The countdown is on.

The beginning of the school term is upon us. It is not just children and parents who are scrambling around the supermarket aisles to top up with stationery and adding every date into their new shiny diary; it’s the teachers too!

If I have learnt anything from my first year of teaching it is that routine is the key. The secondary teacher can learn a lot from the primary school classroom. With that in mind, in the holidays I trawled Pinterest, armed myself with heaps of stationary from Tiger and headed into school to create an interactive classroom. I attended a session last October hosted by Jim smith (http://www.lazyteacher.co.uk/) where he shared anecdotes and approaches to fostering creative and independent learning. If you haven’t read his book or watched him speak, you really should, he is a breath of teaching fresh air! I realised a great way to make independent learning a routine was to create an interactive, creative learning environment. Here are three rules I will be teaching my pupils in September to try out this approach.

#BacktoSchool Rule Number One: Use the thesaurus wall to improve

Would you like a synonym with that?
Would you like a synonym with that?
Create a display that will help your students out. Have a look through last year’s exercise books and highlight the most commonly used words. You may already know these words off the top of your head. I’m talking ‘bad’ ‘said’ ‘really’ ‘scary’. The words that you often circle and prompt students to look for a synonym. Pick your top ten words that you wish your students would avoid and put them on display. Then provide a pot of synonyms for pupils to select from when they are working in class. This routine can be incorporated into written work, speaking in front of the class and group work. The wall can be used across all subjects and when used regularly will impact the vocabulary of your students. You can opt for fun displays like the display above or you could opt for a simpler display, as below.

Thesaurus Wall
Thesaurus Wall
#BacktoSchool Rule Number Two: Find as many words as possible whilst the rest of the class enter

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Putting some extra time into printing the alphabet and creating a display similar to this can really buy you some time in the long run. Pupils can find as many words as possible from the boggle board as a starter. Pupils can help themselves to sheets and one pupil can change the letters on the board. This is a great hook to a lesson whilst pupils settle down, new words are discussed together as a class and can be used in other activities later in the lesson. This is a fun game for pupils to expand vocabulary, practice spelling and to get them thinking. The display is versatile and can be used at different points in a lesson and with different ages.

#Backtoschool Rule Number Three: Help yourself to learn

Lollipop sticks for each class.
Lollipop sticks for each class.
It can be stressful thinking about what other teachers have prepared in advance of term, or thinking about the lessons you need to prepare. That’s why it’s important you hunt down the resources that are already available. Do this en masse. Whether you find useful resources on TES or twitter; put a good hour in searching for resources that can aid your learners across various topics. Download generic writing frames, speaking frames and glossaries for your subject. Adapt them, print them, if possible get them laminated, put them in a labelled folder and then staple it to the wall. Whenever you have planned a lesson and you need resources to aid the learners you will have them at the ready. This will teach your learners how to recognise independently when they require extra support. It will also give you peace of mind in your planning.

After a summer of rest you may be rejuvenated for September or you may be dragging your heels. It takes an open mind to try new approaches to your teaching but it takes resilience to make them work. Good luck with the upcoming term.

“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” (Mary Anne Radmacher)