Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas Matrix

Running out of ideas for what to do with your students? Do they seem to be getting rowdier each day? Are you finding it hard to come up with a range of activities that cater to all those individuals contained within the four walls of your room? Then I have the answer you've been searching for...
My "Christmas Matrix" is fast becoming one of the popular purchases over at my TpT store at the moment. A Blooms Taxonomy & Multiple Intelligence activity matrix that is used for Christmas time. Activities are aimed for students to complete them independently or in small groups, but some can be completed as a whole class.

So make sure you head on over to my store and pick up a copy for yourself! This will be a great tool to have when the end of the year rolls around!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Christmas gift ideas for teachers - written by a teacher

Christmas gifts for teachers:

After being asked by many of my friends, and seeing many more posts on social media, I thought I would do a post to answer the question “What present should I buy my child’s teacher?”

As teacher’s we don’t actually expect anything – so when we receive gifts, we are truly amazed and grateful. It shows that you’ve appreciated what we’ve done for your child across the year, and that you respect us. Whether it’s a Christmas present, a thank you note/card or just an end-of-year farewell gift, here are some of the gifts I’ve received in the past:
I love getting cute Christmas ornaments and they always have a special place in my house or on our Christmas tree (and the other bonus is they’re small aren’t dust collectors that get in the way). I’ve have even kept some in my classroom boxes and use them to decorate the classroom tree!

A beautiful Maxwell Williams Christmas
plate with some Choccies
A nice Christmas dish and some delectables are never scoffed at – I got this lovely Maxwell Williams plate and box of Lindt Choccies this week from one of the parents of a child I taught this year! It’s nice to feel appreciated.

I’ve also received some lovely gifts including perfume (and a good one at that), coffee mugs, photo frames, stationary, chocolates and glassware.

A very special gift I received at the end of my first teaching job was two beautiful Willow Tree ornaments – these were from a mother of a boy who had ASD. I worked very hard with him in the two terms I had him, and he made tremendous progress. Agan, it’s things like these that I keep and provide me with a reminder of the appreciation some have for the work I do.

So here are my top gift ideas for teachers:

1.    A hand written note/card – this reinforces that you appreciate what we have done throughout the year. It’s the simplest things that often make the biggest impact.

2.  Vouchers – movie, iTunes, coffee, local cafes & restaurants - and if you know your teacher well enough, a voucher to their favourite clothing, nail or hair salon or homewares/craft store is also a nice idea.

3.   Simple (and inexpensive) jewellery – now you do have to be careful here because what you may like, the teacher necessarily won’t, but if you know your teacher well enough go ahead!

4.   Nice pamper packs – now some sites say to stear clear of these, but if they’re a good quality brand I quite like receiving them as I often leave a hand cream in my bag, car, on my desk, near the kitchen sink, bedside table etc.

5.   Massage voucher – I don’t know of anyone who would turn down one of these! Especially at the end of the year! If there is a good place near where your teacher lives, go for it!
6.  Baked Goods - and don't just do them for your child's teacher. Make a big tin of yummy treats and send it in to the staffroom. Trust me, you'll be everyone's favourite parent!

Some things NOT to give to teachers may include:

·   Money – we cannot accept this (as much as we’d like to).

·   Coffee Mugs – I personally don’t drink coffee (yes, I know I’m strange), and these can add up pretty quickly over the years.

·   Anything ‘teacher theme’ – as cute as you may think anything with a ruler, apple, schoolhouse or chalkboard themed trinket may be, where exactly are we to keep all of these throughout our teaching years? Classrooms are small and have limited space as it is, and I don’t have a ‘ode-to-teaching’ decorated room at home.

·   A photo of your child – as much as I liked them, I don’t need an individual photo of them. Their class photo is enough to ensure I’ll remember them.

·   A gardening kit or a pot decorated with your child’s hand prints and some quip about “how my child bloomed this year” or thanking them for “planting the seeds of knowledge.”

Monday, 24 November 2014

24 Christmas craft activities for young children

24 Christmas Craft Activities for Infants:

Below you will find a list of 24 cute, fun and engaging activities that I have come across on during my Pinterest trawling sessions. These are activities that can be done with toddlers, pre-schoolers and infants aged children (K-2) as well as children with special needs.

