When I was little, in Year 6, I distinctly remember sitting with my back to the room. Away from the board, away from the teacher. In fact, I remember staring at the sink. I got away with it all, as if not seeing my face made me invisible.
Hard questions? Avoided.
Targeted discussion? Dodged.
Pulling faces at the other pupils staring into the room? A resounding success! (I recall one boy getting sent out the class for laughing - my stomach sank as I prayed he wouldn't dob me in).
Many years later, as a teacher myself, my opinions couldn't be any more opposite.
I want my students to be on the edge; "It could be me!" Whether a closed question or an open suggestion, I need you to be thinking about your next move. But sometimes I think teachers go on autopilot; we always have a 'most said name'.
I've tried all manner of laminated names and lolly-sticks, but this is my current solution...
So, numbers 1, 6, 11, 16, 21 and 26 are on the same table. They are arranged so that an odd number and an even number are next to each other. Therefore, we can say..."odd number speaks first" during paired discussion, or "highest number listens" when reading our writing aloud or explaining our method. Some might say petty, but we've all had classes where valuable minutes are wasted by the children aimlessly debating such a simple choice.
Why not the lolly sticks?
We have a lot of different groups in our school; it'd take at least 3 sets of sticks to have every name included. They'd get tipped over, lost, mixed up. Hassle. The numbers count for every lesson, every pupil. We'll see how it goes.
When I first met my class, I also used these numbers to arrange their 'home seats'. Although I can read every file and enjoy every anecdote from their past teachers, until I know them and their most up-to-date behaviour, it's difficult to seat strangers. Therefore, for the first week, we agreed the first person in the register sits at number 1, the second at number 2, and so on. It turns out every 5th person is a boy! The horror! Just imagine. A table of boys. No calm girls to keep them in check, model being quiet, get them off the topic of football and Xbox!?!
Needless to say that changed very quickly.
I take my classroom almost too seriously. It needs to be practical, attractive and inspiring but also easily maintained. Every summer, for a couple of weeks, I rope in as many helpers as I can get to help sort my creative chaos; a series of bright ideas, with the best intentions, all aimed at promoting independent learning and community spirit.
This is the result of Summer2015's efforts:
Our Learning Walls
Much to the frustration of a previous colleague, I used to back ALL my boards in white. However, I soon realised that posters, models/images and reminders, often on white themselves, would get lost in the background. With that in mind, I chose black backing with borders the same colour as the subjects' respective exercise book.
Why the little whiteboards?
I have a grand plan to write up my week's objectives, so the children can see where our learning is heading; the end product of the hard work we will be putting in. Whether that's solving a problem using the methods we learnt, or writing something including the skills we rehearsed, I'm hoping my learners will be able to move their name tag along the lessons to show they are ready to move on. It'll be a good way for me to focus my feedback and organise extra support and revision where needed.
My English wall features a "Spelling Spy". I was inspired by my class last year, who used to enjoy finding words that could have belonged in their spelling list that week. The number of times quiet reading would be disturbed by, "Mr N! I've found another word with 'tion'!". I decided to capitalise on that this year, and provide a space for the words to be collected.
With the changes in the English Curriculum, and the apparent disappearance of 'Writing Genres', teaching writing got a little blurred; too many people with too many ideas of what 'good writing' is. In my opinion, the genres were a great way of showing off various types of language in different contexts. Writing instructions, for example, to best show off time conjunctions, or descriptive writing to best see the impact of adjectives and use of the senses. I can only assume we became too reliant on the genres and writing became very predictable. I will use this Tool Box idea to keep a reminder of all the different strategies we learn, so we can use them at any time; aiming to remedy the previous problem regarding genres, that we only use brackets in a newspaper to reveal a spectator's age!
My new school teach subjects fairly discretely. I've not worked in this way for a long time so I am looking forward to experiencing it again. Therefore, rather than a 'topic/theme' display, I have chosen to give an area for each subject. Whereas the Vocabulary board is dedicated to important language, posters and reminders, this board is solely for children's work and successes. Photos of PE, annotated maps or creative timelines, reports and fact-files; this board will become a scrapbook of each term's learning completed by the students.
And there you have it! My 2015/16 classroom! I'd love to hear what you think, any suggestions for additions and ideas for next year! Our classrooms are where we spend most of our teaching lives, so take pride in them and make them yours; the children will appreciate your efforts!