DO WORKING WALLS WORK?
Many professional teachers often wonder 'is the working wall working?'
here are a few top tips and rules to decide for yourself if it is working for you in your classroom.
why use them?
1. Children have ownership of them and so use them more and they have created them.
2. The working wall encourages independence; the children know where to go to find the vital information need for the lesson.
3. Children are more engaged in their learning due to the reminders and prompts on the working walls - they have created them!
4. Children have a better understanding of expectations
basic working wall rules
Teach from or at the wall (it aids memory and raises the importance of the work on the wall)
Get children to add to the wall or work on it themselves
Give children an overview and end goal for literacy, at the start of the unit, so they can see how every day’s lesson is for a purpose
Talk to children about the contents and if they’re not using them, take them down
Use the wall to regularly review what we know, including new vocabulary. Don’t just put things up on the wall and the leave them. Use them again.
strategies to get children to use it!
Cover and find – hide something and ask children what is hidden or missing?
Expert – if a child has a piece of work on the wall, they become the expert in that area and other children can ask them for help
Improvement – go back to work done in week one or two and added to the wall and improve it as a class
Spot the mistake – change something so it’s wrong or give them contradictory information so they have to use the working wall
Two minutes – challenge them in small bursts to decide what is the most useful thing on the wall, list features in order of importance, find five adjectives etc
Why? – ask why something is on the wall. How will it actually help us with our work? if not, take it down!
IF YOU HAVE A GREAT WORKING WALL, EMAIL A PICTURE TO UNIQUECLASSROOMS@GMAIL.COM TO BE FEATURE ON THE WEBSITE.
IMMERSIVE LEARNING is a vehicle for teaching a range of skills and content by integrating curriculum areas around a topic. This method of teaching links curriculum strands and capitalizes on children’s interests, creating a sense of purpose and community in the classroom. By building on their interests and life experiences, young people’s attitudes, skills and knowledge are developed in meaningful ways.
Although students may be given a greater voice in the topics they study and the strategies they use, the teacher’s role is not diminished, but changed. Young people still need teachers to help them reflect on their learning and lead them to make connections between prior and new knowledge. The acquisition of skills needs to be planned and the possibilities for application of these skills in other situations needs to be illustrated. The role of the teacher becomes one of coordinator or facilitator, who maintains a sense of the whole picture and a vision of the skills the students need to acquire through classroom activities.
An excellent strategy for teachers wishing to make the transition from teacher directed to more student directed learning, is to begin planning thematic units with another teacher. Working in cooperation with a colleague— sharing ideas, reflecting on activities attempted, developing resources, planning activities—affirms the skills of both teachers and provides an opportunity to build on each other’s expertise to create something that neither would have accomplished alone.
I have been sent in some classroom photos from Jack Benstead (RQT from St Giles Academy in Lincon) who has perfected immersive learning!
it doesn't stop there! Jack Benstead has created other themed classrooms...
"In the past, I have created a Roman museum, Olympic stadium, Greek temple and a farm and as this is currently my 4th design of an immersive classroom, I am still learning what an immersive classroom needs in order to be successful. I thoroughly enjoy creating the classrooms and teaching in this style. The children are always so enthusiastic learning in these spaces and it always feels so special seeing the children explore the classroom on the first day of a new project.'
i am looking forward to hearing all about the children's reaction when they start back! immersive learning is the best way to engage a reluctant learner. Try it!
iF YOU HAVE AN INSPIRATIONAL CLASSROOM OR A UNIQUE ENVIRONMENT AND WOULD LIKE TO BE FEATURED ON MY WEBSITE, SEND ME AN EMAIL; I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THEM!
When looking at ability groups in the classroom it can be argued that many of the groups are nonsense. More often the composition of groups are chosen on the basis on ‘having an even number of children/gender in each group’ and/or the children’s different personalities. There is also a disproportionate number of ‘summer babies’ in lower groups – are the children more likely to be grouped on the basis of their maturity, concentration levels and whether they can work independently, rather than their real ability in Mathematics or English.
