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Setting up the successful classroom depends first and foremost upon how one define success.



Setting up the classroom is a fundamental part of a teachers job, as a well-planned, aesthetically pleasing environment encourages children to learn and helps with classroom management. Knowing how to create this environment is not instinctive and teachers are given little guidance, yet are expected to create a stimulating environment that is conducive to learning. The task can often be daunting and time-consuming, and teachers dont know where to begin. Classroom DIY provides teachers with the answer to these problems. A practical, step-bystep guide, written from first-hand experience, this book will enable any primary teacher to make a spectacular job of setting up their room using any materials they have available. Guiding teachers through the process of setting up their space from planning to practice, this book includes advice on: Laying out the room: what furniture to use and where best to position it Organising areas for specific subjects, including maths, literacy, science and humanities How to create an inspiring classroom on a budget: recycling items for use in the classroom and the homemade approach How the learning environment can inspire and motivate pupils to learn, taking into account multiple intelligences and routines Meeting the expectations of senior management teams.

With teachers tales from a range of individuals in different schools and case studies illustrating solutions to teachers specific problems with their classrooms, this book is a must-have for all newly qualified and practising teachers looking to inspire their pupils to learn through their classroom environment. Maija Leimanis-Wyatt taught in a large, ethnically diverse north London primary school for six years and was appointed to the senior management team in her final two years. She is now living in New York City where she has taught at an international school.

CLASSROOM DIYA practical step-by-step guide to setting up a creative learning environment

Maija Leimanis-Wyatt Illustrated by Adam King

First published 2010 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2010. To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledges collection of thousands of eBooks please go to 2010 Maija Leimanis-Wyatt for text and compilation; Adam King for illustrations All rights reserved. The purchase of this copyright material confers the right on the purchasing institution to photocopy pages 21 and 81. No other part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Leimanis-Wyatt, Maija. Classroom DIY: a practical step-by-step guide to setting up a creative learning environment/Maija Leimanis-Wyatt; illustrated by Adam King. p. cm. 1. Teaching Aids and devices. 2. Creative teaching. 3. Classroom environment. I. Title. LB1044.88.L45 2010 371.33 dc22 2009024211

ISBN 0-203-86336-4 Master e-book ISBN ISBN 10: 0415458773 (pbk) ISBN 10: 0203863364 (ebk) ISBN 13: 9780415458771 (pbk) ISBN 13: 9780203863367 (ebk)

CONTENTSCheck before assembling



Part 1 Getting started Introduction: A rude awakening 1 2 The big picture Creating a vision

1 3 6 12

Part 2 Setting up Introduction: The nitty-gritty setting up learning areas 3 4 5 6 Putting together the literacy learning area Constructing the maths learning area Building the science learning area Piecing together learning areas for history, geography and R.E.

33 35 38 49 56 64

Part 3 Finishing the job 7 8 Fostering multiple intelligences Making it all work: The link between a creative classroom and effective learning The wow factor

75 77

99 107



There are many family, friends and colleagues, without whom, this book would not have been started or finished. My greatest thanks goes to my sister, Aleks, who made me believe that I had a skill worth sharing with other teachers and encouraged me to take on this project. Her remarkable skills as an editor, her unwavering focus and clarity of vision of the end goal helped me to recognise and develop a style of writing that would appeal to my fellow professionals. I will be forever grateful for her endless patience throughout my writing process and for her true dedication to this book. Thanks also to her team at Dragonfly Communications for their advice along the way. I deeply thank my dear friend and once colleague Anna Archer. She is one of the most talented teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. This book would be half complete without her valuable input and willingness to share her wonderful creativity. I wish to thank the following people and schools, without whose help illustration and photography would not have been possible: My good friend and cartoonist extraordinaire, Adam King, for capturing the essence of this book with his unique style of funny illustrations; my photographer friend, Otto Inman who without hesitation found time to take on the random project of photographing pieces of classroom furniture; and Brian Walters for his retouching skills. Also: The Dwight School, New York; Earlsfield Primary School, Wandsworth; and Wessex Primary School, Maidenhead for allowing no frills photography. Thank you to my two former head teachers at Braincroft Primary School, London: Joan Richards and Chris Jones for always seeing my potential and commending my creativity as a teacher; and to Elaine Natalicchi, Dean of Timothy House, The Dwight School, New York for her continued support. Also, thanks to my colleagues who talked about their experiences and trialled my ideas. I lovingly thank all of my family members and friends for unconditional encouragement and support, especially: My wonderful husband, Steve, for believing in me and for enduring hours at the playground with our toddler to give me valuable child-free writing time; my Mum and Dad for pestering me to just get it written and for helping out with child care wherever possible; and my friend, Ruth, for hatching a babysitting plan when deadlines were approaching. Lastly, I thank my two children, Livija and Luke, for inspiring me to achieve my aspiration.


Getting started

INTRODUCTIONA rude awakening

I began my first job as a newly qualified teacher raring to go. Of course I was thrilled about having a group of eager young minds to inspire, but what really excited me was the prospect of finally having my own classroom to set up just as Id always pictured. The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie from the 1990s, Kindergarten Cop, is what springs to mind brightly coloured, kid-friendly furniture, cushions galore, eye-catching wall displays and endless inspiring resources carefully positioned around the spacious classroom. No longer a student working in another teachers room, I couldnt wait to have a place of my own to nurture. So when I naively ventured into my first classroom thinking I would find a blank canvas on which to create my interpretation of a good classroom, I couldnt have been further from the mark. I discovered that the classroom to be my home from home for the next ten months was an utter disaster. Not only had I been allocated the worst room in the school (which is saying something in an under-funded, challenging inner-city school) but also, the previous teacher had stripped it of anything that may have proved useful. The paint was peeling, the windows dirty and the furniture looked like odds and ends from a car boot sale.


A rude awakening

Crooked display boards remained plastered in staples from years gone by and there wasnt so much as a clean surface in sight. As I stood there, my excitement quickly turned to shock and then anxiety when the realisation hit home. I had planned to cover my display boards, arrange the furniture, possibly even look through resources and walk out of there a few hours later well on my way to being prepared for the first day of school. But, transforming this uninspiring space into a carefully laid out, stimulating environment for children seemed unmanageable. So where should I go from here as I accepted the challenge that lay ahead?

Why bother?As a teacher, your classroom is your domain. Its how people first see you the first port of call for the children, other teachers and visitors. What you do with it says a lot about you, and its hard not to feel that your competence is judged by how you set the classroom up. It conveys the message that youre organised or disorganised, that youre creative or not. A lot of pressure can exist. You want it to be ready on time and you want to look like you know what youre doing. At university, were filled with ideals about how our classrooms must be stimulating, yet calm; how children should feel welcomed and inspired, and experience a sense of ownership for their home from home. We learn that the careful display of childrens work should provoke thoughts and questions and the set-up of resources provide on-going opportunities for independent learning. The reality is that you get into your classroom and after a while you stop trying. Its overwhelming, hard to get inspiration, and theres just too much to do. Youre constantly trying to