Sunday, 28 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions for Teachers: Maintaining a healthy work/life balance

It's that time of the year again. Christmas is over and 2015 is fast approaching. Of course so many people are thinking about losing weight, going to the gym more often, quitting an unhealthy habit, etc. I wonder how many people are thinking about being LESS committed to work. 

A common complaint from teachers is that during the academic year, they have too much to do and they work long hours. Most of my teachers friends do a several hours of school work once the children go home and then dedicate either one whole morning/afternoon/evening at the weekends catching up on planning, marking or making resources. 

Any non-teacher reading this who wishes to complain, we've all heard your argument. "Teachers should just suck it up. They have two month's holidays in the summer and many, many weeks off throughout the year." Does that mean it's right that teachers spend half of the year completely chilled out, doing nothing but spending their earnings and going on holidays to Thailand and then suffer from stress due to the long hours they work during term-time? Personally, I don't think so.

I'm not sure why it is that teachers feel OBLIGED to spend hours upon hours of overtime. I am one of those teachers who will work far too hard and burn myself out when I allow myself to do so. I can't fully explain my reasoning. I'm a very hard worker, passionate about my job and (maybe, unfortunately) enjoy blogging, which is also school-related. I sometimes find it hard to prioritise all of the things I need/want to do and don't manage my time as efficiently as I can.

I know in theory that working so much and not giving ample time to my personal life is detrimental to my well-being. Judging by the complaints I hear/read about from teachers, I am not alone in falling into this trap. So, this post is to encourage all you teachers to put "Maintain a healthy work/life balance" as the top priority on your list of resolutions! It will benefit you personally and you'll probably have more energy and a better attitude with your students if you start the day refreshed and not worn out!

In October, I decided that I needed to make some changes so it seems I've started my resolution a little early. I must say, it has worked wonders. Here are the little things I did to restore some balance. Obviously every teacher faces different demands due to their specific school/class/curriculum/timetable so these won't all necessarily by applicable to everybody. 
1. Take a morning break. In my school, we have a 20 minute break time. For some reason, we don't all go down to the staff room at the same time in my school. I found it very easy just to continue working through that break time. I decided to make myself take at least 10 or 15 minutes of that time to have a snack and browse through Facebook/Twitter.
2. Leave school work at school. This was a tough one. I was notorious for leaving school after an hour, bringing my planner home and working on the couch. I convinced myself that I worked better when I was more comfortable. Having decided to finish work in the school building, I managed to procrastinate less and work harder. It also created great closure mentally. Once I left the building, I stopped thinking about what I needed to do.
3. Bring a snack for after school. One of the reasons I used to leave school early was because I was drained of energy at the end of the school day. Bringing a piece of fruit to eat once the children left solved this problem. I take a quick break to have a chat and eat something and then get back to my planning, refreshed.
4. Try not to be such a perfectionist. This is a tough one for me. I'm quite indecisive and can spend a lot of time humming and hawing over things. I've forced myself to make decisions more quickly. I'm sure that my quality of teaching has not suffered due to this. It's just saved me a lot of thinking time that I had previously been wasting.
5. Free up weekends as much as possible. This goes well with no. 3. I have tried my best to bring NO school work home for the weekend. Though I might do one or two little jobs; when I don't have something urgent to do, I don't feel stressed to do it and it's not on my mind until Sunday evening when I stop procrastinating!

As you can see, some of these changes are very simple. If you have any other tips on how teachers could save time and be more productive, please comment below!

Wishing everybody a healthy and happy new year!

*Background, frame and clipart in image all from MyCuteGraphics

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Staff treat

Unfortunately, I've no resources to share with you today. Here's a quick peek at what I've been up to this evening. We have our Christmas show tomorrow so here's a little sugar pick-me-up for the teachers! 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Simple Snowflake Crafts (for all classes in primary school)

Just a week left! 

Time is flying by! 

Here are three simple snowflake crafts for lower, middle and upper primary school children. None of them require very many resources (though, for the first one, you'll need to pick up a few packs of lollipop sticks!)

