I bet if I were to walk into almost any primary school in the United Kingdom on any given day, I would find the use of ready-made resources from Twinkl.
I love Twinkl. It’s quick, easy and relatively cheap. Some schools pay for their staff to have access to it, which is brilliant, but it also looks very samey – the same font, the same style, the same kind of images. So, creating a unique learning environment is something that many teachers strive to do. However, it isn’t always easy to find the inspiration nor the time. I’m going to share with you some of my ideas and timesavers. Remember, I’m a teacher and a tutor, so I’m sharing things with both of those hats firmly on my head.
Display lettering and materials
When I first started teaching, I used wooden letters that I would meticulously trace around and then carefully cut out each letter individually. I found the middle bits painstakingly slow to do, but I was always impressed with the overall result. Laminating for reuse was something I began doing initially, but soon changed my mind when I realised that I was more than likely going to misplace them from one year to the next. What’s more, the impact unnecessary use of plastic has on the environment also played on my conscience.
These days, I much prefer creating a banner or a poster. It means no more fiddly cutting out, cursing at myself frequently. While Microsoft does offer a much better variety of fonts these days, I prefer seeking out something a little better suited to the theme of my display. To discover some amazing free fonts click here, download and use them when creating your titles in either Publisher or even Word. You don’t even need to create an account to do this; I chose to log in via Facebook. I then complemented the creative lettering with some free-to-download images from image sites.
I’ve only covered the lettering without even thinking about the rest of the information that will be displayed. In fact, there’s a good reason for that. In my experience, the best display boards are ones which are not wallpaper-esque. In other words, children use and refer to the items on display. They change frequently, so children notice, show intrigue and ask questions about what’s on there.
Furthermore, I love to display children’s work. This instils a sense of pride in them and shows other pupils examples of WAGOLL (what a good one looks like). Of course, to ensure high self-esteem is supported within the classroom, it is crucial to provide a balance when it comes to whose work is chosen. In addition to adding pupils’ work, I find that a small explanation of what makes that piece of work a good one or why it met the success criteria can be useful.
When I actually have the time to make resources, I aim to tailor them perfectly to the needs of my students. For my tuition business, at the moment, I am totally online, so PowerPoint presentations are one of the easiest ways to present my learning materials. I tend to use a combination of my own ideas, paired with ready-to-use resources, always chosen for the individual. I often tweak resources I download from the TES resources section by adding imagery and adapting the wording, adding the child’s name, too. Choosing fun, vibrant and relevant images alongside attractive text can be the difference between engagement and disengagement.
Back in the day, when I was at school, one of our transition day activities was to use a piece of cardboard to create our own tray label. I distinctly remember the failed attempts at bubble writing, leaving me with felt pen in more colours than Joseph’s coat all over my hands. One year, I remember creating a rainbow pattern with wax crayons then colouring over it with a black one. I attempted to scratch off my name, revealing the colours below. It was mediocre. I was always someone who could imagine something amazing, but my execution never quite lived up to my dreams. Nowadays, using my laptop, I can create fantastic drawer labels in an instant. Always measure up the size you want them, then in Word, you can create them the correct dimensions. I prefer to create tables, ensuring that each cell is the right size. However, you can always use text boxes instead. As well as using an easy-to-read font, I like to use images as well. Photographs or symbols of the items contained within the drawer are perfect for younger learners or those with additional needs.