20th April 2020
Continuity of learning for the children we teach is critical and schools are obliged to ensure that all of their teachers continue to support their pupils’ learning during this difficult period. Testament to the caring, compassionate, innovative nature of teachers, schools have risen to the challenge and continue to provide educational support to their pupils, in line with instruction from the Minister for Education and Skills.
Teachers return to work following the Easter break– albeit in a very different setting – facing into what is always a busy term in the primary school setting. As schools await further instruction from Government in line with Public Health advice, teachers are unsure of how events will unfold over the coming weeks and must plan accordingly. INTO have compiled this guidance for teachers as we return to formal provision of education following the school closure. Despite the fact that the doors of Vere Foster House are closed at the present time, INTO staff are working remotely and will be available in the weeks and months ahead to advise, guide and support members.
Well-being of teachers
The most important thing to remember through this crisis is that first and foremost, the health and well-being of yourself and your family is paramount, mar a deir an seanfhocal “Is fearr an tsláinte ná an táinte”.
The expectations of all concerned should be reflective of this. There are many articles available on managing mental health and physical wellbeing, and INTO has also published guidelines for teachers (which can be accessed via the links below).
The Employee Assistance Service (formerly known as Carecall) provides teachers (and immediate family members, i.e. partner, spouse or adult child) residing at the same address as the employee, with access to confidential counselling and assists in coping with the effect of personal and work-related issues. The service is free and confidential to teachers in schools, including those who are working in a substitute capacity.
(Free Phone: 1800 411 057 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The roles of School Leaders
Principal teachers, deputy principals and in-school leadership and management teams in primary schools have worked tirelessly under very difficult circumstances establishing systems to ensure continuity of learning for their pupils since the school closures on 12th March. School leaders have also played a key role in ensuring effective communication within the school community, doing their utmost to provide reassurance and support to parents, pupils and staff who are anxious and overwhelmed by the current situation. In addition, school leaders have been promoting collegiality and cooperation between their staff, who are doing their work in supporting pupil learning in a dramatically changed circumstances.
Another significant element of the work of principal teachers has been continuing with the administration of schools, in circumstances where they are unable to access school buildings and where their administrative support is not to hand. The administrative work of principal teachers has increased considerably in recent weeks, including dealing with the school meals initiative and temporary reassignment of school staff, in addition to dealing with ongoing matters such as leave applications, staffing and redeployment matters, issues relating to substitute teachers, and maintaining the online claims system. Finally, teaching principals are also supporting learning for the children in their class.
Priorities for school leaders, in conjunction with their in-school leadership and management teams should be to:
- Build and maintain good, safe communication systems within the school community.
- Encourage, coordinate and support teachers in the provision of learning opportunities for pupils.
- Link with teachers to review learning supports being provided and to seek reasonable consistency of approach.
- Consult with colleagues with a view to sharing experiences of appropriate and effective approaches to supporting parents and pupils in learning.
- Focus and support on the well-being of staff, ensuring that they can work effectively from home in a way which maintains their wellbeing.
- Develop and maintain ways of working which promote their own health and wellbeing.
Principals and teachers are best placed to make decisions that meet the needs of their pupils and families. Teachers should not feel under pressure to replicate work of a normal school day, engaging in approaches for teaching and learning as would be the case in the classroom environment.
*Principals and teachers may remind parents that, at the core of the current primary school curriculum (published in 1999), is a child-centred approach to teaching and learning with pupils encouraged to engage in “active learning” through “guided discovery” and a huge emphasis on children in infant class “learning through play”.
Channels of communication
Some schools will be engaging with online platforms and will already have established effective methods of communication between teacher, pupils and parents/carers via email. Other schools may opt to use this opportunity to introduce an email system for the purpose of sharing learning activities, providing feedback on pupils’ work and as a means of communicating important messages and updates to families. Teachers should ensure that in such instances, the email address that is used must be specifically for school needs and separate to any personal email accounts.
In cases where children’s and parents’ access to technology may be confined to a mobile phone, teachers could potentially communicate using text messages (possibly daily) outlining one or two tasks for completion. It should not be expected that class teachers engage in regular telephone calls to parents. Should a parent wish to discuss something with a teacher, they may request a call through the principal teacher, which could then be facilitated.