1. Lower primary:
This lollipop snowflake is easy. Glue a few lollipop sticks together, paint them white and smother them with glitter. Glue on a loop of string to create a hanging Christmas tree decoration.
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2. Middle primary:
This is what I'll be doing with my class this week (which ties in nicely with our latest maths topic of symmetry). It's a paper snowflake. Simply fold a circle of paper in half several times, cut out some triangles et voilà. Add some string if you want to hang it from the tree. Smother in glitter for effect.
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One of my colleagues pointed me in the direction of "snowflake ballerinas" on Pinterest. You cut out a ballerina template from white card and the snowflake becomes her tutu. You can view the craft and download templates for the ballerina here.
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3. Upper primary:
This giant snowflake is a little fiddly to make but very do-able for older primary school children. All you need to do is fold 6 squares of paper, cut in a certain way, tape it together. And, as per the other crafts, feel free to add a loop of string and (You've guessed it!) SMOTHER IT IN GLITTER. It works great if done in pairs. Check out this tutorial to see how to do it.

Here are some that my 7 year olds made two year's ago:

*Background, frame and clipart in image all from MyCuteGraphics

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas Party YouTube Playlist

Hello everyone,

Another Christmas-themed treat for you today. Here's a YouTube playlist that I made for our Christmas party. It's an hour long and includes lots of Christmas classics, singalongs, THE MINIONS and, love it or hate it, Frozen's "Let It Go." Hopefully YouTube isn't blocked in your school and you can make use of this resource!

Background and frame in the image from MyCuteGraphics

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Jingle Bell Rock Video Tutorial

Looking for something to keep your class entertained for a while during the last week of school? Want a dance that they can do in the classroom (even with limited space)? 

Well it's you're lucky day! It is with a great deal of embarrassment and a dollop of courage that I present to you a video tutorial of the dance that we created at my school for Jingle Bell Rock. It's really simple so even younger primary school children can do it and the song is not baby-ish so it should suit middle and upper primary school classes too.

I was hoping that this could be something that you could put on your interactive whiteboard/projector but the video quality isn't great. I had some serious issues trying to save it as a bigger file due to storage problems. However, it still might be useful for you to learn the dance, to teach the children.

Unfortunately, due to copyright issues, I couldn't use the official track. I suggest teaching the song and using this karaoke video to help with the lyrics. Then, when they're familiar with the song, use my dance tutorial to add in the moves.

I ho ho hope you like it (I've already uploaded a video of me dancing, I don't think that cheesy line can make me cringe any more)

Friday, 5 December 2014

FREE Christmas pelmanism (memory) card game

It's FRIIIIIIIIIIIDAY! And for some of us, it's a long weekend! Here's a festive freebie to keep your class busy during the last week of school. It's a pelmanism (memory) game. 

I'm sure you all know how to play! Just turn over two cards. If they match, you keep the pair and go again. If not, the next person takes a turn. Continue until no cards remain. The winner is the person with the most cards.

There are 15 picture cards and 15 matching labels in this set. You can use as many or as few of these pairs of cards to challenge your children appropriately. 

They could also be used for introducing basic Christmas vocabulary to students with English as a second language. 

You can download them for free from Google Drive or my TPT store.

P.S. A quick reminder: I have been shortlisted for an Edublog Award in the "Most Influential Blog Post of the Year" category. I would really appreciate any votes. You just have to click on the thumbs up under "A Crucial Week: 10 reasons NOT to date a girl who teaches." Click here to vote!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Crucial Week Shortlisted for the 2014 Edublog Awards

What a great surprise today to see that my blog post "10 Reasons NOT to Date a Girl Who Teaches" has been shortlisted in the "Most Influential Blog Post of the Year" category of the 11th international Edublog Awards. 

Thank you to everyone who voted for me in the last round of nominations!

If you would like to vote for me, please go to the Edublog Awards website

Monday, 1 December 2014

Kindness Elves

Image source: Erica's Ed-Ventures

Having just posted about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon, a post by Amy Lemons directing me towards Erica's Ed-Ventures grabbed my attention. It's about "Kindness Elves." They elf stays in your classroom and each day they have a note with an act of kindness. To make things even better, Erica has posted a freebie with lovely, heart-shaped notes, full of ideas. Just click here to view her post and download.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Is there an Elf on the Shelf in your classroom?

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Many American teacher bloggers who I follow have an Elf on the Shelf in their classrooms. If you don't know what it is, have a look at this page. You can "adopt" an elf who brings their Christmas magic. The elves tend to get up to some mischief when humans are asleep/away. If your adopted elf lives in your classroom, the children arrive to find something out of the ordinary when they get to school. 

