Thursday, 17 August 2017

Children's books with strong female characters

If you're thinking about stocking up your school/class library, be sure to include some books that have strong female role models. Here are my top picks!

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (by Elena Favilli):
One of the children in my class (a 7 year old) brought in this bestseller for Show and Tell this year. She spoke about it with such enthusiasm and many of the others in the class said that they have the same book and love it too. The book features famous, inspirational women from Queen Elizabeth to Serena Williams and many more strong role-models in between.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World: (by Rachel Ignotofsky):
Another bestseller, this book tells the stories of influential women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) world. It is beautifully illustrated and very informative. Since its release it has received rave reviews from parents and teachers.

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World (by Ann Shen):
In a similar fashion to Elena Favilli's "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls", this book tells the story of many influential women throughout history such as Amelia Earhart, Cleopatra, Marie Curie and even Joan Jett, the godmother of punk. Again this is beautifully illustrated and presented in a way that is accessible to many age levels (though it may need to be read aloud to younger children).

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World (by Kate Pankhurst):
This one is much more child friendly in terms of layout and illustrations than the above situations. The text is laid out in smaller chunks making it less intimidating to younger eyes! It has been tried and tested by several parents and teachers and it has been enjoyed by children as young as 4 or 5. This book features bright, engaging pages about strong female characters such as Anne Frank, Coco Chanel and Rosa Parks.

.....Aaaaaaand here are a few more for you to check out:
"Matilda" by Roald Dahl
"Pippi Longstocking" series by Astrid Lindgren
"Ronia the Robber's Daughter" by Astrid Lindgren
"The Princess in Black" series by Shannon and Dean Hale
"Zita the Spacegirl" series by Ben Hatke
"Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell

Be sure to check out the jam-packed website, "A Mighty Girl" and The Guardian's list of 10 books featuring empowering female characters for lots more ideas!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Flash Freebie: Editable Folder Covers

Good morning!

I'm very excited to announce that I'm hosting a "Flash Freebie" giveaway today and tomorrow. For 48 hours only, these beautiful, editable folder covers will be free to download from my TPT store. When the 48 hours are up, the covers will cost $1 each. The Flash Freebie will run from 8:00GMT on Monday 14th August to 8:00GMT on Wednesday, 16th August. Of course, if you have the file, you can edit the text as you like - perhaps you want to use it as your own planning folder, maybe you want to create sections for your dip folder, or perhaps you want to use it for something that's not school related. The choice is yours! Click on the images below to go to the one you wish to download (or download them all!).

Quick note: I used a font called Billabong. As these are editable you'll have to choose your own fonts. If you want to know how to download pretty fonts, check out my tutorial.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Back to School Freebies 2017

Hi all,

Here at A Crucial Week lots of free resources have been shared over the years. Here are some of my favourite back to school freebies for you to download!


As posted about last month, here is an editable international events calendar to help you to get organised!

I've used these parent reminder sheets the last two years and many parents have said that they find them very useful. This editable file contains 6 different colour versions of two different styles. If you don't want to waste ink printing them, you can always just save it as a PDF and email the file to the parents.

These question word posters allow for the children to help to create the classroom decor (which means a free lesson idea too!). I got the children in my class to write answers to each question in the blank space. You could also ask your students to write examples of questions that have the given word.

These welcome posters are available for free in my TPT store as Gaeilge or in English.

These WALT and WILF posters are great for sticking on your board to share lesson objectives or assessment criteria.

This poster is for a behaviour management technique that we have used for a number of years at my school. Each child's name is put in a cup. Every break time, you choose a name and secretly watch that child in the line. If they behave well, they get to put a star on a chart. If not, we don't tell them who the secret walker was but we explain why that person didn't get a star. I usually print the children's names on an A3 sheet to make the star chart and put the above poster on top.

A handy back to school/early finisher game that can be done individually or in small groups is Boggle. We often do it as a whole group activity in my classroom and try to beat our record. This version involves using bottle tops to make the letters. Read about how I use it and get the freebie in my blog post about it.

Want your class to love you instantly? Allow them to use fidget spinners in class, guided by these station cards. (If you're ready for this at the start of the school year, I commend you!)

When the children are doing collaborative tasks at the start of the school year, get them into the habit of reflecting on their behaviour. Here is a free reflection sheet to assess their peers. 

And here are some posters as Gaeilge from long, long ago!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Desk tidy made from old colouring pencils


After having some old colouring pencils pile up in a basket in my classroom, I decided I wanted to do something crafty with them. Naturally, a quick Pinterest search was in order and I really liked the idea of using them to make little containers for the sharpeners and erasers on the desks in my classroom. My colleagues were very forthcoming following my email request for pencils that were too short to use so I built up quite a few in the last month of school. 

I thought these would take a lot longer to make but the longest part was sorting the pencils into different coloured piles. After that it was quite quick, hot-gluing them on to plastic raspberry containers. I decided not to make them all the same length and I like the effect of having some shorter and some longer pencils in there. 

Here are a few pics of how I made them:

The longest part - sorting the colours!

