displays advice

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A Display Makers Toolbox

In response to lots of requests I’m doing a series of posts to help NQTs and new teaching assistants understand the basics of classroom displays. If you are fairly new to making classroom displays there are some basic points about classroom displays that can be a bit confusing. If you want more why not join us on the 4 week online Classroom Displays Starter Course. Today we look at the tools of the trade:

Basics of Classroom Displays – A Display Maker’s Toolbox

A display makers toolbox

Classroom Displays Basics- A display makers toolbox

I  keep mine in a small plastic toolbox with a lockable lid. It should be locked away when not in use because it contains sharp objects.

You can find most of these items in the Display Maker’s Toolbox section of the bookshop. (Amazon link)

 

  1. An improvised plumb line – long piece of string with heavy weight on the end. If you are serious about getting everything straight then a proper chalk line kit is useful. You can get one from your local DIY store or from The Classroom Displays Bookshop (Amazon)
  2. A good rotary cutter and/or  a craft knife. These should not be used when children are around and in some difficult classes I have removed it from the kit.
  3. A self healing cutting mat. It is too easy to ruin a desk or table when using a craft knife!
  4. A metal ruler – wooden or plastic ones are no good with the craft knife.
  5. Sharp scissors. Get yourself a decent medium sized pair. You could also treat yourself to some fancy edging ones, zig-zags or scallops are good.
  6. A staple gun and matching staples. Worth getting your own, even though school may supply them. Label it with your name, otherwise they get ‘borrowed’!
  7. Sticky putty or similar – for attaching laminated letters, titles etc.
  8. Velcro pads – these are very useful for attaching heavier items or awkward shapes.
  9. Drawing pins or mapping pins – especially coloured ones, can form part of the design of the display and allow items to be easily added and removed. Don’t use them in younger classrooms or where they can be easily removed by children!
  10. A staple remover. I use this kind as I find it far more effective than the pincer sort
Heavy duty staple remover

Heavy duty staple remover

You will also find you build up:

  •   A selection of pens and pencils of various thicknesses,
  • Your own paint brushes for fine work,
  • Assorted erasers including artist’s putty,
  • Masking tape
  • Painter’s tape,
  • Sellotape

You may want your own set of stencils for lettering but that will very much depend on your school policy and style for lettering on displays.

Top Tip: Sticky tape a 5p piece just below the stapling end of the stapler. This stops staples being pushed all the way in and makes them far easier to remove. If you can’t do this use the stapler at an angle to produce a similar effect.

 

I hope this has given you a quick insight into some tools you might need for making displays. If you want to know more then why not have a look at the Classroom Displays Starter Course?

If you are a seasoned display maker, thank you for reading this far! Please leave your tips and suggestions in the comments section. What do you wish someone had told you about making classroom displays when you started?

 


Displays Checklist for NQTs

Displays Checklist for NQTs

So you got the job! Well done! Now the panic starts.   I know you will be full of excited enthusiasm and raring to sort out ‘your’ new classroom. Breathe, and read this Displays checklist for NQTs  before you do anything rash.These are the things you need to consider now:

  • Check school displays policy (should be in Welcome pack or on website)
  • Try to have a chat with your NQT mentor before the end of term about what the school expects and if you will have displays help
  • Ask if the school uses specific fonts and colours
  • Find out what, if any, displays outside your classroom will be your responsibility.
  • Once you have a class list make several sets of labels. Save time and stress by using editable ones from sites like Teachers Pet or Twinkle.
  • Try not to spend your own money on display materials. They will be provided. See the Display Makers Toolbox for useful things you might want to buy.
  • Use the transition day to generate some sort of quick ‘getting to know you’ display that you can have up on the first day.
  • If you are in the UK avoid US based classroom design sites. Display here is more education than decoration.
  • Read this post about Display Basics
  • Join the Classroom Displays Monthly mailing list (see sidebar to sign up)
NQT displays checklist

NQT displays checklist

NQTchecklist – a printable version of the checklist for you to download.