Hand & Foot print crafts:

1.    Snowmen Feet

2.    Handprint Reindeer – Crafty Morning

4.    Christmas Elf Handprint Art – Classified Mom

5.    Candy Cane Christmas Card – Leapfrog & Ladybugs

Paper Plate crafts:

6.    DIY Snowmen Paper Plate Activity – Crafty Morning

7.    Paper Plate Elves – Crafty Morning

8.    Paper Plate Christmas Ornament – Crafty Morning

9.    Paper Plate Laced Christmas Tree – I Heart Crafty Things (great for fine motor work!)

Popsicle stick crafts:

10.  Popsicle stick Christmas tree craft – Hands on as we grow

11.  Popsicle stick star ornament – Powerful Mothering

13.  Toy Soldier Ornament - Fireflies and Mudpies (this is a personal favourite).

14.  Popsicle stick snowflake ornament – Crafts by Courtney

Stamping crafts:

15.  Stamped Snowman – it’s done with Marshmallows here, but you could use cotton balls, carrots, sponges etc.

16.  Potato Stamping – Crafty Morning

17.  Pom Pom Painting Christmas Crafts – Fantastic Fun & Learning (this could also be done using bauble, star and present cut-outs).

18.  DIY Christmas gift wrap – Celebrations

19.  Ornament stamped Christmas tree craft – I Heart Crafty Things


21.  Christmas Sensory Book – Baby Centre Blog

22.  Printable Gingerbread Ornaments to decorate – Powerful Mothering

23.  Cupcake liner Snowman Craft – I Heart Crafty Things

24.  Cupcake liner Christmas tree ornament – One Perfect Day

Check out my Pinterest page for more Christmas crafts, and watch out later in the week for my post on “24 Christmas craft activities for Primary students”.

Friday, 21 November 2014

I'm baaaacckk!

Masters of Education (Special Education) COMPLETE!!!!!!:

Well, after two gruelling years of essays, online forum posts and endless journal articles I have finally completed my Master’s degree!!! (Cue crazy crowd cheering and clapping). Doing this whilst raising my first son, having my second one, returning to work two days a week and supporting my husband while he did his own degree and continued his travelling as the head physio of the Tongan Rugby Union squad (as well as some other gigs that popped up along the way) presented its challenges, but it’s done!

So while I won’t go into great detail about the degree, I’ll list the subjects I chose and my overall thoughts on the course. Hopefully it might help any of you out there who are considering returning to the books!

Subject Choice:

1.    Literature for Children & Young People

2.    Approaches to Reading Difficulties: Theories & Strategies

3.    Giftedness in Special Populations

4.    Introduction to Inclusive Education: Strategies, Policies & Legislation

5.    Introduction to Research & Enquiry

6.    Assessment & Instruction of Individuals with High Support Needs

7.    Models of Behaviour Management

Generally, these were good subject choices as they provided me with a broad coverage of topics regarding Special Education – however, I was disappointed in the content contained in each of the subjects. Without going into too much detail, there was a heavy focus on theorists, theories, analysing the ‘research’ (which for some subjects, such as Gifted Education proved difficult as there was little recent research) and it seemed that many of my lecturers were out of touch with current classroom climates.

If you have any other questions for me, feel free to post! J

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Little Nest Busy Bags for busy little beavers

Little Best Busy Bags Review

Travelling with a toddler on a long car trip or a flight is most parent’s worst nightmare. And if you’re a parent like me, you don’t want your child to play an i-device the entire trip. I came across the idea of ‘Busy Bags’ on Pinterest, and after a little more searching I found “Little Nest Busy Bags”. Sarah has created a range of fantastic activities that are not only great for engaging your children at home or whilst travelling, but are fantastic classroom resources!
The Little Nest Busy Bags are ideal for pre-school and infants (K-2) aged children, and are fantastic for children with special needs. My first purchase was the Mega Busy Box (now discontinued but similar products are available), which contained activities including lacing, shape and colour sorting, alphabet and number identification, and I have since gone on to purchase many other bags including the Spin & Spell, Pizza Factory, Australian Animals, Pom-Pom Pick Up, Clothes Line, Colour and Pattern Matching Pegs and Fruit Patterns. As well as using these with both my boys, I have taken many of the activities bags to school (most are packed in a sturdy plastic A4 zipped case) and used them with my little treasures.

And the kids LOVED them! Kids always love something new, and they just saw them as new toys to play with. They were ordering numbers and the alphabet, sorting shapes, using tweezers to sort the pom-poms and create fruit salads and having fun whilst learning!!!! That’s the beauty of these bags – the bright colours and different textures of the materials engages children’s senses and imagination.

So jump on over to Little Nest Busy Bags and check out the fantastic variety of activities Sarah has created, and use this code TEACH2014 for a 10% discount on all purchases.

Why is the development of Fine Motor Skills so important?

