Numeracy Working Walls

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

What is the point of classroom displays? 2

2 large peacocks

Is this display celebrating diversity or a waste of valuable teaching assistant time?

In the first week of my summer term online Classroom Displays Course  we are once again looking at the thorny question of just what is the point of all these displays in UK schools.

Back in 2005, when I was doing my degree research, I worked out how much teaching assistant time was spent on displays in our school in one week. It was a scarily large amount. During the period I monitored I spent around 5.5 hours a week just working on classroom, hall and corridor displays.  After checking with colleagues I discovered that was around the school average.  That is a lot of TA time that might not be being spent directly with pupils.  So what exactly is it all for?

book Display in the ClassroomEvery time the course runs we come back to this question. There is a good deal of discussion of this point in Display in the Classroom: Principles, Practice and Learning Theory (ancient and out of print but 2nd hand copies do come up). If you are doing degree level work on displays it’s a great starting point.

The Level 2 Teaching Assistants courses usually ask you to cover the following purposes for displays:

•  As a learning resource
•  To celebrate achievement
•  To celebrate diversity
•  To promote a sense of community and belonging
•  To improve the environment
•  To provide information
•  To prompt feedback

One of the most important reasons for making displays as far as I’m concerned is as learning resources. The time spent making them does not have to be wasted TA time. It can be very valuable pupil learning time. Working with the TA in small groups to produce a great display can give pupils who need it extra time to take in concepts and learn topic vocabulary. It just needs a little extra planning and remembering to keep the conversation on topic.

How do you make sure your displays are not just pretty wall paper that take up hours of TA or teacher time?


Classroom Displays – Rainy Day Reads

Classroom Displays of Project Work

Following on from the Renoir Umbrellas and as a further part of the Take One Picture 2009 project comes this excellent classroom displays idea from Caroline Lennox. Caroline is a member of the Classroom Displays Flickr group and she also has a very fine blog (Learning Parade)

In her blog post Rainy Day Reads Caroline explains more about the process of designing and making the display.

The class first explored lots of illustrated children’s books about rain from the library.

The puddles were painted based on photographs the children took in the play ground.

The wellies were made by drawing round someone wearing a pair!

I love the idea of getting the children to draw round their wellies! Isn’t it great? I’ve never done that although we’ve all drawn round children’s hands and feet or even used them to print. I think drawing round the wellies is quite inspired.
It really reminds me of a children’s book illustration but I can’t think of the name of the book. (Meh! Having one of those moments when I can picture the book cover perfectly but can’t read the title!)

It was an American book about a child posting a birthday invitation on a rainy day. Anyone know which one I mean?

Favourite Rainy Day Classroom Displays

We get plenty of rain in the UK and weather is a good focus for all sorts of classroom displays. I’d love to gather up some more display ideas on this topic.

What’s your favourite way of making a classroom display about rain?

Update :  Splish, Splosh, Sploosh

Sunflower Lily, one of our members, was inspired to have a go at this one. I think she’s done a lovely job, don’t you?
Splish, splosh, splash, sploooosh!

Classroom Displays – Autism Friendly

I’ve got a guest post this week. I hope it will help you make your classroom Autism friendly.


The author is S.B Linton who runs Autism and she’s provided us with some great tips. If you’ve questions please let us know in the comments and we’ll try to help. (If you use twitter be sure to follow her on there AutismClassroom twitter as she posts lots of useful links)

The numbers of students with autism in our schools is increasing, as is the need for classrooms that effectively educate children with autism.

The following information from the book How to Set Up a Classroom for Students with Autism: A Manual for Teachers, Para-professionals and Administrators by S. B. Linton, highlights some tips in setting up an autism friendly classroom.

Set Up a Classroom for Students with Autism_ A Manual for Teachers, Para-professionals and Administrators_ S. B. Linton.jpg

Use Various Types of Visual Schedules

  • Daily class schedules to accurately tell what activities will occur that particular school day. This type of schedule should be posted, easy for students to follow and should be large enough to see from across the room.
  • Individual/personal schedules to help students organize, learn routines and possibly relieve stress for some students with autism by giving them an idea of what to expect. A personal schedule might also show sensory input activities which are specific to that student, individual speech therapy times, break times, small group areas, or toileting opportunities, which may not be the same exact time as other students.
  • Task schedules to serve as directions. They help to visually “break down” the elements of a task or an activity for a student. Task schedules show a student what will occur within the context of a structured lesson or activity, much like directions. Task schedules can also help students perform tasks without the use of a verbal prompt from the adult, thus increasing independence.
  • Visual Reinforcement schedules to give students a visual indicator of when their reinforcement or break will occur. These may be helpful for a child who is on a behavior intervention plan and needs to be reminded that their reinforcement will be coming soon.

