Guest Post: Junior Infants

I've another guest post for ye guys! This time it's from a really great teacher and friend from Twitter, Mary Jo Bell

I teach in St Anne’s Primary School, Shankill, Co. Dublin. I am very interested in Infant Education and using technology in the classroom. You can follow my class on Twitter, we are @MrsBellsClass and our new class blog is

Junior Infants

October is here and my Junior Infants have now been at school for five weeks. It really is amazing to see how quickly they have settled into the class routine. Routine is a very important part of life in the Junior Infant class as they like to know what is happening.

My first contact with these children was last June. We hold a meeting for parents and new Junior Infants before the holidays. It gives the children an opportunity to see their classroom and to meet their teacher while parents are given some tips on helping their child to settle into school.

My advice to parents is:

·  On the first morning, bring your child to the classroom and get them sitting down as quickly as possible.
     Bring a camera to photograph this important day.
          Don’t delay too long. Give your child a big hug and leave. If your child is crying, I can guarantee you that this stops very quickly. Children start playing with toys, talking to friends and life is great!
     Always be on time, both for the morning line up and to collect your child after school.
      Give your child a healthy lunch, make sure they have enough. I often have to tell parents that their child has eaten everything by 10.30am. Always include a bottle of water.
      Label everything – books, copies, bag, lunch box, coat, hat, scarf, gloves, jumper – whatever your child brings to school.
      Buy your child a good-sized school bag, one that will carry an A4 sized pocket-folder. Children often have trouble fitting everything into their bag, so a big bag makes life easier for them.
      Teach your child how to take off / put on their jumper and their coat. Teach them how to pull out a sleeve that is inside-out. Teach them how to fasten their coat. These are little things, but mean a lot when a child knows how to do them.
      Don’t ask your child “What did you do today?” They will answer “Nothing”. Ask them “Did you draw/say rhymes/ sing/ read a story?” This should get an answer.
      Remember, if you have any questions, just ask the teacher. 

       “Big school” is a whole new world for the Junior Infant child. They are now in a bigger class- grouping with often over 30 children in the class. We are very lucky in that we take in three classes of 21/22 Infants and then they go into two Senior Infant classes. It gives the children a great start to school life.

 I spend a lot of time in September getting the children settled in and being happy coming into school. Developing good social skills is more important at this stage than academic learning. I have 4 groups in the class-room, red, yellow, green and blue. The children are still sitting where they sat the first morning, beside their friends, but are now ready to move to a new group. 

In the first week we concentrate on learning the names of children in their group and then move on to names of all children in the class.Children learn to share, to be kind to others, to let everyone play in the game, to listen, to put up their hand, to take their turn. We don’t run, kick, bite, push, grab or swing on our chair. Sometimes these have to be said over and over again, but it is worth it as it makes for a happy school life for all.

Daily Routine

Classroom organization, routine and timetable are particularly important at infant level. I generally follow the same format every-day. I prepare the class for the children, lift down their chairs and put out toys. I collect them from the yard at 8.50am. They have been coming in with me since their third week in school.

They have free play-time for about 20 minutes. This gives them a chance to interact with each other socially.                                                                                                                                    

Gaeilge is next. Our school follows the Bun go Barr programme and while this is good, the children are able for a lot more. I use a lot of incidental Irish and also end up dipping into “Maith Thú” and “Treo Nua”. At this age children will soak up the language and are well able to use it.

Pre-writing patterns: I prepare a sheet with a pattern, for each child every day. I draw a star on the top left hand corner to show the child which side to start on. These are very important in preparing the child for writing. It may take two or three days for them to form the pattern correctly. I spend time doing it with each child, emphasising left/right orientation and correct pencil grip. Colouring and cutting activities are also very important at this stage as they help to develop fine motor skills, leading to good hand-writing later. 

Language: We spend a lot of time talking! Children are encouraged to share their news every day. We Tweet regularly and we have just started a class blog. We do lots of rhymes and poems. This year I scanned in my Nursery Rhyme book and now have each page as a power point slide. The children love saying the rhymes as the pictures appear on the IWB. We play lots of games to develop good listening and language skills. We read lots of stories, we talk about them, the characters, what they did. We predict what might happen next. We dramatise some of the stories and rhymes. We integrate them into art work.

I follow The Jolly Phonics Programme and we spend time working on this every day. The children have a Jolly Phonics copy which they bring home at night to practise the sounds.

Pre-Reading Activities: We do these activities every day, Monday - Thursday. I have coloured cardboard pockets. The colours correspond to the class groups. Each pocket holds a card with a picture of an activity. The cards are rotated daily so each group gets to do each activity every day. The activities we are concentrating on at the moment are: matching cards, sequence cards, jig saws and left/right orientation cards.

We use The Sunny Street series in our school. After Halloween I start teaching the words for the first reader. Children have a word-box which they bring home at night. We match the pictures, the word to the picture and the word to the word. We play snap and memory. I make out sheet of the words which I stick into the front of their Jolly Phonics copy. The children know all the words before they actually start reading the book. Once they are reading one book, I give them a sheet with the words for the next book and this continues to the end of the year. They usually have about 14 sheets of common words. While they are reading their Sunny Street books, I also start the children on extra readers. I use a variety of schemes including Sails and Oxford Reading Tree.  By the end of the year most children are reading Level 4/5 in the Oxford Reading Tree. 

Maths: We follow the Mathemagic Programme and are introducing Destination Maths this year. Children use lots of concrete materials for maths – cubes, blocks, counters, shapes, money. These help the children understand the concepts as they can physically see what they are doing.

Pre-Writing/Maths Activities: These are aimed at helping the child to develop their fine motor skills and help with their maths. These are also coloured coded and rotated every day. Activities include peg-boards (I have a set of pattern cards that the children copy), threading, playdoh and sorting boxes. Later I introduce tangram activities, chain links, pattern blocks.

Music: Children at this age really enjoy music. They love to sing and explore various ways of making sounds. We spend time listening to music and I like to incorporate it into other subjects. For example “Peter and the Wolf” is great for literacy, language work, drama, art. I use “The Right Note” series, I like the songs and the idea of a theme each month.

We are a Catholic school and follow The Alive-O Programme.

I cover one are of SESE and SPHE each day, these subjects are easily integrated into other subject area.  We have done a lot of work on Autumn and hedgehogs over the last couple of weeks and children have made and painted clay hedgehogs.

We have a Gymnastics teacher who teaches PE and I take the class to the computer room every Wednesday morning. I must say this is one of the highlight of the week, they can use the mouse now and know how to close a programme.

While I have taught at every level in the Primary School, I can honestly say that I love teaching Junior Infants. It can be difficult at times but it is very rewarding to see the progress they make during the year.

Wise words today? Don't be afraid of the tiny humans in Junior Infants, it turns out they're ok really, just really small. Very very small. 


  1. Great post Mary Jo. This should be required reading for any parent of a Junior Infant.

  2. Great post, well done. I only have experience of 5th and 6th class (apart from TP) so I find it hard to imagine taking infants. I've never had to show a child how to take off their jacket! I think infants teachers should be paid extra, don't know how you do it!

  3. Thanks Simon & Nigel!
    Really appreciate your comments :-)
    Mary Jo

  4. Totally agree it's a great post Mary Jo!! Well done!! Thanks again for writing it for us! I learnt loads! They may not be as scary as I thought!!

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