Tuesday 30 September 2014

September Swansong

This will be a very short post just to ensure I complete my own target of posting 20 times during September!  I think I will make the same target for October as I did feel it helped me make that bit of extra time for blogging and become more disciplined :-)

During the month of September, I found a resource I thought I ought to share which might be useful for those of us who are working outside of the Common Core but might need knowledge for TpT resources:

http://commoncore.org/parents - provide helpful sheets for parents and others on understanding what elements of maths actually look like for all year groups

I also know I said one of my goals would be to get my fonts folder up and running have changed my laptop and I thought I would share information on where to obtain the free fonts I like and regularly use in class.  Click on the button below (sorry it does not show the actual fonts I am publicising - I just needed a font graphic!)

Monday 29 September 2014

Reading is Key (100th Blog Post)

This is my 100th post of the year so I thought I ought to make it an important one and I am sorry but I am sure it will be a bit of a long one!

In my mind there is no greater thing in education than to be able to read.  Reading allows the accumulation of knowledge at one’s own speed.  It allows you to go over things again and again, it gives pleasure, it expands horizons but it does not come easily to all so I wanted to share some of the ways I have helped teach reading over my years as a teacher which may help others and offer different approaches to children experiencing difficulties. 

For the majority of children, phonics is a structured way to learn to read that works and I have witnessed the emergence and then government backed and total take over of phonics into the British education system over the past 15 years.   

My own early strategies with those children finding reading difficult came from Dianne McGuiness after digesting her book “Why Our Children Can’t Read and What We Can Do About it” and seeing the structured approach she advocated teaching the sounds of letters and building reading skills through books using only words with the sounds taught so far so as not to confuse children. 

There were few phonic based books around at that time so I wrote and illustrated my own and with a group of children including 3 with EAL (English as an Additional Language), one with dyslexic tendencies and one with major special needs (they could not recall things from one day to the next) I endeavoured to teach reading for 20 mins each morning over a 6 week period with regular homework sheets given out for additional home learning.  I taught the initial sound of each letter in the alphabet and the tricky words the, he, she and we and then the double “ee” and “ay” digraphs followed by the “magic e” plus the word said.  In those 6 weeks, all of the children made accelerated progress (except for the child with major special needs). They became much more confident in tackling texts, were able to read and answer/write simple comprehension questions and the feedback from parents was excellent.  I must point out that at this time, I was employed as a teaching assistant and had not undergone any teacher training.  I did however have a wonderful class teacher as my boss who wanted to find a way for those children struggling within her Year 1 class (ages 5-6) and now heading for the summer term still unable to read and a headmaster who was willing to allow me to pursue my idea that I had put forward in a proposal document.

I should add at this point that I had taught both of my own children to read using the Peter and Jane reading scheme I had learnt to read with as a young child – this was a method that used repetition of words to help children learn them (sometimes referred to as a look/say method although I always taught my children to use phonic knowledge as well to see how the word was made up) – they had gone to school age 3-4 with a sound knowledge of reading of at least the first 50 most frequently occuring words and knew how to break down words to sound out at a basic level as well as reading for meaning and sense.  At school, reading was taught along the lines of the teacher read the Big Book each day over a week so that children learnt to join in and recognise letters, words and phrases within it – a reading scheme began with children taking home the words in their books cut up on little cards in a tin to learn and return for testing on a bi-daily basis with either the teacher or assistant in class during reading time.  At that time the scheme One, Two, Three and Away was used at my school with its main characters Roger Red Hat and Billy Blue Hat – the premise was that children would learn to recognise the words and then learn to read.  

My own children were uninspired by the pictures (probably because they compared them to those of Peter and Jane which were beautiful and full of quality – children know when they are being short-changed!) and I know from talking to lots of the children they did not enjoy the scheme seeing it purely as something to get through to escape to free reading further up the school.  However, most children in the class did learn to read this way and I know that most parents read bedtime stories and went to the library and so encouraged further reading in the same way I did with my own children.

