Over the years, I've simplified my classroom. Themes and magical transformations often end up more about teacher competition and pressure than actually beneficial to the children. I do make fresh displays each year, but they're quick and simple. I have deliberately left them blank until the children start. I want them to notice what is added. Plus, I will do a lot of it during the lesson. For example, I may bring one of the Creating sheets from the writing wall to the front while we think of vocabulary we could add, or send children to write notes on it.
Really simple working wall. No backing paper. It's just coloured paper with a very quick border on. Throughout the unit, I'll glue pictures, tips and examples on. When we're finished, I'll take them down and treasury tag them into our own reference book, then quickly put new papers up. The titles will stay all year. They're simple, hand-drawn titles. If you're not very neat, go for a sketchy or doodly style or print them. They're not laminated because no one will be messing with them, so why waste the time and plastic to make them too shiny to read?
Another very similar one. Simple and could be used to keep as a book. I feel like I may add a couple more pages to this, but I'm not sure what yet. I'll see what they need as we get going. Again, these took under a minute each: draw a big explosion on a piece of paper. The titles can be as comic-style as you want or you could print them. (Next year, I will try to remember to scan version before cutting them out. Then you can print them!)
The title is done in the same way as the Writing one: a strip of laminating cut-off or OHP sheet to use as a whiteboard section. The How pages will have instructions, guides and tips. I will add them as we go to ensure they have maximum benefit and maximum impact. The Why will have real life applications.
We are an IPC school, so we used topic-based teaching, but this type of display could be used for any number of things.
Other Bits and Bobs
I hope you enjoyed this little classroom tour! You may notice a lack of backing paper. I don't like it. Waste of time, waste of paper, gets tatty. Plus, if your walls are white, even the brightest colours somehow seem to darken the room. If I had boards and therefore had to back them, I think I'd do white with colourful borders. You may also notice a lack of behaviour management system. I give Dojo points, keeping the window open on the projector (we have no IWBs) and class merits (for whole-class achievements & they choose a treat after 50). I don't have ANY negative reinforcement. No chart to move down, no Dojo points removed. No humiliation. I like it.
I'd love to hear your tips and advice in the comments below and don't forget to like and share please. Keep your eyes peeled on YouTube for a video tour coming very soon!
Your planning is done. Your pencil pots are immaculate. Your walls look like a centrefold from House and Garden. Now what? What are you actually going to do with those 30 children when they walk into your room for the first time? Here are my tips to a great first day (bonus: a lot of these save you time, too!)
1. See what they do
2. Engage them right from the start
I incorporated a bit of rule-making in mine. I did an activity inspired by the Bill of Rights. I gave each child 2 strips of paper. They wrote a rule or right on each (I talked to them briefly about positive wording, e.g. “listen to others” rather than “don’t shout out”). Next, they came together to discuss them. They had to narrow them down to 5 rules out of their 8. They could combine them rather than discarding them if they wished. Finally, they rank them in order of importance and stick them onto a large paper (see the pic at the top). I love this as a first activity because you can see how they interact, if there are any bossy ones!
Next lesson, we did Maths. I introduced times tables speed tests and we did our first one. This takes a while the first time. After that, we had a go at learning a Numberock song about time.
After break, we read The Dot and did some Vashti-inspired art work.
We ended the day with a book tasting: I put several books out on each table. We discussed ways of choosing a book (looking at the cover, reading the first page, checking that you can understand it). The children went round in friendship pairs and chose a book for paired reading.
As you can see, we did a full day of lessons. They were busy, engaged and therefore better behaved.
3. Chat and Watch
Instead of a 'getting to know you activity', in which you actually learn very little, make sure that your lessons allow for time to watch them and to chat to them. Taking the day described above as an example, when they were doing their Bill of Rights activity, I watched and listened. I took in how they were interacting with each other. When they were doing their artwork, I spent 5 minutes at each table and just chatted to them informally. You'll find out loads more this way that if you ask them to write about their summer (cringe) or to write 2 truths and a lie etc.
4. Pile on the Praise
Make sure you praise them as much as possible. Especially if you're having to deal with some behaviour management issues. The praise will counteract it. I also target those children that I've been warned off. Try to make it as sincere as possible (no sing-song voices). This is part of the fresh start for some of them. Another tip here, try not to over-focus on those children you're not expecting to have the best behaviour. They notice. They're used to being the centre of attention, for better or worse, and it may surprise them to blend in for a while.
So, there you have it. My 4 top tips to an awesome start. Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips or if you try out any of these ideas and don't forget to share this with anyone you think may be interested!
Hi! I'm Mrs P: passionate primary school teacher!