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Ideas for displays in your classroom from word walls to maths and english help.

Updated on August 29, 2013

What do we need to include on our walls?

Children's work is a must. They need somewhere to show off their progress, and they should know that you are proud of their work - why else would you be putting it up on the wall for everyone to see?

Children's best work should be changed regulary to keep this, 'well done' philosophy in tact. Each time you should congratulate the pupil on their work to make them feel good. Of course this does tend to think that, that child did their best in producing this work. I have varied thoughts on this. If a child hasn't done their best but they are proud of their work, or they didn't grasp what you wanted and yet did try hard, well, should you make them do it again? No, I don't like this type of teaching. I am not someone who will make sure every exercise book is spotless and their writing is as neat as possible - how can they edit their work if this is the case? Best work though should be neat and already edited so it can sit in pride of place on the wall.

Something else has to be placed on your wall apart from just student's work. Help must be offered to students in the form of words, or maths help, or even pictures to do with the topics they are learning about.

I also think a roleplay area wouldn't go amiss in every year in a primary school, including year 6.

1. Help children's writing with a word wall.

Children need help with vocabulary in their work so help them and put a lot of words on the wall.

The idea behind this display - What words can you Steal?

This is in my NQT year. I had the idea where I would encourage children to steal! To steal words or phrases from others. Being a year 3 class and in a very deprived area I thought the idea of this would appeal to the children.

Non of the words stuck onto this board are mine. They have turned up in the children's writing at some stage, and when I have spotted a great word I would love to see in other people's work then I put it up on display. I made a big show of the word and the person who wrote it and asked the class if they could use it next time they write too.

The idea was to add to their vocabulary because a lot of the children came from homes where reading just wasn't a thing to do. These children had poor reading levels at school and no matter how I tried, reading at home was always seen as a chore (although lots of other ideas were used to encourage this and in the end my class did want to read - lots even came to me asking where I bought books so they could go and get the book we were looking at in class). So I introduced words daily in lessons and made a big thing of the children who came up with great words of their own. Better vocabulary in their work, I explained, will only uplevel your work.

Children were encouraged to get out of their seats and look at the display if there was a word they thought they could use in their work. Plus they could see how it was spelt. I have to say, this idea worked really well as lots of students did exactly that. It may have been because a lot got praised for trying to uplevel their work but eventually this became the culture within the class and they really wanted to do well.

The word wall has evolved - The Great Wall of Words

I loved the idea of stealing words for your own use. The trouble I found with that first word wall was that the display was too small. Children did use it, and I praised them for doing so however, the pieces of paper which the words were written on were too small so the children had to stand in front of the display to read them. This is not good when you want them to use this display constantly. I needed to come up with something so the words are big enough for all to see.

This of course had its problems because that would mean I will be dedicating a lot of wall space to such a display. I picked a spot near the front of the class again so the children were not turning around to see this display.

This time, maybe because I was working in year 6, but I gave the idea to the children about what I wanted to do with this display. I then asked them what and how they would like it in their class. As we were learning about a topic all about China, one of the boys came up with the idea of 'The Great Wall of Words'. And the word wall was born as they said they wanted a wall in the background and the words placed on top. Different coloured paper broke this display up, a little like that of the previous display. The colours though have been toned down so you can see the writing clearly.

As it is in year 6, I wrote the words joined up so I was modelling what I wanted to see in their books.

As you can see though, this display was not big enough, even if I regulary changed the words on the wall. I still had to use the wall space above the display. This is something I would address next time.

Again I used the idea that all these words have shown up in the children's writing. I wanted to share good practice with the other children so I made a big deal of adding words to this display. Make a real point that the child who wrote that word is really uplevelling their work because they are using really good vocabluary in the correct context.

My latest word wall - Our Word Wall

I went into this classroom knowing I needed a bigger display for my word wall. I wanted to add lots of words to it and give the children within the class a real push on with their vocabulary.

This was when I was working with a small SEN group and reading was very low. Lots and lots and lots of work was done to encourage reading and enjoy it. lots of work was done to model how I can steal ideas or phrases or just words from the books or any text I read.

One way I did this was to model doing this with their work. I still used the idea about putting it on the display and making a big deal of it because each time they were rewarded for it. We introduced the vivo system into our school then which made it very easy to reward pupils. But when I was modelling work to the children (and because I worked with SEN then I modelled a lot) then I would make a point of trying to steal a word/phrase from one of the children's work. Making a big point of 'how fantastic this writing was'. I usually said I couldn't remember who wrote this and look to the class - hoping they would pipe up and say me. Then make a big deal of them and reward them there and then.

