interactive displays

Numeracy Working Walls   Recently updated !

Setting Up A Numeracy Working Area

Whiteboard MathsNumeracy working walls are becoming ubiquitous in UK primary classrooms but  they run the danger of becoming just a display. Displays that the children don’t connect with and use regularly quickly become ‘wallpaper’.
I think it is important to put the emphasis on children using displays as a visual tool to help them learn. It helps to talk about how ‘real’ mathematicians use whiteboards to help them do their work and to encourage the children to see the wall area as a tool rather than a display. You can set up a numeracy work board like this on a fairly small scale and still have a really useful learning zone.
Ideally you’ll need a wipe clean surface, perfect for quick working out, jotting things down, trying out solutions, or even just some fun shape drawing! You could use blackboard paint on a board but using a whiteboard  ‘idea paint’ and colored dry wipe markers is much more interesting. Idea paint can be painted straight onto the wall and gives a wipe clean surface just like expensive whiteboards. Amazon do some self-adhesive, wipe clean Magic Whiteboard stickers that look very good. (Perhaps you saw them on Dragon’s Den?)

Limit Your Colours

Limit the number of colors you use in this area. It is tempting to make everything bright and colorful but that can be distracting. Try to stick to a neutral  (white or black), two main complementary colors and a bright accent color. Sticky putty will hold up any light items but sticky pads or small velcro squares work better for heavier things. You can also put up trimmed plastic wallets mounted on colored card to easily slide in work or pictures.

Ideas to Help You Set Up Your Numeracy Wall

Use some of these ideas to get the children thinking positively about maths. Of course what you choose to use depends on the age of your class.

  • A puzzle challenge area for quick activities. You can get as creative as you like with this area. Change the challenges frequently, get children setting the challenges. Maths cube (Unifix) art  would make an interesting challenge. If you are practicing mental maths you could record the questions on a ‘talking postcard’. These re-recordable ‘talking’ or ‘voice postcards’ are not too expensive  A child can listen to the question then record their answer on another.
  • A  maths words area – cards with math vocabulary for the topic you are currently exploring printed on one side, definition on the other that can be taken down to copy, use for games etc. Don’t forget the children can make these and will learn a great deal by doing so. Definitions they have found for themselves, either from the internet or from a book, are much more memorable than anything we tell them.
  • A working area that focuses on one area of maths that you are currently exploring – this is where children can stick up work they are pleased with, questions they are interested in, things they want to find out. One way of doing this would be to divide the area into 3 sections using paper tape. Add the headings What We Know, Our Questions, and How We Plan to Find Out. This sort of self-directed working is really useful for all learners but especially for independent learning times.
  • Take lots of photos of the class doing things that involve maths. Get the children to sort and label  the photos into groups according to the kind of maths involved. Throw in some wild cards and see if they can work out how something like driving the car or tidying the room might involve maths. Make a display of the sorted and labeled photos. You can use bright colored post-it notes to label the groups of photos, that way it is easy to take them down and re-sort them in a different grouping. (Most activities will involve more than one kind of maths.)Everyday maths is also part of putting up displays. From measuring the spaces between letters and working out proportions and ratios, to getting the angles for placing things right.

It is best to avoid too much visual clutter in a learning area so just choose a couple of these ideas at a time. Change them  frequently so they never become just pretty wallpaper. There is lots of evidence that involving children in making choices about their learning environment improves their engagement so get them involved at every stage.

Suzanne says "I link the QR code to theme of week. Children use class ipad to link to file or game! Last week we were fractions so the link was to fraction games." (via the Classroom Displays Facebook Page)  Learn more about using QR codes on displays in the  Advanced Course

Suzanne says “I link the QR code to theme of week. Children use class ipad to link to file or game! Last week we were fractions so the link was to fraction games.” (via the Classroom Displays Facebook Page) Learn more about using QR codes on displays in the Advanced Course

Working wall

Heidi says “I’ve velcroed clipboards to my display board so I can quickly change children’s work according to the topic. I also use speech bubbles which the kids can write in to explain their work.” (via the Classroom Displays Facebook page)

















Idea Paint (US)

Muraspec (UK stockists)

They do a Home kit which covers 6 square feet or get a 20 square feet can and make a literacy working area  too. You will also need a special base coat and the area needs to be specially prepared.  This is probably a job for the school caretaker or janitor and not a DIY idea.

UK stockists Muraspec say:

Kit options
 We can offer customers Lil’ Bit Kits that cover an area of 3 square ft (0.28m2). At just £24.67 (ex VAT)  these kits are perfect for testing ideapaint out on a small area and contain; a roller sleeve & handle, stir stick, tray and installation instructions. Each standard kit covers 4.65m2 (50ft2).

Ideapaint is available in five colours: White, Off White, Light Beige, Light Grey and White Sand.

Dry Wipe Stickers  from Amazon

Try Magic Whiteboard, or even blackboard stickers if you feel retro! Less fuss than ideapaint these are better for making temporary display whiteboard areas.

Click here to find these and other similar products in the Classroom Displays Amazon Bookshop


Re-recordable ‘voice postcards’ from TTS

These are excellent but be sure to get the 30 second version as the 10 second ones will be too short for your working area. Talk Time Postcards

Talk-Time Postcards

Classroom Displays – More Word Walls 8


Classroom Displays to Rescue Tired Words!

