Travelling to Bethlehem?.. The bumpy staffroom journey of tea towels, tinsel and Hope

This week, a report referring to collective worship in schools was published. I watched several reports, listened to several commentaries and acknowledged (and respected) many with a different view to me. 

The reality is that in many of our schools they are on the road to Bethlehem at this time of year. 
The primary school staffrooms are full of the stress that is the “Nativity”. The costumes, the music and the worry that the kids will do exactly as they should on stage can push most teachers to breaking point. 

So for some getting rid of a Christian celebration might be acceptable… But it’s not for me.

You may hold a different world view to me. That’s ok, I respect that. 

I love Christmas, Christmas for me is about the birth of Jesus. I love the story. For me it’s all about hope. 
It’s the culture, I have been brought up with. For me it is an opportunity alongside family and friends to celebrate that hope that came into the world as a baby, born in a lowly cattle stall. Even if you don’t truly believe it many still celebrate this amazing story.

When I think of the nativities I’ve been in and involved in – I think of the children who adorn the dressing gowns and put tea clothes on their heads, the mummies who to made angel costumes from white pillow cases and tinsel for a halo. I love that Mary always wears blue and the baby doll Jesus sleeps on straw. I think of happy children, proud parents and a tear in an eye during “holy night” or “away in a manager”. It’s a special warm feeling that the annual nativity creates. It is as joy memory banked. 

Whilst I acknowledge that times have changed and the costumes  are a little more supermarket chic…I still see the Christmas celebration as relevant to society. It is the story of Hope.

Hope for me is having only positive expectations. In every school I’ve worked in, we respected and celebrated other cultures. Many world religions offer mindfulness and positivity – few offer hope. 

We all need hope, many of the young people I encounter need to know my hopes and aspirations for them, they need to know of my positive expectations. 

So as we hit the road to Bethlehem over the next week, despite the political debates surrounding the rights and wrongs of collective worship – let’s focus our children on our hopes, let’s give their confidence a boost by appearing on stage and let’s remember that a long time ago a baby boy born in manager was able to change the course of history. 

Having 

Only

Positive 

Expectations

Our young people can change the world.

Tolerance is something that has long been taught in many schools. Our schools are more inclusive and respect for others is nurtured throughout many schools as a core value. Both the main church bodies in Northern Ireland recognise that faith based education is valuable in producing broad and balanced young people. 

So ….Enjoy the journey, you are creating memories and embedding hope. There is nothing (in my opinion) wrong with that!

Noisy Literacy – Using digital content to get children reading

Savvy Reading Skills – for not so confident readers

My eldest child found the early years of school difficult. He was far from being a confident reader despite my best efforts at home. This was mainly to with a medical issue which was destroying his confidence.

As a mummy I was naturally concerned as a teacher I was pretty horrified that more wasn’t being done in school to support his reading skills. So I went back to the drawing board and tried to find ways to inspire him to read.

Reading is part of everyday life in so many ways, especially when we keep in mind that so much of what we do is focused on digital content – which involves extensive reading.

Noticing my child’s love of gaming we decided to change our approach. We moved away from paper based story books and started to use ebooks and digital content to get him motivated.

Some tips for using the Internet as a reading tool for less confident readers.

1. Get your children using search engines to find out information and then encourage them to share their findings with you. Be warned Some content may not be of a good quality. Teach your children to be selective in what they read. Many research style home learning tasks are often result in cut and copy type exercises. As a teacher it saddens me to see this. Children need support to help develop these evaluative skills, teachers and parents need to nurture these.

2. Choose books that can be downloaded with audio onto a digital device. This will assist with word recognition and encourage them to read with expression.

3. Get them to create their own audio using Audioboo. Children who don’t like reading aloud can grow in confidence with practice.

4. Find suitable articles or reviews about games, sport or whatever they are interested in for them to read or for you to read to them.

5. Download the overdrive app to have access to the ebook library and let them pick their ebooks. In school teachers teaching guided reading are working through a scheme and don’t then to veer off it.

There are plenty of ebooks and audiobooks to borrow for your device, the best bit is the are free but you do need a regular library card to sign in.

Twinkl Twinkl little teacher

How many times have I thought it would be great if there were 25 hours in a day or 8 days in a week? Millions of times, I can tell you.

Most teachers spend hours making and producing resources for their classroom. For those savvy teachers who are like me and don’t have time to start from scratch there is Twinkl.

Twinkl Premium is £29.95 per year. Equate that to the time you would spend (unpaid I should add!) you have a very good deal.

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Resources

The premium resources are of a high quality and they have over 12,000 premium resources in addition to their 78,000 free resources so it more than likely you will find what your looking for. If something isn’t available the lovely team at Twinkl will consider creating it for you!

Until recently, I thought Twinkl was very focused on early years teachers however I have recently noticed the growing resources aimed at Key Stage Two. My favourites being the World War Two Resources and the wonderful grammar pack.

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From quality classroom management resources to imaginative topic packs this site can save you hours!

Parents

Twinkl’s best kept secret is that they also create resources for parents.

They have super resources for supporting parents and guardians. I was especially delighted to see a school preparation section as many parents are anxious before they start school and want to prepare them as best they can.

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I’ve downloaded a few of their reward charts for my own children. My daughter who at five still wanted me to dress her is now on a getting dressed yourself smiley chart (I’ve had not sad faces to report since using it!)

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The Twinkl Community

They have a growing Facebook and twitter community who they regularly assist with teaching resources dilemmas. They also have forums where you can ask the Twinkl team or other members for advice. They also encourage teachers to gain Twinkl rewards for sharing good practice.

One of the things I am most impressed with is their newsletter. This is sent out monthly and is full of ideas for the classroom. I would recommend all primary school teachers and assistants sign up. You will be truly inspired by their creativity!!

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Quality Time – Easter in Belfast

As a working mother, I occasionally get a dose of the guilts about not spending time with my children.

During the school holidays and at weekends, I try to spend quality time with them but at times they appear to have a better social life than me.

This Easter a number of their friends have escaped to sunnier climates so I’ve really enjoyed the Easter break thus far.

My eldest boy is reading Charlie and the chocolate factory so off we ventured into Belfast to Auntie Sandra’s Candy Factory.

This family run business runs tours of the factory explaining the history and how sweets are made. Uncle Jim dressed like an intriguing and entertaining older brother to Willy Wonka shares a number of the family secrets whilst making the traditional boiled sweets and lollies.

For those who hold a magic ticket can enter the quiz to win some of the freshly made goods. My two won a thousand lick lolly (more like a million like lolly its the same size as his face!)and an iPhone 17 sweet stuffed with brandy balls for apps. They then made candy floss before going into a sweet lovers heaven . Their shop is stocked with every type of sweet you could possibly imagine.

The kids both big and small adored it.

We also went to the cinema to see the Croods, tin pin bowling at the Odyssey had a game of Belfast monopoly, created thousands of Easter buns (none of which lasted to Good Friday), went for walks, got the bikes out, made crafts and the best thing this week… the snow at their Grandparents house.

Week one of the holidays – Quality time tick