Friday, 30 December 2011

Up, up and into space! Space resources for the classroom

What is your classroom topic going to be when you head back to school in January?

We are looking at space, so I figured that would be a good topic to start gathering resources for. Below are links to numerous fantastic sites, all with resources that you may find useful for your "SPACE" topic.

1.5m x 22cm classroom display banner.
Visit the printable resource section to access this resource. 

Friday, 23 December 2011

Crafty Christmas

The big day is nearly upon us! The kids are getting itchy feet.... I find myself trying to occupy a rather hyper nine year old girl with something other then the TV.

Christmas table arrangement from
This morning I discovered a fab little website.  Full of Christmas craft ideas and inspiration. Click here to visit Kaboose.

Elf napkin ring from Kaboose
I wanted some home made table decorations for Christmas day so had a poke around on the net and this is what I came up with. 

The Kaboose website also features easy to follow videos, perfect for the kids. 
 Beaded snowflake from
Activity Village

The instructions for making these gorgeous     snow flake decorations are available at Activity   Village.

Hand-made wreath from
How about trying one of these handy
wreaths from the FamilyFunGo website.

We made some tasty Rudolph cupcakes yesterday, they went down a treat. Find the instructions here.

Angel place name from Kaboose
Finally I'd like to wish all the readers a very Merry Christmas! I hope Santa brings something nice for everyone.

Thank you for your continued support.
Rudlof cupcakes from Activity Village

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Daily Behaviour Contracts

Have you ever tackled a pupils poor behaviour by instigating a daily behaviour contract?

In my past experience they have always been incredibly effective, especially when devised between teachers, child and parents. In a situation where a child struggles to effectively manage their own behaviour yet thrives off of the praise and reward received by parents when they do, they can be a powerful tool. A behaviour contract provides an actual link between home and school, parents, teacher and teaching assistant.

I have found that sometimes a home/school diary is not enough to combat the poor behaviour. I would guess that the lines are just too blurred with such a document, there are no strong visual boundaries. The behaviour contract tackles this by clearly outlining the expected behaviour, do not reel off a list of requirements, instead stick to four or five compulsory points and word them using positive language.

Some behaviour contract points I have used in the past are:
  • I have sat on my chair properly.
  • I have walked sensibly around the school.
  • I have had a good lunch/break time.
  • I have been polite to adults.
  • I have not fiddled with the contents of my tray.
  • I have raised my hand to ask a question or offer my point of view. 
By writing the points as something which has already been achieved the contract does not appear as such a challenge. For example, "I have sat on my chair properly" rather then, "I will sit on my chair properly."

I like to glue the daily behaviour contract into the home/school diary, this way any points that need further explanation can be provided along with the contract. The pupil should be encourage to apply stickers or ticks to the contract at the end of the day, in order to self-monitor their behaviour. They should also be encouraged to talk to their parents/carers about points which they may have missed on that day, and discuss possible ways in which to achieve them the next day. 

By outlining the first five goals in a daily behaviour contract, the pupil will know exactly what behaviour is expected of them. The points on the contract should be revised termly, and updated once a constant rate of success has been achieved. Discuss with the pupil possible rewards to receive in return for achieving the contract, remember what you see as a reward may not be so for the pupil. The reward will need to be relevant and age appropriate. 

Blank behaviour contracts for boys and girls can be found in the printable resource section. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Virtual Keyboard for Classroom Whiteboard

Here's another fun little resource from the people at the Whiteboard and Plasma room. An interactive keyboard for your classroom.

Ideal to get the kids actively involved in music lessons... If you haven't already broken up for the festive holiday, why not try and learn a Christmas carol?!

Click here to view the resource.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Merry Christmas Makaton

The Makaton charity has some festive downloads for us all.

Christmas carols and cards featuring the Makaton signs and symbols are available and would look great on your Christmas displays.

Click here to take a look at their site and browse their Christmas resources.

Is free play a waste of time?

A quick Google search brings up many an article on whether or not free play is beneficial to children of a certain age. Those children are four or five years old, in the Foundation stage of school, yet some believe they should have a fully structured day of learning, a lesson time table. Literacy, numeracy, physical education and science lessons to name but a few.

