Tag Archives: Education

Ted Talks Video for the RE classroom!

Beautiful video about a woman who was once voted the ugliest woman in the world on the internet now a motivational speaker.

This video can be used to teach your students about the impact cyber bullying can have on your life…negatives but also the positives. This lady turned her life around and never let her disabilities determine who she was or what she could achieve in life. Very moving and powerful watch for any classroom.


Teaching Practice Tips and Guidelines! (Helpful Hints for any student teachers embarking on Teaching Practice)

For a lot of Student Teacher’s January is the most daunting, terrifying and exciting time of the academic calendar. It’s Teaching Practice time. After sitting through month’s of lectures, essay writing, lesson planning, schemes of work ATP and FTP it is finally your chance to stand up in front of a class. Whilst it can be a very intimidating and frightening experience for a lot of us it is also a chance for you to experience some of the most memorable student teacher moments of your college life. I can guarantee you that a lot of your anecdotes and stories told over a cup of tea in the canteen will be of your teaching practice experience.

You will have students in your classroom who will test you, make you stronger and at times will have you fighting back the tears but the moments when a student says a simple ‘Thank you Miss’ when they open up and tell you about problems at home and with friends or when they look up at you with excitement and interest because finally you have discovered a methodology or resources that has grasped their interest. They are the moments you will never forget. They are the moments that make all the late nights, all the stressing and all the panicking worth it.

There are times when I sit back and think how did I manage to pull myself through every January for four years? A helping hand or a word of advice was always welcomed. In preparation for next Monday I decided to share some helpful hints and ideas that helped get me and other fellow student teachers through the terror of Teaching Practice.

1) Folders: During my first year of Teaching Practice I heaved around two heavy hardback folders along with a lot of other resources I needed throughout the day. They were heavy, huge and quite a nuisance. During my second year I decided to purchase two soft back folders each containing 200 poly pockets. They held everything I needed lesson plans, resources, worksheets, and timetables comfortably. So if you want to give your back, arms and bags a break I would definitely recommend ditching those hard back folders!


2) Relax and start simple – what is the learning objective? What is the best way for the students to learn this/achieve that objective – done. You can add decorations later if you’ve any time or energy.

3)  Supervisors: Keep the lines of communicating open at all times! Keep thinking they are there to help you they want you to do well. If you have any questions ask them if you have any worries go to them.

4) Use Google Docs!! Afraid of forgetting your USB stick? Always have a back up ready on Google Docs. This allows you to prepare or upload power point presentations, worksheets, online quizes and polls and you can access them on any computer that has internet. Limiting the stress of loosing your USB stick. You can access google docs using your college email address. It is brilliant!!

5) Always make sure you have a class list for each of your classes. Getting to know your students names is essential! One tip I used was writing students names on lolly pop sticks and use them for question time! Ask the teachers for seating plan if they have one and always have it in front of you. I always like to take one class (Friday is a good day for this) and have a get to know each other class. Play a few icebreakers and write down one or two things about each student that will help you remember them. It also shows them you are interested in getting to know them individually.

6) Always try and be in your designated classroom 5-10 minutes before class begins. This gives you time to set up and be prepared before the students come in. This leaves no time for chatting or disruption.

7)  Stand at the door as your class walks into the room. Trust me this really helps. If you have a particularly difficult class line them up outside the classroom and wait for them to be ready to enter your classroom. Students who are ready may proceed in those who aren’t will wait until they are. Any longer than 10 minutes…. Follow school rules for disrupting your class. Works like a charm! (for those students who were allowed enter your class have a short 5 minute exercise written on the whiteboard for them to begin whilst you wait for the other students to calm down and enter your classroom)

8) Learn from other teachers in your cooperating school. If you are lucky to have helpful cooperating teachers learn from them. Ask to observe their classes, ask them what works for them and what doesn’t. This is your chance to learn as much as you can from people who experience school life everyday. Don’t be afraid to ask.

