Relief Teaching Ideas

Sharing ideas to help make relief teaching fun, enjoyable, and meaningful.


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Spelling Tic Tac Toe

This is one of my favourite spelling activities. Most students already know how to play the traditional version of Tic Tac Toe so it’s an easy one to introduce to classes. They can play on paper or on mini whiteboards.
Students play in pairs and take turns writing the word that they need the most practice with, into a box on the grid. First to get 3 in a row wins that round.
Students can choose a different word to practice for each round. The student who wins the most rounds is the winner.

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The Black Book of Colours

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The Black Book of Colours by Menena Cottin is the most unique picture book I’ve come across.

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Unlike traditional picture books about colours, this book invites readers to imagine colours through the perspective of a blind person, using a person’s senses to describe each colour, rather than using bright, colourful pictures.
“Red is sour like unripe strawberries and as sweet as watermelon. It hurts when he finds it on his scraped knee.”
All of the illustrations are black and raised on a black background, and the text is written in both English and Braille.
The descriptions of each colour are sweet and childlike, and you can’t help but to touch all of the beautifully designed illustrations and Braille on each page. There is even a full Braille alphabet on the back page for you and your students to have a look at and touch.

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Kathy, one of the members of our Facebook community, recently posted some 5 senses poetry that her students wrote after reading the book. I hadn’t heard of the book before but as soon as I saw her post I was intrigued. I now have my own copy and look forward to using it in the classroom.
I’ve written 5 senses poetry before with classes but never with this book. I think that it will be a great source of inspiration for the students.
Here is an example of a ‘Senses Poem’ that I have written.
Before writing the poem have students brainstorm different things that the colour reminds them of:

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They can then brainstorm different describing words for each and choose which ones they would like to include in their poem.

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This is just one idea for this book. There are so many more learning opportunities.

Students could:
– Discuss how we communicate ideas with each other.
– Investigate different forms of communication.
– Go outside, close their eyes for a few minutes. Record what they felt, heard & smelled.
– Imagine having to describe a simple household or school item to someone who had never seen it before. Write down how they would describe the item.
– Write their name or a simple message for a friend in Braille by pressing a pencil on the back of thin cardboard or by glueing small round beads onto card.
– Research Louis Braille and how he came up with the Braille alphabet.
– Choose a classroom item, hide it behind their backs & describe it to a partner to see if they can guess what it is.
– Create inference bags. Place a small item in a paper bag. On the front of the bag write 5 clues about what it is. Students rotate around the room, reading & recording what they think is in each bag.

For more teaching ideas based on this book, click here: http://www.walkerbooks.com.au/statics/dyn/1269585064719/Black-Book-of-Colours-Classroom-Ideas.pdf


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Book Recommendations

I love books! So much in fact, that at one point I considered opening my own little book store. The economic realities of such a venture stopped me. I’m always looking for new books to add to my own private collection though.
On my Facebook page we often have people asking for book recommendations.
This post is something I’ve been wanting to do since I started Relief Teaching Ideas; create a list of book recommendations, made by teachers, for teachers!
Thank you to all of those who contributed their favourite books that they like to use in the classroom. I’ve started compiling people’s answers, adding them to some of my own, and now have this document to share. It is still very much a work in progress. There are so many more books that can be added and more learning opportunities that can be inspired by these pieces of literature! Ideally, I would love to have activities typed out for each book. Time prevents me from doing so now, but I hope to continue to add to this document throughout the year.
I have both a PDF & Word version for you to download & use as you wish. With the Word version you can add to it & make it your own.

Book Recommendations Word
Book Recommendations PDF

book title

Disclaimer: These are recommendations only. It is important to read these books first yourself, to determine if the content is appropriate for the needs of your students and your lesson objectives. The age recommendations are only a guide. I sometimes use junior picture books for older grades too, depending on the lesson’s objective.


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What is the Question?

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This is an activity that is usually used in maths but I think it also works really well as a revision tool!

Simply write an answer on the board, students then write questions to match the answer on post it notes. They can read through their notes or handouts to help them. They can stick their questions around the board.

Alternatively, they can write the answer in their books & list questions under or around it.

You can use this activity to:
– review a person, place or thing
– look at a character or setting of a book the class has read
– practice number sense (write a number as the answer & students need to write equations to equal that number.)

I love how versatile & easy to set up this activity is! Hope you find it useful too!


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Simple Book Review Pamphlet

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As a relief teacher you probably won’t always have access to a photocopier. Here is a way for students to create a book report from a piece of white A4 paper.
Depending on the age of the students, either you can fold the paper into 3 sections or you can show them how to do it.

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On the front cover students can design a new cover for the book they are reviewing. It needs to include the title, author and an illustration.