The following year and my second as a teaching assistant saw the introduction of the Early Literacy Support programme (ELS) for Year 1 children.  My teacher and I were sent on a training scheme and I set it up for six children who were struggling at the end of the autumn term.  It was the first scheme I knew about to be concentrating on securing sounds and breaking words down for children to access both reading and writing on a phonetic basis.  I added to the scheme by writing a daily letter to parents to tell them what had been learnt in their 20 min lesson that day and making up a daily homework pack.  The selection process was however only for those children who were struggling but did not have special needs.  Again, all the children made accelerated progress and were able to complete the 12 week course and successfully re-join the class at the level expected and I then had a second group of six children who were also now falling behind during the spring term.

There is now an updated version that is available on-line click on button above

It was during this year that I was accepted on to a post-graduate teaching course and so left this lovely school after that first year of ELS – however I have continued to use the materials from it for various children and in various year groups who struggle in learning basic reading and writing.  I have, however, seen for myself that the pace of it is too fast for the majority of those children who do have special needs and those who are not supported at home to do the homework tasks to ensure over learning.

During my teaching course, phonics was promoted as a way forward as well as the searchlights model for the national literacy strategy.  I began my teaching career following the Jolly Phonics scheme which had actions to help embed the sounds and sight of letters and have continued to advocate this scheme throughout my years of teaching even though it was overtaken by the Ruth Miskin phonic approach shortly after I began teaching (oh how I remember Maisie Mountain Mountain!!)

Over the past five years, new phonic reading schemes have also sprung up (some of which tied in with older schemes such as The Magic Key and its characters) to help build reading in a logical way for children.  Phonics has however become the only way to teach reading the government proclaims and now sets a phonic test for all children at the end of Year One with those that fail it requiring further phonic tuition and testing at the end of Year Two. Phonics will work for everyone and if it doesn’t they just need more practice!
I want to now bring to your attention a different way to teach reading that has worked for some children that have struggled with phonics and have not been able to cope with a look-say approach either.  Taming Tricky Words is a fabulous and novel resource form Irene Peutrill. 

When I was introduced to it by my special needs advisor I have to confess I was slightly dubious but I am willing to give anything a try if it might help my struggling readers.  It works by having children associate a word with a picture, a phrase and an action with a high frequency word and I have to say having used it for the past year it has transformed reading for one child and helped make progress for two others out of a group of six.  The words have been taught at a rate of between 4-6 per week and the recall of words when reading their reading scheme book has been noticeable.

I am currently working on my own set of resources to help those children who have so far failed to really progress their reading through any of the phonics, look/say or Taming Tricky Words approaches.  I also have to state for the record that during my teaching career I have seen what a difference reading on a bi-daily basis with an adult has on a child’s reading.  As part of my MA, I conducted research into teaching reading for meaning and discussion of reading with an adult on a bi-daily basis and the results were amazing for a wide range of 35 children (the majority with EAL) their reading scores gaining on average five months in the space of six weeks (with some children gaining almost a year and no child gaining less than three and this included children with special needs!)  Although, more importantly all of the children fed back that they truly enjoyed reading to an adult and found reading a much better experience than before!

I hope that this post has been of use to some out there – either to flag up possible resources, give encouragement or even some understanding into why some children might still be struggling.  Please feel free to ask me any questions regarding my teaching of reading or offer any view points and comments on the subject as I feel the more we can share the more we are likely to help those children who need support to learn to read in our schools these days.

Sunday 28 September 2014


If you scroll down to the bottom of my blog page you should now be able to see a bookcase with pictures of the books I have succeeded in reading so far on my 100 Books Challenge!!  I found Shelfari on another blog I happened to read earlier today and so joined up using my Amazon account.  It really was easy to do and to insert it on my blog - if I can do it then anyone else can - so I thought I would share this info just in case anyone else is interested.

If you want to know more about my 100 Books Challenge then click on the button below.

