Using smell in the classroom

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Smell can sometimes be an underused sensory resource wither ignored or simply viewed in terms of making a classroom smell ‘nice’. What a waste! Smell is a fantastic clue for children to use to help them orientate themselves in the school, to mark changing days or as part of a sensory timetable. I’m sure most of us have expereinced the flood of emotion and memory that can be triggered by certain smells and this resource is one that every classroom should be using. Some of the ways I have used smell in the classroom are:

  1. Different scents for different days- a diffuser or large oil burner is great for this. Scents linger so using them for smaller blocks of time is more difficult
  2. Orientating in space- different rooms may naturally have their own scent but if they don’t try adding them
  3. As part of a sensory timetable- for example a chloring scented towel to indicate it’s time for swimming or a smear of minty toothpaste used consistenty to indcate it’s time for speech therapy and if possible linked to the room or person they child is visiting.
  4. To indicate individuals- try to avoid changing your perfume or deoderant, scent can be a powerful marker of individuals, even more so if children have multi-sensory impairments. If you could collect a squirt of the relevat scent to link to photos showing staff even better!

How do you use scent in your classroom?
photo credit: Dennis Wong via photopin cc

Building a teachers book case

Here area  few of my favourite books- the ones I reach for again and again when I need ideas, support or just a bit of encouragement!

Ros Bayleys books are great there are lovely ones for helping children to talk, outdoors, dacing, writing and loads more. I love this book in particular though as it's full of really exciting ideas to get children wanting to write.
Ros Bayleys books are great there are lovely ones for helping children to talk, outdoors, dancing, writing and loads more. I love this book in particular though as it’s full of really exciting ideas to get children wanting to write.
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A practical book about setting up a nurture group- forms, policy templates, planning formats as well as practical, useful advice.
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The classic book about nurture groups written by Marjorie Boxall who set the first group up, developed the Boxall profile and is general inspiration. A must for teachers interested in social development and emotional wellbeing.
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Easy to read book about the links between attachments and learning and behaviour the classroom.
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There are loads of these little books covering every part of the classroom from role play to maths to science through art. All full of great, practical, hands on activities.
    Fantastic book if you're working with children who would benefit from a sensory based curriculum. Quite heavy going in some places and more of an academic book that a 'how to' but lots of inspiration and back up for aruging why you might want to take this course.
Fantastic book if you’re working with children who would benefit from a sensory based curriculum. Quite heavy going in some places and more of an academic book that a ‘how to’ but lots of inspiration and back up for arguing why you might want to take this course.
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Book full of practical ideas for teaching mathematics with a bit of theory thrown in . There’s also a great foundations of literacy book too.
lovely little book full of geat ideas of games to play with children with ASD. Mose require very little in the way of resources and there are games to play with children functioning at a whole range of levels.
Lovely little book full of great ideas of games to play with children with ASD. Most require very little in the way of resources and there are games to play with children functioning at a whole range of levels.

Keeping kids engaged in the classroom.

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I’ve decided to enter a little competition over at the blogger lounge with world class teachers (a supply agency) asking for my top five tips for keeping children engaged in the classroom.  I think often experienced  teachers who are very good at keeping a class engaged  don’t stop to think about what they’re actually doing to keep the children engaged they just react automatically as they sense the children behaviour and attention begining to slip.  So after some serious thought here are my top five tips for keeping children engaged

1. It starts with relationships.

The most important way to keep children engaged is the relationship you build with them. Children have to want to do what you want them to do, they need to see you as someone worth listening too, routines firm but fair rules, consistency, calm and demonstrating the behaviour you want to see will all help children perform at their best. You have to care about your pupils, get to know them , empathise nd show that you’re invested in them and their future. fortunately most children are keen to impress the adults in their lives, those that dont might take a bit of extra work but you’ll get there eventually, even if it feels like it might take forever! remember the only thing you can control in the classroom is you.

2. It’s all about communication.

Sings, symbols, communication aids, objects of reference, translation what every it takes the most important thing is to make sure that children understand what you are saying. If they don’t then you’ve lost them. Total communication is the aim here- every and any method to boost communication should be used. Signs nd symbols aren’t just for children with additional needs they can help support every learner.

3. Resources, resources, resources

having the right resources is crucial. Resources should be interesting, engaging, hands on if possible and beautiful. Why sort with compare bears when you could use petals, or shells or rocks? Why learn your colours using more compare bears when you could use these lovely colour gnomes or wooden sorting pots?

I love my colour gnomes!
I love my colour gnomes!

4. Environment love where you teach

So the kids understand you, they have access to great resources and you’ve got a good relationship with them. Now take a look at the classroom, is it inspiring? full of examples of great work? Personal and beautiful? Or is it overwhelming with laminated resources hung from every part of the ceiling, stuck on the walls and probably the floor too? How does it smell? What sounds can you hear? Can they see the board without craning or are your year 6 pupils stuffed into key stage one chairs and their legs wedged under tiny tables borrowed from Reception? There are loads of lovely ideas out there for simple, cheap ways to make a classroom feel loved and the basics can take minutes- checking sight lines, making sure resources are well labelled and organised and just taking a minute to take in the room as a whole.