Teachers may not have access to school buildings for some time (at this juncture, the HSE guidelines state that school buildings are inaccessible until May 5th at the earliest with the exception of staff members who are involved with the school meals scheme, processing payroll and checking on the essential maintenance of the school building). In this case, teachers are limited in the form of support they can offer to their pupils, particularly schools for whom online platforms are not a viable option. Suggested learning tasks will vary depending on the age of the child, but could include encouragement to read, to watch the news or children’s’ educational programmes on RTE/TG4, to cook, to find shapes in the environment, and produce a small level of response , either written or pictorially (note: there are some useful, practical suggestions included in the latter part of this document). Relying on communication through text messages for learning tasks is limited and therefore expectations need to be tailored accordingly. Communicating learning tasks through email provides a little more scope but is still more limited than using the various online platforms or the school website.
When current restrictions are eased, and teachers are permitted to access school buildings again, they will be in a position to use school facilities and resources to prepare materials in hard copy that can be sent out to pupils’ homes or collected by parents from the school. (Whether such arrangements can take place will depend on Public Health advice regarding travel and mobility). The INTO has requested that the Department of Education and Skills make an arrangement with An Post or Voluntary/Community Groups so that there will be no cost to schools to send materials to pupils’ homes, ensuring that parents can also return material to schools allowing for comment and feedback on pupils’ work. We will communicate any developments in this regard to our members via our website.
Digital learning and technology
Teachers are in unchartered territory and, in general, are adapting well to provide realistic, manageable learning content. This will differ from school to school and from teacher to teacher depending on personal circumstances, capacities, access to and proficiency in online learning platforms.
When providing suggested learning activities, teachers should be mindful of parents who are working remotely or those with infant children and include tasks that children can do independently without constant supervision. It is important to remember (and remind parents) that children are learning all of the time. Learning is not confined to what is contained within school textbooks. There are countless opportunities for learning in the home environment. This is also a time to revert to basic, life skills.
Feedback on pupils’ work is important and will vary according to class level and nature of tasks assigned / suggested. Schools will decide on a method that best suits their situation. As mentioned above, one possible means of facilitating feedback would be by sending and receiving learning material via post. Maintaining regular feedback and keeping up contact in a very personal way is an important element in the continuity of education in the current circumstances.
Pupils with Special Educational Needs
Children with Special Education Needs require structure in their day, and they will find this uncertain period particularly difficult. In the area of education, the impact was felt immediately by all young people and their families but unfortunately the harsh reality is that it is the most vulnerable in our society who suffer most during crises. Children with additional needs are more acutely impacted by disruption to education and support systems (e.g. the absence of therapeutic services such as play therapy and speech & language therapy). Children with autism, for whom routine is paramount, will struggle with the prevailing sense of upheaval. Teachers of children with special educational needs find it difficult to meet the individualised needs of these pupils without face-to-face interaction. Many of the popular resources accessible online are not tailored for this cohort, but teachers and parents might find some of the materials included in the “Practical Suggestions” section of these guidelines beneficial.
INTO had previously published a list of suggestions for teachers in the SEN setting – see https://www.into.ie/2020/03/25/ncse-top-tips-for-parents-at-home/
As access to internet may be an obstacle for vulnerable families, teachers may consider providing activity packs with printouts/worksheets to assist those who need them.
INTO would suggest:
- firstly, ensure an effective, appropriate, manageable method of communication is established and parents can engage with teachers as needed (within school hours).
As children with special educational needs rely heavily on structure and routine it would be important that regular contact is maintained, and in light of the current limitations imposed on teachers, telephone communication is possibly the most accessible and effective means of keeping in touch with pupils and parents to monitor their progress.
- teachers must consider the pupil’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) as their point of reference. This plan would already have involved parental input and so the targets set out within this personalised framework should inform suggestions for tasks and activities.
- be cognisant of the child’s interests e.g. dinosaurs, trains, the farm etc. Teachers could provide material that is individualised (books / worksheets etc.) based on specific theme of interest to the child they work with.
- that class teachers and support teachers would collaborate closely and be conscious that multiple communications from schools to the homes of vulnerable children can bring undue pressure.
Homes that are least likely to have access to technology include those where children attend DEIS schools, though this is not exclusively so. Children attending DEIS schools are less likely to engage in homework and they benefit hugely from being in school. Therefore, children in DEIS schools need particular support to continue their engagement in learning.
The Home School Community Liaison teacher has a role in maintaining communication with the most vulnerable families. HSCL teachers can call families with which they work occasionally to see how they are doing, both in general terms, and in relation to supporting children’s learning. HSCL teachers can also liaise with their principal, school completion scheme (where applicable) and schools can endeavour to work closely with voluntary community groups and charitable organisations like Barnardos and the Society of St. Vincent De Paul. Until such time as restrictions are eased and home visits or meetings can be facilitated, occasional telephone contact between schools and home may be particularly helpful.