My amazing maths skills tell me if I succeed in reading 5 books a month then I will only have amassed 60 books during the year so would have to read an extra 40 during school holidays - this just isn't going to happen folks - so I might be posting some of my school books and younger children's books too to accomplish my goal - remember the challenge is only to give yourself permission to read more there are no hard and fast rules :-)

It would be lovely to have you sign up and share so see my 100 Books Challenge page!

Friday 26 September 2014

Friday Five & Freebies

Friday has come round again and I find myself asking where did the week go?  Thought I would do a round up of what has happened this week (some of which I have previously blogged about) and so am linking up with:

Designed myself some little autumnal owl numbers using the Outline Clear font from

I have been reading about the arts and crafts movement this week so decided to use my little owl freebie from earlier this month and create some number cards in this style - what do you think?  Please feel free to use - just credit me if you do :-)
If you want the owl freebie you can find it by clicking here

Went to a wonderful inspiring exhibition on Sunday hosted by the Wolverhampton Embroiderers' Guild - I love working with felt and beads and sequins so I think I might have a go at something like this during the long winter nights this year but with a brown/red palette. Thoughts please?

Go and check out their other photos of exhibits at:

Another creation of mine this week was my wizard sentences in preparation for a forthcoming Halloween theme.  Click on the button below for a freebie and I'd love some feedback :-)

What ideas do you have for Halloween this year?

Bargain Hunting this week - led me to the end of year sales at Wilkos in their gardening section where I bought plenty of trellis so that I can attempt to make a sturdy rose arch at a fraction of the price they normally retail for.  I hope to be able to take and share photos of my Heath Robinson design in a later blog post!!

Finally - Autumn TV schedules begin - yipee!  This week I have been able to catch up with missed episodes of The Blacklist before it begins Season 2 next week and also Haven Season 5 & Defiance Season 2 have also begun airing over here in England (have to admit I am a bit of a Sci-Fi fan!!)  I do enjoy snuggling up on the sofa with a cup of coffee at the end of a long day able to watch some quality T.V.  Which favourite shows of yours are returning this autumn?

Have a great weekend :-)

Thursday 25 September 2014

Throwback Thursday Quotes

It's Thursday so it must be Throwback time with The Teacher's Desk 6

Yesterday my Wordless Wednesday was about inspiration and today I'm linking back to a post of inspirational quotes I used for my Q entry for the A-Z Challenge back in April.

I do like quotes - I display them in class - I talk about them with my students - they make me feel I'm on the right path when sometimes I feel I'm struggling to get up that hill.

I want to share a few more I like before sending you back to the original ones I posted so here goes:

and to see the other quotes I posted in my Throwback post press the one below :)

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Wordless Wednesday Inspiration

This is just one of photos of the exhibits on display at The Red House Cone Glass Centre I visited at the weekend (taking my daughter over to that part of the West Midlands to say goodbye to a friend heading off for university in the next week - I don't know how many miles she'll have travelled as she tries to say bye to everyone she knows before heading off for the Australian shores!!!)

I thought I was going to be looking at glass through the centuries and I did but the Wolverhampton Embroiderers' Guild exhibition was breathtakingly beautiful and inspiring.  I think I will be returning with my own camera if I am allowed.  The techniques, colours, patterns, ideas were just awe-inspiring.  I came away just wanting to create, create, create.

Take a wander over to their photo gallery at:


I am hoping they will be posting more photos of their pieces as the exhibition evolves and if they let me I will post more photos here later on after another visit.

Question:  What are the things that inspire you and fill you with wonder?

I am linking up with others at Miss DeCarbo's - so why don't you come on over and join us?

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Ahead of Myself Halloween Freebie

Well I keep saying I am gong to get more organised and think ahead and By George I actually think I've been able to do that this week so in order to celebrate and maybe help others I am sharing a resource I have made for next month to link with Halloween (but only tentatively as I have one or two parents who do not like this particular theme!)

