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

on August 29, 2015

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…


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

  1. mfox195628 says:

    Blown away by your creativity! Don’t suppose you would share your number/letter stencils you used with the sticky plastic stuff?
    Thanks, Matthew.

    • I just typed out the phrase onto Word, then deleted any repeated letters. Probably used ‘chalkboard’ font I think, and set it up so that it fit two lines of text (so 3-4 letters per line), portrait orientation, on each page. Printed it, cut out the letters, and the used them as a template. Sorry – haven’t saved the document.
      If you have a reliable child / tutor group who you can bribe to do some cutting for you, it’s probably worth it….!

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