(The following link has some useful information regarding supports available for vulnerable children and their families – https://www.into.ie/2020/04/02/supporting-our-most-vulnerable-in-society/)
Reports suggest that the number of referrals of Child Protection issues has reduced in the last number of weeks since the Covid-19 outbreak. Schools and teachers should continue to be alert to the possibility that a child protection concern may arise in relation to students they come in contact with and should follow the relevant reporting procedures in the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post- Primary Schools 2017. (In circumstances where it is not possible to jointly report a concern with the school Designated Liaison Person (DLP), the teacher should make their own report directly to Tusla and provide a copy of that report to the school DLP at the earliest opportunity. Details are available on the Tusla website at https://www.tusla.ie/children-first/contact-a-social-worker3/ or through the Tusla online portal at https://www.tusla.ie/children-first/web-portal/).
In cases of emergency, where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk, and it is not possible to make contact with Tusla, An Garda Síochána shall be contacted immediately. This may be done by contacting a Garda Station.
Continuous Professional Development
Teachers will have their own unique skillsets and level of digital literacy. In this regard, teachers are encouraged to collaborate with fellow staff members in providing content and assist each other by combining their strengths. In some cases, teachers who are not confident working online or have poor broadband may seek assistance from colleagues uploading the tasks they have created.
Teachers may wish to spend some time engaged in professional development. Both PDST and NCSE websites may be useful. It can be an opportunity to explore and learn more about the potential of technology.
Members of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) Digital Technology team are available to offer guidance and has developed a new dedicated webpage of curated content to support schools and teachers engaged in distance learning in order to provide continuity to pupils/students. The page can be accessed at: www.pdst.ie/distancelearning
This is a temporary measure and remote learning can never be a fully effective substitute for face-to-face teaching and learning. Teachers can only do their best under the current circumstances.
Mar fhocal scoir
Teachers return to work after their Easter break, but this year is different to any other. Covid-19 is putting a new complexion on teaching as we know it, but teachers are rising to the challenge and working tirelessly to ensure that a sense of structure is maintained for pupils in their care, and endeavouring to create calm amidst a prevailing sense of worry.
Before the Easter closure, INTO provided guidance and advice for teachers entitled “Lessons for Teachers working from home”.
INTO will be available in the weeks and months ahead to advise, guide and support members in these uncertain times. We will continue to seek appropriate and necessary assistance for teachers and pupils from the Department of Education and Skills. Our website will be updated regularly to keep members fully informed of any developments regarding continuity of education and we will issue our weekly e-newsletter as normal.
Please be sure to stay safe at this time, keep up the great work, embrace the opportunities to learn about and use and digital technologies and remember that this is a learning process for all – mar a deirtear “De réir a chéile a thógtar na caisleáin”.
INTO have compiled a list of suggested practical learning tasks that teachers may find useful in preparing content for their pupils. The ideas below are aligned to various curricular areas and strive to achieve a balance between online and offline learning.
Whilst digital learning is a key element of many subject schemes at primary level and teachers utilise online activities during various lessons daily, it must be borne in mind that not all homes have access to internet or the required devices. Therefore, whilst there are a range of effective, online resources listed below (with potential for use in the home setting), teachers should ensure that if they opt to include such material as part of a learning plan for pupils, there should be a clear link to the topic which is being covered. Links to websites or apps should not be included in isolation but should be accompanied with background information for parents and presented as a supplementary resource to consolidate learning based on a specific theme.
Five first steps for teachers:
- Provide a weekly timetable for pupils (give a programme of events for a given week, but do not be prescriptive about time. Children and their families can be flexible around time but perhaps suggest a piece of literacy, numeracy, Gaeilge (for those studying Irish) and physical activity each day along with assigned task in SESE each week.
- Use the RTE ‘School on TV’ resource (broadcasting at 11 o’clock each weekday morning). Set in a primary school classroom, it features qualified primary school teachers who will facilitate lessons to help them learn at home. This programme is aimed at children from 1st-6th class and can be accessed the following day on the RTE player. Teachers could instruct children to write/draw a summary of three things that they learned each day.
- Encourage pupils to get a new notebook or diary (which they can design/decorate) and document their experience of learning at home, being at home, being restricted, for future history accounts of this time. Teachers could even keep a journal. It will be interesting to look back on!
- Focus on revision of topics already covered prior to the closure. Avoid introducing new ideas that have not previously been taught. For example, if a chapter of mathematics is introducing a new topic (e.g. percentages for fifth class) this will exacerbate stress amongst pupils and parents. If textbooks and workbooks are given to pupils, parents will feel under pressure to endeavour to explain new concepts to children.
