Relief Teaching Ideas

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


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Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

What a delightful, whimsical book!

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The Leaf Man uses the shapes and colours of different leaves as inspiration for its illustrations. The story explores where the mythical ‘Leaf Man’ goes, whenever the wind blows.

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This gorgeous book was brought to my attention when I posted these photos of leaf creatures on my Facebook page.

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Pictures & craft ideas found here: http://atelierpourenfants.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/des-feuilles-tres-tres-chouettes.html?m=1
and here: http://spoonful.com/crafts/foliage-friends

One of our members mentioned that they had read The Leaf Man to their class and then used it as inspiration to create similar pictures. I ordered the book soon after!

I think it would make a lovely afternoon of reading, collecting leaves and then creating leaf creatures of their own. Students could also use their pictures as a writing prompt for a story or poem.

I will post photos of some leaf creatures that I have made soon!


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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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Creative Book Activity – Windblown by Edouard Manceau

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This is a great book to have in your Relief Teaching Bag! Simple but a very clever idea.
Windblown is the story of 7 scraps of paper that get tossed around by the wind, and then claimed by different animals. Each page shows how the same scraps create a different shaped animal.
The wind plays the narrator & after all the animals disagree on who the paper belongs to, it ends up blowing & scattering all the pieces, asking the reader to make their own creation.
At the back of the book is a web address where you can go to print off the 7 shapes.
http://www.owlkidsbooks.com/Portals/0/docs/windblown-activity.pdf

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I love seeing what animals the kids come up with!

A little tip to save on paper…print one copy off & then trace the number of shapes you need on the coloured paper. 🙂

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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.


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Paper Elephant Craft

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“Too Many Elephants in This House” CLEVER CRAFT

The Children’s Book Council of Australia will be announcing the Books of the Year next month.
On the Early Childhood shortlist is the fun picture book “Too Many Elephants in This House” by Ursula Dubosarsky & Andrew Joyner.

You can view the book here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR2vOBTWVNw

While searching for an elephant craft to go with this book I found this YouTube clip (link below) of a super cute elephant craft. You only need paper, glue, scissors & either googly eyes or a black texta to draw eyes.
Love it!