Goodie buckets and lollypop moments – making the first day of school awesome

This year I’ve resolved to share more of my practice online. I’m not sure how interesting it will be once the term really begins, but for now this school year is new and sparkly. I have lots of energy and want to share (as opposed to last year which just seemed to pass in blur of haziness).

Welcome (Back) Video

I teach a combined Year 7/8 class with my Year 8s remaining with me for two years. This has both its advantages and disadvantages. I already know half my kids and there was a culture established in the class. However for incoming Year 7s it must be tricky coming into a room where half the kids know each other and whats what. The video is an attempt to bridge the gap letting the Year 7s know what they might expect from 2013 and giving the Year 8s a reminder of some of the crazy stuff we got up to last year.

The Buckets

I followed @kathryntrask example last year and used buckets as a place for students to store their gear in the absence of individual desks.

Image by the author

To get the kids a bit more psyched about the buckets, each bucket has some small gifts inside them:

A bucket with gifts = awesome

An eraser, because all of us are going to start the year with a clean slate. A blue piece of card for the students to make a postcard to mail home in a few weeks with their goals for the year. A yellow piece of paper to name their bucket (I’ll laminate those). There’s also a pencil to represent that we are each scholars and piece of vietnamese candy to signify our school theme for the first of the half of the year, globalisation. Finally there’s a lollypop which has extra special significance.

Late last year I stumbled onto this awesome TED Talk by a guy called Drew Dudley, who argued that true leadership was in the little every day things that we do to make each others lives better which he called lollypop moments. Now my Year 8s have already seen the talk but something really resonated with me about this idea and I’m going to use this idea as something to build on in the next few weeks as I build up my class’s culture.

Couch and comfy chairs

New Year, New furniture.

One of the big things to happen in my class is that we have new furniture. My class really was in need of some new furniture as the top was coming off one of the old tables, and some of them had bits falling off them.

Now the classroom has wave tables that can be easily reconfigured, a low level table, plus stools, the hokki stools (wobbly stools) thanks to my awesome principal.

To top things off my last year’s tutor teacher left my students her old couch which I know is something the kids will love.

On one hand it’s awesome having new desks and chairs but on the other, I was has having trouble working out how this furniture would fit around the room. Yes a few tables got moved next door as the kids in my class will often work on the ground and too much furniture tends to stop this from happening.

Cushions and comfy chairs

You might notice that a lot of my desks and tables are pushed against walls rather than in the middle of the class. Again this is deliberate, to improve the flow of the class. Having lots of furniture tends to impede movement  both of kids and furniture as it become a big deal to push a table out if there are three in the way.

I also don’t have enough chairs and table for every child to sit down at once. Again, this is deliberate. By not having enough kids need to learn how to share. It also means that students who want to work on the couch or the sofa can do this.

There’s also beanbag and plenty of cushions (which my students often plonk on top of). I’ve line up furniture against the board to take the focus away from the front of the classroom. I haven’t quite managed Stephen Heppell’s rule of three points of interest (not to mention there are not three teachers in the class, but nevertheless there should be multiple points of interest for people to see if they happen to wander into the classroom.

blue wobbly stool (I do have a few older desks out the back area of my classroom)

Bare Walls
You might have noticed that I don’t have much on the walls. This is deliberate. I know a lot of teachers like to have bright borders and pretty fonts and yes it is nice to have an aesthetically pleasing classroom. However I’m of the belief that the walls should be places for learning and if you are going to put up things, then it needs to have a purpose other than looking pretty. Over the coming weeks I’m sure that there will be questions and problem posing plastered all over the walls. I also know the kids will start putting up artwork that makes the standard, in fact maintaining our walls with colour and interest will I’m sure be part of my class’s morning chore.

A bare classroom wall (well save for a map on the wall)

At the moment I’m not entirely happy with my set up. It feels a lot more like a classroom at the moment rather than the library vibe I had previously. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance things will change a lot in the coming weeks and months. And truth be told, I really miss our igloo.

The kidney table just seems to work in that corner.

This year promises to be an exciting one. I hope to document it a lot better than I did my first.

Tomorrow my learners arrive and instead of freaking out like I did every term last year, I feel oddly calm.

13 thoughts on “Goodie buckets and lollypop moments – making the first day of school awesome

Add yours

  1. Such a great post that you have shared this with everyone. I loved some of the reasoning and explanation behind what you had suggested, and I like the idea of the buckets. I think that it would work is some situations and schools better than others but it seems really challenging – awesome that your principal has come on board with new furniture that will undoubtably give your kids a lift – but can I ask did you have to run this by anyone first?


    1. Hi
      I agree that my set up just wouldn’t work in some schools and for other teachers. We’ve all got our own style when it comes for teaching, I wouldn’t dream of imposing what I do on others. What I would hope happens is other see this, take a few ideas and add in other peoples which is the process I’ve gone through to get to where I’m at now.

      The initial chuck out of desks I did guerrilla style last year so really the new furniture was just an add on. Also I probably should have been clear in my initial post: my class wasn’t the only class that received new furniture.

      As a teacher another class who I visited that doesn’t have 1:1 desks pointed out, we can bring stuff in if it is needed.



  2. Fantastic breakdown of the what and why if your classrooms design. Went through a similar process today with my class and like you not 100% happy, but I still have till Monday to tweek.
    This will be the 11th time I have set up a class for a new year and each time it changes slightly or reverts back to past successes.
    I take two key considerations away from your posting…
    1- where do I share my practice really? After 10 years of teaching is it time to share my learning journey more?
    2: why does everyone need a desk? As you have shown they don’t and in doing so you are also fostering key competences and life skills.
    Thank you for making me really think with this posting 😉


    1. Hi
      Thanks so much. I think every year there will be a bit of change up and tweaking. I’m going to make a bold prediction and say even within the next terms my room will look a lot different from what it does now as the kids and I get used to the new furniture.

      Sharing is caring. Get to it and post!

      And no not everyone needs a desk and I have the good fortune to have a good relationship with the teacher next door so will borrow her space if need be for testing.



  3. Love how you have explained your setup – mirrored my thinking as well.

    One question I have and my principal is asking me (though I do have a back up plan) is how to you manage the testing – i.e. PAT’s / Star tests?


    1. Hi Jennie
      As I mentioned above, having a good relationship with a teacher next door means that I can go to individual desks. Otherwise you could use some in storage but truth be told my kids are pretty good at finding places to work.



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