A Little Background:
I teach Senior Infants in a DEIS band 1 School in Dublin. We are a Junior School, Early Start to 2nd Class. It is a mixed school with a significant number of EAL and traveller children. I am an NQT in my second year of teaching, and completed my DIP in January.
In our class, as in most infant classrooms, routine is very important. We start the day with a few fine motor activities, most recently focusing on cutting activities. I love this 20 minutes in the morning because it gives the children a chance to settle in and refocus on school time, and it gives me the opportunity to organise my behaviour systems for the day. Two of my boys have individual systems which requires them to choose a prize at the beginning of the day. It is vital I remind both children of my expectations for them and have a little chat about how they are feeling each morning.
After our cutting activities, it is writing time. On alternative days, teacher will model writing using the First Steps model. At the moment, we are working on Narrative writing but we will revise both recount and report regularly. The children work independently on their writing while I talk to and assist particular children. The children are encouraged to self-assess their own handwriting using their Star Writing Checklist. On the other days, we do either free writing or Capital Letter practice.
After writing, we have approximately 10-15 mins before break time, and this is spent revising the sounds and letters of the alphabet, spelling our names out loud, revising tricky words, playing the ‘Tricky Word Champion’ Game – where the children go head to head to read their tricky words. The last two children standing are crowned the tricky word champions of the day, and get to wear their crowns for the remainder of the day.
At break time, the children get their coats, line up and get their snacks. In our school, the children eat their snack outside during ‘Walk and Talk’ Break, while I go off for my lunch.
I collect the children from the yard, and they are always eager to tell me whether they have won the tick or not. The class who gets the most ticks at the end of the week (for lining up quietly and nicely) gets 5 minds extra playtime on a Friday.
When we get inside, the children immediately move to their Ready Set Maths groups. The children are grouped by ability for this time only. The support teacher arrives in and she takes two groups and I work with the other two. There are two independent activities going on at the same time. Our SNA Jean is brilliant at working with the independent groups, keeping them on task and focused. Ready Set Maths lasts for 30 minutes.
After we tidy up, we sing some of our songs. Youtube is absolutely brilliant for songs, our class is particularly loving The Learning Station songs at the moment!
Our Favourites include:
The Penguin Song
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (Robot version)
The cat came back
We then move onto to some of our songs ‘as gaeilge’. D’Aon Ghuth 1 is super for Irish songs suitable for infant classes. We know about 6 of the songs now, and regular revise and sing them all! Gaeilge is heavily focused on games and activities. The lessons are very active and the children are moving most of the time.
Running up to lunchtime is usually spent revising some of our prayers. We are learning the ‘Hail Mary’ at the moment, and usually say the ‘Our Father’ and finally ‘Grace before Meals’ Lunch is provided for the children in our school, and so the children take their sandwich and piece of fruit from the box and eat it sitting in their seats. The children then head out to the yard for half an hour.
In infants, fitting everything in can be tricky. When we come back in from the yard, we generally fit in our Music, Drama, SPHE or SESE lessons then. One day a week, we use it as our Big Book time.
And then of course its tidy up time. The children collect their homework folders, put up their chairs and go get their coats. The children line up along the silver line and we say our prayer before going home. When the bell rings, they wait till their names are called before coming to the door.
Tips for teaching Infants:
- Be organised
- Have set routines and systems for giving out copies/books, lining up, walking to and from the yard/PE hall and moving groups. In our classroom, the children line up alongside one wall of the classroom, I take the pile of books and open it on the page. Each child takes a book, I tell them who owns and it and they go and place it open on that person’s desk before taking their own seat. I find this works so well because they are all up and moving, there is no competition for giving out books and the children are occupied. I also choose a line captain who is in charge of keeping the line quiet.
- When lining up in the classroom, I stand at the classroom door and call out the names of children who are sitting quietly. I find this helpful because you can fix the line so the children who find it hard to walk properly in a line are dispersed in amongst the children who can. You can save hassle on the whole ‘he skipped me’ fiasco, and again in keeps all children occupied, ready and quiet.
- The Mystery Walker is a super system for walking to and from places. Remind the children what the expectations are – 1. Keep your hands to yourself 2. Keep your lips zipped 3. Walk nicely. A child fulfilling these requirements is chosen by the teacher and is revealed when the class return to the classroom.
- Telling tales can be a big issue in infants, and trying to overcome the obstacle of encouraging them to tell you when there is a major problem and telling every little thing is huge. In my class, we struggle with this almost every day. I have a big picture of Michael D. Higgins in my classroom, and when a child comes to me with a tale I ask them to questions – Is someone hurt? Is someone being mean? If the answer is yes, then they can tell me. If it is no, they then go and can sit in our library corner and tell it the president! It’s working really well.
- Enjoy your time with your bunch of little people, because you will never get this year back. I think sometimes as NQT’s we are so focused on the notes, and the planning, and the displays, and the assessment folders, that we forget there is a group of small children in front of us who have no idea or honestly don’t really care that you are doing the DIP. They are relying on you to make their time in school fun and happy and need you to do your very best for them. Enjoy them, they are precious.
Thanks to Sarah for her ‘Day in the Life’
Graphics from www.mycutegraphics.com