not your average zoe

life, love and knitting

1 Comment

5 little monkeys


My kids at school absolutely adore this video!  Thanks Pancake Manor! [@pancakemanor on twitter]



Letter and Sounds Phase 2 Resources review

I haven’t posted a review for a while.  Well I haven’t posted for a while.  Anyway, I’m back in a long-term role (all of a half-term) and I’m back in EYFS (hooray!), so here are a few of my favourite Letters and Sounds Phonics Phase 2 resources from twinkl Resources and Phonics play

Rhyming Bingo

Rhyming loop cards

A favourite site for all things interactive is where Poop Deck Pirates and Loo, Cover, Write are super popular games in Reception!

Phase 2 phoneme/sound poster

A useful guide about applying phonics in Literacy can be found in the free resources section of and some great pointers for when you feel your phonics sessions are stalling…

3D High Frequency Word helper

Phase 2 and 3 High Frequency words on colourful bricks

Are there any resources you rate? Or would like me to review? Do let me know!


a 5 minute lesson plan for Primary Schools

After falling in love with the concept of the lesson plan that takes a mere 5 minute to complete (when you are teaching 3 sessions with multiple activities a day and each day seems to take you about an hour to plan) I thought I’d try one Zoestyle.

Admittedly the plan took me wa-hey longer than 5 minutes, but I reckon with regular use they really could be a speedy, responsive method to plan – as long as extra activities were added to the back and you kept adding and editing to suit you and your own style.



As you can tell – I love a good bit of colour coding – I’m a very visual learner!

Thanks to Ross who is the Champion of quality teaching, with minimal fuss!

Follow him on twitter – @teachertoolkit and let him know you saw it here first!


a month of random acts of kindness

Since Easter I have been trying to carry out as many random acts of kindness as I possibly could.  Small gestures that might make things a little better/lighter/happier/easier for other people.  Then I thought it might be nice to share them here as I always used to think they had to be grand gestures like all-expenses paid trips to Disneyland Florida for a dying child and their family of 5 which would be totally out of my reach.  Whilst those have their place, I’m hoping that you’ll appreciate that I’m trying to make these tokens of generosity a daily contribution to making my corner of society a nicer place to be.

My acts:

  • 3 doors held open for others
  • 10 cars let in front of me
  • 1 car park ticket passed on with 45 minutes left to run
  • countless smiles to strangers
  • a “thank you” to every cashier, barista and waiter/waitress
  • 2 charity shop bags donated
  • 1 session of listening to a worried teacher talking about an ambiguous lesson observation feedback session
  • 1 reassurance session that a different year group may be a new love for said teacher
  • 1 random buying of a lunch meal deal for the stranger behind me in the queue (the cashier was more confused than anyone else)
  • taken 2 bin liners of yarn from people who gave them to me unwanted, to knitting group (where they were devoured!)
  • 1 welcome to a newcomer at yoga who looked like they might leave before trying it out
  • 2 hours staying after school to sort out an unloved classroom in secret whilst the Reception Team panicked about the outside area prior to an interim Ofsted Inspection.
  • taken 14 read, reread, loved and unwanted magazines to the Dentist and Doctors waiting rooms so other people can read and enjoy them.
  • 1 convincing a child she is not naturally incapable, nor bad and that I believe in her ability to try
  • 12 threepence worth of advice given re teaching ideas and interviews via twitter and the @twinkl stream.
  • 2 bags of shopping carried to help a neighbour from her car to her house
  • 3 pieces of litter picked up from the street
  • 1 loan of a book to a friend
  • 1 share bag of crisps taken to a BBQ
  • 1 thank you card made and given to hosts of BBQ
  • 1 bunch of flowers for a friend who gave me invaluable help with a a complicated morale zapping form
  • 1 hug for a stranger who said no one ever hugged her anymore when stepson demanded cuddles from husband and I.  She cried.

Acts I have Received:

  • texts from my family checking I am ok, filled with love
  • a ball of yarn from my niece (4yrs old – and insistent that I had it).
  • husband waking me at 2 am to tell me I am beautiful.
  • mother-in-law buying me a bunch of orange Gerberas as “they are smile inducing like you”
  • stepson getting cross with mother-in-law when alluding to me not being a parent, “I’m hers ain’t I?” (I’ve been with husband since stepson was 4months old, and I wasn’t a homewrecker by the way – she left at 2 months pregnant…).
  • best friend telling me to come over for coffee after work, making me a cappuccino and a fresh choux pastry with whipped cream to celebrate seeing each other on a Monday.
  • husband taking photos of my favourite flowers in the garden because “they make you do the jumpy clappy smiley dance.”  True.
  • a child at school calling me “the best teaching in my life” (aged 4).
  • stepson making me a latte and adopting my nickname of “Captain Coffee”
  • Hobbycraft picking me to review their exclusive WI yarn on this here blog!!

I think there have been many more given and received, these are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head – but wow – what a wonderful life we live!

