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Setting up a new classroom – part 2b

Short but sweet – another display idea I’d seen on Pinterest, and have created my own version of.


Pdf file is here: 100_challenge

Excel sheet for checking totals for you is here: 100_challenge_checker (Thanks to @LWmathsmatters for the idea!)

I trimmed the edges, stuck together 6 pieces of card (two columns of 3 landscape) to make a square-ish base, and stuck it on.  I’ll probably add decorative tape to make it prettier, but I’ve temporarily run out….




Setting up a new classroom – part 2 (aka – where’s my Blue Peter badge?)

Ok, I’ve been back in.  Again.

To be completely honest, I’ve lost much of the last week to Pinterest, a new addiction for me, where I have found some AWESOME ideas for improving teaching and learning in my classroom.  My husband would be more annoyed by it if I weren’t passing along quite a few ideas he could use in his own classroom!

First up, I have spent very little money (but a great deal of time) making things from STICKY-BACKED PLASTIC.  I now see what Blue Peter used to make such a fuss about.  This stuff rules.  A big roll of it in plain black, available from Amazon, or from various DIY stores, costs about £5.  Brands to search for are Fablon or D-C fix.

I printed one of each letter needed to make each word, all together on a page (did a lot of messing with fonts and sizes until I was happy).  I cut each one out, and used it as a template on the plastic.  It took several hours, mostly since I got a bit carried away doing it all at once, but I just put on a box set on Netflix, and it didn’t feel so bad!

Here is my newly improved doorway:


I added the horizontal and vertical signs (letters cut from sticky backed plastic), and also a window sticker from in the style of isometric drawing.

Yes, it’s possible I’ll get in trouble for sticking up words all over my room, but giant wall quotes are a big thing all over my (very pretty) new school, so I hope I’ll be ok.

I also made (and this one took AGES to cut out) a nice quote for my wall.  There’s still another to go up (You only fail when you stop trying), but I ran out of time…


I used a piece of clothesline and some bluetack, along with a ruler, to keep my letters straight as I went along, and I’m mostly quite pleased with how it turned out.

I also made a numberline (yup, still that same roll of sticky-backed plastic) for helping with negative numbers.


I’ve also used washi tape (decorative tape) to ‘rule off’ the end of my board semi-permanently.  I plan to use the space that’s left for a ‘did you know’ fact, or a word of the day, or something similar.


I spotted this on Pinterest too, and am planning something similar.   After much brainstorming with hubby (also a teacher), his genius plan has won.  I’m going to ask students to write their name on a small piece of paper, probably 1/6 of A4, and they are then welcome to decorate the back (within appropriate boundaries!) to make it ‘theirs’.  There will be plenty of space left below their name on the important side.   These will then be laminated.

When I want to assess their feeling about a new topic, or decide whether they need more time on something, I’ll hand them out, along with the mini-whiteboard pens, and have them answer a short plenary question on it.  They will then drop their card, complete with their answer, in the appropriate slot on the way out.  ‘Got it’, ‘almost’, ‘kind of’, ‘nope’.  This gives me immediate feedback just by glancing at the proportion of cards in each slot, and at the end of the day, I can look in more detail, check answers, and plan accordingly.

I plan to set the starter question for the next lesson by giving them one of 3 symbols on their cards, to be handed to them as they come in, based on which slot they were put into (and adjusted if they were wrong).  They will then look at their symbol, and do the question that matches it from the choices on the board.  It should also let me know which students I need to go and speak to (any Nopes) at the very start of the next lesson.

Practicalities-wise, I’ll probably have different coloured card for each year group, so it doesn’t matter as much if I don’t have time to empty the slots until the end of the day.

It’s still to be tested at the chalk-face, so I’ll post again later and let you know how I get on!

At the very least, when I’m happy to trust their judgement, I’ll be asking them to RAG their understanding at the end of lessons, and use the same system of symbols to assign a review question at the start of the next lesson.  (Worth looking at #RAG123 on Twitter for some ideas).

Early finishers / extension tasks

I am making a box of tasks/puzzles for early finishers, or for general emergencies.  I have to confess that I have bought several sets of cards from – a new site for me – just because they’re good, and I haven’t the patience to sit and make my own.  I’m sure I’ll add to it as I go along, but the idea is that students always know there is something fun yet meaningful to do once they’re finished (providing they’ve checked with me), so they should never just be sitting around waiting.

What’s next?