Can children, of that age, be expected to sit and learn with pen and paper for an extended period of time. Would they benefit from such a method? Show me a classroom of "free players" and I'll show you a numeracy, literacy, science, P.E and religious education lesson taking place.

Picture a group of children, playing house. Someone is cooking dinner and someone is waiting at the table. With a little direction this game can become something more educational then a sheet of sums or handwriting guides. The opportunity to develop social skills arises, speech and language, and respect for others. "How many potatoes would you like?" - Hello numeracy, hello manners! Not to mention the development of turn taking and speaking and listening skills. Drop an adult in on the situation and the learning experience can gain more ground. "What colour are the peas?" "Have you been at work today? What job do you do?" And there you have developing imagination at its best. 

Are we currently observing a move to more play orientated learning in the older years as well? Self-directed learning? The push to make learning more hands on. A local primary school recently instigated a powerful hands on learning experience for the children in their school, by creating a "space rock" in the playground. They pulled out all the stops, involving the local PCO's and bringing in science speakers to evaluate the mysterious rock. The children were motivated to learn and actively involved in the lesson. 

Is this method beneficial to all students though? What about catering for all learning styles? Join the debate and share your experiences. 

Free printables

Are you looking for more free, printable activities and goodies? Worksheets, charts and certificates are all available in the Top 10 Free Downloads on Teachers pay Teachers. It is a lovely site with lots of resources designed by teachers and teaching assistants.

I really like the Gingerbread series. It's $8.50 and contains 75 pages of wonderful activities! Click here to view.

Don't forget Special Education Matters free, printable and versatile resources section is updated regularly with FREE ideas to implement in your classroom.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Children to know times tables by 9

Children could be required to learn and know their times tables and division facts by age 9, amid new plans to tighten up the productivity of the Nation Curriculum, it is claimed in an article in The Telegraph today.

Thoroughly needed I would say. Once a firm grip of multiplication sums have been mastered, the mathematical world is a child's oyster. A confidence in times tables, without a doubt, leads to further confidence in other areas of numeracy. Countless times I have taught topics such as area, an uphill struggle when working with a child who has not yet mastered their times tables.

My daughter is nine, and confident with her 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, and 11, times tables. She is not a wizz at numeracy but thoroughly enjoys it. Forced to reflect, I've concluded that with minimal extra effort she would, by now, be unruffled by the remaining  times tables. It seems a reasonable request to make and one that would be hugely beneficial to all children in numerous ways.

The website has brilliant ideas and fresh approaches for teaching children times tables. What methods do you use that have proved successful?

Friday, 16 December 2011

Primary School League Tables 2011: How did your school do?

Published today are the results of the 2011 National KS2 Numeracy and Literacy assessments. There are definitely some surprising results in there!

The Guardian have made it super easy to view the results of primary schools near you by creating an interactive map. Simply click on the dot that interests you.

How did your school do in the assessments? Click here to use the interactive service.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

New FREE printable resources added to the collection!!!

Respectful Teaching

For a long time I've spouted about the negative impact one poor teacher or teaching assistant can have on a child with behavioural difficulties. I've witnessed professionals talk to children in a demeaning manner and then be surprised when they receive nothing but back chat and a lack of respect in return. You could spend months ironing out the creases in a child's behaviour, giving them the tools they need to successfully interact and the methods to use in times of stress, but it can be undone in the blink of an eye, by one interaction with a teacher or assistant, who is incapable of displaying the respect a child needs to be shown in order to develop respect for those around them.

It is no surprise to me that children with behavioural difficulties are 9/10, capable of displaying perfectly acceptable behaviour for one adult yet not for another. These children should be treated with a blank page, not just every day but every lesson. To hold a child responsible for a name they called you yesterday is a pointless and petty action. These children need to develop a sense of pride in their behaviour, and they are not going to achieve that when they receive more attention for the negative behaviour they display then the positive.

Staff at The Real School in Falmouth, have adopted a hands off approach to teaching.  Physical intervention and restraint techniques will only be used if the child is posing a danger to themselves or others. They are actively encouraging the children to take responsibility for their own actions. An example given in an article on the Disability Scoop website says "Instead of being held down, a student who's bolting is more likely to be offered their coat to keep warm outdoors." Here it seems, is a school full of teachers after my own heart. I'm willing to bet, here is a place, you will not find a lack of respect between teacher and pupil (and vice versa!).