This really did work as they loved it and always wanted to know who the excellent writer was. I worked hard to get the others to praise them too as they started off very negative but eventually we solved that and we obviously worked a lot better as a group after that.

The photo was taken a few weeks after I put it up and already we had a lot of words on there. By the end of the term it was full. I then took down some of the weaker words and we replaced them with better words the term after.

With the display being so big I also tried to put the words into groups, i.e. any emotions were placed together, any descriptive words were placed together etc. You may see this on the photo.

Synonyms for said

A great idea which has really helped when students write speech sentences.

I won't include much information about this because I wrote a whole hub about this one so please go and take a look for the idea behind it.

If you look through my hubs I have wrote about synonyms for said in more detail so please take a look and hopefully you will gain some ideas to help you.

This is a great idea because it not only gives the children a visual reference for each word it also gives them a lot of different examples of words they can use in their work. Yes we want them to use a great word but we do not want them to keep on using it over and over again - how can they get away from this if they are not given different examples?

Help with writing - connectives display

A quick, simple and small display that really does help students.

Most children talk with the same connectives - and, but, so. So how do we improve children's writing if they do not talk better?

For one you are the best model they will have. Model how you want them to write in your every day speaking to them. Use connectives like however and although in everyday language. Point out good connectives when you hear them or read them and make sure the children know this is a good way to unlevel their work.

A connective display is a good idea to help this. I tend to list the connectives for how they can be used:

  • Get more information - and, also , for example, furthermore, as well as
  • Cause and effect - so, because, therefore, as a result, consequently, so that
  • comparing - but, although, however, whereas, yet, despite, instead, even though, unless
  • Time connectives - then, next, first, later, meanwhile ,suddenly, finally, while, before, until, previously, eventually, when, as, once

Plenty of time I have modelled a piece of writing and put a 'but' in my work. Then asked the question of how I can uplevel my work. I then go over to the display and find but on there, then I see what similar connective I can use - however, although etc.

Eventually I don't model this in my writing, I just ask children when they are writing what they could do when I see a but in their work. They should, if trained up well, look at the connective display if their knowledge is insecure or if more secure come up with a better connective themselves.

Just remember on the APP grids there is an option in level 4 that states that they use better connectives than 'and but so'.

2. Help with punctuation

Something that students really find hard but this fun idea can really help.

Punctuation police.

This is something I have included on another hub so I won't go ino it too much here, although I will duplicate the information for you to make it easier.

Basically what you will need here is a display which shows the children what each punctuation mark is and an example of it's use. I tend to do one punctuation mark on one sheet of A4. This was I can start off with the punctuation marks I want to see in their work and concentrate on these, but later on in the year I can add more to the display to push them on in their learning.

Under the display there should be a place for the punctuation police badges that they will need to go around the room and peer assess.

If you like this idea then please take a look at my other hubs.

I found that a lot of children do not understand what punctuation is. Have a look at my hub 'Guide to punctuation and ideas of how to teach the topics' for more ideas of the subject.

I use in all my classrooms - Punctuation police

This information is a copy from the link given above for your convienence. However if you want to see more ideas about helping children with their writing please take a look at that hub too.

A great idea I picked up from Tes is punctuation police. Although I have edited for my own use within my class - but you do that as a teacher right?

The idea is that a student is to act as a police officer and they are on the look out for wrong doings within other students work. They are given a card with punctuation police on

Where was the idea from?

  • Punctuation Police - Resources - TES Aimed at KS2, I have used these badges with Y3 so far. They have helped them become much more independent as the children that finish their work. This is a great way to get peer assessment into your work and it is always great as an extension task.

Yep but it can be improved.

I looked at this idea shown on the link opposite and though what a great idea. I did make the cards look prettier to be honest - putting them on proper police badges etc.

One thing I did think it needed was a nice display in the classroom to explain to the students what each punctuation mark meant so they could have a reference. I also used the Simpsons to get the fun factor over to the students too.

This display would obviously be edited depending on where my students were

I would definatly include full stops, question marks and exclamation marks for the lower ability to use, but then I would also extend the class' knowledge by including commas, semi colons, colons etc. It is a display that should be added to throughout the year as you go up through the levels. The cards for the police badges can't be seen on the picture as they are on the window ledge below but they are in easy access for all the students to use when they see fit.

I start off in the year telling the students that they can be punctuation police - maybe those who finish first, or those who learned a new punctuation mark and go off to hunt evidence of where it can be used. Eventually though, with sufficent training, the students should just take a card when they are finished and go on the hunt. Independent learning - I'm all for it.

As you can see I was starting to work with level 4 punctuation with the speech marks the last thing I put on this display. I already had full stops, Exclamation marks, question marks and commas for a list.

3. Bums on the rugby post

What a great way to remember the 5 W's.

