Focus Walls-my new fascination!

From my last post, you can see I am very taken with blogs at the moment and love all the interesting ideas that help me keep my classroom environment and teaching skills fresh and engaging for the students.

One favourite is the Clutterfree Classroom blog.  I have spent many happy hours on this blog, gaining inspiration and motivation.  In the wee small hours, when sleep doesn't come easily, this is my favourite way of passing the time!

From this blog, I have implemented two ideas in my classroom, which I love and my students appear to appreciate.  I so wish this type of classroom organization had been around when I started my teaching career!

The first idea is a 'focus wall'.  I have dedicated a large display board at the back of my classroom for this focus wall and can answer most students' questions by directing them there.  

One side of the board is dedicated to learning intentions.  Here you will find the students' input as well as the teacher's.  Although I don't display my teaching  planners on the board, any parent or teaching colleague will immediately have an idea of what I am currently teaching.  I display the students' notes on 'what I know' and 'what I would like to know' for our current topic, along with our focus for Numeracy, Literacy and Phonics.

The rest of the board is dedicated to the current month's birthdays, the 'Word of the Week', our current newsletter, task self-evaluation, a 'boggle' board and a 'Must Do', 'May Do' board.  I have attached small whiteboards/lapboards to the display board, so I can easily wipe off what I don't need and add what I do.  The whiteboards are very light and were easy to attach with blu tac (I had visions of hot glue guns and mess!).  The 'boggle' board is made up of an attached magnetic board, using strips to create a a grid to contain the magnetic letters.  This board is updated on a weekly basis.  

The 'Must Do', 'May Do' board has been created using two lightweight, but very large whiteboards that I managed to find on the internet for next to nothing!  I have laminated labels for every eventuality (!) and the children know what needs to be completed for the day.  If work remains unfinished within a particular teaching session, they know it must be finished at some stage in the day, before they can spend any free time on the 'May Do' side of the board.  The 'May Do' side is made up of a variety of fun activities/challenges that students can complete should they be an early finisher.  This board also directs students towards a task board for their colour of table, which is changed on a daily basis.  If the students do not wish to complete a task from their task board, they can move on to other activities on the 'May Do' board.  The list of activities is handwritten, so it can be changed regularly.  The activities can be random or related to a current teaching focus.  Sadly I do not have a photo of my task board!  The tasks are color-coded to match the color of table where the students sit - these are rotated daily.

Although it might sound like a lot of preparation, I was able to set up the focus wall in a day and it is very easy to maintain, if kept simple.  The biggest advantage is that the children can have most of their questions answered by just looking at this board, which is especially useful if I am currently engaged with a guided reading group.  I have recently attended a number of courses, therefore leaving the class in the hands of a substitute teacher and believe that this set up makes life much easier for anyone entering the classroom, as the children are much more independent and autonomous within the classroom setting.

This focus wall was my first attempt - the second one will be much more eye-catching! It will definitely be better coordinated and I will use more child-friendly fonts and so on.  I was so keen to get started at the time, I didn't get much thought to the aesthetics!  My students love the independence it affords them and I love not hearing a hundred times a day - 'What do we do now, Miss?'

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