Some children shrink back when spoken down to, others bite back, I was one of those children.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

New Handy Hand resources

Check out the new FREE and PRINTABLE Handy Hands added to the Downloadable, Printable and Versatile Resources section on the right "hand" side.

They're Jolly "handy"!!!

Click here to access.

The new generation of SEN?

An article in the Education News yesterday has claimed that teachers do not feel well equipped to cope with the rising number of pupils with Special Educational Needs.  Are trainee and newly qualified teachers given enough training in the field to efficiently plan and provide support for these children? Are SEN numbers really rising or are we simply more focused on the individual needs of each and every child then ever before?

The Education News suggests a book is the answer. Behaviour solutions - A guide to syndromes & conditions.

 Do books like this one lead to well informed and prepared teachers? Or is experience within SEN a more beneficial route to confidence within the sector? Of course this publication has its uses, identifying the characteristics of a condition could help when devising learning activities but are all children with Condition A the same? Personally, I can't help but think that this sort of publication, when advertised as a solution to the "problem", can only lead to children being identified or categorised according to their condition. The reason I set off down this journey in the first place, was to change the way people approached SEN, are we moving backwards?

Read the full story here.

Facebook update page

Hello everyone, please take a moment to join our Facebook page. Members will be able to see when new material and resources are uploaded on to the Special Education Matters blog and refer us to friends. 

Thank you to you all for your continued support. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Crackers

The Guardian hit the nail on the head with their article today.... Lesson plans are completely written off in the run up to Christmas. Despite best intentions, the children's excitement levels and anticipation for the big day, leave even the most organised of teachers spinning in a pile of sparkly things and sticky tape. And why not? I have fond memories of the run up to Christmas, making decorations, baking, learning carols. It all created a magical build up only ever tamed by 'growing up'.

Luckily The Guardian has some expert advice on how to 'teach' Christmas properly. Click here to read the full article and access the Christmas lesson plan ideas!

Get decorative with you class and download instructions for making these lovely little walnut babies. Click here. These little darlings would make wonderful, personalised tree decorations a family could cherish.

If your looking for Christmas resources look no further. I've found Activity Village, and there are oodles of printables (worksheets and activities) available on their website!

I particularly like these festive gift-tag colourables! Click here to head over to their website for more inspiration for your class this Christmas.

Hand and foot reindeer
For younger children, Enchanted Learning have some lovely decoration and craft ideas for your lessons. Click here to head over to their website and take a look at their ideas this year. The activities are easy for parents to do at home, during the holidays. Here are two of my favourites
Brown paper Christmas Stocking
  from their festive collection.

Fantastic resources for the classroom whiteboard

Most classrooms these days are equipped with an interactive whiteboard, and if not, why not?!! Especially with resources such as those available at The Plasma Screen & WhiteBoard Room. This website boasts fantastic resources for all subjects. Kids rejoice at the opportunity to fiddle with the whiteboard so use this opportunity to make it worthwhile. It should be a doddle to get the children involved and actively learning.

For my children with a motor skill delay, I particularly like the handwriting practice activity. It encourages hand control as the children trace over the zigzag lines with the pen or even their finger.

There is also a great activity for developing auditory discrimination skills whilst encouraging active listening and improving concentration skills. 

The resources have been created by teachers for teachers so are designed with active learning in mind. The website and it's activities are free to access and there are guides and help sections available online. Click here to visit the website and access the full range of resources. Go on, get them into "active" learning in more ways then one!

Monday, 12 December 2011

"Pupils to fail new reading test"

The BBC recently reported that two-thirds of primary aged school children will fail the new phonics reading check when it is introduced into the system next year. You can read the full story here.

Every school I've ever worked in has had a differing level of reading ability throughout the year groups and all have adopted a different approach to the teaching of reading and word knowledge. In my experience and own personal opinion, the method best placed to increase reading levels has to come from the creators of Read Write Inc. My daughter was lucky enough to be part of this pilot scheme as it got it's first airing in a school here and her reading improved dramatically and accurately. She developed a passion for reading and writing that continues to this day. Of course, she may well have developed this love of literature without the influence of Read Write Inc, but we will never know. One thing is certain, she always enjoyed her literacy within the programme and still holds fond memories of the series.

