Saturday, 28 February 2015

Odd or Evil?

I remember when I was introducing my class to odd and even numbers some years back a parent told me that her son had come home and told her that he felt really sorry for some numbers that I had told him were "EVIL"!!!  He wondered what they had done that was so wrong!  Oh whoops - sometimes it makes you rethink how you teach things and certainly how some children hear or put it into their schema of things.

So with the prospect of revisiting odd and even numbers for some children and introducing them to others in my small maths group I have decided we will use these little toadstool cards to count spots and decide if they show an odd number or EVEN number of spots.  We might use the colouring method where a child has a different colour pencil in each hand and colours two spots at a time - if they find they can do this to all spots then that number of spots is even - if they find they end up with one spot left it is odd!  This also helps with hand eye co-ordination and fine motor skills.  For others we will be placing counters on the spot and then matching them into pairs to see if the number is odd or even - if each counter has a friend it is even - if it doesn't they are odd.  We will be looking at spotting patterns so that the children begin to learn that any number ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 is odd and any number ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 is even but I realise this will probably take a lot longer than the week we have.

If you'd like to have a copy of the cards then click on the picture below.  They can be enlarged or reduced according to the needs of the children you are using them with.  I know in my small group that I will be using at least three different sizes!!

I will also be using numicon in my lessons as this is an invaluable tool to help children "see" maths.
You can use this link to download some useful resources from their website,_Numeral_and_Number_Words_1-10.pdf?region=international

 If I have time, I might create some toadstool clipart too - would anyone be interested?  Have a lovely weekend and relax :-)

Friday, 27 February 2015

Five For Friday

Linking up with Doodle Bugs Linky Party for more Friday fun!

First a big thank you
to all those wonderful artists out there who create clipart that they then share freely with the rest of us.  I have been collecting some more clipart goodies this week including these natty little hats by

 Although many of my teaching buddies in the USA have been experiencing snow days it has just been very wet and windy here.  I'd love some warmer, brighter weather this weekend so I can maybe get some gardening done.  I have had to resort to making a herb garden inside next to my husband's muddy work boots in the hallway!!

I know I will be busy doing other things anyway this weekend catching up with lots of our friends from university who are all coming here along with their respective families - so lots to get done and cooked before they arrive!!
 Already, trying to plan ahead to Mother's Day here in the U.K.  Cards and little gifts to make that will be appreciated but won't take too long.  Now how can I fit maths and literacy into that?

Lastly, I didn't sell anything during the TpT sale this week but it did spur me on to get another couple of resources posted on my store so I am pleased about that :-)
How was the sale for you?  Did you get any major sales made or did you take advantage to buy things for your class?  Hoping you all have a lovely weekend :-)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

ThrowBack Thursday: A to Z

Time to check in with The Teacher's Desk 6 for another Throwback Thursday :-)

I have been looking back at my A to Z blog posts to see what I was writing about in preparation for this year's challenge.  I had only just started blogging in earnest and I am pleased to see my passion about special needs education shining through.  It is also amazing to think how much has changed over this past year in my life, going part-time, moving house, children jetting off to Australia, house renovating, craft clubs etc.  So this week, I am throwing you back to one of my A to Z posts on Volunteering as I hope to become a museum volunteer in the near future and add another string to my bow :-)

Click on the button below to take you there.  Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Half Way Bear?

(I had to annotate this as even I couldn't see which way it was supposed to be and I took the photo!!)

Just the other side of the bear to finish knitting and then stuff and add his features.  He's certainly more fluffy than I expected - it's reminding me of one of my favourite poems/ditties as a child because it was so easy to learn:
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't very fuzzy
Wuz he?

The colours are also making me think could I turn him into a squirrel if I knitted a bushy tail and made his face pointy?  What do you think?

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Searching Squirrels

I've finally finished my Searching Squirrels for games and activities to learn number bonds/addends paid pack to upload onto TpT.  It always takes so much time trying to figure out what to say.  Making a packet people will actually want to part with their hard earned cash for is some responsibility.  I don't want to disappoint anyone but I also know how many hours go into making it right to sell.  A whole lot more than making it just to use in ones' own classroom - that's for sure.

Anyway it's now up and posted so yippee and I can go and relax.

Press on the button below if you want to head over to it in my store and don't forget the sale starts tomorrow so you can pick up a bargain too!!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Teachers are Heroes TpT Sale

Just a heads up for anyone out there who does not know that there will be a huge TpT sale on Wednesday and a thank you to Carrie Whitlock for the wonderful owl superhero banner.