I know how difficult it is to find the time to do all that the government now says we have to accomplish in the classroom on a daily basis so I am always looking for ways to combine learning, over learning, handwriting skills, grammar skills, reading skills as well as literacy during literacy lessons.  This little resource manages to do all that as well as allow for differentiation of your own making by having blank cards included for you to use!

I have used this type of resource before and find it helps with independent learning and anything that uses clothes pegs is always a hit with my children (whether they are old or young for some reason!!)

I have also played "Witches and Wizards School" with my children so this resource also ties in neatly with that.  Basically the children have five word sentences that are jumbled up and they need to sort them out using numbered clothes pegs so they can read the sentence in the correct word order and it makes sense.  This helps children with their reading for meaning as well as focuses them on the importance of capital letters and full stops/periods as clues to sentence building.  Where words come in a sentence reinforces grammar and copying out their correctly un-jumbled sentences allows them to focus on their handwriting skills and leaving spaces between words.  All vital skills - I'm sure you'll agree.

So if you want to take a look and download the pdf file be my guest and just click on the button below.  Please leave me some feedback if you do and maybe any other ideas on how you could use it even more creatively within the classroom.  I'd love to know :-)

(The wonderfully spooky font is one that Cara over at her Creative Playground is sharing - "Halloween Spider" http://carascreativeplayground.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-spookiest-halloween-fonts-and.html
so take a peek you might find some more resources to help you get ahead for Halloween?)

Monday 22 September 2014

Read 100 Books Challenge

Thought I would post and hi-light again from earlier this week my Read 100 Books Challenge as I have now set it up properly.  Although I might look into the prospect of setting up an accompanying linky as well in the future if I can figure the technology out and find a freebie way to do it.
(Update - I have a simple list linky now at the bottom of the challenge page you can sign up and join - yipee!!)

All you have to do is set up a page at the top of your blog with the Read 100 Books Challenge title and begin to record the books you read - tell people the title, author, when you read them - short (no more than 5 sentences) on what the book is about and your thoughts on it - a recommendation or otherwise and maybe a rating of your own choosing - stars/marks out of 10 etc.

You may use the graphic I created below if you wish to advertise it:

Leave your blog details in the comments on my 100 Books Challenge page so that others can find you and can see what you are reading and how you are doing.  If you click on my page you can see how I have set out my first few books.  This is really a challenge I set up to give myself permission to read for pleasure (rather than academic or government papers on education - which is what I seem to spend most of my reading time on) so don't think you won't succeed if you don't read 100 books - even if you manage to read two books a month and that's two books more than you normally would then you have gained success and hopefully a better lifestyle!!

It can be any book you choose (there is no book snobbery here) just make sure you don't leave any spoilers for others or at least alert before you do!!

I'd love to know what you think of the challenge and I'd love to find a few more book buddies out there from all walks of life so please join in if you can :-)

Saturday 20 September 2014

Teaching Responsibility

A colleague of mine confided in me this week that there had been an incident that had happened concerning one of her pupils which she had gone home feeling really bad about.  When we unpicked what had happened it became apparent that it was the child (who had left the classroom to go to the toilet and had then thrown toilet paper everywhere causing considerable mess) and the parents of that child who were responsible for what had happened - not her!

Sometimes, it is all to easy to put the blame on ourselves but parents and the children we teach also need to understand personal responsibility.  I try to give responsibility to children from a young age for certain things they can have control over in the classroom (who they wish to sit next to, what work and degree of difficulty they wish to attempt, which activity they would like to join in with) and we set out what will happen if they do not act in a responsible manner once they have made their choice.  They know I understand that everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance but they also know that I expect everyone to try their best and to realise their own actions have consequences for others.  I have always been very proud of the way my children have conducted themselves and when things go wrong can unpick the situation with me and take responsibility for their actions, however this does take time and the ability to talk to children away from others so it is often conducted at break or lunch times.  Children need to be taught these skills however and parents need to be shouldering this responsibility too on regulating their child's behaviour outside of the classroom and control of the teacher.  Knowing how to behave when going to the toilet and why should be instilled by parental teaching and should not be criticism levelled at teachers whose responsibility lies in the education of their child!