Share your own experiences. Are there any new and developing phonic programmes we should be featuring?

Letters and Sounds

The Letters and Sounds website contains hundreds of free literacy resources, for both parents and teachers. It is all broken down into understandable phases so parents can easily identify the level at which their child is working.

I love the interactive games available at the end of each phase.

Take a look at their website here.

YPO Special Needs Resources 2011

YPO are intent on improving sustainability and caring for our environment. All their 2011 catalogues are produced on PEFC paper and they have sourced many more green and sustainable products then ever before.

Their reward scheme ensures all the profit made stays in the public purse, there is no minimum order, a loyalty scheme and FREE delivery. Perfect!

Recommended products:

CVC magnetic word strips


Make learning CVC words fun, tactile and visual. This magnetic resource helps develop sound identification and blending skills.

Catalogue No. 84960x


Write on/wipe off letter formation guides. Brilliant for developing the fine motor skills necessary for handwriting. 

Catalogue No. 532991

Take a look at the YPO online catalogue by clicking this link. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Keep up to date

Stay on top of the latest educational stories by clicking on the news link on the right hand side.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Downloadable, Printable and versatile resources

On the right hand side, you will now find a page entitled Downloadable, Printable and versatile resources. All the resources available here have been created by myself so feel free to download, print and use them.

We wish you a Merry Christmas (Singing, actions, clapping and tears)

The Foundation/Year 1 class in which I work recently performed their Christmas Nativity play in front of their parents, grandparents, uncles, babysitters, neighbours etc and what a success it was! The old script was jazzed up with some current songs whilst keeping the magic of the story alive.

I challenged the little gems in more ways then one, not only did they have to remember to smile, say their lines, sing their songs and face the audience, they also had to learn the Makaton signing for two well known Christmas carols. Boy did they pull it off! I can totally relate to how nervous they felt, at 4 and 5 years old, standing in front of a sea of expectant faces. I, for one, was desperate not to make a mistake and end up signing, "We wish good tidings Christmas we bring!" Yoda was not in the play. They took such pride in learning the signs and take with them the ability to wish a Makaton user Merry Christmas..... Priceless.

All went to plan and a well-timed "Merrrrrr" from one little sheep added an impromptu comedy moment no script could replace.

Thanks to Singing Hands for the Makaton Christmas Carols, again an invaluable and readily available resource.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Special Educational Needs Resources

To the right hand side you will find a link to my Special Educational Needs Resources page.... I will post links on this page regularly for sites and resources I have found to be valuable.

Special Education Matters (SEM)

I could go on for hours and hours about why I want to work in Special Education.... Instead I thought I would provide a copy my of university application supporting statement.

What has motivated me enough to apply for this foundation degree? What has inspired me to reach further and achieve more? The answer to both those questions is simple, a ten year old child. A child with whom I have been working closely with, 1:1 in fact, for the last year. A child who has challenged me, annoyed me, threatened me and thanked me. A child who has made me realise that I am good at what I do, I enjoy what I do and more importantly, I am proud of what we, together, have achieved this year.

Years ago I decided I wanted to work with children, become a teacher perhaps I thought, working with the little ones in Reception and Key Stage 1. Their so innocent aren't they? So fun to be around. But circumstances being what they were at the time, this goal was not achievable. I could however gain some experience and make certain this was the route I wanted to take in the mean time. So I set about securing myself a place volunteering at one of my local schools, in a year 2 class. I relished the opportunity and enjoyed helping out on my days off, every week. I was soon moved up to a year 5 class who were crying out for help. Here I met a young boy with Aspergers syndrome struggling to make his way through school life. One day, he was sat at his desk, staring blankly out the window, not listening to the teacher and flapping his pencil case in his face. Without thinking I walked over, removed his pencil case from his grip and sat down next to him. He looked at me and smiled, then looked at his class teacher and listened to the lesson being explained. There I stayed, for the next five months, until he moved up to year 6 in September. The improvements in this child's work were dramatic. Via a little encouragement he had been able to achieve at a much higher level then he was previously and the satisfaction for myself was immense!