Self fulfilling prophecy
Since reading more about mindset I’m at a loss over how any teacher who believes in this can defend ability groups for young children. If we start from the premise that every child can improve and every child has the potential to do well why would we place them in groups and limit their achievements? Let alone, why would we place them in groups and give them the mindset from such a young age that they can’t do something or are ‘bad’ at a certain subject. If a child thinks they can’t do something (and so does the teacher by setting them lower work to start with) then they will fulfil your expectations.
Are we giving each child the same opportunities to learn?
For example, I’ve seen Year 2 teachers teaching ‘commas in lists’ to the rest of the class whilst the LA are working on capital letters and full stops. Some may argue that this is correct. I don’t. By not covering the Year 2 content with these children when you revisit it they start at a disadvantage and would have to make exceptional progress to catch up with their peers.
These children in LA set groups start KS2 already behind, not because of their inherent ability but because they haven’t had the same access to learning. How can we expect them to be working at the same level when they have not been taught the same content!
Young children need very fluid differentiation. I’d argue that groupings should never be set but instead the teacher should react to each child, during each lesson, supporting and extending where necessary. We must always give every child the opportunity to access the same content.
What are your thoughts on ability grouping? email firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on the blog.
classroom ideas on a tight budget!
It’s a big deal for a young writer/artist/mathematician to have their work celebrated on a classroom wall, and even more so when the display itself is put together with care. But for teachers on a budget (which is… everyone, right?), as well as those who aren’t very artistically inclined, I've put together some examples of the best inexpensive writing walls I have seen.
An oldie but a goodie – hang pupils’ poems on a vase of branches, and voila! A “poetree”!
Okay, this one might look to be getting a bit intense for some of you… but it’s really not that bad. Plus, you can reuse this board once you’re done – so you only have to construct it once.
Simply use bent back A4 files to create a 3d effect.
Use resources all ready laying about in the classroom. Interactive displays are easy to make even in the smallest of classrooms. Use the back of tray cabinets for children to sit in a cozy space. simply attach items with a strip of Velcro for easily removed challenges.
Use your local poundshop!
- crates - upside down make good seats!
- paper lanterns - brighten up the dullest classrooms
- coloured baskets - help organize and sort books
- crepe paper - let the children make and create flowers for the classroom.
The most precious thing a teacher can buy is time!
It’s very easy to end up spending precious time putting your classroom back to pieces at the end of yet another busy day, but you can save yourself those valuable few minutes everyday by delegating the jobs to the most willing and eager of helpers, your pupils. Give everyone in your class their own individual job or paired responsibility during tidy up time. This can be tidying the book corner, washing paint brushes, handing out books or sharpening pencils, let’s face it, in a primary classroom you’re never short of jobs. The children will relish the responsibility and you’ll have a tidy classroom! You can make this even more special for them by giving them ‘official titles’ such as librarian, pencil patroller or scrap master and even make badges for them to wear. You may want to change the roles round weekly to save yourself from getting nagged to do the ‘best’ jobs.
maths working walls
Unlike traditional wall displays, working walls are interactive and can be used to record, visualise and assist learning.
Maths Working Walls allow children to see written methods for calculations, while absorbing the mathematical language used in a particular area of the subject. They are interactive and include differentiated challenges for children so that learning is extended for children of all abilities.
Features included on the Maths Working Wall
It is also important for maths areas to be around the classroom, not just on a wall. Check out these easy 3 ideas below to create in your own classroom.
Do you have a creative maths display? email: email@example.com to be featured on the page.
why teach through a topic?
For years, Finland has been the by-word for a successful education system, perched at the top of international league tables for literacy and numeracy. Finland is about to embark on one of the most radical education reform programmes ever undertaken by a nation state – scrapping traditional “teaching by subject” in favour of “teaching by topic”.
What would change?
More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union - which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.
There are other changes too, not least to the traditional format that sees rows of pupils sitting passively in front of their teacher, listening to lessons or waiting to be questioned. Instead there will be a more collaborative approach, with pupils working in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills.
Whilst the effects of this type of curriculum are still unknown, British primary schools still favour the topic approach to teaching.