9)  Student teaching practice is exhausting! It can be a huge shock to the system. Eat. Sleep. Drink LOTS of water. Make time for friends to enjoy yourself. The world won’t fall apart if you make time for your favorite TV show or a night out with your friends, as long as you don’t totally blow off your responsibilities. The students can tell when you’re weary or ill at ease, so making sure that you’re happy is key.

10)  If you’re a female teacher one tip is to wear low heals, gives you a bit of height if your small like myself and also allows the students to hear you as your approach so they know to be quiet.

11) Be mindful of the class group you have. While one lesson might work really well with class group A, the same lesson might not be as suitable/ successful with class group B. Just try and be a bit conscientious when it comes to planning lessons. If the group isn’t that strong academically you don’t want to and up giving a lesson on the catechism. If the class is rowdy and noisy maybe avoid methodologies such as role play or simulation that might over excite the students; it might be hard to bring them back under control. It might be better to use methodologies such as working with text, teacher exposition etc. As placement goes on and you grow more confident with the class and they become more receptive towards you, by all means go for it, take the risk and experiment. But bottom line, be aware of the group you are teaching, analyze the class dynamic and the situation.

12) Always have a back up in place when using IT, in case something doesn’t work.

13)  Never shout; no matter how loud you think you are, they will always be louder. You loose control when you shout. If a student is misbehaving there is more than likely something going on outside of  your classroom. If they are misbehaving or refusing to do the work leave any confrontation until the end of the class. Ask the student what is wrong, why are the acting out or why are they refusing to work? 90% of the time there is some outside factor at home or a fight with friends that is causing their outbursts or perhaps they just don’t understand what the lesson was about and act out in frustration. Talk to them. I can guarantee this works 100% better than shouting.

14) Take one day at a time. Try not to get too stressed. Enjoy the experience.

15)  Classroom management: Check out my blog posts on Traffic light system and the Behaviour Card system for more information!

16) If your laptop crashes (which can happen) let your supervisors know and hand write your lessonplans for the following day.

17) Helper Student: If you notice there’s one or two pupils that are ‘noisy’ or chatty or even a bit cheeky or ‘bold’, they are probably being told off by most of their teahcers throughout the day. Instead of being ANOTHER teacher that keeps at them or whatever, go out of your way to make that student your ‘helper’. Ask them to distribute handouts, wipe off the board, give out copies etc. It’ll give them a sense of commraderie with you, rather then just seeing you as another teacher that gives out to them. This might make them want to keep you on their side and they’re more likely to behave.

18) School policies: some schools will give this to you, if they don’t, take a few minutes to look up the school policies with particular attention to classroom behaviour. Don’t wait until you have a behaviour problem to then ask another teacher, students will sense that you do not know the code and try push you further. Some schools give punishments for not having journals and some don’t allow written exercises without any learning benefit and some schools put students on report after three journal notes which you have to watch if you are the third teacher. It wont take long to read over and will make a big difference in your confidence and potential behaviour issues.

For resources and further ideas follow all the 5j2014 Master blogs. Links can be found on my blog page! I will continue to update this post with further helpful hints over the next few weeks.

Big thank you to all past MDI students who helped me compile this list. I hope this helps and best of luck to all student teachers. Enjoy it.

Football Style Behaviour Cards

Football Style Behaviour Cards

I recently stumbled across a book by Nicola S. Morgan entitled Quick, Easy and Effective Behaviour Management Ideas for the Classroom.

I am constantly looking for new initiative ways to promote and encourage good behaviour in my classroom and to discourage any negative behaviour from entering my classroom. I also teach children with special needs in particular autism so looking for new classroom management techniques that are all inclusive is vital.

Within this book I found a behavior management system called Football style behavior cards. There are two main cards the “Yellow Card” and the “Red Card”.

Yellow Card

The Yellow Card acts as a warning to a child that they are displaying inappropriate behavior. This card is shown to the child and a warning strike is placed on the strike card on the classroom wall. If the child displays inappropriate behaviour for a second time they are shown another yellow card, which is also recorded on the Strike Chart. If the student proceeds to display inappropriate behaviour for a third time in the same day the child is shown the Red Card.

