Thursday, 27 August 2015

Some late additions to the classroom

We are now incredibly close to beginning the new school year and it's all getting very exciting! I popped back into school for a couple more hours to make some late additions to my increasingly busy classroom.

Here are some organisers that I decorated to fit in with the superhero theme. My dad was throwing out a lot of old comics and (after checking if any were rare and valuable!) I hastily grabbed them and started to tear them up. I used modpodge to glue comic pieces onto the cardboard. I'm very happy with the final products and they will slot into the room seamlessly.

I got some of these small, metal buckets from Amazon for around £5. The children are going to be given a lot of homework each week so I plan to use this as a way of knowing who has and hasn't handed in their work. Each child will be assigned a number on the first day and this will be used in many different areas of the classroom. When they hand in their homework for the day, the child removes their peg from the brim of the bucket and then places it inside. This allows me to quickly ascertain which students have not completed the task.

I've slightly changed around my teacher corner. I've hung a cork-board up to act as a notice board and have finally added my chimes that I love to use as a peaceful way of telling the children to be quiet. You can see a couple of postcards that two of my new children sent me from their summer adventures!

As I referred to earlier, each child will be assigned a number on the first day. This same number will be used for my new behaviour system. I will do a separate behaviour system post another time when I have some more pictures and examples. Behind each number is a small box with lots of tokens. When I award a token for good behaviour, the pupil then gets their numbered token and places it into the token bag which can also be seen below. I bought the bag from Amazon for less than £2. In the picture, you can see that above the bag is a poster with the names and numbers of each child so that they don't forget. Throughout the week, tokens will be drawn from the bag to award prizes/give jobs.

Next up is my improved 'Incredible Work' board. I hot-glued pins to pegs and placed these over some larger pieces of green paper. This will now enable me to display amazing pieces of work without damaging it or tearing up the display itself. Very handy.

The last addition is this lovely framed calendar that I've seen people make on pinterest. I used acrylic paint to show value in 7 different colours, one for each day. This is all then framed behind glass which gives me the ability to use a whiteboard pen to record important dates/things that the children need to remember. At the end of the month, all I need to do is wipe the numbers and notes off and then write the new month in correctly. I'll probably do a separate post about this too to give more details about how you can easily make your own.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 27 July 2015

New Year, New School, New Super Classroom

Although I'm obviously still sad about leaving CCJS, my attention now turns to the next incredibly exciting chapter in my teaching career. I thought I'd share my new classroom space with you all after a similar post, New Year, New Classroom, was so popular and is still attracting views today! With the change of school also comes smaller classes (16 pupils) which in turn means I have slightly less room than previous years. However, I'm fortunate that it was only refurbished recently and is designed very well. The other big change is that I am now teaching in a boys' school. This prompted me to focus on a theme that I was confident the vast majority would appreciate. After much deliberation, the decision was to go with SUPERHEROES.

I saw lots of door designs on Pinterest for superheroes but I particularly liked the phrase "Superheroes in training" so I decided to match this up with some cute cut-outs of superhero silhouettes, each with a name of one of my pupils. The superhero comic font was free from here and the free templates for the hero cut-outs can be downloaded from here.

My relentless searching online for superhero classroom resources quickly brought me to a range of amazing American websites where teachers had created every kind of resource in every kind of theme. One thing I particularly liked was the Superhero Clock Labels by PinkCat Studio. I think they fit into the classroom well and will be a really useful prompt for the class.

Away from superheroes, I came across these birthday balloon free downloadable signs. I picked up some crazy straws and stuck on the signs. They sit in the corner by the window and will be a nice and quick birthday present for them as well as looking good all year round!

These are two signs that I have up on the wall that will probably follow me into every classroom that I will ever teach in. The first is an excellent talking point on the first day about what it actually means. Eventually, the children are able to say that they can choose to do what they want (within limits, obviously!) but they must then face consequences for these choices whether good or bad. The second poster is a wonderful reminder that tests (as important as they are) do not test a huge range of qualities that the children will have in abundance.