The official Shelf The Elf website has a gallery of photos of elf sightings. There is also a Buzzfeed post with 43 interesting sightings, providing lots of inspiration (though not all are suitable for classrooms.) Pinterest is full of photos of sightings in classrooms.

Mel D from Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations documented her Elf on the Shelf ideas on her blog. She has also shared a freebie with some writing templates. It's available in her TPT store. 

Photo from Mel D's Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations

Adopting an official elf from this website can be a little bit pricey. I'm sure less expensive elves can be "adopted" from other places. Is this something that you think you'd like to try in your classroom? 

Irish teachers, this concept could very easily be applied to St. Patrick's Day and leprechauns!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

2D shapes teaching resources

Hi all! Happy Thursday! Only 3 weeks to the hols after tomorrow!

I just wanted to share a quick resource of two hands-on activities that we did in class  yesterday to investigate the properties of 2D shapes.

The first one was determining if shapes tessellate. The children made predictions and then used shapes (made from card) to check if they were right.

They then did a shape factfile for two shapes of their choice, as below.

To download the materials used in this lesson (templates of the 9 shapes to be photocopied on coloured card, shape factfiles and a tessellation investigation sheet), click here!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Edublog Awards 2014 - Nominations

I'm delighted to have been nominated for the 11th international Edublog Awards. If you wish to nominate your favourite educational bloggers, pop over to the Edublog Awards official site to submit your votes in as many of the 19 categories as you like! You can nominate until November 24th (next week). 

My blog post: "10 Reasons NOT to Date a Girl Who Teaches" has been nominated in the "Most Influential Blog Post" category. If you agree with this, please give me more nominations! If not, maybe you would consider nominating me for "Best Individual Blog."

Here are my nominations for the #eddies14
Best Individual Blog: Seomra Ranga
Best Ed Tech / Resource Sharing Blog:
Best Teacher Blog: Step into Second Grade with Ms. Lemons
Best Individual Tweeter: Seomra Ranga
Best Free Web Tool: Pinterest
Best Mobile App: A+ Spelling Test

IB teacher blogs worth checking out!

PYP PE With Andy:
This blog does what it says on the tin. Andy is a PE teacher in a PYP school. He shares ideas for good teaching practice. I love how he makes anchor charts that are very simple and visual. Some examples of the central idea broken down and related to PE like the one below really caught my eye.

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@alisoneducates Reflections of an Early Years PYP teacher:
Written by a very passionate Pre-K teacher, this blog shows exactly how you can promote visual thinking in your classroom. She is very experienced and clearly cares a lot about becoming more knowledgeable about the best practices for active learning.

A very interesting blog giving the insights of author, Edna Sackson, into teaching and learning in an IB PYP school in Melbourne Australia. She writes in a very honest way and her posts are great to get you thinking and reflecting.

Mrs. Twist's Classroom:
Though this blog has not had a very long lifespan, I have taken lots of inspiration from Mrs. Twist. This post in particular, really stood out for me, especially when I was new to the IB way and needed to see some good examples.
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The Land of Glitter:
Run by a PYP Kindergarten teacher, this blog captures life in early years in an IB school. Click on the IB or International Baccalaureate tags to view IB-specific posts or just browse to get lots of ideas from a very passionate teacher.

PYP ICT blog:
Copenhagen International School's ICT blog shows how technological skills are taught and how they connect with the PYP.

Making PYP Happen Here:
With posts from September 2013- March 2014, this blog has lots of great ideas about how the IB is visible in the International School of Ho Chi Minh City. There are also ideas about how to incorporate parents into the learning community.

The Unquiet Librarian:
This is a blog from Buffy Hamilton, a teacher/technology specialist/librarian with over 20 years of experience. Her blog documents IB-friendly methodologies with detailed descriptions, photos and sometimes videos. This really gives an insight into inquiry in action in the MYP.

And last but not least...
... A Crucial Week:
Let's not forget little old me. I share ideas and resources some IB specific, some more general here. I also have a TPT store with IB resources

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

500,000 post views celebratory giveaway

Well hello there! To celebrate more than half a million views on my "10 Reasons NOT to date a girl who teaches" post, I'm having a giveaway.

The winner will receive one item of their choice from my TPT store for free. To enter, simply pop over to the A Crucial Week Facebook page and comment on the status related to the competition!

I'll pick a winner on Saturday, 15th November!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

6 Things to Expect When Teaching Abroad

1. The pain of trying to pack your life into a couple of suitcases and realising that you can't bring your mountains of stationery or random resources with you.