Red Card

When a child displays inappropriate behaviour for a third time on the same day or in the same class they are given a Red Card. A strike is once again placed on the strike board and you then follow the discipline of the school note in the journal, detention etc. If they receive three red cards in one week the school behaviour policy will need to be implemented further.

Time Out

The time out system is an effective and widely used approach when dealing with children and students who display challenging behaviors. When a student displays inappropriate behaviour place them in an environment with limited sensory stimulation (Desk facing blank wall) or send them to a designated room within the school. Here they can reflect on their behaviour and calm down. This time is not used as a punishment but a time for the child to clam down.

Chill Out Time or the Green Card

“Chill out time” is an effective way for a child to remove themselves from a situation before they react inappropriately. They do this by showing the teacher a Green Card or verbally asking for some chill out time. This is particularly useful for any students who have special needs in your classroom. Designate an appropriate safe area within your classroom where the child can go for 5 minutes to calm down, listen to music, read a book, draw a picture or just sit and think. This space can be used pro-actively to prevent behaviours. It can also be used after behaviour occurs to give the student a chance to re-focus.

Edmodo Review: Social Networking for the classroom. Educational web 2.0 tool.


Edmodo is a social learning platform for teachers, students and parents. As educators we are constantly looking for new ways to bring technology into the classroom. Edmodo is a social networking site developed for teachers and students to bring social media into the classroom is a secure and educational way.

Our students are growing up in a society where social media sites such as Facebook are the hot topic of any social gathering and conversation.  Edmodo is is very similiar to Facebook  which immediately appeals to students however it is a controlled, secure and safe environment for all students.

One a the main concerns of any educator when introducing web based tools into the classroom is security and safety of our students. Edmodo has a number of features to ease the minds of all teachers and parents alike.

1)    Passcode: In order to join a class, the student must have a passcode which can be provided by the teacher. This passcode can be changed by the teacher at any time. If a student shares the code outside the class, the teacher can change it, without affecting students already joined in the group. Parents can also be give a unqiue passcode that allows them to check on the work progress of their own child.

2)    Anonymous posting is not possible.

3)    Each edmodo class group is managed and controlled by the teacher.

4)    Students can only communicate to the whole class or to the teacher – private messages between students are not possible.

5)    Teachers can delete inappropriate posts.

Possible Issues may include:

  1. Students can post inappropriate posts so this will need to be monitored.
  2. Students may use this social site for social networking more than academic purposes.
  3. Students who don’t have the internet at home may be at a disadventage.

Ways to use Edmodo in the classroom:

  • Teachers can post messages for their students and students can post to the group
  • Teachers and students can share content and materials including web links and videos relating to given topic
  • Teachers can post classroom assignments, encourage discussions and track progress online.
  • Parents can track the progress of their child online.
  • Teachers can also grade assignments online providing convenient feedback for all students.
  • Enables teachers to network with other teachers to share ideas and resources.
  • Students and teachers can connect via mobile smart phones and be updated with the latest posts.
  • It has a calendar feature, which helps track assignments and events.
  • There can be co-teachers within a group, which is great if you co-teach a class and to swap ideas and resources.

Quotes from teachers using Edmodo in the classroom:

“Students love the ability to turn in assignments that can be typed without the worry or frustration of handwriting pages that may inevitably get lost.”


“Edmodo helps Parents or guardians to monitor achievement the children in school and help them identify ways of collaborating with teachers and student to achieve learning objectives in school.”


“Students submit essays and I use the comment features to score and provide feedback – so much easier than dragging a stack of papers back and forth from school to home. It’s also a fantastic resource for group projects. The group feature allows me to assign students to reading groups or to project groups, which enables them to collaborate from home and asynchronously.”


“It also can be accessed with an app on most smartphones so students can keep up with discussions and assignments anywhere. I have found that my students are very engaged in class discussions when using the program and helps me to “hear” from those students who don’t participate that much in class.”


“It also has tons of teacher communities where you can collaborate with teachers around the world who are teaching the same thing you are. You can also collaborate with classrooms.”