Now, over to my bulletin boards! There were some absolutely brilliant boards with a superhero theme online but I took a more simplistic approach whilst hopefully still creating a good effect. First up is my 'Superman' board which will be for writing. I forgot to make the 'Super Writing' lettering which will be the heading in red and yellow. I've kept a space for Word of the Week and I'm sure there will be lots more going on after the first few days of September. I created the Word of the Week pages and I think there are about 36 of them altogether, each with a definition and example of it being used in a sentence. Next to this board is also my 'Criminal Words' which fit very nicely into the theme. I'll be telling the children to defeat these villains by using all sorts of excellent synonyms. The criminal sheets were found on

Next up is going to be my maths board, titled "MARVEL-lous Maths." I'll be putting up all sorts of vocabulary and number grids/facts. The movable superhero cut-outs were downloaded for free from MGulin

You may have also caught a few glimpses of the superhero rules banner that can be found here. Unfortunately, my pictures don't do it justice, but it looks brilliant up in the classroom. Here's a picture from the website to show you how it looks:

The last board is going to be used for our topic work. I went for a Hulk theme and opted for 'Incredible Work' as the title. I'll probably end up hot-gluing pins onto pegs so that work can be easily displayed without ruining the backing paper. 

In the corner of my room there's a different door that opens up to the hangers and the adjoining classroom. I thought this would make a good canvas for a few signs that have followed me from CCJS again. They are all quotes from Dr.Seuss books that the children will hopefully find inspirational/motivational.

Over now to the corner of the room with my desk:

This corner has a range of inspirational superhero quotes and messages (plus pictures of Superhero Minions just because,,,)The bright and colourful quotes can be downloaded for free here. The other messages can be found herehere and here. Next to the Batman cut-out is my 'This Looks Like A Job For...' page which is part of my new behaviour system which I'll discuss in more detail shortly.

On the other side of my table is this excellent Superhero Birthday sheet. On the first day of the year, I'll try to get small pictures of the children wearing a superhero mask and holding the number of the day they were born. These can then be stuck onto the birthday chart. Of course, my two class photos from CCJS will also be by my side!

Now to the front of my classroom with the whiteboards and screen. 

Above the screen are lots of cut-out feet with synonyms for 'went' and some 'Who? What? Where? When? Why?' signs to help with their writing. I plan on keeping the board on the right-hand side free for jotting in lessons. The board on the left will be the organised board with clear sections.

I used painters tape to mark off the clear sections. This won't leave any kind of sticky residue and I think it makes the information easier to digest. I might also tape off an extra section for new vocabulary that will be used that day. The other very cool thing is that the white-boards sections actually SLIDE! There's a huge amount of storage space behind them that I'm sure will fill up quickly through the year. Here's a picture of them both moved into the middle:

Underneath the boards at the front is even more storage with trays that will be used as daily folders and homework collection points etc. I've not labelled them yet but use your imagination! The children have their own personal tray underneath their desks and they also each have their own individual locker at the front.

From the picture above, you can also see that my '"Mr Brickwood" train bought for me as a gift from friends has followed me here. There are also a couple of lovely gifts from children from CCJS. There are still many more bits of art and gifts from children that I intend to take in but the car was full!

Onto my new behaviour system! We will be working with a token system this year and these can be earned for good behaviour and following instructions. Each child will be assigned a number on the first day and this will stay with them throughout the year. The boxes holding the tokens can be seen in the picture below. You can't quite make them out, but each box is numbered so the child will know which box to take their coloured token from:

The tokens go into a bag for the week. Whenever I need a job completed or am choosing someone to lead the class to assembly etc, I will draw a token from the bag. Therefore, the more tokens you earn, the more chances you have of being rewarded. In addition to this, I also have a superhero behaviour chart that can be found here.

As you can see, everybody will start off on "Ready to Fly" and their peg can move up or down throughout the day. The children will receive a designated number of tokens for finishing the day in certain positions (1 token for Ready to Fly, 2 tokens for "Soaring" etc). The children will also be able to win super-hero themed prizes with their tokens!

I think that just about sums up my new classroom. It was fun to go with an actual theme for a change but I am pleased that I didn't go too overboard with it. I've seen some rooms where the theme dominates everything and it's slightly overkill. I think this is a good balance of different concepts and I am very excited about teaching in it from September. I've not decided on a seating layout yet but I'm going to do everything I can to make space for a carpet area.

Up, up and away!


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Goodbye CCJS and 'Happy' video

(by Sofia)

After a wonderful two years at CCJS, I can confirm that I shall be beginning a new adventure at a boys' school in Kingston in September. I'm obviously not going to go into my reasons, but it had nothing to do with my incredible fellow teachers, my class or the brilliantly supportive parents. It was virtually impossible to remain in control of my emotions through the day and I apologise for sobbing again outside in the playground! It just hit me then that I was saying goodbye to these children and wouldn't have them in my classroom again.

I'm not even sure how many (if any) people from my school even read this, but if they do, I'd first like to thank 4B. I count myself lucky to have had the privilege to teach such an amazing class of mature, insightful, kind and genuinely funny children. Even if I go onto teach for another 25 years or so, it's going to be quite a challenge to find a class that I enjoy teaching as much as I've enjoyed teaching you all.