Wandering the web looking for word wall classroom displays to share with you I found a couple of interesting sites I’d not seen before. I’ll save the other site for my next word wall post, but thought you might like this idea as much as I did.

Tired Words!

Tired words want to go to sleep.

Let them rest! Don’t make a peep!

Try to use a synonym instead.

Let those tired words stay in bed!

I found the display on Cheryl Sigmon’s Four Blocks site (There are more great ideas there so do have a look around!) Cheryl says:

Laura Croglio, a teacher at Clinton Elementary in West Seneca, NY shared this idea during my recent visit to her school, “I have my students go to the Tired Words Wall to choose a synonym for an overused word. They pull the synonym they like from the pocket, take it back to their seat to make sure they spell the word correctly (possibly adding it to their personal dictionary), and returning it to the wall when they’re finished.”

I think this is an excellent interactive word wall display. I’ve used laminated interactive word walls before, and of course word banks in various forms but I’d not seen the pocket idea.

You could even adapt a transparent shoe tidy. I’ve got one somewhere, so I might just do that to show you what I mean! That would be more versatile and hard wearing. When you design for interaction you have to remember that little fingers can be rough and paper tears easily.

Also I think I might use a mixture of interesting fonts and colours for the words. If you’ve got the time and a steady hand I’ve found that using hand written laminated words can be very helpful, especially when children are just starting to join letters.

What are your favourite ways of using interactive word wall classroom displays?

Word wall ideas on the Four Blocks site

Classroom Displays with a Purpose (or should that be porpoise?)


Originally by Sarah

This is one of those classroom displays that shows a splash of creative thinking goes a long way. Many primary classrooms suffer the curse of the water bottle these days. It’s important that children have access to drinking water but the bottles are a pain. If they are left on the tables there are inevitable spills and putting them on a tray at the side isn’t much better. I like this idea. It’s an elegant solution to the problem and it’s been done in a fun and attractive way. Sarah says:

A good use of shoe holders for water bottles. The children love it!

All of this doesn’t even start to address the issue of whether constant access to water really does have the benefits sometimes claimed for it. There’s a lot of emphasis on water as part of schemes like Brain Gym and I’ve seen some evidence that suggest dyslexics in particular might need extra fluids. One thing is for sure, children on ADHD medication do sometimes get very thirsty.

I do have concerns about all the environmental impact of all those plastic bottles, not to mention worries about the hygiene issues involved in re-using them.

Still this is an interesting and practical way of dealing with the problem and experience suggests that classroom displays with sharks or whales on them are always popular with children. By the way, I do realise it’s not a porpoise but I couldn’t resist the pun 🙂

Environment Display – Antarctica 4

Model and Diorama, originally uploaded by Mulsanne.

Today’s classroom display has an environmental theme in honour of Blog Action Day. I love this project which was done as part of the International Polar Year .

Dee, the teacher writes:

I began with a classroom standard, a KWL chart. On the KWL chart, students first listed what they knew (K) about Antarctica. Next, they listed questions they wanted (W) answered. Eventually, they would list what they learned (L) on the last part of the chart. The students asked some very good questions. Where do icebergs come from? What do blue whales eat in the waters surrounding Antarctica? How tall are emperor penguins? How did Shackleton and his men survive being trapped in ice? Why don’t fish freeze in the cold waters? What’s on the ocean floor? These were just a few of the questions they listed.

Not content with getting groups doing lots of online and book based research the children were able to follow and interact with the expedition team on their blog. The display came about because:

……we decided we wanted a visual representation to go along with our research. “Our Visit to The Ice” was created to provide us an avenue for artistic expression.

And it certainly did that! Have a look at all these detailed models:
Model of Palmer
My particular favourite is a model of Shacklton’s Endurance trapped in the ice:
Model of Endurance
But the penguins are cute too 🙂
Penguins in Formation

I think my students would agree that “Our Visit to The Ice” was the next best thing to a field trip to Antarctica.

I chose this display because I can’t think of anything better to be exploring with children than the wonders of such a unique and threatened environment. This is one of those projects that brings the unfamiliar to life for children and gives opportunities for deep learning. Those children will remember this project and I hope their generation will forgive ours for not taking better care of this fragile and special place.
Note Any earnings from today’s post will be donated to Common Ground a UK based charity. (As of 16/10/07 = $3)

Update: If any UK schools fancy doing something similar there are some UK teachers heading South in a few weeks . You can follow their exploits here and here – you can also find lots of lovely resources in their blog sidebars. If you create any displays based on the project please let me know 🙂

Literacy Display – The BFG

BFG, originally uploaded by LindaH.

Multi-purpose classroom displays are often the most useful. Year 5 studied the BFG and made their own dream catchers. The glass jar contain children’s bad dreams. Each child filled a jar with things to represent their worst nightmares. The jars are named and have a list of ingredients on the front.
This was a really powerful way of getting them to connect with the book. Everyone tried to have the most awful things in their jar and in the course of doing this there were lots of great opportunities for talking and listening, and for creative problem solving.
The children had to work out how to represent their worst fears in a concrete form that could go inside a jar. Strong stuff, as children tried to work out what to use for war, poverty, famine and death. Of course there were a fair number of spiders and other more nameless monsters too 🙂
This work showed a lovely integration of literacy with emotional literacy. It stayed fresh and interesting for a long time too as children read the contents of each jar and discussed issues that would not have been easily raised any other way. Classroom displays that continue being a talking point for weeks like this are worth their weight in gold!