A few weeks after that first encounter I started looking for courses available to me which would help me secure paid employment in this sector. I found the NVQ level 2 in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools and completed this whilst volunteering. Nearing completion of the NVQ I set about hunting for jobs and applied for a position at a nearby infant and junior school. The position was for a 1:1 teaching assistant to work with year 5 child with severe behavioural difficulties. Ten minutes after my interview, as I was walking through my front door, my phone rang. I had been successful.

I started my new job two days later and introduced myself to a stroppy child, with a face like thunder and an attitude to match. I spent hours observing this boy, working out why he behaved the way he did and how to help him. There were times at the beginning when I thought I had taken on to much. How could I help him? Who was I to tell him how he should control his anger? But then we would have a day where he would choose to work with me, pass me a pen, ask me to play a game, and I would see a side to him that was hidden away from view. We worked together to iron out the creases and develop the skills he needed to achieve his targets and socialise with peers. This young man now no longer requires the constant supervision that that same boy needed back when he started at the school. He has a strong group of friends and is looking forward to starting senior school in September, with his newly developed social skills and academic achievements, I’m sure he will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed working with him.  

Friday, 2 December 2011

Deck the halls with...... post it notes?

If I ever met the human responsible for creating the Post-it note, I would probably kiss them.... Without these little flappy bits of paper my life would be complete and utter chaos... I write everything down, then I write it down somewhere else, to remind me that I wrote it down in the first place. "I love how organised you are..." the other half often tweets.... Really?? I spend every day in a blind panic thinking I've forgotten something... Half the time I wake up and can't work out what day it is, where I'm supposed to be or what I'm doing. One day last week I woke up and couldn't even remember what my job was let alone why my alarm was going off.... I thought I'd had a stroke in the night!

Everything seems to be happening at a million miles an hour at the moment. It goes from Monday to Monday in a blink of an eye and before I know it another week has passed by. Sometimes I wonder what my poor over frazzled brain will be capable of at 70 years old, if anything at all. I have crammed so much into my life in the last ten years I believe it's reasonable my brain and body might just pack up through over use!

At 17 years old I became a mother. Oh no, teenage pregnancy, life will inevitably be over, I'll have to live off benefits and get a council house.... and that is just a brief snippet of the stigma. That's one of the main reasons I started this blog... If just one girl who reads this realises that her life is far from over just because she finds she is with child, then my work here is done. I never truly believed the whole stigma, but I also never realised how much parts of it actually did have a significant impact on my life, until now.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

HSBC student bursary competition

Wouldn't £15,000 make supporting myself and my family through my higher education that little bit easier?
Well Kind old HSBC are giving 8 students the chance to win a 15k bursary!! 

The brief was to create a video detailing how £15,000 would help you make your mark on the world. There are certainly some ambitious people in this competition, entrepreneurs, world peace activists, beauty queens, fashion designers... It's a real mixed bunch. 

Follow the link and have a browse .... Search for my video "Enabling children to achieve" by Lottie Stokes.... and if you think it is worthy of a place in the final, cast your vote by hitting the vote button. 

It's unfortunate that it's such a popularity contest to get to the final, and those with the most Facebook friends are already whizzing off into the lead, but I'm determined to get my video into that final!! Eeek.... help... 

Back to school

Anyone else get excited about buying a new pencil case for the start of term? Oh this years is quite the disappointment. Bit plain really, no fake fur or flashing lights.

.... Yes I'm 27... But tomorrow I'm going back to school... Well Uni! I've already been and had a mooch around and felt massively out of place but hey ho! It wasn't so bad, I wasn't the oldest.... Or the youngest.... Which I'd been panicking about... Actually I met someone the same age as me, with two kids and lives just down the road :) Thank goodness for Hazel...

September has brought with it some big changes and my cart-wheels are slightly more frequent right now. I've started my new job (well same sort of job, different school) and have been enjoying it immensely. My little girl has hopped on up to year 5 which has added to the crows feet. Not so little anymore... and I've brought some new pens, oh yes, ones that promise to write first time, every time... They, coupled with my new pencil case have left me well equipped for registration day tomorrow.

If you get a second please make sure you check out my entry into the HSBC student bursary competition

"Like" the page and then search for my video "Enabling children to achieve" it's all about working with children with special educational needs :) Thanks everyone.