2. The confusion of adjusting to another climate. If you've grown up in a country where  blustery weather is normal all year round, then your teaching wardrobe doesn't really vary from season to season. Then you get to a country where it's upwards of 30 degrees Celsius and you have to find a way to dress appropriately while letting as much skin free to the air. It can be quite the dilemma!

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3. The absolute shock when you realise it's Fathers' Day in your new country and you hadn't factored it into your planning. You'll also probably forget Mothers' and Fathers' day in your home country and pray that the post will get your card across countries/continents in a day.

4. The immense satisfaction of spreading your culture to another place. Watching the students in your school make decorations and take part in activities to celebrate a festival from your home country can make your heart bubble over with national pride.
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5. The fear when you realise that not all hand gestures mean the same thing in other countries. While you might think a simple "rock on" hand sign is innocent, think again! The students in your class may point out that their parents told them it was a bad thing! Check out this guide to offensive hand signals that you may have previously thought were perfectly safe to use in school!
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6. The joy of meeting colleagues from different places and learning lots about their ways of life. With that comes learning a lot about yourself and things that you didn't even realise were characteristics of your own people.

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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Resources for teaching coordinates (freebie included!)

Hi there,

The children in my class are learning about coordinates this week. I wanted to share with you the visual reminder I use to help to remember the order of the numbers in the brackets. I use the phrase "We crawl before we climb" and the children can then visualise a baby crawling along the x-axis and (as they grow up) learn to climb a tree vertically along the y-axis.

Just click here or on the image below to download the poster from Google Drive.

I'm very lucky that my school has a 1:1 iPad programme. We've used the following apps in class. 
Maths Attack Vol 2. - This one was great as an introduction. They give you coordinates and you move the butterfly to the correct position to feed it.
Coordinate Pics - This one has options for plotting points in one quadrant or in four. As you touch the points it creates a picture which becomes animated when completed. Here's a pic of it being used in my classroom.

There are some fantastic coordinate picture worksheets on SuperTeacherWorksheets (members only!) and Maths-Aids (4 quadrants only but free for all!). My favourite one of all is this Minion coordinate picture from TES.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

IB PYP (PEP) posters en Español (in Spanish)

For the attention of Spanish-speaking teachers in IB schools:

I'm delighted to announce that there are now lots of IB PEP poster sets in my TPT store en Español. You can buy any of the following sets individually or there is a bumper set, including all of them for $10.

  • Perfil de la comunidad de aprendizaje 
  • Actitudes del PEP
  • Conceptos clave
  • Habilidades transdisciplinarias
  • Los temas transdisciplinarios


Thursday, 30 October 2014

8 things that happen to teachers during the October midterm break

1. You forget about Bank Holiday Monday because other people's glorious "long weekend" is a drop in the ocean next to your full week off!

2. You try to relax and realised that you don't remember how.

3. You let the adrenaline rush that kept you going through the last weeks of school wash out of your system when, BAM, that common cold hits you. Tissues at the ready!
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4. Home-bound due to that cold, you wrap yourself up on the couch and catch up on an entire series of a TV programme in one day. Congratulations, you've remembered how to relax!
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5. You annoy friends in other jobs about meeting up until they remind you that they are NOT ON HOLIDAYS! This leads you to take up a three-day long hobby such as knitting or sketching. You swear you'll make time for this when school begins again. (You won't!)
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6. The weekend arrives and you don that Halloween costume for the second time. Nobody is surprised or impressed as they've seen your "look what I wore to school" selfies from the Halloween party at work.

7. Tired after Halloween festivities with friends and having become the king/queen of procrastination, you realise that it's Sunday and it's time to do all of that work you vowed to do over the holidays.
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8. Having finished a fraction of the work you had intended to do, you crawl into bed late on Sunday night, ready to be as exhausted on Monday as you were before the midterm break.
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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Posters du PP (de l'IB) en français

For the attention of any teachers working in an IB school where French is taught: 

I have just added a French version of my bumper poster kit to my TPT store. It costs $10 and includes 5 different sets:
  • Profil de l’apprenant de l’IB
  • Savoir-être du PP
  • Concepts clés du PP
  • Savoir-faire transdisciplinaires du PP
  • Thèmes transdisciplinaires du PP

All of the sets are available individually but, if you want all of them, it's cheaper to purchase the bumper kit.

Click on any of the images below to view them in the French section of my TPT store.