Mark the Maths Monster!

Mark the Maths Monster!

I started the year with a group of Year 6 children who were frightened of maths and so set myself the task of making maths fun!

Their Year 5 teacher had introduced Maths Monster to the children and they had really responded, solving problems for him and helping him get into Monster University by helping him learn maths. They obviously loved him because when he came back for a visit, one maths lesson, they were so excited to solve complex investigations and buy into the concept of this poor creature that couldn’t do maths.

From this, I decided to adopt a Maths Monster of my own (because they’re real you know!) and along came Mark, Maths Monster’s more confident, but clumsier, younger brother. Mark often rushes through his workings and doesn’t get things right and so the children have to sort out the mistakes he makes.

The children also had the idea that one of them would take him home at the weekend and do maths with him, taking photos and recording their maths in Mark’s diary.

This is adding an extra layer of maths for the children and on Friday they are so eager to see who is taking him home. The maths they are doing is complex and in a real life context, such as recording how many minutes Mark was asleep, tracking the average speed on a bike ride and measuring and converting ingredients when cooking for Eid celebrations.

I would recommend this, it’s great and the children initiate most of the learning so are totally invested.

Have fun!

Alice and Mark the Year 6 Maths Monster!

Mark the maths monster


The power of pine cones!

The Power of a Pine Cone!

About 3 Sundays ago I suggested an afternoon walk to my husband. He has 30 years experience of being married to a primary school teacher so his question, as he collected his carrier bag, was not ‘where are we going?’ but ‘ok, what are we collecting today?’ ‘Pine cones’ was my reply and off we went to the woods. An hour later we had 2 bags of pine cones of all shapes and sizes.
Why? Because a simple pine cone can be one of the most useful resources in a classroom and it’s free! As I say to my staff, stay with me, I haven’t lost it completely!

I love natural resources.

A basket of pine cones in your role play can become any type of food the children imagine, how much more creative than the bright coloured plastic pieces that are standard? Pine cones can be currency in a shop, children will work out their own denominations and values, 5 small pine cones might be worth 1 large one. Think about the mathematical possibilities!

A basket of pine cones in your creative area. I have seen them turned into animals, wheels, people or just decorated for the satisfaction of adding decoration. Resist the temptation to add googly eyes with the suggestion of hedgehogs as you will end up with 30 formulaic hedgehogs and lose the opportunity for individual creativity.

I think you’re probably getting the idea! Pine cones in small world will become people, trees etc. In construction they will be added to structures and models.

I used my pine cones in a whole school assembly to talk about uniqueness. We marvelled at the uniqueness of each pine cone. How pine cones look the same but each one is different and amazing. This led us to think about the uniqueness of each of us, how we are all different but each of us is amazing. I gave each class a pine cone to take back to their classroom to remind them to value themselves and each other.

Over the last 2 weeks it has been very special to receive gifts of pine cones from the children. A little girl knocked on my office door with a pine cone wrapped up in home made wrapping paper and a label ‘To Mrs N love from A x’. She said ‘I know you like pine cones and you gave us all one to remind us how special we are so I found one for you because you are special too’.

The power of a pine cone, need I say more!
Oh and by the way it’s conkers this week, get your carrier bag Mr N!




When is a wine rack not a wine rack?

When is a wine rack not a wine rack?

When you give it to a class of children!

No, I haven’t gone completely mad. Yes, I did give a wine rack to my class for their small world area.
It came from my parents house one weekend when they were clearing out and I thought it looked a bit like a castle. That was about a far as my thinking went. I would put it out with the small world resources and see what happened. Considering that we also had a ‘proper’ plastic castle, complete with firing cannons, working drawbridge, knights with swords, I wasn’t expecting much interest.
As usual, my class proved me wrong!
It started with the characters living in/on it as a classic castle with some fantasy stories being told. Then it became a ‘fantasy cave castle’ complete with experimentation with patterns and glass beads. Each child that played brought something new to the story. But my favourite idea came completely child-initiated from a group of boys. I should note, these boys were the ones previously arguing over the plastic castle. They found some wooden lolly sticks and set up a challenge of how many they could weave and balance across the beams. A fantastic opportunity to develop those fine motor skills! We enhanced the challenge by adding in the wooden people. How many people can you balance on the lolly sticks? Clip boards were found, tables drawn up, scores recorded, rules decided…they were hooked! They sat and concentrated on this task for the best part of the morning session. Over an hour of concentration from 5-6 year old boys is a thing of beauty.
Oh and the plastic castle? That was packed away because “there’s too many bits, Miss.”
Well, you can’t argue with that.