This was a small display which was placed on a cupboard within the class. I loved the idea and the children found it really funny and therefore remembered it.

You use the 5 W's a lot in teaching children what they need to write so this was ideal for a quick reference.

We first had a lesson on it and I drew it on the whiteboard and then thought I want to refer to this again next lesson. To save me drawing it out again and again to remind the children, a small display was made to make sure they knew this was what I wanted in their writing.

4. Maths displays

A lot of literacy on our walls but don't forget about help with maths.

A great mental maths starter

This was such an easy idea to get started. I won't go into to much detail here because I have included all the information and the ideas behind it below as it is included in another hub I did.

What you will need though is a title, somewhere you can write the number of the week and then room for the children to stick their post-it notes on. Simple. Once set up it is a resource that is constantly in use and updated every week.

I have already wrote about my idea for a problem solving mental maths starter in my hubs:

Take a look at my hub 'Maths Mental Starter ideas that are quick and easy to set up and use.'

Great ideas to help you with mental maths ideas.

Number of the week

The information below is a copy of this information but there are plenty of other ideas on that hub if you would like to go and have a look.

This is essentially a problem solving activity. This was used on my Mondays lessons for two terms before I spent more time on revision exercises for the year 6 students getting them ready for their dreaded SATs.

How does it work?

It is easy to set up. What I did is use a small space on a window that was easy accessible to the students and make a display. This display is shown below. I write on the one sheet a number. Any number you can think of. A whole number, fraction, negative number etc.

To get the children understanding what they need to do, you need to give them a set of instructions like:

  • On your whiteboard I want you to write as many number sentences which would have the answer of the number shown on the display.
  • You should be challenging yourself to come up with the most complicated maths you can think of. Try to remember some of the maths we have looked at this year and use that to come up with your number sentences.
  • At the end of the week I will tell you who the winner is. The winner will be the person who has come up with the best maths, the most creative, or the most complicated.
  • I will give you five minutes to write as many number sentences on your whiteboards as possible.
  • Once the five minute is over I will hand you a post it note. On this post it note I need you to write the one number sentence you think is the best with your name. No name = no win!
  • I will leave the post it note by the display so if you come up with some more excellent maths within the week then you can write it down and place it on there.
  • I will tell you who the winner is next week before we do next weeks number of the week and I will give them their prize. (Having this done before the next competition, hopefully, will make them want it more themselves.)

As you can see, this is so easy to set up - a simple display so they have somewhere to stick their number sentences (I chose this approach so others can see their work and gain ideas for themselves). Once set up you can leave it there for as long as you want. The number is something I chose while planning the week before but this can easily be done 2 seconds before the children enter the room for their maths lesson. If it is there ready for them and you have the number of the week on a set day, then they know straight away what to do and should just get on with it. A great start to your lesson and no shouting to get them ready and calmed down. It was a real plus in one of my observations that year.

Number lines

I think this is essential in every classroom. The number line will obviously be tailored for you class. For example, 1-10 for a reception class where you could do -20 to 100 for a year 6 class.

I believe the easiest way to picture numbers is a number line (we do teach this method to children) but we should show them what it is just in case some don't quite get it (and no doubt you will have students in your class who don't understand the concept).

I used it a lot during my time in year 6 when teaching negative numbers so they could visualise it a lot better. A difficult concept which this resource is ideal to help the students.

The number line should be big. The numbers should be clear and bold so everyone within the class can read them easily. They should also be placed in a position that everyone can read them no matter where they sit within the class. I like the idea of it sweeping around the whiteboard at the front, close to the ceiling so it is out of the way but it is in everyones face so they can't escape it when you are teaching - it is also very easy to refer to.

5. Class rules

Let your students know what is acceptable and what is not.

When you get a new class it is important for them to get to know the boundaries you have for them. A set of rules is vital so they know what they can do but also what is not acceptable.

I would get them to write these rules, maybe as one of the first lessons you do. They can even do the display for you by having these set of rules up on the board and having a competition to see who can make the best poster for one of them. Rewards should be given out for those who win.

I also like positive language in my classes. If you word the rules to show what you expect from them it is so much more powerful than saying they shouldn't be doing this and that. I have noticed that children tend to do this when asked to compile a set of rules - Do not run, Do not mess around in class, Do not ...

I think it is a good exercise to turn these around into positive statements - Always walk sensibily around class, Always work really hard or Always give 100% to your work etc etc.

It is important that these rules come from the children so they have ownership. It is their classroom as much as yours. Plus how much more powerful is it to quote their words back to them if they are pushing their luck.

