Congratulations! We made it through the first month of what has to be described as the trickiest year of teaching. Teaching during a pandemic is certainly more difficult than usual but we made it through the first month. (Only 3 weeks to go until mid term.) I’m hoping to share a blogpost (once a month) of the things that have worked well and hopefully you’ll find the ideas useful. As many of you know, I teach 6th class so some of the ideas may need to be adapted to best suit your own individual class.
I think it’s also really important to note that what works for me in my classroom with the children I’m working with may be the opposite of what works for you in your classroom. What is working well for me this year would be different to what worked well last year as the children are different so I think it’s important to try as much as possible not to compare yourself to others (even if you have the same class level).
We’ve focussed on reading and comprehension strategies as well as vocabulary building activities for most of September. We’ve finished ‘Ice Man’ a book all about Tom Crean that the children really enjoyed and wrote Antarctic poems. (I learned how to spell Antarctic properly – I’ve always spelled it as Antartic – oops).
We’ve done some free writing too and I find this is really great for the children to practise their writing and to build their imaginations. Next month we’re moving onto debating and persuasive writing.
Maths is my favourite subject to teach. I love it and would love to teach Maths all day every day. We have done a HUGE amount of work on whiteboards so far this year. I found at the beginning of the month the children were reluctant to give it a go. They lacked confidence and were afraid of making mistakes. This is beginning to ease a bit (and hopefully will continue).
So far we’ve done place value, multiplication (long and with decimals), averages and trend graphs.
I have to be honest, Gaeilge isn’t going fantastically so far. The kids are bored, they’ve forgotten a lot of what they learned last year and to be honest I’m struggling without my usual methodologies and strategies to keep lessons engaging and fun. We finally got into the swing of things by abandoning everything over the last week or so and just getting back to basics and mainly focussing on sentence structure which we’ll build on each week.
This week we focussed on sentences such as
Bhris Niamh an cathaoir.
Chuaigh mé go dtí an siopa.
Bhí mé ar scoil inné.
Nothing groundbreaking but the children now have the basic sentence structure so by the end of this week we had moved onto
Bhris Niamh an cathaoir buí inné.
D’ith mé píotsa piobarónaí.
At the beginning of this week, we translated what I did for the weekend and then we moved onto what they did too. (They love hearing about your personal life outside the classroom and they also love seeing themselves in the sentences you created so it makes everything more interesting and the children were definitely more engaged this week and motivated to improve their sentences too so I’m going to stick with this approach for next week and continue to build up their motivation in relation to Irish).
Our focus this month was Tom Crean. We read Ice Man and the children really enjoyed it. We still need to finish projects on Tom Crean (which we’ll do on iPads this week using Adobe Spark).
We also did some work on Ireland and the children learned the counties and provinces. We also learned the capitals of European countries and played the Capitals game where I call out two children and a country and they have to tell me the capital – another favourite of mine (and theirs!)
We’ve done a lot of Art so far this year which the children have really enjoyed.
I’ve already shared some things that have worked well for me in P.E. in a previous blogpost but at the moment we’re playing 5 corners in the hall once a week and then rounders has worked well too. We’ll move onto basketball now that we’re in October I think (and hopefully the weather will stay fine!)
(it’s usually 4 but 5 this year to keep the children in their pods).
- A bench is turned on it’s side and put in front of the team (this is the goal).
- Children choose a number 1-6.
- Teacher stands in the middle with 3 balls – small ball, basketball and football.
- Teacher calls a number and throws a ball and children with that number run in to get the ball. They kick the football, bounce the basketball and use a hockey stick to hit the small ball.
- If they hit the bench of another team they are awarded a point.
- Winning team is the team with the most points at the end of the game.
The children really enjoy it and they get to practise lots of different skills all in one.
Classroom Organisation and Classroom Management
I think one of the most important things to get used to is the amount of hand washing/sanitisation/cleaning desks etc. that needs to happen throughout the school day. We use hand sanitiser entering/leaving the building and wash hands before we eat. With 29 children and 2 sinks this takes a considerable amount of time each day. I have a rota in my classroom (a different pod go first each day) for handwashing and this is working quite well so far.
My class sit in pods of 6 (5 pods in total around the room). I try to maintain a distance of 1m between the pods but the reality is that the classroom isn’t big enough when children push out their chairs to get something from their boxes etc. (I’ve tried every configuration and this was the best solution).
The children have individual boxes for their school books and other belongings, they keep their coats on the back of their chair, along with their schoolbags. Desks are mostly clear except for the books/copies being used at that time.
Desks are wiped down when the children arrive into school each morning and again before the children eat.
In relation to classroom management, I haven’t really put anything solid in place yet. But I think I’ll introduce a class goal now before the Halloween break. (Maybe try to reach 1500/2000 points for a movie afternoon and a treat or something like that).
Planning is something that I usually find quite manageable and even enjoyable but I’ve found it to be really difficult in September. The things I thought the children would know – they had forgotten and the things I thought they wouldn’t know – they knew so it has taken me the full month to figure out how best to pitch my lessons across different subject areas.
One thing that did work well was daily powerpoints/daily planning. It takes time in the beginning but I find it gives me such a better focus throughout the day and everything I need is there and ready to go for my students.
I know the children also really enjoy it as they like to see what the plan for the day is too! I’ve found daily planning has worked much better for me this year so far and now (5 weeks later), I feel that I can begin to do more long term planning. But I’m going to continue to take it slowly as this is not an ordinary year.