Quick note: when starting this piece I really wanted to make it clear and concise for people to set up their classroom. However, as I wrote each of these things it led to the piece becoming a lot longer than expected. It’s now been separated into two parts so you can set up and create these first two spaces before checking out Part Two later this week.
If there’s one thing I know about teachers, the start of year classroom set up can become a hotly contested battle. Picking what you create and how you make it look is important, BUT, knowing why you have each item outranks both of those. You can have the prettiest fonts, colours and pictures around the room, but if you don’t know why you have them up, there’s a fair chance you won’t refer to them…which means they will just become absorbed into the background of the room and become meaningless.
When setting up your room, the key is to know why you are making a wall section or space and how you plan to use it. Then… you have to actually use it. Be selective about what you put up and don’t feel pressure to have EVERYTHING up and ready at the beginning of the year – your class should be involved in this during the year.
There are a few assumptions being made with this piece:
- Yes, you need to have desks and chairs set up. Preferably in a way that allows students to easily move around the room (towers of desks are most likely a no no)
- Things that teachers love making (job rosters, birthday charts, welcome signs) have also been created…usually by your nearest and dearest friends/children sitting around a laminator at night.
- Pinterest has most likely been trawled for inspiration, ideas and all round prettifying.
About Us / Wall of Fame / Our Learning Successes
Choose a catchy name that works for you, the main thing is letting yourself, students and families know there is a section of the room devoted to sharing about ourselves. The start of the school year is the perfect opportunity to set strong foundations with your class as individuals and as a group.
Setting aside a space where students (that includes us if we really are “lifelong learners”) have opportunities to showcase their gifts, talents, strengths, passions and interests not only promotes positive risk taking and learning, but also allows for everyone to identify commonalities across the class. Nothing is better than seeing two students who didn’t really know one another connect over something they both love doing.
Choose a space on a wall in your room that you will devote to the whole class sharing their journey over the year. As the year progresses, students will be adding to this and you’ll be amazed at what is created by the end of the year. Using clipboards, velcro dots on pegs (or any other way to make them sticky), create a section of the classroom where students showcase things they are proud to share with their community.
Something I was taught by one of my legendary 3/4 team members last year was to use large clips or clipboards in your classroom so students can easily keep adding pieces over the semester. I’m excited to try this larger clip idea out this year as, at the end of semester, each student will have a collection of meaningful learning pieces…cue easy to run student led parent-teacher-student interviews in Term Two!
It doesn’t matter if it is a print or a digital piece, as anything done digitally can be showcased by students creating and printing out a QR code for their viewer to use. Families can then whip out their phones, scan the code and enjoy the piece.
A cool activity to start this section off with students is to complete the sentence, “If you really knew me, you would know…“. I’ve used this before with senior, middle and junior students and every time they have been able to provide amazingly insightful pieces.
The key is setting them up for success: make it clear the focus is on positive risk taking, sharing something unique/different about themselves and making their thinking visible (it’s amazing what is often sitting up in their heads that we don’t get to see).
Throughout every school year – no matter what level we teach – there is a huge focus on building up language in every classroom. Maths, literacy, humanities, dance, anything. There are always new and important words and phrases to help students build up their ability to understand and explain new skills and concepts.
Cue those legendary Word Walls.
Whilst some years I have previously set up separate word walls for maths, literacy and our humanities inquiry, about five years ago I started to combine them all into one large word wall in ways similar to the one above.
Why? Combining all of the specific, technical and interesting words you are focusing on allows students to see no one subject is separate from others…while you might use the word greatest in maths, it can be used within any area of learning.
So, what do you do now? DON’T FEEL PRESSURE TO ADD ANY WORDS YET. Find a large space you want to dedicate to this constantly evolving learning space. Consider having it somewhere students can easily refer to, what the focus of your word wall will be, set up an eye catching title and then…make sure to actually start updating and referring to it (constantly in Term One so it becomes a habit!).
Simply having up the word wall doesn’t mean students’ language will grow…we have to remind them of it, let them add words, involve the word wall in games/activities and make it a part of any learning experience.
If you do want to have some words up there at the beginning, you might consider words to describe yourself and the culture you will develop in your classroom and scatter them on the wall – optimistic, creative, caring, honest, compassionate, legendary.
(You’ll know you have got them using it when you either see them stopping and staring at it to complete a sentence, they come up and add words to it, or refer a friend to the wall to help them).
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