This year we are incredibly fortunate, after two and a half years, to gain a corridor and an extra three classrooms and an office space. This is a luxury. Having been transient for a year and having the time to reflect now, moving between classrooms is both an organisational nightmare and tiring so I am delighted to have gained this extra space.
When you walk into a room that will be yours, you are gaining a blank canvas which is both exciting and incredibly overwhelming. On average, it takes me five solid days of work to transform the space (and this will be the third classroom I have been in, in my two and a half years). Here is the space I walked into:
However, for me, a great classroom sets the tone for the year. A great room shows love. Love for your subject, love for teaching and, most importantly, a love for your students. Having told my team that I did not think their rooms showed the love, it was important for me to come in and show them what I meant by this so they feel the energy to create a room full of love too.
Immediately two thoughts come to the forefront: 1) What will I be teaching my students in September and what can I create that is relevant to this? And 2) What learning aids do I need at the front? (I am a strong believer in learning aids being at the front!). These two questions immediately guide the original design of my room so that what they see if both relevant and helpful.
However, as with everything in education, the nature of displays have changed since I started my career fifteen years ago so other things need to be taken into consideration. Now, a degree of interactivity is needed to support students with their learning so a third question is brought into the realm – how can my displays support students with their learning and make them more independent in their approach?
And, finally, whilst you can beautify a room and make it a creative space, nothing is more important than displaying the students’ most brilliant work.
So here it is, the building of my classroom for September 2015. Hopefully, some of these ideas will spark something in you but, rest assured, my room is not perfect. Some may argue there is too much colour and that some students might not like this – this is true – and the room is also devoid of student work currently – this will be added in term 1.
The Wonder Wall.
This idea was sparked by the brilliant @headofenglish who had created a Star Wars inspired best work board. I sat and thought about a different theme for a few days and came up with the Oasis inspired Wonder wall. I sourced old LPs from a charity shop at £1 each and attached these to the wall with string. The bigger ones will have exemplary work pegged to them (pegs are from Poundland £1) and the smaller ones will recognise students who have worked hard during the week. Finally the display was polished off with a picture of Liam or Noel (could never tell the difference and I’m sure my students might not even know who they are!). The importance of sharing exemplary work is second to none in terms of celebrating success but also modelling a standard. Equally, recognising good students shows care and love.
We are a school with low reading ages and so reading has to be at the forefront of a lot of work we do and, especially, fostering a love for reading. I stumbled upon postcard packs in Waterstones and although expensive – £15 a pack – they truly are beautiful. In the classroom I inherited, I had a wall with some graffiti on and, therefore, these were perfect to beautify a tired looking wall. Yes, the postcards may need contextualising but no-one can argue that they don’t look lovely.
The first of my learning aid / interactive displays. I am sure that this idea came from Twitter – it might have stemmed from the McDonalds vocab display – but sentence structures are important so I wanted a display that recognised this. The last time I had a classroom, I had an ISPACED display but it was quite dull and definitely wasn’t interactive. For some reason, the idea of growing sentences came to my mind and the garden was born. Plant pots are incredibly cheap – I got seven for £1.75 but have since seen you can also get them from Poundland. I simply stapled these to the wall and labelled them with the different ISPACED strands. Inside each plant plot are a range of lollipop sticks. You will need the thicker ones but these can be got from Tescos and other places for around £1 for a hundred sticks. Initially, I wanted different coloured ones for different year groups but these have been harder to find so I have gone with one standard lollipop and have bought stickers to signify each year group. On each lollipop will be an exemplary sentence that will relate to the unit we are doing – e.g. year 8 ‘Whale Rider’. This means when we come to the writing of a piece that students will be able to access exemplary sentences, if they find themselves stuck. In addition, if a student writes a particularly wonderful sentence, I will ask them to write it onto the lollipop stick and celebrate their exemplary work.
As yet, unfinished. However, I knew that alongside colour and interactivity, I wanted to add texture to my room and the inflatable definitely adds that! Bargain at £5.99
After reading Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby’s excellent book, I decided to nick their discussion stems. Nothing creates great writing better than great discussion and with critical evaluation becoming a core part of the GCSE, I think these discussion stems will really help my students confidence in approaching different interpretations.
Lady Macbeth Facebook.
This idea was nicked from Twitter and I am really pleased with the result. Students in year 9 will be analysing the character of Lady Macbeth for a literature essay and, therefore, I felt there was scope to make an interactive display which we could use to track our thoughts on her character. All of the facebook icons are available through google images. Students will add status updates for her character after reading an act or a particular key scene which they will also reference. Along the sides I have placed character pictures with a reply box so that we can also trace how other characters feel about Lady Macbeth and respond to her. I am hoping that this display will give students confidence when they come to write their essay on her.
An Inspector Calls
Fab Cluedo idea from Twitter. Had I had more time and energy, I would have created the actual board but limited on both, I decided to simply use the characters and create Cluedo based cards. Again the images are all taken from google and increased in size to A3. Underneath each character, I have put key quotes – one that identifies how they knew Eva Smith / Daisy Renton and one that illustrates their response to their potential involvement in her death. I am hoping that by having this on display students might retain these quotes. In addition, as we practise essay responses, I will display these responses with the aim of having an essay on each character on display.
As yet, unfinished. I was walking through Tescos one day when I clocked that the plastic balls were on sale at £5 for 100. I walked past them but when I got to the till, I couldn’t leave them and thought I would find a use for them somehow in my classroom. Then the idea of comparison and conflict poetry came to mind. Originally, I was going to hang them in the original hold they came in but when I decided I would use them in my conflict poetry display, I decided to purchase helmets. These came from amazon for just under £5.40. I ordered four and labelled them meaning, language, structure and tone. I then organised the balls to match the colour of the labels and have written things like ‘patriotism’, ‘honour’, ‘simile’, ‘repetition’, ‘sadness’, ‘enjmabment’ on them. The idea is that any given point, I will ask a student to go and take a ball from one of the four helmets and then explain with connection to two of the poems from the conflict cluster so they are practising their skills of comparison. A quick five minute activity.
A big focus for me this year is extension and students developing a more independent approach to their studies. I spent some time looking at the new AOs and played around with them to ensure the AOs fed through all three key stages. Alongside the posters I have designed, I purchased 8 leaflet dispensers (slightly costly at £45) with the idea being that extension activities and exemplar essays for each AO will be added here so that students can help themselves if they complete an activity quickly or want some extra study.
Learning aids at the front
Teachit do a fab range of posters – I purchased the word class pack – for £20 a pop. They are good quality, large and clear for students to understand. I then created a Tip Top small display to remind students about paragraphing and displayed the punctuation cards, which I believe are from TES. The final learning aid I have up at the moment is for PEEFEE – yes, controversial I know – but we use it and it seems to work. I felt it was important to have this at the front to aid students in their development of analytical paragraphs and also displayed an exemplar paragraph as well as key words such as ‘imply’, ‘connote’ etc. I think that this will be a really useful display to help students in the writing process.
Again, nicked from Twitter my traffic light trays – students place their work into an appropriate tray. If they feel confident about their learning, into the green tray. If they don’t feel confident, into the red tray and in the middle, into the amber tray. This helps me identify whose books I should mark first.
So we are about 85% done. I still have a Blood Brothers display to do and to finish Whale Rider. I want to do a display on text types focused on structure and linguistic features and I also want to do vocabulary mobiles hanging from my ceiling. All of this, can wait for the new year though!
I hope some of these ideas have been useful and I genuinely would love to see what you are doing to your classroom – an idea shared is an idea sparked.