The surprisingly quick gluing part!
(TIP: Put greaseproof paper on the surface where you use the hot glue gun - it peels off really easily and doesn't get too messy and sticky!)

Two of the finished containers!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Dip Starter Pack

As highly requested following feedback on my "Dip Tips" blog post, I'm proud to present the Dip Starter Pack. I've been working very hard these summer holidays to save probationary teachers lots of time, effort and money. I've also gone a bit overboard in buying shabby chic and bullet journal style clip art! You'll see that theme running through the pack! :)

Here's what's in the 169 page pack: 
(the preview picture below doesn't show everything! Scroll down to read the full contents.)

  • Example short-term (weekly) plans
  • Example long-term (termly) plans
  • Example cuntais míosúla
  • 9 cover sheets for your planning and assessment folders
  • Weekly planning checklists (3 sheets, one per term)
  • Editable checklists and information sheets (e.g. homework record, information for substitute teachers, birthday record, etc.)
  • Teacher calendar sheets (August 2017 - June 2018)
  • Editable international Events Calendar 2017-2018
  • A PDF copy of my "Dip Tips" blog post

  • Superhero-themed behaviour management tools including an editable token chart, token sheets, an editable behaviour record cover, goal-setting/reflection sheets, a behaviour frequency record with an example and instructions)
  • Two Stars and a Wish self-assessment sheets
  • Self-assessment display based on Marzano's Levels of Understanding
  • Self-assessment sheet based on Marzano's Levels of Understanding

  • Laethanta na Seachtaine display
  • Dathanna display
  • Prionta sa Timpeallacht (28 flashcards, 4 posters)
  • Na h-Ábhair Scoile circular display
  • Visual timetable pack (with editable cards)
  • WALT and WILF signs (for sharing objectives and assessment criteria)

Many of these resources are available individually (paid/free) in my TPT store. The total of the paid resources is $18.50. This bundle allows you to save $6.50 as it's priced at $12 (that's roughly €10). The example weeklies, termlies and cuntais míosúla are not sold separately. Those are a bonus just for this bundle! So, in summary, for a tenner (not a massive investment!) you'll get 169 pages of example plans, planning and assessment templates and classroom displays. 

Here's a closer look at just some of the things that are inside. Click on the images if you'd like to purchase these separately! Many are suitable for non-dip-doing teachers too!

You can get 25% off everything in my TPT store today (Monday, 1st August) and tomorrow. You'll see the 20% off price when you browse and you can get another 5% off by entering the code BTS2017 at the checkout.

These calendar sheets (not just for dip teachers!):

 These bullet-journal inspired, washi-tape filled checklists to help you keep track of your planning (and fulfill your pretty stationery needs!):

These editable sheets for your teacher folder including a birthday tracker, editable information sheets for substitute teachers, lots of editable checklists that you could use for homework, phonics, spelling test records, recording specific objectives. (Again, not just for the dip!):


These pretty dip folder cover sheets (9 of them in total!). I also have editable versions in different styles for anybody not doing the dip:

These superhero-themed behaviour management tools for tackling individual children's behaviour. This pack includes a fully editable behaviour chart with editable tokens, a behaviour frequency record with an example and instructions and a cover sheet and goal-setting/reflection sheet to make a behaviour record book (FYI, my dip inspector loved seeing that record book!):

This prionta sa timpeallacht pack that contains 28 flashcards and 4 posters:

This dathanna display:

These visual timetable cards (includes editable cards):

 These circular chalkboard-style subject posters as Gaeilge:

This self-assessment chart based on Marzano's Levels of Understanding (with corresponding self-assessment sheets): Here's how it looks in my classroom!

Monday, 31 July 2017

TPT Back to School Sale - August 1st and 2nd

Great news!

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a site-wide sale on Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd August. 

It starts at 4:01am GMT (Irish time!) on 1st August and finishes at 3:59am GMT in the early hours of 3rd August.

I'm having 20% off everything in my TPT store. In addition to that, TPT is offering another 5% off when you use the promotional code BTS2017 at the checkout (Just make sure to select "Apply a Promo Code"). So you can save 25% on anything in my store!

I've created some new categories to help make browsing easier. The "Irish Classrooms" category is for anything that might be of interest to Irish teachers (and not stuff for international schools).
Then you'll also find these new custom categories on the top left:
Behaviour Management

Happy shopping!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Dip Tips (updated)

(Updated: August 2017)

Hello there,

If you happen to be in a position to do your probationary year in Ireland or if you are just qualified, this may be of interest to you!

I am by no means an expert but this is some information and advice to give you the gist of how it runs going by my experience of doing the dip five years ago.

Happy reading!

Where do I begin?
Once you are qualified and eligible to do the dip, you need to go to the Limerick Education Centre website. In the "probationary teachers" section, you will find information about the Droichead and traditional processes for getting "dipped" there or on the Teaching Council website.