Useful Video to watch on Edmodo:

The John Paul II Awards (Faith Development Resources for RE teachers)


Adolescents question faith and establish independence. It is important to remember that these questions and need for individualism is a normal process and not a spiritual problem  but a normal process of development. Questions can be a sign that their faith is growing.  As religious educators, or anyone involved in helping adolescents with faith development should respond openly to these questions, doubts and anxieties. Adolescents is a time where we try to discover some meaning from what we are taught. We critise, read and listen which are the signs of a true Christian. True Christianity is always critical, questioning and continually developing in its understanding of God and of human life.

How can we as religious educators encourage faith development of our students in a positive, active and open environment? I believe one way we can help faith development grow is through introducing and implement the John Paul II awards into your school.

John Paul II Awards

The John Paul II Award, inaugurated in 2006, is an initiative that enables young people to express their faith through parish and community based activities. The awards are dedicated to the memory of the late Pope, Pope John Paul II.

If you are aged between 16 and 18 and living or going to school in the Dublin Diocese,  the Pope John Paul II Award will enable you to become more actively involved in the life of your parish and community. Religion is not just for learning, nor a list of rules designed to stop you doing what you want. Religion is for living and through taking an active part in your church and community you will experience the contentment and fulfillment that comes from serving others, especially those in great need.

The award was designed for any students in Transition Year Program or any post primary students between the ages of 16 and 18.

There are a number of awards you can get:

Bronze Award 

Bronze Award Requirements:

Parish Involvement: 1 hour per week x 8 weeks
Social Awareness: 1 hour per week x 8 weeks
Presentation: See below
Top-Ups: 3 hours

The Silver Award

Silver Award Requirements:

Parish Involvement: 1 hour per week x 14 weeks
Social Awareness: 1 hour per week x 14 weeks
Presentation: See below
Top-Ups: 4.5 hours

The Gold Award

Gold Award Requirements:

Parish Involvement: 1 hour per week x 20 weeks
Social Awareness: 1 hour per week x 20 weeks
Presentation: See below
Top-Ups: 6 hours

The Papal Cross Award

Who is the Papal Cross Award for?

Students who have completed and received the Gold Award.

Papal Cross Award Requirements:

Parish Involvement: 1 hour per week x 26 weeks
Social Awareness: 1 hour per week x 26 weeks
Project: See below
Top-Ups: 7.5 hours

These awards have a number elements Parish involvement, social awareness and a project. See this link for more details: http://www.thepopejohnpauliiaward.com/the_papalcross_award.htm

‘Faith in Action’ Resources

Trócaire have developed an Educational resource for all educators. The ‘Faith in Action’ resource contains four weeks of engaging lesson material for the Pope John Paul II Award. Students are then encouraged to spend another four weeks carrying out action projects within their communities. (The resource can be adapted to fit a longer or shorter timeframe.) These resources provide an excellent starting point for all teachers who wish to bring in the John Paul II awards into their school or classroom. The resources provided here range from worksheets, power points, action plans, teachers notes,

Check out these links for more details and resources:




Never forget why you became a teacher

Last night I took part in a twitter conversation with teacher’s from all around Ireland. The main topic of discussion was around the new Junior Cycle.

Many teacher’s have concerns about the new Junior Cycle undermining our educational standards here in Ireland. According to Sally Maguire of ASTI “young people who spend five or six years participating in second-level education will not experience State certificate examinations until they reach Leaving Certificate….the Junior Cert exam was invaluable Leaving Cert preparation and enabled students, parents and teachers to gauge aptitude prior to making choices about the Leaving Cert.”

One concerns even shared by myself is the legitimacy of in school based examinations. Has the importance of a neutral and un biased examiner been forgotten about? Students are “entitled to a fair, impartial and transparent State certificate to record their achievement at junior cycle. A school certificate based on grades awarded by students’ own teachers does not have the same status or validity as an independent State certificate.”

Other teachers are worried and apprehensive about the insufficient on day of CPD put in place for all teachers before the Junior Cycle commences. How can one day of training provide our students with the best education they deserve?