Works for newly appointed teaching assistants too!

Oh and you might like to join the self-study Classroom Displays Starter Course, if you really want to go on studying rather than just enjoying the summer!

 


Classroom Displays Learn The Basics 5

If you are new to making classroom displays or you are not even working in a school yet there are some basic points about classroom displays that can be a bit confusing. Once you have grasped these basic things you might want to explore a bit further and join me in the 4 week online Classroom Displays Starter Course

As with most aspects of school life the first thing to check is whether your school has a displays policy. If it does then much of how you make displays in the classroom will be laid out for you there.

Classroom Displays – Boards

Display boards are usually backed with ‘fade-less’ poster paper which is more fade resistant than ordinary papers. Occasionally sugar paper might be used but it can fade very badly.  Other materials can be used but they have to meet the fire regulations. Teachers sometimes use fabric but it should be fire retardant. There are sprays available to help with this.
The backing paper is either in rolls or sometimes A3 sheets.

Classroom displays basic supplies

See more rolls and borders in the Classroom displays Book shop

These rolls might look rather bright and that can be an issue. I go into more depth about choosing suitable colours for backing and mounting in Week 3 of the course.

Make sure you know the school etiquette before you help yourself to the displays store cupboard.  In the coming months everyone will be looking for black and dark blue for bonfire night displays. Try to be a bit more original with colours and you will find display making easier and your displays might be more interesting!

Display basics- edges of display backing paper

Display basics, showing the edges of A3 display backing paper

Some schools use A3 sheets rather than rolls. Schools vary in their paper buying policies and you just have to be adaptable. When using sheets they are placed next to each other and attached to the board with staples. You can  see it if you look closely here, from a distance the edges are not visible.
Sometimes school use rolls of plasticised paper to provide a more lasting background. These can last a whole term or even longer. Colour choices can be a bit limited but it is easy to use.

Backing paper is usually stapled into place and can often be re-used for two or three displays depending on how well it has survived.

Round the edge of the display board we usually also add a border of contrasting plain paper. It comes ready cut on a roll. Sometimes borders are scalloped or have designs on them. Plain is usually preferable as it distracts from the work less.

Mounting Work

Children’s work is usually fixed to another sheet of paper to ‘mount’ . We usually attach work by using a glue stick. If you do it carefully round the edge and a dab in the middle then it won’t wrinkle.Work can be mounted on poster paper, sugar paper or sometimes on pre-cut mounts like the ones in the photo. Mounting can be single, double or triple depending on the look of the display.

A4 Mounting Paper

A4 Mounting Paper

When the display comes down work is often given back to the children but it often remains mounted. It can be carefully removed from pre-cut mounts but it is fiddly and work can be damaged.

When mounting work it is important to note the child’s name in pencil on the back of the mounting paper before you glue it down! Best practice suggests we should unobtrusively include a small name label on each piece of work displayed but that is not always possible.
Work is usually attached to the board by stapling the mount at the corners, ideally just catching it rather than piercing the mount. This is even more important with pre-cut mounts which are too expensive not to re-use. Use the stapler at an angle to make it easy to remove staples afterwards. Drawing pins are not ideal in the classroom for health and safety reasons. Blu Tack is sometimes used but it can leave sticky marks on the backing paper and sometimes falls off after an extended period.

Occasionally double sided sticky tape can be used on displays, but I usually had to provide my own! It’s too expensive to use for displaying work. I also found stick velcro pads very useful for attaching 3d items. Spray mount isn’t often used, partly because of issues with asthmatic children. I have used it myself sometimes on display items, but only when working outside school hours.

I hope this has given you a quick insight into some classroom displays basics. If you want to know more then why not have a look at the Classroom Displays Starter Course?

If you are a seasoned display maker, thank you for reading this far! Please leave your tips and suggestions in the comments section. What do you wish someone had told you about making classroom displays when you started?