Let me know your thoughts on this thorny topic.  Do parents see you as the controller of their child's actions?  Are you responsible for everything that happens whilst on school property?  How much responsibility should we allow children?  How can we teach responsibility?

Friday 19 September 2014

Five For Friday

Well here goes - joining up with

Firstly, seeing as how September is a real birthday month in my family I decided to create these birthday candle numbers to celebrate.  There are lots of festivals of light coming up so I thought they might be useful - please feel free to use :-)

I have now completed everything on my list from the Sunday Scoop challenge (two Sundays ago) thanks mainly to the good weather I have been able to get into my jungle (I mean garden!) and do some weeding and tidying before autumn arrives.  A huge sigh of relief.  Plus I got my TpT stuff posted, I sorted out my fonts folder and finally this posting which should be going live due to me figuring out pre-scheduling - hurray!

I also got around to actually having a go at making my own font for something I need to help those children I work with who have special needs but I also think it will have a beneficial effect for others as well.  More will be revealed later on this month I'm sure ;-) 

I have decided to take up the challenge of reading 100 books during this school year and yes although this does include books for older children I hope to be equally reading adult fiction too.  So why not join in and take the challenge - all you need to do is to create a "100 Books Challenge" page on your blog and write a brief synopsis of each book you read, giving it a rating and hopefully we can all increase the amount we read and find some new authors and books that can inspire us :-)  This all ties in with me trying to promote the September Literacy Campaign - maybe you would like to, too?

Had a lovely day last weekend visiting a huge car boot sale as well as going around an antiques centre.  Managed to indulge my vintage children's learning games obsession along with my love of 1950's kitsch without spending too much on either - bargains all round - yipee!!

Thursday 18 September 2014

Thursday Throwback Funding Frustration

Linking up with:

So make sure you check out what others are throwing back to (Angela's one is a really good post I will be using later this week!!)

I am again looking at funding issues so that children get the support they need within their classroom and get top quality teaching too - I wonder would employing extra qualified special needs teachers in schools ever catch on over here in the U.K.???  Of course not - we have no funding in our school budget!!!  Get my drift?  If you want to hear what I said on the subject back in April of this year then head on  there using the button below and if you have any good suggestions Please, Please, Please let me know!!

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Wordless Wednesday Odd One Out!

Joining in again with Miss DeCarbo

I couldn't quite believe my eyes the other week when another creature appeared in the garden - can you spot the odd one out?

Amazingly, although it appeared to be very happy around the cats, they kept away from it as much as possible - leaping on to the outside table and chairs when it got too pesky!  But none attacked it - not even a biff on the nose.  I couldn't catch it though and it ran off through the hole in the fence into the neighbour's garden and probably beyond.

It made me think a little about how sometimes children can have a problem fitting in and playing with others too.  Do you have ways to solve this at your school?  How do you ensure children have fun at their breaktimes?

Friday 12 September 2014

Friday Fun Write

Well this week (still on the theme of raising literacy awareness during September - see my blog post earlier this week on Wednesday) I am trying something new and joining in with my friend Cara's Linky over at Creative Playground - you can too by clicking on the button below:

Here's what Cara says about her Friday Fun Write!

"The Friday Fun Write!  Participating is easy... I will post a new word each Friday.  Think about the word for a few seconds and just start typing.  Continue with your thoughts to screen for 5 minutes and you're almost done!  Make sure to add the Friday Fun Write button to your post and link it back to this post on my blog.  Then sign up through the linky party button and you're all set!  A quick, easy way to get a post out there without taking too much effort and time!"

This week's word is - 

so here goes!