As a parent or teacher reading this blog you can see that our students are at the centre of all our concerns. When you see History teachers, religion teachers and all other teachers fighting for the preservation of their subject yes it is about maintaining and keeping our jobs but at the heart of all our anxiety is our students. They are entitled to the best possible education they can get and we their teachers are responsible for providing and upholding those standards.

Despite how idealistic and naive this may sound I became a teacher to make a difference to inspire, to teach and give students dreams a chance to be reality. If you are ever in doubt about the heart of a teacher watch the video to remind yourself who is at the centre of the concerns of teachers:

Padlet (Wallwisher) in the Classroom: Online Notice Board Tool


Wallwisher aka Padlet is a free online web 2.0 application that allows you to create a bulletin board online. Here you can display information on any chosen topic. All you have to do is create an account and build your notice board. Once you have built your wallwisher you can add images, links, videos and text. It is on online tool but you can also download app’s for Android and iOS devices.

Using this in the classroom with your students can be done very easily. One feature I quite like is you have simple security features: Private, Public or moderated by you the teacher. However, there is one slight disadvantage. The safest setting is to have your bulletin board on private, yet if you would like to give your students the freedom to post on the wall you will have to make it open to comments from the public. Once the class is over making the page private again will prohibit “outsiders” from interacting with any students the online notice board. Your wall is also controlled by a password which set by you.


Check out this link for some creative idea’s to help you incorporate Padlet/Walwisher into your classroom:


Some examples I thought of:

  • Plan events (tasks, class projects and action plans)
  • Keep notes (allow students to write notes, ideas and thoughts on the lesson up on the wall)
  • Hold a class discussion
  • Post a question and let the students respond
  • Collect feedback to a lesson, video, book
  • Add images (college made by class group)

Go Animate: Make your own Video online! Teaching Resource


Are you creative, imaginative and constantly looking for new exciting ways to engage your students? Why not try Go Animate.com. This is a web based application that allows you to create animated videos for free. It enables users to create their own animated video which is then posted online.

From my own personal experience of Go Animate the software is relatively simple to use however it is time consuming. I would hesitate to use it in a classroom with your students as the content on it is available to the public and as a result some of the video’s might not be suitable for the classroom. A good tip to remember here is that you can limit whole class activities by prohibiting access to the public section of the site. Your videos can also be made either public or private.

Video tutorials are available online to teach you how to use go animate quickly and efficiently. You can choose from a number of different templates, themes and characters.

A good idea if you have use of the computer room for a class or would like students to do a project using video animation.  You could sum up key points of a lesson, ask the class questions and provide answers using a very simple animated video there are loads of activities that can be incorporated into go animate.

Here is a quick video I made when exploring the webpage:


Thoughts of an Irish Teacher in England (Interview with a Newly Qualified Teacher from Ireland dealing with current issues and experiences when teaching abroad)


I recently had the pleasure of meeting with a good college friend of mine and fellow teacher, Eoin Walshe. He recently took a full time teaching position in England teaching music, religion and humanities. Like endless newly qualified teachers in Ireland he had to search across the Irish Sea for any teaching opportunities. I took this opportunity to ask him a few questions about his experience so far. What does he enjoy? What does he miss? and what has he learnt? It is important to note that whilst this interview reflects the current issues in todays teaching climate all the information provided is based on personal opinion at this current time.

What made you decide to teach in England?

My original plan was to apply for Jobs in England for Interview experience and to get familiar with the interviewing process, which is something you don’t get to do in Ireland in today’s climate. The interviews in England however are easier to come by.  I thought this would prepare me for any interviews that might come my way in Ireland.


What factors led to you accept a teaching post in England?

The opportunity to work full time in a vibrant part of south London was a big pulling factor. However getting the chance to teach both my subjects Music and Religious Education plus humanities in this particular school was the biggest incentive to go across the Irish Sea. The opportunity to teach all of my subjects in Ireland I believe is next to impossible. Also getting to teach all my subject areas so early in my career is a major advantage.  Having a stable income was also important.

If given the opportunity would you go back and teach in Ireland?

Yes without question mainly for personal reasons, its home. There is a certain spirit and atmosphere within Irish schools that is unique to our emerald isle. However, professionally the educational system in England provides great opportunities for me at this stage in my career and it is more innovative and cutting edge compared to Ireland.