- Any older books (e.g. books that are available for book rental scheme in schools) may be sent home to pupils to be used as a resource.
Reading – read, read, read! For younger children, parents should be encouraged to read to them and read with them.
Written activities that could follow on from reading are as follows:
- Summary of chapters
- Character profiles (or a piece on “My Favourite Character”)
- Report of an event which took place in the book
- Book review
- Write a letter to the author
- Write a letter to one of the characters
- Compose an alternative ending.
Other written activities:
- Our News
- Report writing (A Nature Walk / A Trip to the Beach / Picnic in the Garden)
- Write an article for a newspaper
- Design a newsletter
- Write a letter to a grandparent / cousin / aunt / uncle
- Design and write a postcard to a loved one
- Write a shopping list
- Come up with a new game and write a set of instructions
- Write out the method for your favourite recipe (compile a selection of recipes that can be made into a “cookbook” at a later stage!)
All of the above tasks are simple and do not require online resources, but yet involve children practicing writing across a range of genres.
Measurement – using weighing scales in the kitchen
- How many / how much of an ingredient is needed?
- Find a recipe book and work out how much of each ingredient is needed (e.g. if a recipe is to serve 2 but the meal is for four people, we must double the amount)
- If dinner recipe takes 45 minutes to cook, what time will it be ready at?
- Make an analogue clock
- Convert time on an analogue clock to digital time.
- Look at a TV guide and work out how long a movie will last (if we stop halfway to get snacks what time would that be etc.)
- How long does a journey take (e.g. record start and end time of a family walk)?
- Children can incorporate distance into football / hurling drills. How far do they think (estimate) they can throw a ball? Use a measuring tape to obtain an accurate answer.
- Come up with options for an afternoon walk within 2km restrictions – work out various locations 2km from their home.
- Look out for road signs and work out how long it would take to travel there.
- Make a shopping list. Estimate, then calculate how much the items will cost.
- Using a shopping brochure (e.g. promotional leaflet from newspaper, make a list of items that could be bought with a limited budget). Work out how much change would be given.
- Help place an order (online shopping or takeaway meal).
- Older children can read and interpret bills (e.g. telephone, electricity) – was there an increase or decrease from one month to another?
A “shape hunt” in the home / garden (shape and space strand in primary maths curriculum). Children identify and classify as many items as possible.
Fractions and Data
- Dividing a pizza or cake
- Open a box of sweets, sort into colours / flavours and work out what fraction are a certain colour / flavour etc.
- Carry out a survey among family member in relation to favourite foods, ice-cream, tv programmes etc. and create a bar chart/pie-chart/pictogram to portray result.
Cúla4 ar Scoil
Ar an Luan, an 20 Aibreán 2020, beidh tús á chur ag TG4 le clár nua Cúla4 ar Scoil a chraolfar gach maidin ó 10.a.m. go 10.30 a.m. Is clár leathuaire é seo a bheidh dírithe ar dhaltaí bunscoile Gaeltachta agus Gaelscoile. Cuirfidh an clár seo le saibhriú na foghlama sa bhaile, agus beidh sé mar thaca do na daltaí, a múinteoirí agus a dtuismitheoirí. Beidh sceideal breise á chraoladh ag TG4 roimh agus i ndiaidh Cúla4 ar Scoil ó 9:30 a.m. go 11 a.m. gach lá le téamaí oideachasúla éagsúla. Is féidir leat tuilleadh eolais faoin tionscadal úrnua seo a fháil ag an nasc chuig an preas ráiteas ar shuíomh TG4:
Caint agus cómhrá
Bí ag caint as Gaeilge chomh minic as is féidir!
Try to incorporate Irish into daily activities. As well as cartoons on TG4, children can play games such as “I spy” (Feicim le mo shúilín) as Gaeilge and perhaps put labels (lipéid) on items around the house. There are some useful websites online to support the learning of Irish (mar shampla Duo Lingo agus Seomra Ranga).
