To begin the discussion I have been thinking what tips I might give (with the benefit of hindsight) to an NQT. I have racked my brains and come up with the following suggestions in the hope that one of them might help in some small way.
- If at all possible, DO NOT take work home. Set yourself a time-limit to stay at school and STICK TO IT! Inform your school leaders that this is what you are doing.
- Clearing up at the end of the day often takes much longer than anticipated and teachers often end up finishing it themselves after the children have gone.
With younger children…
- Together, make a list of the areas that should be kept tidy, e.g. the reading corner, the coat pegs, the art area, the outdoor area, the construction etc. Made an A4 chart with all the areas agreed on down one side and the days of the week at the top. (Photocopy enough to last all term). Put it on a clipboard with a pencil and provide two hats (essential!). Choose two ‘inspectors’ to wear the hats, take the clipboards and ‘inspect’ the classroom’ near the end of each day to tick or cross each of the areas. I found this really motivated children to tidy up well.
- In KS2, we had a ‘clearing up song’ at the end of most days and everything had to be put away and ship-shape by the time it had finished. The clearing up was done quickly and it was great fun. I still feel compelled to jump to action when I hear the ‘You and Me song’ by the Wannadies! Tidy up songs are also great for Early Years and younger children. You might try the one below, to the tune of ‘I Hear Thunder’.
‘Tidy up time, tidy up time,
Spick and span, spick and span,
Do it very quickly, do it very quickly,
Without a sound, without a sound.’
- A brilliant idea I got from another teacher friend was to use wallpaper as backing for display boards, with wallpaper border for the edges. I asked for old rolls in a local DIY shop and they donated them! The classroom looked really different and colourful and the paper lasted much longer than the usual backing paper, saving quite a bit of preparation time each term.
- When using a wall stapler, tape a penny underneath it. The staplers will not go in as far and are MUCH easier to remove when taking things down. Or, use an ordinary stapler pulled out flat for the same effect.
- Use a stamper saying ‘Verbal feedback given’ or similar, rather than spending time writing down and repeating what you have said to children.
- Ask parents to help as much as possible. Many hands make light work and some will be really pleased to get involved. I asked for parental support for all kinds of things – art club, singing club, any special days, such as ‘Pirate day’, ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’, sports days, sprucing up the garden and outside area etc.
- Make sure you take a break during the day. Eating and drinking something will help you to work more efficiently.
- A well-thought out medium term plan can help to reduce pressure during the term.
Top teacher hacks from Pinterest:
Line your paint cups with a sandwich/food bag – keeping the pots clean and the paint wet and usable for another day!
Give kids a visual way to represent their status as they work independently.
Make an “I’m Done!” cup so that early finishers don’t get bored.
Stick pompoms to the end of your dry-wipe markers for an instant eraser.
Behavioural – Quiet critters – they only come out when it is quiet or the children are behaving.
Add trays to your drying racks to hold all those special creations.
Hot glue tacks to clothespegs. Hanging classroom work has never been so easy!
Keep tubs of collage materials ready to GO!
With thanks to Beverley Smalley for writing this blog. Beverley is an education specialist, writer and former primary school teacher.