Get Ready for Your New Class 5

Get Ready for Your New Class

Welcome. The acrostic elements were generated by Year 6 right at the start of the year. Ownership of the room was thus subtly established as being shared with the teacher.

A big question when you finally get to the holidays is the extent to which you get ready for your new class before the term starts. I want to look at how you can prepare your classroom for the new school year and still have some time for yourself.

I’ve written about this before (Leaving Room for Your Class) but I think it is worth re-visiting . Recently we have been having an interesting chat about this on our Facebook page following on from reading a post on Lessons from My Classroom. I know that many teachers like to feel their classroom is a welcoming, exciting place for the new class to come into. I just worry that they can spend far to much time and energy during the holidays on achieving that impressive effect.

Get Ready for Your New Class – Things to consider

Teacher Time

During the holidays you do not  have your TA to help you get ready for your new class with the displays so everything is down to them. Usually. Once, long ago I was that daft TA who came in during the holidays unpaid (!) to help sort out displays! As a teacher you can feel that the classroom environment is something you are judged on, and not just by the children. In a school with that sort of culture it can be very hard to be the person who does not do everything in advance.

In the UK this is less prevalent than it is in the US. Themed classrooms and matching everything to your theme is much more common there. A few hours (days, weeks, you have been warned!) on Pinterest will quickly show you the extremes to which this can be taken. There teachers seem far more likely to spend quite considerable amounts of their own time and money decorating their classrooms. It is almost as though they see it as an extension of home decorating. All that effort can create some really impressive results, classrooms that sometimes really make you green with envy and that you can see it would be a joy to be a child in. Other times the results are so fussy and feminine I can’t help but wonder how any child with ADHD or for that matter many boys (!) would cope.

Schools have holidays not just for the children.You do need to spend part of your ‘time off’ preparing for next term but I seriously question if you should be spending a large part of it on displays.

The  other thing I’d question is whether all of this teacher work is actually adding anything to the children’s learning.



I want to consider the idea of  ownership of the classroom. If children come into a room that feels totally finished, maybe with just a few gaps for their work, then it is hard for them to feel it is their classroom. I think this is especially the case when teachers re-cycle important elements of a display and bring them out every year. I remember coming into a Year 4 ‘rainforest’ themed classroom with a visiting Year 8 child and having him remark “Wow! We made all those parrots when we were in this class”. Chatting to him further it became clear that it was not that the lesson had been repeated. These really were the same parrots and he quickly identified his one, still with his name on it. To the current Year 4 this impressive rainforest display was likely to be little more than pretty wallpaper as they had no real involvement with it.  This sort of classroom display undermines the use of displays for learning.

Part of the move towards ‘working walls‘ has come from a rejection of this kind of display. In particular books and courses about ALPS and Assessment for Learning have led some schools away from themed classrooms even to the extent of not having any displays in the classroom.  If you are teaching in that sort of setting then your approach to your classroom set up will be very different. I’d love to hear more about that so do leave a comment.

Creating Interest

There is an argument for some display preparation though. It’s good to have boards backed and borders up if possible. Maybe even just some rough plans of what will go on each one. I quite like the idea of creating a bit of mystery and interest for the new class. Here are some ways of doing this to start you off:

  • Ask a question in the centre of a board and provide an area for post-it notes guesses. Great for establishing what they already know about a topic. Turn the question into a statement & use as the board title once the topic work starts.
  • Prepare a board to display a class charter or Golden Rules maybe in a form that relates to your overall theme for the term or your class name. The point about this board is that it is ‘child led’. The work of filling it then becomes in part their responsibility and forms part of your first PSHE lessons.
  • A target board (again themed if you like) for group or individual targets. Personalise it as quickly as possible by adding photos of the children to moveable elements. Make sure you get the children to make these! eg peg butterflies or similar
  • If you really do want to have a ‘Wow!’ display already in place then give the class the  topic title, cover the main element with brown parcel paper and have the class guess what might be underneath. This will works well with role play areas and things like the giant legs from Jack and the Beanstalk or a pirate ship corner. The reveal involves ripping off the paper to create real excitement which you then quickly follow up with getting them involved in creating other display elements.

I am sure you can come up with lots of other ideas to create that excited buzz but just remember the magic does not last long. I believe it is the displays that they create themselves with your help and guidance that have lasting meaning for most children. What do you think?


Monet Classroom Displays

Willow Class have created a monster Monet but sadly all I have for you are these lovely poppies!

Update – sad to say the Monet Monster has been deleted but you can still read about their project.

Over on their brand new blog Willow Warblers this year 6  class from St Andrew’s Primary School Yetminster have posted this gorgeous Monet classroom display. They say:

We have been learning about a Victorian Artist – Claude Monet. We investigated his style of impressionism and created a huge painting in his style. Each of us had a section of his painting “Water lily pond with water irises” which we scaled up. This was then put back together again et Voilà.
Why not pop over there and tell them how wonderful their work really is, and while you are there you can watch their video about it too!