Tá sraith “Siamsán sa bhaile” bunaithe ag Tuismitheoirí na Gaeltachta i gcomhar le Tuairisc.ie le siamsaíocht a chur ar fáil do theaghlaigh fad is a bheidh na páistí sa mbaile ón scoil. https://tuairisc.ie/siamsan-sa-mbaile-siamsaiocht-as-gaeilge-agus-duaiseanna-go-leor-do-na-paisti-sa-mbaile/
“Cuaille” – iris nua Ghaeilge Chumann Lúthchleas Gael
Iris í “Cuaille” a bheidh ar fáil ar líne, ceithre huaire sa bhliain. Is ar fhoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge agus ar chainteoirí líofa Gaeilge atá sí dírithe go príomha ach tá míreanna ann atá feiliúnach do lucht meánscoileanna, freisin. Tá cluastuiscint agus dhá léamhthuiscint in eagrán na míosa seo! Sa chéad eagrán seo de ‘Cuaille’ cuireann ‘Cú’ na hailt ‘Ár gCluichí, Ár Laochra’, ‘Do Chlub, Do Chontae’, Crosfhocal, Cuardach Focal, 10 gCeist CLG Ort chomh maith le hailt ó Liam de Lása, Mártan Ó Ciardha, podchraoladh i gcomhar leis an Spota Dubh, alt faoi Scór agus go leor leor eile inár láthair.
Ceol / amhránaíocht
Amhráin ar nós Teir Abhaile Riú, Buachaill ón Éirne , An Maidrín Rua
TG Lurgan is a popular resource which is used to support learners in acquiring Gaeilge. It is easier to learn song lyrics than almost anything else and this is especially true if it’s a song that we like and enjoy listen to. Therefore, TG Lurgan record versions of popular, current songs by well-known artists targeting young people. This is great for learning new word groups and phrases while improving pronunciation. Children can also watch videos on YouTube and follow the dance and movement action.
Storytelling – children should be encouraged to read every day.
In keeping with the Aistear early childhood curriculum framework which highlights the importance of play in teaching young children about the world around them, play in the home setting could be planned on a certain theme.
- Using old cardboard boxes, children can make a spaceship,
- Children can use their own toys/play area and set up a restaurant scene; shop scene etc.
- Use cuddly toys and create a make-believe wildlife park
For those with internet access, some wonderful ideas can be found online and on schools’ websites or blogs.
- At the supermarket https://togher.edublogs.org/2019/05/20/8770/
- At the dentist https://www.thomastownns.com/school-blog/aistear-the-dentist
- At the restaurant https://www.stvincentdepaulinfantschool.ie/news/room-1-junior-infants—the-restaurant-aistear-theme/
Water and sand play
When playing with water children:
- can investigate floating and sinking
- can explore the mathematical concept of more or less / most and least
- develop their arm and hand muscles by pouring action
- learn how water behaves when you pour it from one container to another
- how water feels and that it can be squirted
- that water leaks from containers with holes
- improve hand eye co-ordination
Other activities (incorporating SPHE)
- bathing a doll can create opportunities to discuss caring for babies and the need for personal hygiene.
- washing and drying dolls’ clothes. Not only do children enjoy the imaginative play, but they experience the science involved in cleaning and drying fabrics.
Asking children to predict what will happen to the wet fabrics. Discussion can extend vocabulary and enhance your child’s communication skills. The activities also help to develop manipulative skills.
Playing with sand can be very therapeutic for children. (Parents can even show a bit of creativity in making a sandpit – an old tyre, an old washing up bowl or baby bath could all work well)
Working with sand, children can
- investigate properties of sand when wet and dry
- make patterns in damp and dry sand on trays. Children can use their fingers or small sticks or brushes. This provides a medium for practising letters, numbers, tracing shapes and patterns.
- old scales or a balance scales are excellent for estimation and comparison of weights (children can explore the language of capacity such as ‘more than’, ‘less than’, ’empty’ and ‘full’)
- junk materials such as yoghurt pots, empty cartons, ice-cube trays etc. can be used as moulds and aid manipulative skills.
Music and physical activity
Find some open space where children can get active, using their muscles whilst having fun!
- Balancing balloons on body parts
- Throwing a bean bag or soft ball into a bucket / laundry basket or hula hoop.
Move like an animal (call out instructions as below)
Move like a bird (run with arms outstretched)
Move like a snake (wiggle on tummies on the floor)
Move like a bear (walk on all fours)
Move like a frog (get down on haunches and hop)
Move like a kangaroo (take big leaps with arms in front of chest)
Move like an elephant (with heavy stomping)
Move like a penguin (waddle with ankles close together and arms pinned to sides)
The Bean Game
Jelly bean (children wiggle with tummies on floor)
Runner bean (children can run and jog)
Baked bean (children lie down with arms outstretched)
Jumping bean (children take small leaps)
Kidney bean (children curl up in the shape of a kidney bean)
Chilli bean (children wriggle)
Broad bean (children stretch as far as they can)
Sing some classic songs and add some actions!