So what random act of kindness can you do today? Do let me know here in the comments, or tweet me with the username @noturaveragezoe

Leave a comment

target display idea for Infant schools

Ofsted like the small people to know what level they are, and what they are aiming for.

I’ve always found this a difficult thing to do as it’s quite a concept for 4-7 (and older) year olds to get their heads around.

Most children are love the colour coding of reading levels and know what they are aiming for there, it’s Literacy and Maths that thwarts them!

At an Infant school I visited recently they used these displays for maths which I loved using amazing for level “a”, brilliant for level “b”, and cool for level “c”, instead of 1a, 1b, 1c etc.  Next to each level is the criteria which the children have in their books and tick off when they achieve them – and when they get so excited about moving to the next star “I was cool, now I’m brilliant!”




What do you do for your targets?

Leave a comment

characteristics of learning display idea

Reception and Nursery teachers across the UK are aware that the current big theme for EYFS are the effective characteristics of learning – which to the laymen of us are basically an acknowledgement of the type of learner that the children are.  At a school I was at today they had a lovely way of displaying it – and the children put there own photos on to show what type of learner they think they are too.






I love that they are colour coded, and that the words are all there to be used by the adults.  This particular school has reward systems using dragon hops – so they have dragons, I reckon it could be adapted to school mascots, school attendance bears, class bears, class names (like squirrel or rabbit) etc.

How do you display it?

PS I did ask permission to photograph and publish, and made sure not to take any photos of children.  


1 Comment

tips for being a supply teacher

My top tips for being a supply (substitute for Americans) teacher, one year after starting, in no particular order:

Be flexible,

Be patient,

Don’t spend everything you earn as you need to remember you get £0 for holidays and sick days and days with no work.

Invest in stickers with your name on as they are “special” (and cheap on amazon). I get no money for that link, I wish I did.

Always ask about script (joined/printing/precursive etc) before the day starts, also about fire drills, first aid, asthma/special needs etc, marking policies, behaviour schemes and assemblies because people don’t always tell you.

Assume you are on break duty – supply normally has that honour.

Take a whistle for PE/Break duty, but check whether one is used – some schools have a no whistle policy, some have bells for breaks.

Be smiley.

Be positively memorable for your agency contact – to get work – and your school staff and students – so they ask for you back (have a card ready with your name and agency and number on to hand to the bursar/office/head).

Go over and above – offer to mark, set up for next day etc and don’t race off if you don’t have to, so that you create a good impression.

Be able to spell.

Schools that have supply like to have regular faces so that you get the ethos/kids etc so although it seems like a waste of time, a bit of extra effort can get you regular work!

Don’t hand your timesheet in til the end of the day, it looks like you are waiting out the day.

Try and remember the kids names as quick as possible – I have a talent for this, but the kids settle better if you don’t have to keep asking.

Get the kids to “teach” you what they did leading up to that lesson as a starter so you can gauge what they know/learnt before.

Use the TAs as they know the kids and the work they have been doing.

If there is a trainee – let them teach the lessons they have prepared (easy money!).

Offer to do as many key stages as you can: EYFS, KS1, KS2, and all the types of books that you can handle: day to day, advance bookings, half term blocks, long term blocks and you will get more work!

Take your own pens.  I have a 4 coloured biro (red/green/blue/black), a pencil and a black board marker.  This means I am not scrabbling around the teacher’s desk relying on children to direct me to writing implements.  It helps me remain calm and in control.  The pens etc are normally fairly evident, however – I am prepared and I know I am!

Take a thermos mug – again you know you can have a drink and not upset anyone.

Contribute to the tea/coffee fund if you are asked to – it’s a courtesy that you may forget.  Your school may pick up on it and if they are having a bad day they many not be pleased – we’ve all been that irritated person who remembers that “they never even paid 20p for their coffee!!”

Turn up on time – and if you are going to be late, let the agency know so they can ring the school.  People wont be cross if they are informed.

If you have a bad experience at a school, tell your agency.  They are there to make sure their staff are looked after, so the same way they will receive feedback for your performance – give feedback for the school’s positive or negative.

Don’t take rejection personally.  With supply schools can be ridiculously and notoriously picky.  I was asked not to go back to one school because I hadn’t finished a task with the children – the task was to do the first half of a portrait that they were to complete the following day.  A colleague was told she looked funny.  In return I happened to point out things like that I wasn’t allowed to park in their car park, the TA disappeared and never came back and a child threw a pen at me.  Sometimes you and a school wont work well together – that’s ok.  You don’t have to go back!

In the same way – you can make your own boundaries – but this will affect the amount of work you are offered.  Last week I agreed to work in a different town.  The year group was my favourite, the school welcoming, the kids delightful (“Mrs Gorgeous I love you!”), it took me 1.5hrs each way – so I told the agency with some reluctance that I am not going to go back.

Supply is freeing, and flexible, and confidence boosting and varied.  It is also demanding and terrifying, inconsistent and involves a lot of travel.

I love it.