I’m revisiting the slightly neglected SOLO taxonomy with this.  I have on the whiteboard an arrow going up, with a minion at the bottom, and Gru at the top. I’ll stick statements to the board, covering the progression through the next few weeks’ topics.  I’m then going to have these matching pages that can be stuck in books as we start an overall topic.  This first half term is Algebra 1, and can be broken into two parts – pre-algebra, and algebra.   The draft below is for pre-algebra.  Students can sign off / add a star / RAG each statement, so they’ve recorded how far towards evil genius they’ve made it.  It also shows them what they’re working towards.


Interactive notebooks

Finally, I’m completely rethinking how to record classwork etc, having done a lot of reading up on ‘interactive notebooks’.  This seems to have been a thing that was/is big in the States, but hasn’t really hit the UK yet that I know of.   It’s the sort of thing that requires first more thought, and then a blog post all to itself though…



This week’s puzzle

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A new start – setting up a new classroom

First up, I know it’s been a while.  I won’t go into detail, but this school year has been one I’m planning never to think about again!  Luckily, I’ve now found a fantastic job, and will be ‘Lead Practitioner for Mathematics’ at a school I’m very excited about.

I’m in the process of setting up my new classroom, so I thought I’d start by showing you some of my new ideas for using displays to make your life easier.

First up, the easy-change Countdown poster:


I’ve now made 5 (one for me, one for each of the 3 NQTs in the dept, and one for my husband), so I think I’ve now refined the process to a fine art…!

First you’ll need some CD cases – I got 50 for £1.95 from Wilko’s.


Then you’ll need 3 sheets of A4 card, stuck together on the back like this:

(I used pretty sturdy tape, to avoid future issues)


Next, you’ll want to print off the numbers (or letters, if you fancy) from this site:

The CD cases can be cut to size, so that the numbers fit in.   It’s up to you how much you cut them down, but I’d advise leaving a good centimetre on each side to be safe, and make it easier to replace the numbers.  I also chose to cut off a diagonal slice from the front (see picture) to make it easier to swap inserts.


In the picture, you can see that I’ve just cut off the right edge, and the top, leaving the bottom and left edge intact.

I cut 6 the same, then stuck them down onto my card, starting at the bottom.  I chose to use washi-style tape, since it was prettier – you can find it in Wilko’s too, or there’s a huge selection on amazon/eBay.   (You could obviously just use plain tape if you’d rather.)

After a bit of trial-and-improvement, I settled on taping each one down individually, mostly since it was easier to line up my dotty tape that way.  Take care not to obstruct the top side with tape, so it still opens freely.

I then took another of the CD cases, cut off the flap at the top, and stuck it down in the centre at the top of the poster (with a different pretty tape…!) for the total.    The nice thing is that you can either use it as a pocket, just like the others, and print off some different totals, or you can just use it like a whiteboard, as it will wipe clean.


The final touch is to print off a title – I used the picture from the site where I got the numbers.

Tadaaaaah!  A ready-made starter / early finisher / entry work activity that can be easily updated.   I store the spare numbers in the back of one of the pockets, and plan to make one of my tutor group responsible for changing up the numbers and total each morning.

Next up, the easy-change Key Words posterboard.

I wanted to be able to feature key words for each topic, without the hassle.  It really helps that KS3 are all doing the same overall topic at the same time!


I took a sheet of foamboard (Hobbycraft, about £3.50), and a 25m washing line (£1 from Poundland), and then cut 6 pieces, a little bigger than the width of the board.  I then stuck it down at each end on the back of the board.  I added a border of hot pink Duck tape – check the link for loads of colours and designs.   I also got some cheap pegs.

I glued on a title, and can now swap in key words whenever I like (keeping the old group together for next time!).

Next, my idiot’s guide to area and perimeter poster:  (totally stolen from Pinterest)


(check out the neatness – I was terrified I was going to spell something wrong halfway through….)

My display boards:

I chose to cover my boards with black cotton material instead of paper.  I’ll let you know how it goes, but I HATE faffing around with ripped paper, especially borders, so hopefully this will save me doing it again for a year.

I also added minion ribbon as a border, just cos it’s fun.  (eBay)


Finally, I have a ‘homework’ box by the door, for hand-in on entry, or collection of a sheet on exit.  I plan to set it mostly online, so the sheets will just be for those who’d rather use a paper copy.


It’s just a standard file box, held up with Command strips (I LOVE these).

In the next installment, the posters I bought from, the quotes to be added to the wall, and possibly even my scale of understanding (from ‘minion’ to ‘evil genius’).


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