I am not so good when it comes to prioritising "my" things - I generally have my own list of what I need to accomplish during the day but every time a person comes a knocking on my little room door what they need tends to come first then and my list grows a little longer and my things get a little lower on it - which is why I am often found at work after school because that's when I don't get anymore interruptions and I can get on with what I should be doing!!

I accept this way of working because I believe part of my role is to facilitate the work of others and accommodate their problems and try to help - I am the SENCO and sometimes I feel this makes me the "Mum" of the school and the headteacher is the "Dad" (she'd probably kill me for saying that about her!)

The care and learning needs of the children in the school takes priority in my book over the paperwork aspect of the job so once again I often do this in my own time before and after school (I think during the teaching week I put in 13 hour days plus time at weekends) but that is how I choose to prioritise my time and say what is important to me.  I also think that is why I so like being part of our blogging community because I realise so many others do this too so I am not as weird as I sometimes get told I am!!

I am a list person though when it comes to dealing with priority and there is no better satisfaction when ticking off items which is why I have really rather enjoyed this week working through Teaching Trio's Sunday Scoop list I compiled at the beginning of the week I will be updating how I got on tomorrow!

Right that's my five minutes up - a bit all over the place and probably not prioritised at all but I'd love some feedback on what you think and any tips you can give me are always appreciated - your experiences are invaluable.  Now you can head on over to Cara's blog and join in too!

Thursday 11 September 2014

Throwback Thursday X

Today, I'm joining in with The Teacher's Desk 6 and taking us back to my A to Z Challenge post for the letter X.

Despite being the letter I had dreaded the most (how could I blog about special needs education with emphasis on the letter X and who would be interested?)  I discovered new blogs and materials and had comments and feedback left which probably just goes to show you never know what you can accomplish until you try!!

Click on the button to go to my X post and tell me what you think?

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Wordless Wednesday Peter & Jane

Having been told by my good friend, Yvonne Ventresca over at her Young Adult writing blog that September is National Literacy Awareness month in the United States I thought I would combine that with Wordless Wednesday and post this picture:

Is this possibly one of the most influential books in 20th century Britain of all time?  How many of us learnt to read using this scheme and where has that knowledge taken us?

I am also sharing this via the linky party over at Miss DeCarbo's:

My Wordless Wednesday questions are what books/scheme did you learn to read from and why do you think they were successful?

Why not come over and see what others are posing as their question and take a look at their pictures?

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Owl Freebie

I created these colourful little owls during the summer holidays but didn't get around to actually creating anything with them (their time will come!) but rather than have them nest here with me I thought I would give them their freedom and hopefully someone else would like to use them for their own creation - if you do I'd love to know what you did and please give credit if used in a product :-)

Just click on the picture below to download and use!

Monday 8 September 2014

Monday Made It

Attention: This is a spoiler alert for Fil over at: Fil's Place - Old Songs and Memories
If you don't want to know/see the item coming to you for the Pass it Forward Art/Craft Challenge do not press on item no 3 button!!

Today I'm linking up with 

to show you some of the things I have been making recently :-)

I've been looking at "Workbaskets" over at a number of special ed blogs over the summer and decided that this was something I should be doing for some of my learners to enhance their independence and allow them to practice certain essential skills.
I am also going to link up with
Workbasket Wednesday at Autism Classroom News
and maybe get some feedback on the dos and don'ts of this workbasket idea!
I actually found the lolly maker up in my attic in one of my old maths boxes (I'd originally used it to wrap maths questions around the sticks for an entertaining maths centre!!)
I would begin by getting students to match the lolly colours already in the container and then move on to having them copy a photo of a completed tray.
I would change the photo to copy at each session - possibly making it harder as we went along.
I would then change to a colour dot array for them to copy using the ice-lolly tray.

My new freebie now up on TpT - please go and download and leave me a comment or feedback.  I'd be delighted to know what you think!

And finally I have completed my first challenge craft/art project which will be winging its way to Fil so if  you want to see what I made click on the button below!

I still have two spaces left on my list if anyone wants to sign up for the 
Click on the picture above to go to details about it :-)