I’m a Little Teapot
If You’re Happy and You Know It
The Hokey Pokey
Old Mac Donald
Itsy Bitzy Spider
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around
Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush
The Wheels on the Bus
Children with special educational needs
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) have provided a wealth of resources on their website (in English and as Gaeilge) for all levels. Materials are specifically targeting children with Special Educational Needs with input from Speech and Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists. Teachers will find ideas for activities that can be shared with parents.
The website below, which works with assistive technology, is recommended for children with severe and profound disabilities with a suite of switch/touch screen videos (animations or slideshows set to music).
Teachers should provide a recommended timetable for parents which will serve to give a general structure to the day. Keep this simple –
Gross Motor Skills activity
Fine Motor Skills activity
Sensory activity time
This can be presented in a number of ways, for example visual or object schedule (see examples on https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Activities-and-Ideas-for-Learning-at-Home-with-Younger-Children.pdf)
Examples of numeracy activities:
- counting spoonfuls when baking or cooking
- counting trees / flowers in the garden or park
- finding (1, 2, 3, 4) different objects
sorting and classifying
- matching items of the same colour
- pairing socks when helping with laundry
- grouping fruit / vegetables
- matching shapes
Gross motor skills
- Running, jumping, dancing, jogging
- Beach ball / soft ball – throwing and catching games (e.g. donkey)
- Kicking activities with a large ball
- Bicycle or any pedal toys
- Balloon play
- Design an obstacle course
- Follow the line- use masking tape to create / a track to follow
- Move like an animal game
- homemade goal
- Going for a short walk
Fine motor skills
- Threading beads
- Playing with Lego
- Number peg birds
- Manipulating pipe cleaners and straws
- Playing with (rainbow) rice and bottle tops.
- Sorting buttons (using a bun / muffin tray)
- Fridge magnets / alphabet soup
- Experimenting with lollipop sticks
- Making playdough
- Squishy bags
- Water play
- Dried pasta
- Sand play (wet and dry mixtures)
- Bubble wrap play
- Making musical instruments (e.g. with dry rice and or lentils and empty bottle
- Sensory board comprising different textures
Other skills/life skills
- Getting dressed and undressed
- Buttoning or zipping coat
- Washing and drying hands
- Fold napkins
- Sorting cutlery
- Make a sandwich
- Getting a bowl of cereal and milk
- Pour a drink
- Watering flowers
- Feeding pets
- Planting seeds
- Set single place setting at table
- Tidying up toys
- Brush teeth
- Wipe or clean a table with a cloth
Social stories were initially developed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but they have also proved beneficial to children with additional learning, emotional, cognitive and communication needs. Social Stories should be composed about a situation that the child finds difficult. They are adaptable and easily tailored to meet a multiplicity of needs.
Some free printable social stories can be accessed online, including on the twinkil.com site which has a dedicated Corona virus home support page:
Nessy programs are designed to help students of all abilities learn to read, write, spell and type, especially those who learn differently.
Nessy offers the complete dyslexia aware solution with a suite of multisensory products aimed at making learning to read, write and spell fun.
EPIC app – online library ideal for story-time
Epic is an extensive digital library of books available in an app. There are lots of different options available – your child can read the books, have the books read to them or read along.
Art and crafts activities
Projects promoting fine motor skills
40 fine motor skills activities for young children that are easy to set up and promote a whole range of skills. They’re creative, open-ended, appropriate and varied with ideas for practising motor skills through art, sensory play and simple manipulative games,
Magnetic and Velcro puzzles and games
Jumbo colouring and activity books
Mazes, Word Searches, & I Spy Picture Search Books – children with additional needs can avail of jumbo colouring and activity books.
Kaleidoscopes: a classic toy like a kaleidoscope provides lots of sensory input for visual seeking children who will be mesmerized at changing colours and patterns.
Finger Lights: a visual activity for children to explore with especially when paired with translucent objects
More useful online resources:
“Dabbledoo music” have specially curated video courses, radio shows and Spotify playlists for the family, along with access to interactive online resources.
The Ark has spent over two decades commissioning, producing and presenting plays, visual arts exhibitions and workshops, music performances, literature, dance and more for children aged 2-12. Whilst the doors of their Temple Bar building are closed at present, and a number of programmes due to take place over the coming weeks have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis, The Ark @ Home will offer children daily opportunities to explore and discover the arts in their own homes over the next few weeks.
Cooking provides wonderful opportunities to help children learn not only mathematical vocabulary but also numerous opportunities for oral language development and scientific skills also.