Organize the Room to Support the Student

  • Create clear visual boundaries in the classroom.
  • Make various centers and locations for the students to move to throughout the day to avoid having them sit in one spot all day.
  • Create work areas near blank walls or facing way from peers to improve concentration.
  • Remove distracting items such as string, bright colors, loud appliances.
  • Create a safe place or quiet area in the room for the student if they need a retreat.
  • Remember you will have to teach play skills and social skills. They do not come naturally for some students with autism.
  • Seat “runners” with their back facing a wall or divider and have the adult facing the student, between the student and the door.

Be An Effective Collaborator

  • Creating a specific time for staff to meet, answer questions or create new plans is a critical.
  • View student’s objectives as a shared responsibility of the student’s team.
  • Keep a notebook or journal that is sent from school to home each day.

Use Language Based Techniques

  • Try a set of pictures showing the steps in washing their hands or a visual task analysis for hanging up their belongings in the morning to help keep some students focused.
  • Write down directions instead of ju st using words.
  • Use hands on activities as much as possible.
  • Use a visual topic board to show the students what the lesson will be about.

Question. Discuss. Learn.

Classroom Displays for Learning

Displays for Learning
There aren’t many books about classroom displays for secondary and beyond. This one has just been published and looks like a super addition to the the subject. I can’t wait to read it and see if I can apply some of it to my adult teaching. Teaching assistants need an interesting learning environment just as much as any other learners!

Amazon says:

Display has long been seen as a tool for learning in primary schools but this practical and timely book shows its value in whole school improvement for secondary and post-16. Walking through an entrance hall speaks volumes about the ethos of a school. The physical environment supported by display and signs allow visitors to make a judgement about the school and this judgement, correctly or not, will be based on what the visitor first sees. In some schools this first impression exudes positivism – display celebrates achievement and success, there are images of happy learners, learning focused signs and statements, and the environment seems cared for and respected. In others, negative statements confront visitors, the environment is neglected and unloved, there are no references to learning in the entrance to the school.The current educational agenda identifies learner wellbeing as the key determinant in achievement and outcome. How the learning environment is designed can have a huge impact on wellbeing. One particular aspect that has a powerful influence on this environment is the use of display space. Managed well, it can create a climate where students feel valued and nurtured, and can achieve beyond their potential.Display should transcend simple physical appearance. Successful and meaningful display reflects the ethos of a school, and an exciting, learning-focused environment makes for excited learners. An environment that mirrors respect and care makes learners feel cared for and respected by the place in which they learn. This positively impacts on how well students learn, how happy they are as they learn and the respect and care with which they treat their school; the same applies to staff. The signs used around schools and the messages that signage and display deliver are key to a learning-focused climate and they reinforce a school’s ethos. Care for the school environment and classrooms shows care for the students, and for teachers and other staff. This impression is quickly passed to parents and visitors to the school.This book aims to address a gap in the market for secondary school leaders and teachers (with transferable lessons for primary and 16 – 19 colleges) and provide a toolkit to develop display for learning with strategies and solutions, within the context of the school improvement and transformation agenda. The book aims to inspire colleagues in schools to develop this in their classrooms and on a whole school level – with the motivation and justification for doing so.

About the Author
Kirstie Andrew-Power is Achievement Networks Coordinator for the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. Her current role is facilitating networks of schools engaged in the school improvement agenda, leading shared learning opportunities for this through events and conferences, and contributing and writing publications to support this agenda. Charlotte Gormley is Assistant Headteacher Inclusion at The Compton School in north London. She is senior leader in school involved in a variety of outreach work with other schools – specifically with behaviours for learning, inclusion, environments for learning and school improvement

Sounds good. I’ll do a proper review once I’ve read it but if you can’t wait you can buy it from the Classroom Displays Bookshop