Remember to put in the code HEROES at the checkout to get a further 8% off.

All of my products will be in the sale so I am hoping I might get a few more sales this month :-)

Let me know what's on your wish list.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Domino Dimanche

Yes, Sunday has appeared as if out of nowhere again and Saturday is a vague recollection.

I have been sorting out some domino games and activities for this week and have to say a box of dominoes is a wonderful resource in the Special Needs maths' cupboard.  Or come to think of it social aspect cupboard too as once learnt this game allows participation with young and old, beginners and experts, turn taking, strategy, winning and losing, the list goes on.  And let's not forget about those manipulation/dexterity skills when setting dominoes up to topple them over in an amazing design!!

I have almost finished a paid product for TpT but thought I would share this little domino resource with followers of my blog.  Click on the picture below to download.

I'd love to know what you think about dominoes?  Who taught you to play?  Where can you remember playing dominoes - in the pub, at the caravan site, rainy lunchtimes etc?  What activities you use them for in your classroom?  And what different types of sets you might have seen being used e.g. I have a domino set that goes up to double 9!!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Five 4 Friday S.I.M.P.

Linking up with

This week has a slight squirrel theme going on!

First of course are these number cards :-)
A big thank you to Artifex for the squirrel & acorn graphics.
The font is a freefont - ennobled pet
Please feel free to use these counting cards but just credit me with a link back to my blog or TpT store if you do

I am missing my DD as she enjoys herself in Melbourne as part of her gap year in Australia where she is having a great time.  Despite being just 18 she is coping really well, finding accommodation, jobs, budgeting & saving so she can do more travelling later on during the year so yes I am really proud of her but I still really miss her.  If she was at university at least I would have seen her at Christmas.  However, to brighten the mood my husband and I have been singing the Phineas & Ferb song S.I.M.P. (Squirrels In My Pants) which used to be one of her favourites when she was younger.  Click on the video to hear it for yourself but be warned it is VERY catchy!!  You will be humming this throughout the weekend :-)

We have half term holiday here in England.  A whole week off!!  Well of course "off "doesn't mean that - it just means you don't have to actually go into school.  Most teachers spend this week trying to plan for the next half term as well as do things around the house they have been too busy to during the term.  This week, I have been making things for the house to try to lessen the draughts and so gain us a few degrees of heat.  I'm not sure it's working as well as I hoped but at least I'm giving it a go :-)
My door curtain is finally finished and I hope to have the other window curtain finished later today!

I made a free resource I blogged about earlier this week featuring squirrels to celebrate gaining over 70 followers of my TpT store.  You can find it here

Along with an abundance of squirrels in the garden digging up their stores of acorns and other such food stuffs I also have a pair of goldcrests visiting.  I knew they were the smallest birds in Britain but I didn't realise they were the smallest in Europe.  Despite their diminutive size they make their presence known and are lovely to watch flitting about in the yew trees.

I'd love to know if you've been making anything this week or if you've had a new visitor to your gardens? Do please feel free to leave me a comment below.

Have a great weekend everyone :-)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

There's a hole in my ceiling, dear Liza, dear Liza!

After deciding to inspect the bowing in the ceiling, I discovered there had been a slow leak going on from the roof for some time.  I carefully peeled back the wallpaper and a poke with the handle of a brush brought down the water logged plaster.

Now for a close up!

The original wattle and daub.

So I am now going to attempt to mend the ceiling using the original method.  Wish me luck and any advice will be gratefully received :-)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Wordless Wednesday: The Bear Essentials!

My blogger pal, Click often chooses the most interesting of titles with a twist for her Wordless Wednesday photos over at and I love having a guess as to what the picture may be of before I actually click on her post to see it.  However, I very rarely get it- so I am hoping she wouldn't be able to guess mine in a month of Sundays but will get the "joke" when she sees it!!

I am hoping to be knitting these odd balls I have in my stash into a teddy bear over the next few weeks in time for Comic Relief!!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Over 70

I have been at 69 followers on TpT for some time now so imagine my delight when I logged into my page and found this figure now stands at 73 - yippee!!  It always makes me feel happy to think that other teachers out there feel that my resources are useful and they want more so I have been trying to get another freebie ready that has been inspired by my winter garden.  And that inspiration is ...
SQUIRRELS - digging up my lawn so that my lawn now looks as if a colony of rabbits has moved in.  I wouldn't mind so much but they regularly get fed (stealing the bird food I put out) so they don't really need to keep burying food and then digging it up!!