Children can also talk about where food they eat comes from e.g. milk, eggs, vegetables etc. Discussing different foods that are imported from other countries, children can learn how climate and temperature affect the growth of various fruit and vegetables.
This would also be an opportunity for children to grow their own produce (e.g. strawberries).
Looking at the food pyramid children can classify different foods into their food groups and categorise them as “healthy” or “to be eaten in moderation”. This could be portrayed by creating a large Venn Diagram, putting bad foods in one circle and good foods in the other circle and they may come across a small amount of foods that fit in the middle. Two hula hoops could be used for this activity or alternatively, two large circles could be drawn on a sheet of paper and children could draw the food items or practice cutting and sticking by finding pictures of foods in newspapers / magazines.
This can be extended to why specific foods are important in our diet
- dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) provide calcium for healthy bones and teeth
- citrus fruits (e.g. oranges) are good sources of vitamin C
- meat, fish and eggs contain protein, which is important for strong, healthy muscles
Parents can have a read through suggestions for involving children in the cooking process on the following page: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/guide-cookery-skills-age
There are numerous opportunities for food-related art activities.
- Playdough recipe / making dough dolls:
- Potato printing allows children to engage in a fun, artistic activity using blunt utensils to carve unusual patterns and shapes.
- Making pasta necklaces
- Gingerbread cottage
- Many more ideas on https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/food-crafts
Microsoft DreamSpace HomeSpace are providing a daily schedule (starting on Monday April 20th) to support remote learning activities across the education sector. STEAM content specifically developed for primary school students (mainly 2nd-6th class) will be available on Mondays & Thursdays, whilst their Wednesday series is appropriate to students across the age ranges.
Monday: MakeCode for micro:bit
This series will continue to be live from 1pm (if students have been following they can continue to join live here: https://aka.ms/DSHomeSpace, or all completed lessons can be viewed through RTÉ Home School Hub at https://www.rte.ie/learn/microbit
(The RTÉ Home School Hub also contains some unplugged and home challenges for students to engage with and enjoy. If the need for remote learning assistance continues, our MakeCode lessons on Monday will move to be delivered through Irish starting Monday, May 11th).
Wednesday: Retro Game Design with MakeCode Arcade
This series is suitable from for anyone with very basic coding experience. As each lesson progresses, we move into quite advanced coding concepts so it would also be
suitable for students involved in the area of coding through curriculum or extra-curricular activities in your school.
Thursday: Full STEAM ahead
This series will look at utilising materials around the home that can be used to complete some of our maker challenges. Students, with their parents, will have the opportunity to submit their finished challenge and be featured in the following webinar. We will also have an inspiring guest speaker join us during these webinars to motivate and excite young people about their future. This lesson series begins on Thursday, April 23rd and will be available to view live through https://aka.ms/DSHomeSpace and also through RTÉ Home School Hub the following day.
The importance and the enormous benefit of spending some time outdoors (whilst observing social distancing) cannot be underestimated.
Some simple ideas (which also allow integrate element of the SESE Science curriculum):
Go on a bicycle ride.
Some bicycle-related lessons can be accessed on Twinkl.com
Build an insect hotel
Learn about trees in the environment, and create some nice artwork (tree/leaf rubbings)
Joe Wicks (also known as The Body Coach) was quick off the mark providing PE lessons for school children when school closures were announced. His sessions last half an hour and involve simple exercises that don’t require any equipment and whilst they are considered to be relatively easy, they do require stamina and will help to get children fit. Sessions will be continuing every day until children are back in schools, kicking off at 9am – a great way to start the day!
For sports fans there are a number of resources to access online. As well as skills challenges that local clubs are co-ordinating for children in their local community, there are some sports-themed lesson plans incorporating various curricular areas.
“Múinteoir LOI” provides lesson packs specifically tailored for every League of Ireland club as well as some teams from the Women’s National League. This series of lesson packs have been coordinated by primary-school teacher Tom O’Connor.
The Gaelic Athletic Association have followed suit launching #GAAPrimary Challenges which are designed to help teachers and parents to work on cross-curricular lesson plans with children to meet their learning needs. Gaelic games-themed lessons are across all curriculum subjects and are for children at every class level, based on the GAA Céim ar Aghaidh/Step Ahead resource.
Children could create a map of their local area, including areas of interest and significance, any historic sites / monuments, important buildings such as schools, churches, local shop, post office, GAA club etc. Children could then focus on the 2km restriction currently imposed and indicate this zone on their map. They can discuss how / what route they can take to reach their destination and explore which is most convenient.
