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Sharing the Treasure

This past week, the subject of stimulus materials for programmes has popped up repeatedly in my conversations with tutors, teachers and parents. There are, of course, many excellent commercially produced resources  available, such as photos, flash cards and educational software to support every imaginable learning need.  However, for many people the budget rarely stretches to buying a specific resource for every aspect of a programme. Aside from the obvious problem of expense  I’ve found that often, off-the-shelf materials don’t quite fit a teaching plan I’ve developed around the child’s needs in a particular area - and if I’m not careful the programme can end up being shaped by the available resource more than being led by its specific teaching goals.
I don’t imagine that I’m alone in my frequent searches for just the right materials for the occasion: so thank goodness for the Internet! Mind you, the hunt can be enormously time consuming so it’s best done with a specific need in mind and with some idea of the place where you’re most likely to find what you want – and all for free rather than for a fee!
So, let me share some links to my favourite, tried and trusted treasure troves:
Sparklebox  The Menu Tabs across the top will take you to each subject area.
I Recommend: A browse in the Games and Activities area. It has some especially super resources for teaching the language of maths, all downloadable and printable.  And it’s not just all about flash cards and posters, there are some very engaging, interactive Powerpoint presentations too. Check out the ‘More and Less’ Powerpoint (scroll to near the bottom of the page)… a particular favourite of mine! There’s also a mindboggling range of resources in Literacy and other sections. However much these cost you in card, ink and laminate, it will only ever be a fraction of what it costs to buy these resources as individual commercial packages. It does take time and planning though ...
I Recommend:  The stories with the printable story cards included. Not all the stories include printable story cards but have a browse through them because but the ones that do are wonderful for teaching sequencing and then watching the animated version as reinforcement. 
I Recommend: Mystery Eggs. A lovely, fun game, which I’ve used to help beginning to teach use of the future tense in response to the question ‘What will happen?’  A funky bird pops out each time an egg is clicked. So, you ask the question and  let the child click the egg when they respond (“A bird will pop out”) and see what happens. I’ve been amazed at how quickly I’ve been able to fade out prompts completely for this and move the child on to the next stage.
I Recommend: Farm Jigsaws. These simple, six-piece drag-and-drop Jigsaws animate when they’re completed.  Once children are familiar with the animation for each jigsaw, I’ve found these REALLY useful for activities to expand language use around the future tense, e.g. in response to “What will happen?”.  The reinforcement for responding is letting the child complete the jigsaw and then watching the animation they predicted. They love it!
I Recommend: Hmm, what DON’T I recommend from this section? How about the Talking Parrot for a fun activity for recording and playing back their own voices? Or Smarty Pants for learning about emotions? Then there’s Minimarket with downloadable/printable shopping lists and Talking Clock with printable time-teaching resources… Have fun!
This is a little different because there’s a free area and a subscribed area. Nevertheless, the free area is stocked generously with all kinds of goodies and if you decided you were going to subscribe to just one site, this would be my recommendation. Not only is the subscription fee very reasonable indeed but it’s extremely well organised and contains an excellent range of resources to support just about any subject area at any stage of learning.
I Recommend: The English as Second Language (ESL) area. This is packed with clear and colourful flash cards, games, audio presentations and various other aids for teaching basic vocabulary, categorisation, matching skills.

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