Anyway my new activity matches squirrels with acorns and I have to say a great big thank you to Artifex Graphics from Spain for the free clip art  I used in this resource.  Once again it is so nice to be part of a community that so willingly shares its talent to benefit others :-)
Go and visit her store over at:

If you would like to try my newest freebie click on the graphic below to take you to my TpT store.

As always any feedback both on my store site or here would be most welcome.  Many thanks :-)

Monday, 16 February 2015


When I began following blogs in crafting circles, I regularly came across the acronym "w.i.p." & wondered exactly what I was getting myself into!!  I soon realised it stood for work in progress and so today I would like to share my own W.I.P. which I hope will soon be finished satisfactorily :-)

When we moved in to our house the original Victorian fireplace had been removed and replaced with a huge, dumpy looking 1930s one that unfortunately had deteriorated over the years so that it was no longer safe to light a fire in.  Because of the old design of our house we desperately need as much heat as possible so not having a fire was NOT an option so we had to remove it.  I did this myself, painstakingly taking it to bits and clearing out all the debris behind it and in doing so discovered many of the original red tiles that had once been part of the original fireplace.  Many of them were smashed or badly burnt & dis-coloured but a few were in good condition once I had cleaned them. We had a Victorian fireplace and surround installed that was in keeping with the room but unfortunately the 1930s hearth had been a lot larger than the new one so there was a large hole where the parquet flooring stopped & the new hearth began.  As money was tight (when isn't it?) I decided we could not afford to have a professional fix the parquet flooring so I would have to do something to fill the hole.  After much swearing, hurt fingers, banging head against the floor as something else goes wrong or is much harder to do than anticipated this is what I have got to so far.

The next stage is to varnish it so that it looks more the colour of the tester piece you can see and then finally seal around the top edge by the hearth with a piece of beading to hide any gaps (in an old house nothing is ever straight or at 90 degrees!!)

I am also really happy that I have been able to incorporate some of the original tiles as I feel they are back where they belong.

I'd love to know if you have experienced any similar problems and how you got around them.  In particular if anyone out there has any tips for parquet floor I'd be delighted to find out more.  Let me know :-)

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Whoops - where did Saturday go?

Don't you feel that weekends just rush by?  I can't believe it's nearing the end of Sunday already and I've just realised I forgot to post anything yesterday!!  Whoops!!!

However, I think this is because I was busy trying to get done things around the house before half term begins tomorrow when I know I will have lots to do as well as hopefully lots of meet ups with friends who work in schools and don't normally have the time to catch up with.

I did finish the cowl I was knitting and have managed to use up three odd balls of wool I was given recently so that is something to feel good about.  I hope to finish a pair of fingerless mittens?? this weekend too I've just got to find the pattern I seem to have put down somewhere.

Unfortunately, the door curtain is still in the process of being made however the actual curtain pole is now up and in place awaiting it - yipee!!

I also wish to report that I did keep up with my dog walking this week despite rather cold and wet weather at times.

And lastly I did have a lovely valentine's day as it was on the weekend and so we could actually share some quality time together which was really pleasant.  Hope you had a super weekend too :-)

Friday, 13 February 2015

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly!

Having recently purchased some books, I decided I'd better have a sort out on my bedroom bookcase and take some to the charity shop.  I find it really difficult getting rid of books.  I love owning them, their smell, their artwork all invoke wonderful memories.  However, I managed to sort these three from my bookcase that I thought I could bear to give away.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was a fascinating read mainly because of the author's concept of a young girl being able to taste feelings within food and how this affected her life.  I totally recommend this as a good read and felt I should pass this on to someone else to read because I had enjoyed it but probably wouldn't wish to re-read later in life.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of The Jane Austen Book Club which I had picked up mainly because it had been recommended by Alice Sebold of The Lovely Bones which is a brilliant book.  I am afraid I found the characters self-centred and boring and just couldn't get into it.  So a bit of a bad book in my eyes and not one I wished to keep.  Hopefully, someone will appreciate it more than I did.