Secondly, a massive thank you goes to the teachers and staff at CCJS who I've made close friends with. It's like being a part of an additional family and I know that over the years we will all still meet up and reminisce.

Lastly, a big thank you goes to the parents who have been so kind and supportive to me over the past couple of years. I've once again been completely overwhelmed by the generosity of my current parents. I have received heartfelt messages and incredibly thoughtful gifts. It is so humbling to feel appreciated and I will treasure everyone's words.

It is with a very heavy heart that I say goodbye, but I do hope that you continue to check out the blog and see what I get up to at my new school. I'll post a couple more things over the holidays that I didn't manage to post during term-time, but after that I expect a period with no posts due to fitting in at my new school.

I shall leave a parting gift that the children absolutely loved during the staff leaving assembly. I spotted some fantastic videos on youtube of American schools doing staff lip-sync videos and wanted CCJS to go out with a bang this year. With a lot of work and determination, I managed to put together this clip with the help of my colleagues. Enjoy!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Corner Bookmarks and Abstract Trees

Over the last 3 Fridays we've had 'Activity Afternoons' in school. Being the art co-ordinator, my chosen activity was obviously art and I ended up having about 25 children plus 2-3 incredibly helpful parents. Last year, we made the large 3D papier-mache letters (seen here) but I went for a change this year and selected three smaller activities to complete.

Firstly, we looked at these beautiful pictures by Rett Grayson. I talked through the process with the children and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We drew the grid first and drew the circle using a bowl as a stencil. They could then choose whether they wanted the tree or the background to be warm/cool colours.

We created two-way pictures in the second lesson. I took pictures of the children making two different faces, one in front of a red background and one in front of a blue background. Depending on the angle, the picture would change between the two faces. Unfortunately, I can't post our results because it's all pictures of the class but they were very impressed and proud!

Finally, we made corner bookmarks much like these that I've posted before. This time, we followed this excellent youtube tutorial. I preferred this because all it needed was square paper and some folding (no scissors!). I put a help-sheet on each table with lots of examples of corner bookmarks. Children could use those as inspiration or come up with their own original idea. This was probably my favourite of the 3 projects because everyone was successful and couldn't wait to start reading!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Jackson Pollock Guitars

Next on our list was this fun activity. As always, Pinterest was my saviour and I remembered finding a rockin' Pollock guitar challenge to fit in with our "Playlist" topic by Art with Mrs Seitz.

We learnt about the artist himself and looked at some of his work. Some of the children were confused and felt that they could produce similar if not better art but others were able to appreciate it!

To give the effect of a Pollock painting, we dipped string into paint using clothes pegs (to save us from extra messiness) and the children then laid the string across the guitar outlines that they had drawn and cut out from coloured paper beforehand. They could move around different tables to get different tables and overlap the colours. I was surprised by how effective this technique was and the class really enjoyed it.

We glued the colourful guitars to black paper and then painted our background. I urged them to try to think of how they could convey movement and sound, some painted musical notes and others went for more abstract designs.

The final stage, once the guitars were dry, was to glue on extra details such as string and tin foil (for frets and other guitar details).

It was great having such an unstructured art lesson and I really felt that the children had a lot of creative freedom and room to express themselves. Here's how they turned out and thanks Mrs Seitz!


Friday, 12 June 2015

Paul Klee Inspirational Lyrics

We shared this project in our sharing assembly this week and I received lots of positive comments from staff afterwards. As our topic is Playlist, we looked into the work of Paul Klee who was heavily inspired by music for many of his pieces of work. His mother was a singer and his father was a music teacher. I came across a similar project here at Mrs Picasso's art room, but wanted to make an extra link to our topic by using song lyrics.

We looked at this piece in particular and discussed how Klee used colour and lettering to create art:

We had previously set the children a homework task of thinking of a short phrase or few words from a song that particularly meant something to them. They came up with some wonderful ideas with inspirational messages.

White paper
Felt tips or coloured pencils
Black marker

1. To save time, I drew out a grid and photocopied it for all children.
2. They took their lyrics and wrote them out into the grid using a pencil, one letter in each box. I stressed for them to use up as much of each box as possible for the letter to make it stand out. 
3. To colour, the children coloured the boxes without a letter in just with one colour and the boxes that did have a letter in would colour each section in differently.
4. The last step was to use a ruler and black marker to go over the grid lines and then the lettering to really make it clear.

Here are our inspirational results:

I would love to post them all but I don't want to overload you! They look brilliant and I'm so impressed that every single child managed to come out with beautiful lyrics. Well done everyone, especially those in the assembly and thanks to the parents who were able to come along to support!