5. Celebrate your community

A classroom should be a community. Routines like snack time or how you move from one activity to another help to build a sense of familiarity and safety. Celebrating successes of every kind gives every child a chance to feel like a winner, being honest about when things didn’t go so well and more importantly how you deal with that shows children how to deal with disappointments and failure. Class sayings, group rewards, a class bear, birthday rituals. All these things are simple but important ways to help children feel like they belong.

So there yougo-  my top 5 tips for keeping children engaged- not whizzy, not ‘exciting’ but what works for me and my class of challenging characters.
photo credit: YannGarPhoto via photopin cc

Books for spring

Spring is on its way. The winter books are packed safely away and it’s time to get out the Spring books!

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Gerda Mullers wordless picture books are lovely, sturdy and great for inspiring talk in the classroom.
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I love the gentle, evocative illustrations in this book. When Daisys Mums egg doesn’t hatch with the others she decides to sit on it herself.
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Part of a set of four all about Little nutbrown hare and big nutbrown hare. Lots of lovely illustrations to look at although th text isn’t the best out there.

 

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A short little rhyming book all about the things you see in Spring. Although this is an American book it’s fairly country neutral.
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A lovely little book about a bunny who hops through the season looking for Easter after a wise old owl tells him “There are always lots of bunnies at Easter”
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A simple retelling of the Easter story.

 

Help- I can’t cope with this child!

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I think every teacher has felt like this more than once. There are all sorts of reasons why a particular child may start to overwhelm a teacher. The most common are:

It’s not you , it’s me

You’re tired, you’ve got a headache, your toddler won’t sleep and you’ve fallen out with your other half. For whatever reason your emotional reserves are low and you just can’t cope with the demands of a child.

It’s not you, it’s them

As in SLT, the management, the bis boss, OFSTED. You’ve been up planning the most amazing, three-part, multi-sensory lesson ever seen and the Child won’t even sit down, they won’t try, they won’t engage. As the minutes tick your aware of the pressure to make progress and how this is impacting on your performance management. It makes you short and snappy and you start to spiral downwards.

There’s something about

There’s just something about this kid. You can’t decide what it is but they just put your back up. Other staff seem to think they’re lovely, cute or ‘cheeky’ but you think they’re the next Genghis Khan. The problem here is often that they remind you of someone else- the child that picked on you when you were in Reception or perhaps some unpleasant part of yourself- personally I can’t abide sneaky kids, give me a flat out aggressive kids any day. This probably stems from my own experiences in school when I was picked on by a group of sneaky girls.

All three of these reasons lead back to one thing

You

Someone once told me that the only thing you can control in the classroom is yourself, and they were completely right. Now I don’t mean that every behaviour problem is your fault and if you just tried harder every student would become a model pupil, get 11 A*’s and cure cancer, but if you’re really struggling with a particular child there’s only one person you can work on- you!

What do I do?

I’ve found the following helpful:

  1. Take care of yourself physically- drink enough, eat enough, take your vitamins and get some sleep.
  2. Take care of yourself mentally- relax and unwind, go for a quick walk, slob out in front of Bake off or soak in the bath- whatever it takes
  3. Let it all out- tell someone how you feel- a non-judgemental colleague, partner, friends, twitter or a shrink. Just let it all out and don’t self censor!
  4. Seek help before you crack- it it’s all getting too much on a regular basis you need to talk to SLT and the professionals. I can recommend the teacher support network, you union or council may be able to provide counselling and support
  5. Watch and learn- ask around, how do other people deal with this child? What do they do that works? Ask to watch them and see if there’s anything you could try. If they have a favourite member of staff try name dropping them into conversations
  6. What’s your view? Ask colleagues what they like about that child and try to see it for yourself. I love a cheeky, feisty, scrappy kid whilst other are drawn to the quiet, shy types.
  7. A change is a good as a rest- Shake up the routine (unless this is likely to cause distress) go outside at lunchtime and chat to them, engage them in the lunch hall, track them down in different situations and see what happens. Outdoors is always a great time to make and mend relationships with children.
  8. Fake it till you make it- act like you like them. Praise them, compliment them, repeat all their good points to yourself. Eventually you might begin to feel it for real.
  9. Walk a mile in their shoes- why does the child act like this? What are the reasons? Try to see the world from their perspective and remember behaviour is always the tip of the iceberg, what’s underneath is what matters and it’s rarely personal
  10. Look it up- read around behaviour, attachment, social and emotional wellbeing, sensory integration and anything else you think might be a factor. Knowledge is power and as well as giving you strategies it can help you empathise with the child.

 
photo credit: Amy McTigue via photopin cc