Countries of the world
Older pupils will likely have seen maps of the world (on the news, in newspapers) indicating which countries have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Children could use this opportunity to learn / revise countries and their capital cities, national flags and currencies etc. Some children may decide to work on a project centred on a specific culture and explore various aspects (language, culture, traditions, feasts and festivals, school life etc).
Then and now – Life in our grandparents’ time (suggestion for interviewing family members below).
Local studies – Actively explore some features of the local environment, investigate various aspects of these sites, present findings using a variety of media and appropriate timelines, identify opportunities to become involved in enhancing and protecting the environmental features. Children could explore a period or periods in the history of the local village, town, city area, townland, parish or county, become familiar with important events in the history of the locality, setting local figures or events in the national and international context where relevant. Children might collect related local ballads, stories, poetry etc.
Myths and legends – Irish folklore offers range of stories that children can explore. Children can listen to, discuss, retell and record a wider range of myths and legends from
different in Ireland and other countries, discuss the chronology of events in the stories, discuss the actions and feelings of characters, distinguish between fictional accounts in
stories, myths and legends and real people and events in the past.
There are some useful links on the Seomra Ranga webpage. https://www.seomraranga.com/links/sese-links/history/
Longer-term activities for children in Senior Classes
Children can work on a longer-term project based on a theme of their choice.
This project can be spread out over several weeks and children can work independently in sourcing material, researching, writing and editing etc. The presentation of their work can take a variety of forms. A traditional scrap book-based end product would be one option, particularly for children who are not highly skilled in digital technology or who, owing to the circumstances and demands on IT equipment within the home setting may not have access to devices. They can cut and paste articles, pictures, diagrams and pieces of writing.
Some topics may lend themselves to practical, construction activities (e.g. building a volcano).
Other children may prefer to use their IT skills and create a PowerPoint presentation.
We are all living through history and as mentioned earlier, keeping a diary or reflection journal etc. of this unusual time would be a good personal task for children to engage in allowing them to have a keepsake of this period to look back on long into the future. As well as saving newspaper cuttings, postcards and letters received, art work created, making a time capsule is a clever idea. This can be done without online platforms, but there is an interesting resource which can be accessed at the following link. https://letsembark.ca/time-capsule?fbclid=IwAR2u5zq001M04_GQNiLcbjF45zEu_zBFwJiDJzoWlDEWnOF-fS-MgxJ_cn4
Children can create a memory book or a record of a series of interviews.
Pupils can devise a list of questions for a member of their family / wider family circle. For example, with grandparents/aunties/uncles they could explore aspects of the past (school life/pastimes/festivals and traditions etc.). This can link nicely with the “Then and Now” strand of the History curriculum.
If possible, where children can communicate with grandparents via phone/facetime/skype this is a good way of keeping contact during this period where circumstances dictate that they must not visit older relatives.
Most homes will have a “bits-and-bobs” box or a bosca somewhere with nets, buttons, lids, wrapping paper etc. Now is a good time to use those recyclables and create a piece of artwork. Children should be encouraged to be original, be creative – and don’t forget to take a picture!
Whether indoors or outdoors, children could contribute ideas and assist in the planning of a redecorating project or a new garden feature in preparation for summer time.
Children may be afforded the opportunity to revamp or recycle an old piece of furniture within the home.
Tráth na gCeist/Weekly Quiz
Children could take on the role of quizmaster and set some questions for all the family. They could have themed rounds and incorporate elements of SESE (Geography, History and Science).
Those who are competent with technology and can communicate with others remotely may decide to involve extended family members in a quiz (or Tráth na gCeist as Gaeilge). There are a range of pre-prepared quiz questions on the seomra ranga website.
Mindfulness for children
At this worrying time for parents, teachers may suggest to parents that whilst conversation about the topic is important, it is essential that such dialogue is handled in a sensitive manner to exacerbate the child’s anxiety. Conversation about the virus or restrictions should be looked upon as an opportunity to convey the facts, help children feel informed and provide accurate information that is likely more reassuring than whatever they’re hearing from their friends or on online channels.
An important way to reassure children is to emphasize the safety precautions that are being taken. Jamie Howard, PhD, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, notes, “Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.” Experts highlight that the coronavirus is transmitted mostly by coughing and touching surfaces and it is recommended that we thoroughly washing our hands as the primary means of staying healthy. Parents could be encouraged to remind their child(ren) that they are taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom.
As a means of further putting their minds at ease, there are a range of online mindfulness exercises specifically targeting children.