What do they expect from me?
Have a look at the Appendix 1 (page 24 of the PDF) of the "Post Qualification Professional Practice Procedures and Criteria 2016/2017" document from the Teaching Council website. This gives an overview of the criteria you are expected to meet in the following areas:
  • Planning, preparation and recording of progress
  • Classroom management and organisation
  • Quality of teaching across curriculum areas
  • Quality of pupils’ learning in curriculum areas
Have you read it? See! That's not so scary now after all! Remember, the dip is not teaching practice. You cannot possibly maintain all-singing, all-dancing TP-style lessons on a long-term basis. TP was a 100m sprint, the dip is a marathon. Take it handy! (I really wish I could go back in time and give myself that advice!) Obviously you will need to do what is required to ensure that the children are learning in a positive environment and that you are covering the national curriculum but make sure you pace yourself.

The National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT)
As part of the traditional probationary process, you will be expected to complete the NIPT. This programme offers workshops with topics that are important for an NQT. They also give you an opportunity to meet others who are going through the probationary process. This is a plus for NQTs who are the only probationary teachers in their school.  Have a look at their website for lots of useful information and resources such as the planning toolkit, guidelines, planning templates for long-term plans, short-term plans, SEN planning, cuntais míosúla

What's next?
Now that you've applied to complete your probation, what can you do to prepare?

Get your planning in order: 
This is how I organised my paperwork. I had two folders divided into sections as follows:

(Again, remember to get guidelines and planning templates from

FOLDER 1: PLANNING FOLDER (with 5 sections)
1. Timetables (general class timetable, support teachers' timetables)
2. Current short-term (weekly) plans [Each weekend I would move these into section 3 and replace them with the new weekly plans]
3. Short-term plans (Weekly plans from past weeks, sub-divided by subject)
4. Long-term plans (termly plans)
5. Cuntais Míosúla (this is a monthly summary of what you have covered. You are legally required to do this. You should print one copy for this folder and send another to be filed in your school.)

1. General Class Records (e.g. MICRA/SIGMA results from the past year, any whole-group assessments, spelling test results, reading assessments and groups, etc.)
2. Pupil Profiles (sub-divided by child): IEPs, class tests, reading records, behaviour observation forms, carefully selected work samples, etc.

You can get some pretty editable or pre-made dip cover sheets in my TPT store for under a euro each!

When planning, make use of the fantastic online planning tool. It's much easier to copy and paste objectives from here than from the curriculum PDFs. If the INTO hasn't already sent you their 2017-2018 wall planner, you can download it for free from here.

Prepare your classroom:
A print-rich, inspiring classroom helps to create a positive learning environment. Refer to your classroom posters constantly. If you cannot do this, perhaps they are not as valuable as you may have thought! It's very likely that your inspector will ask the children about displays and posters. Make sure to display the children's work. A really useful way to display work is a wall like this - then you just peg up the work rather than fiddling with mountains of Blu-Tack! Obviously you will change displays according to topics on hand but here are some staples that could be of use all year around (click on each for an example to inspire you!):

Number lines (age-specific)

Early primary specific:

Foghraíocht (pronunciation)

My favourite sources for display materials are:
Seomra Ranga (for resources as Gaeilge)
Sparklebox (especially for headings)

Have your children on board:
Get classroom management under control. It's very hard to teach anything if you cannot control the behaviour within the room. Try to strive for a balance where the children enjoy coming to school and are happy to share their ideas but that they treat you and their classmates respectfully. There are so many positive ways to go about this.

I used a token economy system during my dip year where they children got "Pirate Euro" notes for behaving well or really making an effort on a task. Together, we created a "rewards menu" and decided on appropriate prices. You can read about it here.

Currently I am using a clip chart system. You place all pegs on the middle section of the clip chart each morning and move them up or down according to their choices. Make your own, browse the net or have a look at the ones I have for sale here (in English and in Irish - people seem to have gone a bit crazy about the Star Wars ones this summer!).

Take up an after-school activity:
Do something that is not dip-related to avoid becoming a teaching-robot. Play sports, take up a new hobby or go for coffee/lunch dates (preferably with someone who does not want to listen to you ranting on about the dip!). Remember to keep a healthy work-life balance. Replacing an hour of tweaking resources (that were probably fine an hour ago) with an hour in the gym, an episode of Game of Thrones or a long bath will probably be of more benefit to you and your students. An energetic teacher with good planning and preparation is far more productive and happy than a zombie teacher with PERFECT resources. Now, if only I could turn back time and listen to my own advice a bit sooner!

Keep yourself in the know:
Regularly check sites such as the INTO, Teaching Council, NIPT as well as less formal sites like the Education Posts forum (great for finding answers to specific dip-related questions and crowd-sourcing ideas for themes, methodologies, etc.) and following teaching blogs. There are some fantastic Irish teaching pages you should add to your Facebook feed such as, Seomra RangaRéalta RangaMúinteoir Valerie, Ms. Forde's Classroom, Primary Art, Art with Ms. Lahart, Irish Primary Teacher, Infant Teaching Ideas, Claire's Primary School Art, Irish Primary PE association and the INTO LGBT Teachers' Group. (Sorry if I've forgotten anyone!)   

I hope this has been of use to you. I welcome all feedback via comments below.