Fine motor skills are the collective skills and activities that involve the use of fingers and hands, and along with gross motor skill development are a vital foundation for other important future skills such as drawing, writing and self-help. Adopting an individualised approach based upon your child’s interest (or an individual child in your class) while ensure that learning is enjoyable and meaningful and are great for those children who have difficulty with fine motor skills and are not intrinsically motivated in fine motor skill building activities.

(Fine Motor Skills Program – School Readiness Program.

Owens, A. (2008). Supporting children’s development – Fine Motor skills. National Childcare Accreditation Council. [Online]. Available URL:'s_development_fine_motor_skills.pdf

Fine Motor Development and Early School Performance. [Online]. Available URL:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Getting crafty

I went to catch-up with a good friend as we’d organised a play-date for our two munchkins (who are the best of friends). When we arrived, her little girl was going some craft and drawing with which she was enthralled. Upon seeing this, so was my son. My friend was sitting at the table and had a large, tool-box style box sitting in front of her, where she kept pulling all manner of craft devices from. I loved this idea, and asked her where she got it from…

I know what you’re thinking… surely as a Primary and Special Education teacher my house is full of craft supplies? Yes, yes it is! I have a LARGE storage box FULL of craft. The beauty of this box was it was compact enough to hold the essentials – pencils, crayons, scissors, glue as well as stickers, paper, stencils etc. and easy for my son to get out and put away.

So where is this box from? Kmart – and it’s only $12!!!! You can get licensed ones (such as Disney Cars or Disney Princess) if you’re willing to pay more, but just check out what you are actually getting. For $12 you get a sturdy box with three compartments on the top (in which were some textas and stickers, but I have sinced moved things around and added some glitter glue pens, scissors and glue and stamp textas). Inside this box was some more stickers, colouring in sheets, a small box which they can colour and a mobile.

From my own collection I have added some more textas, funky scissors, wind-up crayons, plenty of paper and the ever timeless Tupperware Stencils – these are from my own childhood and have not dated (you can pick these up on eBay if you’d like a set).

So if you want an inexpensive way to encourage your child/ren to get creative, or you want to have something in your classroom that your students can access and use as a crafting station then I highly suggest searching around for a box like this!

(Images of my son and his creation, and his little brother getting involved too!)

Sunday, 29 June 2014

GoNoodle for brain breaks!

Having returned to work this year in a Special Education setting, I have learnt just how important it is to ‘timetable’ movement or sensory breaks into our day. Research has shown a link between thinking and movement and also demonstrates how short bursts of energy can improve learning and engagement. With the children I am currently working with, you cannot expect them to sit in a chair or on the floor for more than 10minutes (and those are the higher functioning children). For some of those that I teach, we timetable in trampoline time, exercise-ball time, swing time or sensory based activities such as play-dough, sand and/or water-play or shaving cream. These allow them the opportunity to move around, have the sensory stimulation they require to focus better, or sometimes we use these as a calming tool, where they are either over-excited, stressed or anxious about something that has occurred.

But it can get tricky to provide these breaks when inclement weather occurs – and I am not just talking wet weather (because some of our kids don’t mind getting wet!). If it’s excessively windy or really hot (and we can get a run of hot days here in Wollongong, Australia) you can’t go outside between 10am-2pm! So what to do for children that require these breaks every 15minutes of so? This is where a program such as GoNoodle is fantastic!
GoNoodle is a free brain break teacher resource that will help your students be more engaged, energised and productive – and I’m not just talking about students with special needs. This program would work really well in a Primary and even lower level high school classroom. The hard work of trawling the internet to find brain-break style activities is done for you, and all activities are in one convenient program that’s FREE to join!!

There is a variety of activities to meet the needs of your students at different times of day or for a change in situation. Activities range from dancing, running and jumping, to yoga-style stretch with Maximo and deep breathing bubble blowing.

Some of the brain break activities on the GoNoodle site.

Where else are you going to find these hit songs in the one place? I’m sure one, if not all will motivate your children and have each and everyone of them out of their seats, bopping around!

Along with the compliation of songs, including ‘Happy’ and ‘Don’t Give Up’ (a personal favourite) which can be used as part of your morning circle routine, or as a session break, a favourite for a calming tool is ‘Air Time’. Now while it is an American based activity where students use deep breathing to blow the bubble across the states of America, it is still a good activity to use with children in Australia, as it will encourage them to broaden their knowledge of America whilst encouraging them to develop good self-calming  and breathing techniques, which can be used in stressful situations before or during exams and tests.
So do yourself a favour, get on over to GoNoodle, sign-up and start using their brain breaks as part of your daily activities. You'll notice a difference in your kids, and the positive effects this simple act can have.

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