What do you enjoy about teaching in England?

I do enjoy teaching religious education in such a diverse culture. When teaching about world religions for example having students from multi faith backgrounds keeps me on my toes and this has ensured my continuous professional development and presents an ongoing welcomed challenge.

The positive aspect of teaching music is the endless resource available to both the students and myself. For example every student desk has a computer and midi keyboard, endless supply of instruments, multiple practice rooms and recording studio. Every music teachers dream. This also presents a unique challenge and gives me the opportunity to develop completely different classroom management skills when including all these resources in a lesson plan.

The opportunity to teach humanities is also enjoyable. Teaching humanities provides an opportunity to rekindle a subdued interest in subjects like history and geography and a canvas on which to paint strong cross-curricular links between history geography and religious education.

Do you think the Irish educational system can learn from our neighbours in the UK?

Whilst it is still early days for me to give a comprehensive appraisal there are certainly features of the UK educational system that could be incorporated into our system back home. However saying this there are also certain issues where the Irish system could avoid. For example Ireland at the moment are developing the new Junior Cycle. I would urge those who are responsible for the development and implementation of the new Junior Cycle to critically evaluate the positives and negatives of several corresponding features in the UK system.

A practical example of this would be instead of allowing time for the planning of creative and engaging lessons the vast majority of out of class time is spent uploading data and completing tedious paper work. While the concept of keeping the students and their parents involved in their own education progress is excellent -who the primary beneficiary of what often feels like a show/façade of data, statistics and lead table competition is questionable (The Student? Or the Gove?)


Would you miss the emotional support of family and friends when teaching in England, especially being a newly qualified teacher?


On a personal level of course I miss my fiancée, family and friends. However, professionally I am very lucky to have a strong support system within the school I work in. Also the benefits of online communication with my support system back home have been invaluable. It is a great test of character both professionally and personally. It has made the transition from dependant student to fully independent professional a lot easier.

Tips and Guidelines on Classroom Management


When you teach you can’t plan for everything.

What is classroom management?

It is all about creating an environment an atmosphere in which learning takes place.

Who is the most important person in creating this positive learning environment?? You, Me, Us as a teacher. The ultimate objective is not to make friends.  The ultimate objective is that learning takes place. Students are not always going to be willing participants. Classroom management and discipline go hand in hand. You are responsible for disciple and the main objective is learning.

A few guidelines that you might find helpful:

  1. Establish Routine.
  2. Seating Plan- Day One put students in seats of YOUR choosing. Keep a copy of seating plan. It may need to be rearranged in time but ALWAYS stay on top of it. Keep it in your role book. CONSISTENCY is key.
  3. Introduce the Lesson- get them into the habit of knowing what to expect from the lesson.
  4. Books, Copies and Homework copy on the desk. But the date top right hand corner on the board and heading of topic. Do the roll when they are taking down heading and date off the whiteboard. If they want to ask you something they can wait until their name is called out in the roll. If they forget something- B for no Book H for no Homework etc. If they forget these things twice they get detention.
  5. Be prepared – Content. Be engaged and interested in the Content.
  6. Listen and Value the Student: Move around the room, Catch their eyes and be  interested in what they are saying. Ask them a few questions everyone’s opinion is valid. Get the class that don’t talk at all to write their answers down.
  7. Show them the standard- students need to feel that they can achieve in your class, in your subject and that you are interested in them. Show them you know what you are talking about. Example: Meditation- today we are going to Meditation…with no planning? because you couldn’t be bothered organizing something? Don’t do it! The students want to feel that you are into your subject. Keep your professional attitude.
  8. Keep Calm and Avoid Shouting! Keep your voice under control. Shouting becomes redundant. Don’t tell students to shut up. Avoid theatre.
  9. Be Fair.
  10. Positive Reinforcement. Individually and within the Class Group.

Always ask for help. When you ask other teachers for help it shows the school that you care about the responsibility that they have given you. Don’t assume that things will settle down. It shows that you are willing to go the distance to help them learn. It is a STRENGTH.