram of why the seasons are as they are. (Although we UK teachers will need to change the word ‘fall’ to ‘autumn’, of course.)

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4. While this one’s sort of obvious, looking at this picture it really struck me how much clearer it is to explain day and night by shining a torch on an actual inflatable globe, rather than using an old sponge ball, like I did. Sponge balls don’t have countries drawn on them. They are, in fact, yellow all over. This makes them much more confusing to spin than a lovely inflatable globe. Mental note: need to buy one of these, pronto.

Ways to teach Moon phases

5. Best till last. This is THE most ingenious idea I have seen all year. You get a bunch of ping pong balls, and paint them half black. Hot glue them around an opening in a piece of card. Glue a yellow ball on to represent the sun. Child lifts board over head. Child turns round inside circle. Child gains an earth’s-eye-view of the moon, and sees how the phases of the moon appear to us on earth. You can see a video of what it looks like on the website. So amazing.

I hope you’ve found something inspiring in this selection of pinpicks! Do you have any good resources on space to share? I’d love to see them!


Engaging reluctant readers: food from fiction

I remember, as a kid, begging my mum to make me pink pancakes. I’d read about them in some terrible My Little Pony book (why yes, I am a child of the 80s), and from that point onward all I wanted was to eat pancakes the colour of my Barbie lunchbox. And bless my mum, she came up trumps. She tinted her basic pancake batter with a good dash of strawberry Krusha milkshake syrup, et voila – pancakes that the pinkest of plastic ponies would approve of. My six-year-old self was thrilled.

The point is, if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get kids excited, it’s food. Especially sugary food. Especially sugary food in outlandish colours. So, I figure, if you want to get a kid excited about a book, you probably can’t beat serving them food from the book. Fiction that you can bite into! That’s pretty powerful stuff. So, where to begin?

Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes makes an easy starting point. The names of the foods alone are so enticing that it would be hard for a child not to fall under their spell! The Year 4 class I had a couple of years back went nuts for a jug of Frobscottle, which is easy and cheap to make – its main ingredient is cream soda, if I remember correctly. (You could even bring in a little bit of Maths – scaling up and down quantities!)

For those of you with more culinary confidence, you could branch out beyond the world of Dahl. The Harry Potter series has a wealth of tasty treats hidden within the pages of its seven books. Whilst butterbeer might not be the wisest beverage to serve your primary school class, how about some piping hot pumpkin pasties, as sold on the Hogwarts Express?

If you’re looking for an easy win, Turkish delight, as gobbled by greedy Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, could be the ideal foodstuff. Make it fresh or buy it ready-made, but nestle it within a pretty jewellery box for the ultimate ooh-factor. (Optional extras: fake snow and glitter!)

Or, if you want something simple but terribly effective, how about ‘hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops’, from The Wind in the Willows? This would be a lovely cosy treat on a winter’s day, to munch at desks whilst listening to the exploits of Ratty and Mole.

I think there’s an awful lot you could do with this idea in the classroom. Children could suggest food items from their favourite books, and you could hold a class vote to see which recipe you make – what a great way for kids to recommend books to their peers! Or, imagine a food feast that magically appears over lunchtime, where the children sample the different dishes and match them to a list of fictional descriptions. There are so many possibilities – and aside from anything else, if you get the children to make the fictional food themselves, you could tick off a load of Design Technology objectives! 😉

What food would you make from children’s fiction, if you could?

And what ideas do you have for using fictional food in the classroom? Let me know in the comments!

Pinpicks: Co-ordinates

I find Pinterest to be a fabulous resource for teaching ideas. It is so fast and easy to scroll through a wall of images to find something that looks like what you want… And more often than not, clicking on one image leads you to a whole treasure-trove of great resources! Each week, I will bring you my ‘Pinpicks’ based around a theme or topic. This week, I am teaching co-ordinates to Year 5, so without further ado, here is my ‘pick of the pins’:

1. Giant co-ordinates grid

Co-ordinates grid by

Use masking tape to turn your classroom or playground into one enormous co-ordinates grid – then get the kids to plot themselves on it! It would be great for less able learners who need that concrete experience. And imagine how well it would work for translations – with the children actually physically stepping a number of spaces left or right, up or down. I love it!

2. Four-quadrant foldable

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A great activity to cement understanding of positive and negative co-ordinates in all four quadrants. Children jump at the chance to use felt tips in their Maths books, too! The superb maths blog that posted this has a whole range of foldables to download on this page.

3. I Have, Who Has?

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This one’s not a freebie, but I bought it and at only $3 I recommend you at least consider it. Each child is given a co-ordinate grid with letters plotted on it, and then the ‘I have, who has?’ cards are dealt out between the children. They then take it in turns to read from their card – and whoever has the letter or the co-ordinates described is up next. With practise, kids can get quite speedy, and more importantly, they love playing it. Laminate the cards for regular use.

4. Treasure map display

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Ahoy there! Kids love pirates, so I see this four-quadrant treasure map as a great way of engaging your reluctant young mathematicians. What’s more, it makes a quick and easy interactive maths display. Tick!

5. Plotting Angry Birds

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Angry Birds may be a touch passe now, but this idea would make a fantastic homework or extension task. Better yet, why not provide your pupils with a blank co-ordinate grid, and have them make instructions for their own cartoon character for a partner to plot? Hours of happy maths fun!

What great maths resources have you found on Pinterest? Let me know in the comments!


Mrs C xx

Ten things about me…

1. I can say the alphabet backwards really fast.

2. My previous career was in publishing, where I once received a personal email from Philip Pullman. That was a pretty cool day at the office.

3. I love space, books, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, growing my own vegetables, knitting and South Indian food.

4. I use Quiet Spray on my kids when they are being rambunctious. They love it. (Although last year I did have a parent ask, at parents’ evening, “Is it true that you… spray the children when they are naughty?” I swiftly set them straight…) Featured image

Fabulous Quiet Spray printables available from The Lemonade Stand

5. I hotly believe in a healthy work-life balance, but haven’t yet achieved it! I’m hoping that this blog will help other teachers with their work-life balance.

6. Although I love teaching, my dream job is to be a writer. I’m currently writing a children’s book about time travel.

7. I’m great with vomiting kids but useless with bleeding ones. I’m an infamous fainter.

8. I was once Secret Teacher for The Guardian. And yes, you’ll have to guess which one, because I’m not telling…

9. I’m a teacher, but I don’t drink caffeine.

10. I used to have electric blue hair.