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On the inside cover students can list and draw the characters. They can also either describe or draw the setting.

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On the back cover they can give the book a rating. They can also give reasons for their rating. I hand out sticker stars (the type you get really cheaply at the grocery store or discount stores) for the students to use for their rating. They love using them!

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On the inside of the pamphlet, have the students write & draw the beginning, middle and end of the story.

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These can be kept near the class library for students to read, to help them choose their next book!
If you have limited time, you can simply have the students fold the page into 3 sections and just do the ‘beginning, middle & end’ of the story.

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The Sequel – A Writing Prompt

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After you finish reading a book to the class (novel, short story or picture book) brainstorm with the class what they think happens to the characters next.

– Do they live “happily ever after”?
– Do they stay in the same place or move?
– Who might they meet next?
– Have they learnt from previous mistakes or events or will they repeat the same mistakes?
– What adventure could they go on next?

Discuss with the class how some sequels pick up right where the story ended, others skip years ahead & some are prequels, which tell the events that happened before the original story. They will need to decide where they want their story to start up from.

Give students some time to talk to a partner or small group about their ideas. They could even sketch setting, characters & scenario ideas. Have them report back to the class with some of their ideas.

Have them then write a sequel to the story. It needs to include at least one of the original characters & have a new problem that needs to be resolved.


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Mixed Up Fairy Tale Writing Prompt

I was inspired to create this FREE Mixed Up Fairy Tale Writing Prompt after reading ‘The Great Fairy Tale Disaster’ by David Conway.
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In this book the Big Bad Wolf is fed up with blowing down houses. So off he goes in search of a new fairy tale to be in. Wearing the ball gown in Cinderella does not work and is embarrassing. Climbing up the beanstalk and seeing the giant scared the wolf, and getting kissed by the prince in Sleeping Beauty is not for the wolf at all. As the wolf runs from page to page the whole book of fairy tales becomes a great mixed up mess.

With this writing prompt, students roll a die four times. The first roll will decide their main character, the second the other characters, the third decides the setting and the fourth the problem of the story. Students then create a story with their rolls! You can either display this table on a smartboard or data projector, or photocopy the blackline master to hand out to students.
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Mixed-Up-Fairy-Tale-Writing-Prompt-814252
fairytale prompt


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The Terrible Suitcase Activity

BOOK WEEK Activity
The Terrible Suitcase by Emma Allen has been nominated for Early Childhood Book of the Year.

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Here’s an idea to do after reading the book.

Students can make a suitcase with some coloured & white A4 paper, scissors & glue. Inside have them write or draw what they would pack if they were going into space. Instead of “The Terrible Suitcase”, they can give their suitcase a different name & write it on the front.

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After they finish you can play the “I’m Going Into Space” game.

Quick Game – I’m Going Into Space

Packed up a little early? Have a spare 5 minutes? Here’s a game that requires no equipment & can be adapted to suit the class.

Tell the students that you’re going into space. You have an empty rocket that has room to fit them all but they need to bring something special on board if they want to be allowed to come along.
This something special fits a special rule, that you have predetermined, but cannot reveal. They need to guess what it is!

Some Example Rules:
– needs to start with the letter ‘D’ “Can I bring dog?” “Yes you can come in my rocket into space.”
“Can I bring icecream?” “Oh! I love icecream! But no, you cannot come in my rocket!”)
– needs to start with the same letter as their first name
– has a double letter in the word
– has only 3 letters
– is something you can eat

If they get stuck you may need to give them a few examples of what they CAN bring, to see if they can work out the pattern.


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Curious Ferdinand & His Magic Spectacles by Anna Fienberg

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‘The Magnificent Nose & Other Marvels’ by Anna Fienberg is a compilation of stories about five children who each have some sort of remarkable gift. One of my university lecturers introduced me to this book. I loved it so much, I went & bought a copy of it that same week & have used it with a wide range of year levels since.

One of the stories is about a little boy named Ferdinand. He comes across a pair of magic spectacles that give him the remarkable ability to see the inner workings of people’s bodies & what is ailing or hurting them. Things like broken bones, fevers or even an inflamed appendix. He ends up helping the Prime Minister, who has an itchy ear & brain, when he sees & removes a spider from his ear!

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After reading the story brainstorm with the class other powers a magical set of spectacles could give them.
Do they:
– Turn invisible?
– Fly?
– Read minds?
– Talk to animals?

Hand out these ‘Crazy Glasses’ templates from Picklebums.
http://picklebums.com/2013/07/10/free-printable-crazy-glasses/

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The students can then decorate & make up a pair of their own magic spectacles, just like Ferdinand’s.

What special powers do their glasses give them?
Use these glasses as a writing prompt for students to write their own adventure.