How distinctive is your classroom from any other? Would it be possible for a parent, pupil or other member of staff to see a photograph of a new display you have put up over the holidays, and recognise it was in your room? What if you created a worksheet and left it on the photocopy plate – aside from the content, would any member of staff recognise it as being in your class?
I believe that, along with the rise of the brand in our children’s lives, branding a classroom is a very beneficial thing. It is not something to try and be used as a superiority tool next to your other colleagues, more to make your class environment more focused and aware for the children. Below are some ways in which I ‘brand’ my classroom to both enhance the learning, and create a strong, cohesive bond with my class.
I have found fonts that I think reflect the subjects I teach, and try wherever possible to use them on labels, worksheets, activity guides, bookflips and onscreen displays. I believe it creates a recognisable familiarity for the children, almost allowing them to get into the mindset of that subject. If someone offers you a tin of something Tesco Value, you subconsciously start assigning values to the quality of the food in the tin – fonts can have that impact.
2. Name Logos
I am very lucky in that I teach Form 3, so my class is known as F3 or simply 3. All personal (as in, form only) letters home are backgrounded with a large array of 3′s, different sizes and fonts, which again keeps a focus for my parents. I know many of these letters end up on the fridge door, and because they are different, the stand out. If your class is called Kestrels, what is stopping you putting a clip art Kestrel in the corner of all your work shown or given to the children?
I love using music in the class, and have written here before about creating a theme song for each subject. I have mine stored on as an iTunes play list, and have recently been experimenting with a program that allowed me to play any tune using a quick keystroke. Children respond incredibly well to music: I have a range of soft, background music for when the children arrive in clas in the mornings, and it has a definite impact on their actions and attitude when they come in – parents tend to speak quietly to me automatically for example, as the children are all sitting quietly. More interestingly though is the speed at which The children start recognising which day it is by the music (yes, I have different music every day).
4. Morals /Mottos /Vision Statements
This may seem enormously American/Dilberty, but a collectively written mission statement, produced with the class, can do away with the many ways you can produce class rules. My recommendation would be to write it together, only allow positive, affirmative statements, and display it every place you can – on the noticeboard outside, on the door inside, above the board, under the computer, around the lightswitches. Learn it with them – make it the class mantra. Two powerful sentences put to memory will last a lifetime, far longer than a long list of ‘do not kick, do not hurt other people, share your things’ etc. In some classes that do this in America, it is called the Golden Rule, and is often a variation on ‘Do unto others…’
This should really be at number one, as it is the most important, but in some ways, it is the hardest to implement. The routine of your class sets a brand as much as the look of your class and the tools you use. If there are routines in place, and children adopt them quicker than you might imagine, things very quickly become so much easier to manage. An example for this would be the tray labels for the various items that are used during the day, such as glue, scissors, 2D shapes, and so on. Each year, very early on, I explain the routine of how these are available should you wasn’t to use something, but that things from the cupboard (and out of the eye line of the class), require permission from either myself or a TA. By building in simple routines, the children find more security in their surroundings, and are far more likely to use equipment that they may have otherwise been too cautious to use. (on a side note, I have experimented with the location of tissue boxes in class, and have found that tissues go about four times quicker if they are in the children’s line of sight).
Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list, and I am happy to add to it from suggestions readers may make. Neither is it an aim to ‘corporatise’ the classroom; that is not the intention of these suggestions or this site. Rather, it is aimed to encourage a smarter, streamlined, more professional approach to the art of teacher, where the value of well-presented work is as much on the teacher’s shoulders as that of the children.