And finally, the rather ugly looking "New Anthology" published in 1941 of Modern Verse.  At least maybe it might find a spot in the Antiquarian shelf of the charity book shop I thought.  But then I stopped to open it and suddenly all the wonderful poetry came flooding out of it and as I turned the pages my eyes filled with tears of sadness, my lips parted with a smile of knowing, my cheeks lifted in response to a smile sent by poets through time that resonated so much with me that I have to say it has gone back onto my bedroom bookshelf because I cannot bear to part with it.  Its outside hides how much it has to offer within so I am reminded of that good old saying "Never judge a book by its cover"!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Throwback Thursday Valentine

It's another Thursday so it must be:

More of a slight lob back to earlier this week and last week (connecting to my Valentine freebies) rather than a true throwback but I'm sure no-one minds.  So if you want to take a peek just hit the buttons below and of course visit The Teacher's Desk 6 by clicking above!

Happy Valentine lessons to everyone!  As always I'd love to know what you are doing or how I could improve any of my resources :-)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Wednesday Wordless Crane

The view out of the back door today with great trepidation as a huge crane carefully lifted large sections of tree over and above houses.  No accidents - breathe sigh of relief!!  Needless to say the cats were not impressed by the noise of chainsaws and crane.  The matriarch, Prima felt confident enough to try to go over the wall yelling at the them at the top of her voice until I wrested her back inside!!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Valentine Equivalent Fractions

My brain is working overtime at the moment on fractions and how I can make children "see" the connections between equivalents.  I also want to create something with a valentine theme for later this week so I will share my newest resource with you and welcome any feedback you might have and any suggestions on how to make it even better in time for Friday's lesson.

Please head over to my TpT store to download for free by clicking on the button below!

Have a wonderful Tuesday :)

Monday, 9 February 2015

Monday Mayhem

A very short post mainly because it's Monday and we all know that the first day after a weekend is always just so busy - mainly sorting out any problems encountered over the weekend and trying to get organised for the rest of the week.

Someone obviously took my photo when I wasn't looking!!

So I hope you get everything done that you wish to accomplish.  I'm off to make a start!!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sunday Scoop

The Teaching Trio are hosting their Sunday Scoop so come along and join in the fun!

Fractions seem to keep cropping up at the moment and knowing how difficult some children find them I thought I would try to create a helpful resource aimed specifically at boys.

I am so happy to get back to dog walking and enjoying the beautiful countryside so I MUST continue to make time for this three times a week!!

This cold weather means this door curtain HAS to be made (at least I actually found the material this week) and hung up.  I was going to help my husband put up the curtain pole we'd been given this weekend but unfortunately there is a crucial piece missing!!  So now I have to find a spare piece or get a new curtain pole set.

I am hoping to continue my daily blog post this week as well as look ahead to the A to Z Challenge and get ahead of the game.

Finally, I am happy to have a go at using my new cooker - which has the amazing feature of an oven door that stays on instead of falls off - to bake a cake which I haven't done in a very long time and will be trying out a lemon drizzle recipe  - wish me luck!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

A to Z Challenge gearing up

A short post just to remind people that the A to Z Challenge will be here come April and already people are signing up!!  500 + so far!!  I really enjoyed last year's challenge and found I met lots of interesting people from all over the world and from lots of other spheres of work and interests. Sometimes being a primary school teacher can be a bit insular so this opportunity is great for opening up the mind to new things.

I need to start thinking of a possible theme or way to write that will be different from last year so any suggestions are most welcome.  I think I still want to link it with resources for teaching and about different special needs but would be most grateful for any input from others as to what they would like to read about.

Click on the button above to go to the sign up page and to read about the challenge.  Hope some of you will be joining me this April :)

Friday, 6 February 2015

Five For Friday Valentine themed

Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the Friday Five - come along and join in the fun!

These little love heart numbers are free for you to use just remember to credit me if you do :)  They work well with some of  foam hearts in a container - the children just turn over a number card and count out that many hearts.

Keeping with the valentine theme, I published a free activity "Add Nine Valentine" on Monday.  Click on the heart above to take you there!

Last year my valentine themed donut addends worked really well.  You can check out this resource on my TpT site by clicking on the heart above.

2 free resources which always go down well are the comparing pencil lengths - click on the pencil below  (credits: K B Connected
and my love bug activity which can be adapted for a variety of needs.  Check it out by clicking on the heart above.

Finally, looking forward to the weekend when my parents will be visiting bringing with them my Grandma's china display cabinet and a box of various treasures which will go in my study.

Have a good weekend everyone :-)

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Throwback Thursday

Joining in with  The Teacher's Desk 6
 to throw you back to a post all about the importance of reading and for me was my landmark of 100 posts!!  Hope you find some of this useful.

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.