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Fairy Houses and Literacy

This was a really successful project I did in literacy with my Year 6 class. We started by watching ‘The Silence Beneath the Bark’, a short film on YouTube which helped to hook the children into the project. We then went outside so that the children could build the creatures a home in our nature area. I have done this in all weathers and it works well each time. Following this (and still outside) the children created designs and wrote a whole variety of genres of writing; stories, estate agent descriptions, fact sheets and letters to the creatures.
To help facilitate the writing I hung Year 6 appropriate modelled vocabulary in the trees around the area in which they were working. I also spent time looking at each house with the children and talking and describing them encouraging the use of ambitious vocabulary. On returning to the classroom the children wanted to make clay models of the creatures and read stories they had written to the creatures. Following this piece of work our Reception class used the houses as a stimulus for their own work involving fairy houses.

You might think ‘Fairy Houses’ would turn off year 6 boys but because the lessons were so active and free the opposite happened and some of their best pieces of writing were stimulated by this project.


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A Mud Kitchen for less than £10?

How I built a Mud Kitchen for less than £10!
image I am sure the majority of us have heard about the magic of Mud Kitchens, yet how many of us out there have a bottomless pit budget and can afford to a buy one that is beautifully and professionally built? Teachers are known for their skills in keen-eyed scavenging and this skill was perhaps more essential than the basic DIY skills needed to make the kitchen.
Let me just make it clear that I am in no way a DIY expert. I just about understand that a nail goes in sharp end first and I have been known to recite loudly the rhyme ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’ when using screws!
So bearing this in mind, here we go!

Step 1: Wood – Pallets are fantastic. Try contacting local builder’s merchants or take a quick trip round local industrial estates. Quite often these companies have to pay to get rid of the pallets when they are finished with them. I got mine from an electrical engineering company who gave me as many as I could fit in my car for free.
Bear in mind they may have nails and screws sticking out so grab a hammer and bash any you see or pull them out with pliers. They will also need sanding. Sand paper is really cheap and it is of course a lot easier if you manage to charm someone in to lending you an electric sander.

Step 2: To fasten the pallets together I made a stack of four that were the same size and then using spare planks from another pallet I simply screwed them together down the side. Then I stood a larger pallet on it’s end and screwed/nailed it to the stack to create a splash board to the work surface. (Awful instructions, I know, but hopefully the photos below will help).
I repeated this process three times. The only exception was that on one stack I used a jigsaw to cut out a gap to set the sink into. The sink was a big investment for the future, a whole 99p from our budget was spent wisely after finding a local advertisement on eBay. I also decided that all three units should remain independent of each other so that the layout can change to meet our needs.

Step 3: Resourcing – This is where your scavenging skills come into play. So far I have managed to get everything for free, or through charm and cups of tea managed to persuade people to lend me tools and give me nails and screws.

I love charity shops and car boots sales. I know not everyone shares my passion, but where else would I have got some of these things so cheaply?

I tried to avoid plastic and concentrated on wood and metal items and setting myself a limit of £10 I hopped off to the local car boot sale. Baking trays and shallow wicker baskets make great shelves and storage. Utensils of all shapes and sizes are great and easy to hang along the back of the units. My favourite and most expensive item was small earthenware pots for £2. Ok, they might get smashed, but they are great for keeping precious items and treasure. If we model how delicate and special they are then the children will follow.

A chalk board was the final essential item for writing down all those delicious recipes and after some digging round the school cellar I found one that was going unloved.

And that was pretty much it!

I know that this instruction guide is not perhaps IKEA standard, but hopefully after reading it you think “well if he can do it, why can’t I?”

(Feel free to email me if you need a translation of anything I have written!)


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