Below are a few photos from my school's stunning whole school topic this year.
display top tips
In any classroom, displays should consist primarily of the children’s work, rather than teacher-made or store-bought pieces, no matter how beautiful those pieces might be. Displaying student work sends several important messages: As teachers, we value what students do. This is their classroom as much as ours. And in this classroom, students share their work, learning from each other. Furthermore, consider this simple fact: Students will look at their own work more frequently than they will look at commercial materials.
Here are some suggestions for displaying student work in a classroom:
creative reading areas
If a teacher’s real job is to inspire kids to LOVE learning and reading, then creating environments that engage and inspire kids to relax and read should be on the top of every teacher’s list of things to do in the classroom.
Whether your class is full of budding bookworms or reluctant readers (or both!), making a cozy reading space for kids to enjoy creates a magical experience for everyone. We know, of course, that it’s not always easy to find the space or the funds. But designing an amazing book nook doesn’t have to break the bank—or take over your classroom. From reviving old furniture to creating a mini-oasis (or two, or three) in a spare corner, the smallest touches can go a long way toward transforming your space.
Credit to: Samantha Cowper from Haughton
Do you have a creative book nook? if so, to be featured here, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
thematic approach to learning
What is a thematic approach?
This is a way of teaching and learning, whereby many areas of the curriculum are connected together and integrated within a theme.
It allows learning to be more natural and less fragmented than the way, where a school day is time divided into different subject areas and whereby children practice exercises frequently related to nothing other than what the teacher thinks up, as he or she writes them on the board.
It allows literacy to grow progressively, with vocabulary, spelling and sentence writing being frequently, yet smoothly, reinforced.
It guides connected ideas to follow on easily. Here are a few examples of thematic classrooms.
MY WW2 CLASSROOM
Credit to: Elis Nichols (NQT)
Finally, check out this fantastic Alice in Wonderland themed classroom!
Credit to: Sabah Zahoor
The result of working the thematic approach way is that often children:
Do you have a fantastic display or themed classroom? email email@example.com for a chance to be featured on the page.
in the name of science
There are so many different types of classroom display these days, each with different purposes. Some interactive displays that we see are rather impressive, but require a significant amount of time to create. Perhaps the scariest question that looms upon some teachers is “How can I be sure that children will engage with what I have created?” and “Will they really benefit, and learn from them?”
It goes without saying that many teachers have a lot of control over what they can put up on their classroom walls and most have fantastic displays on show. Displays of Pupils’ work, colourful homemade artwork and themes covering the curriculum for core topics and subjects.
It’s quite amazing to see these displays being so prevalent across classroom walls in schools, but there are some very good reasons for it - and it’s all in the name of science. Did you know that as a teacher, everything you say to a pupil, only 13% will be learnt? Interestingly, we learn things a lot quicker by sight (75% to be exact). This means that it is important to have a visual element to learning such as interactive displays that are engaging, helping to reinforce learning and what teachers have spoken about in the classroom.
They also have the benefit of being in the classroom as a point of reference. This is great because we all know how children do not always have the best attention spans, and can sometimes look around elsewhere other than at the front of the class (where they are supposed to). So if they are looking around, it definitely helps to capture their attention with engaging, quality displays in the classroom. They will become familiar with the displays, posters and learning resources throughout the school term, even on a subconscious level.
my current displays
As a teacher, decorating your classroom can be one of those ‘marmite jobs’ that you either love or hate, depending on how much time, materials and wall space you have to work with.
Planning your classroom décor is also a consideration that has to be taken into account, not just at the start of the school year, but also on a termly basis, in order to keep the displays fresh and relevant to the areas you’re studying.
There are many reasons why putting a good deal of thought into your classroom decoration will benefit your pupils. Here are a few of my current displays.
Making sure the learning environment is welcoming and friendly is key to any classroom setting. Decorated walls creates a friendly, brighter and more interesting environment which is known to have an effect on children and their enthusiasm to learn.
Display materials can include useful direct teaching aids that enrich or reinforce what subject is being taught. It will simply bring the subject to live.
Wall displays can be used to set the scene for a new topic and will help to gain and stimulate interest from the children. They will generate interest and curiosity before the topic is taught.