Classroom Displays – leaving room for your class

Classroom Displays at the start of the new year

What will your display boards look like to the children coming into your classroom at the start of the new term? How will you make them feel welcome?


This display for a kindergarten is used year after year but the children’s names are always added using a different technique. Classroom Displays flickr group member Laurel (puddle jump) says:

By the time all the kids’ names are displayed there’s usually only a bit of rainbow peeking out. The name art differs each year (rainbow traced names, yarn shaped, mosaic names, wax-resist water colour over crayon, etc.) but the rainbow remains.

That and the quote below got me wondering. Are there really 2 diverse approaches to getting classrooms ready for the new year or do most of us find a middle way?

Get a Few Wow Classroom Displays Up, Quick!

Some teachers like to get displays up, maybe even before the end of the previous term. Often these are recycled displays, some of which they’ve used repeatedly over the years. One Year 6 pupil once remarked on entering a Year 2 class that she had fond memories of making the beach hut on their Then and Now seaside  display. Empty boards make some teachers feel uncomfortable and worried.

Let’s Start Our Classroom Displays With a Blank Canvas

Others prefer empty boards with just fresh backing paper on them. One of my teachers always used to just put up mysterious eye catching titles and leave them guessing as to what might go there. I liked this idea and so did the pupils. Sometimes we even changed our display plans in response to their suggestions of what the mystery display might be. It made room for the pupils and gave them more of a sense of ownership of the classroom.

Who’s Classroom Is It Anyway?

Of course that’s another question of approach, is it your classroom or theirs?  Here’s an interesting take on it that I came across via Twitter (Follow me on Twitter I’m @lindiop.Thanks @teachingideas).

The Big Fresh from Choice Literacy July 25, 2009 Theres Room for Me Here
There’s Room for Me Here

What’s the hardest thing for a teacher to do when setting up the room before students arrive? It may be leaving most of the walls and bulletin boards bare. We pride ourselves in planning schedules and lessons that maximize time, build community, and help students thrive from the moment they step into the classroom. And that begins with a classroom that is well-organized, clean. . .and beautifully decorated.

Yet those bare walls send a message more powerful than the most lovely displays. As Debbie Miller writes in Teaching with Intention:

When kids walk into classrooms on the first day of school, we want them to feel, “Oh good! There’s room for me here!” When everything is already done, kids don’t have to wonder much about who is in charge. They know that from the minute they walk into the room.

That’s why on the first days of school the classroom walls, bulletin boards and doors will be almost bare. That’s as it should be! Don’t jump in and “put stuff up” just to make yourself feel better. Be patient. In a few days, your students’ classroom portraits could be smiling back at you, or beginning of the year interviews posted for all to see. . .


How do you approach the new term when planning your classroom displays?

What do you think?
I’ve closed the poll now and 150 of you said:
Are Your Boards Empty or Full?

No Said – Bulletin Board 7

no said display

No Said display board

Here’s an interesting graffiti style classroom display. At first glance this is very much a working display rather than something that’s been at all planned or designed. Look closer and you realise that the central image has been carefully chosen and executed. Giving children the ownership and freedom to contribute to the classroom displays in this way feels risky to many teachers but the results can be quite powerful.

Robert says:

Our January bulletin board was created by our class. We have kept a list of words to use instead of “said” when we write.

If I were to make suggestions for improvement it would only be to use darker pens for the words and perhaps a paler yellow background.

The words the pupils chose are interesting as well. Let’s have a look at this.

detail no said board

Use of ‘texted’ on No Said board

I wonder if the teacher would have thought of ‘typed’, ‘texted’ or ‘e-mailed’ as alternatives to ‘said’. 21stC pupils do and this is their display.

I’ve done much more managed versions of this sort of display in primary classrooms. Then we’ve usually collected a list of words from the children and either written them out on paper or typed them on the computer. These were then laminated and attached to the display with either sticky pads or putty so that they could be removed for reference. I wonder what the benefits of being just a little bit braver and handing over ownership like Robert did might have been?

No Said Bulletin Board, originally uploaded by Robert Owens.

Our Circle of Friendship 2

IMG_1967, originally uploaded by LMH_.

This hall display was made to represent the diverse nature of the school population.

The background was divided up with masking tape and painted with fabric paint. The hands were made by children drawing round their own hands, cutting them out of felt, and sticking them on. It was made with the help of one of our school’s learning mentors, Julie Lawrence. It’s meant to symbolise the circle of friendship in our school.

I think it looks very effective with the light coming through and it carries an important message. Many of the children who worked on this were troubled in some way and the learning mentors used the making of the display as part of an informal friendship building programme.