That is, in essence why you are doing this. If they are pushing their luck you can point out the class rules quietly in their ear to see if they correct their behaviour. Of course at the start it is good to do this in front of the class to set an example of poor behaviour and that you will not accept it. After they understand a quiet word should be sufficent enough to stop that behaviour. But behaviour management can be saved for another hub!

6. Role play area

Every primary classroom should have a roleplay area from nursery all the way up to year 6.

Pirate ship

My first job as a teacher was in a year 3 class in a deprived area. I loved it but I did find that a lot of the children really didn't have much experience of the world apart from the area they lived in.

When we came to teaching a topic about 'shipwrecked' I took the planning and made a lot of it about pirates. Using a load of visual literacy to help these children see what they couldn't/hadn't experienced as well as some very famous images they would have seen and loved like pirates of the caribbean (with their parents permission).

When writing the scheme of work for this topic I thought to myself, 'wouldn't it be great to have a pirate ship in the class for them.' I had seem plenty of big roleplay area within reception and nursery and smaller versions within year 1 and 2. But then it stopped! Why though? These are still kids who love to play. If we give them the opportunity to use their imagination then their writing can improve vastly.

I was privalleged to work with a year 1 teacher early in my career and she dedicated a whole week to playing with castles and dragons. All set up on a carasole type of activity for the children to play but it was organised play with questions around the activities to get them thinking. On the Friday they wrote a fantasy story. No input that week was needed about the different types of writing and what they should do, just a lot of play, a lot of using their imaginations and a lot of fun. There stories were absolutely fantastic.

In my year 3 class I wanted to give the children this sort of opportunity. So the pirate ship was created. It was used for a number of activities in the term it was there :

  • Star of the day and a friend of their choosing would be allowed to go into there and work the following day.
  • Golden time activities were organised so they had opportunity to play in there.
  • Small group work where the TA or myself could take them and talk about a certain topic - this was usually literacy based as they could use the surroundings for inspiration.
  • Wet play activities. It was always full in there - I did always limit it to a certain number of children. 4 Maximum because I was lucky and had a good sized room.
  • If I was ever talking to a child or group of children about their literacy and they need inspiration about their work then I would send them to go and have a look at the roleplay area.
  • A diary was left in there for the children to work on at their leasure. By the end of the term it was full with pictures and a lot of written work about pirates and the battles they had against them, as well as the gold they won and burried on a far off island.
  • A treasure chest was in there full with gold but I also used to put in the box of prizes the children could pick from for being star of the day. The star of the day would be able to go and choose his/her prize away from the other children who were getting ready for going home.
  • We had themed days during each topic we taught at this school where the children were off timetable and we had lots of fun things for them to do within school or even a trip to take them out and give them the experiences they wouldn't get otherwise. This time we organised a make and do day where we had a lot of art/dt making activities to do during the day (half did this during the morning, with year 4, and then the other half did it in the afternoon while the others did a computer based activity with the year 4 teacher.) One of the activities in this themed day was to use the pirate ship as well as the rest of the classroom to play pirates.

It was a great motivator of the children to get star of the day. Every one in the class wanted to work in the pirate ship. A lot tried to nominate their friends if they knew they didn't have the best day so they could get in too. I did say that anyone who got a warning couldn't go into the pirate ship the next day though even if their friend tried to pick them.

Lets face it, what primary school child doesn't like to play. If this play benefits their writing then shouldn't we encourage that and set up opportunities for it - using a roleplay area is a great way to get drama into your lessons too, especially if the children lack imagination and need props to help them.

Sunken ship!

The topic after 'shipwrecked' was under the sea so I basically sink the pirate ship. It never lacked the motivational aspect we first had when I made the pirate ship though. The fact that it changed was a wow factor for the children for a long time too.

They loved the sunken ship as much as the pirate ship. Even with the big scary shark swimming next to them when they were writing away!!!

Other ideas:

The year 4 teacher made a desert island in her class for shipwrecked which was great.

In year 2 they had a castle with a dragon flying around the top.

In the same class they used this dragon for the topic fire and ice and created an ice landscape with the dragon blowing out fire above.

This was stollen by another class who were teaching ice worlds.

In year 6 we had a themed day which used a lot of DT and I got my half of them to make an Anderson shelter in the corner of the classroom. This remained there for the rest of the term and was used, not so intensively as the year 3 roleplay areas, but they still loved it.

In year 7 we made Tardis' for our topic time traveller. Again being older they made these themselves. My class was full with 10 time machines which looked fantastic.

So there is plenty of imaginative worlds to create for your roleplay area and get them right and they look fantastic, although this is a lot of hard work (probably within holiday time) but a lot of fun at the same time.

Can you think of a better way to introduce a new topic than a masterpiece of a roleplay area to show the children exactly what they are going to be learning about?


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