They can help greatly with learning as children are able to memorise the display material for example, displaying numbers, letters or other important information such a weather or seasons. It can help to make the teacher more effective and gain greater achievements from the class.
A well thought out learning environment is more likely to have a positive impact and make children want to be there and want to learn.
A stimulating environment makes for a stimulated child - the environment in which a child is in can have a very direct impact of their learning, children who feel more engaged in their learning environment are known to be more receptive.
What not to do
Whilst having colourful and populated classroom walls is important, it is also important to not over do it. Finding the right balance between stimulating and over-stimulating displays can be difficult.
Having a wall display that is crowded and erratic can have an adverse effect on children. It can cause children to be distracted, confused and over-stimulated. A classroom wall display should be focused, clear and simple but most importantly it should be age appropriate.
Having no wall displays can also have a detrimental effect on learning. Plain walls with little colour can be very unappealing and uninviting and will under stimulate children.
Below are a few example of practical displays, yet do not overstimulate the children.
This display shows how a working wall can work in the classroom. Covered up vocabulary to prompt thinking and white strips for children to add their own vocabulary onto, create a practical and useful display in the classroom.
Credit to: Meryal Karqkas (NQT)
Simple, stylish and fresh looking displays help calm and focus children on their learning. I love the way these boards have consistent colour themes and are free from clutter.
Credit to: Katie Westacott
I created this display to showcase quality texts based on my classes' interests. The book covers were photocopied and placed into frames (poundshop find!) and attached to the walls with vecro so that the children could change them easily. The award rosettes are available to download in my resource shop.
REAL CLASSROOM DISPLAYS
Valuing children's work
As we are all heading back to the classrooms this week, the children are excited to meet their new teachers and check out their new classroom. It is important to show that each child is valued from day 1 in the classroom. If you haven't quite finished your classroom yet, check out some fantastic ideas below.
This must have been a particularly challenging board to back! Despite it being a corner display, it showcases the childrens' work perfectly.
Credit to: Teresa McGuinness from Coventry.
This display particularly shows that every child matters. Displaying a piece of work from every child really matters in the classroom; it shows that they are valued and important. I love the collaboration within this display.
Credit to: Lyndsay from Liverpool.
Although this display doesn't show any work yet, each child has a section to showcase their 'wow work'. This emphasizes the value of ownership in displays as each child is responsible for their section. This is bright and attractive, without being overpowering in the classroom.
Credit to: Faye Carrington.
This large corridor display shows how you can link subjects together seamlessly. A musical/art display 'Octopus garden' displays work from all abilities whilst highlighting that every child matters.
Credit to: Joanna Mitchell
If you have a collaborative display and would like to be added to this blog, send quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a picture.
What makes a good resource?
Classroom resources alone cannot guarantee effective learning and teaching. But they do have the potential to trigger new approaches and behaviours – i.e. changes in our classroom. In this way good resources can provide a great source of professional development.
Searching Google for teaching resources returns a staggering number of results. But how do you know which of those resources are any good? How do you know which will actually save you time, and make your teaching more effective?
Sometimes, resource providers and repositories can seem more interested in volume than value. Among all the clutter, it can be difficult to quickly pick out high quality, relevant resources that can be easily incorporated into your teaching.
A good resource is accurate
This goes without saying – an educational resource must be factually accurate. But that’s not the full story – consistency is also important. The factual narrative, in terms of the scientific models and descriptions used, should be coherent.
A good resource is visually appealing
If you do not want to look at it - nor will the children!
A good resource is efficient
A teacher’s time is precious, and any resource worth using needs to provide a good return on the time invested in delivering it. A resource that involves a number of hours of preparation time needs to be very beneficial to the students to offset the work involved.
But the existence of an efficient resource is not enough – you need to be able to tell how useful it is, without needing to invest a lot of time working out whether or not you want to use it. The benefits should be easy to appreciate, and the aims should be clear – what it sets out to achieve, how it does it, and who it’s aimed at.
So what makes a good resource? One that’s accurate, useful, efficient, and relevant. This is what I hope to achieve with resources on Unique Classrooms. With so much material out there, there should never be any need to rely on a resource that’s ‘good enough’.