Mark Making – Re-discover the blackboard

abc doesBoys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Creativity, Mark Making, Talk8 Comments

So much of the work that I do is about getting children engaged in the mark making process and then managing that often tricky phase of moving them forward from being mark makers to emergent writers and then to eager accomplished writers (particularly the boys!).

Here is an idea that I think has got real potential and it lets you (and the children) re-discover the good old blackboard!

Young children are motivated by anything that massages their ego (especially the boys, some would argue that fact doesn't change regardless of age!) so, this one is all about their mark making being an avenue for immediate recognition on a grand scale. It also overlaps into K and U and Creativity.

All you need is a few 'ready to use' canvasses some blackboard paint and photographs of your children. Simple!

In a prominent position, at child height, you are going to create a gallery that the children can change daily with their mark making.

Paint several canvasses of different sizes with blackboard paint


ChunkyCanvasPaint_with_blackboard_paint TIP: Works much better with a roller than a brush – I have used a radiator roller

You could do this with the children, but to be honest, it is messy and dull! Plus you need up to 3 coats before they are completely ready, so I would do them in advance.

Hang the canvasses at different heights on your wall and let the children know that they can take them down and mark make on them and then re-hang them in the 'Gallery'. They must of course stick thier photograph next to their finished work so that everyone will know that it is theirs!

You will need to make some rules about how often they can rub out someone else's work and do theirs over the top. You want to make this canvasses something really special to encourage them all to 'want' to mark make on them. I would be tempted to say that once they have all been done, they stay up for the day/session and start again the next day.

The canvasses wipe clean with a damp cloth!

You can also enhance your canvases by painting black speech bubbles and encouraging the children to record their thoughts and speech at whatever stage of their mark making they are at.

It turns out that you can paint almost anything with blackboard paint! This is where things could get really exciting. Imagine painting a sheep's skull in blackboard paint and getting the children to mark make on it?

Shells, stones, sticks, hard boiled eggs, small boxes, even bottles (it paints plastic!). The more unusual the item the more engaging!

Garden-make-plant-markers_e_3037d1bce01c13631a6a31672519ba90(Could be a good signing in activity?)


How about making your mark making table just that and letting the children write all over it? This is a cheap one from IKEA.

12181-437-500 Or this one..

5-300x300 You can get blackboard paint in a variety of colours – 24 to be exact! I can only find one company that does it and it is not that easy to track down.

ImagesCAM782KH But, for those of you who fancy having a go, here is a recipe to make your own blackboard paint! It uses acrylic paint as its base so that means you can make it in any colour you like!

Blackboard Paint

You need to adjust the type of measure to the amount of paint that you want so, if you want lots use measuring cups. If you want a little, use teaspoons.

3 measures of acrylic paint

1 1/2 measures of glazing medium – water based NOT spirit based (this sounds like it would be difficult to get but it is available from all art shops and easily found on line)

1/2 measure of powdered tile grout (you need the non-sanded stuff. It is easy to get!)

 You just mix it all together and then paint it on to whatever you need to paint! If it is a canvass that you have painted with your home made stuff then you need to prep the surface before you use it. You do this by lightly rubbing the canvas with the side of a stick of chalk and then wiping it clean with a dry cloth!

Oh, and if you have a magnetic white board that you can no longer clean…paint it with blackboard paint! It does work and you end up with a magnetic black board!

 Enjoy your mark making!




8 Comments on “Mark Making – Re-discover the blackboard”

  1. Has your head made any suggestions about how they would like you to achieve this goal? I am all for a challenging target, but not an unrealistic one. It is like the Heads who said that ALL children had to be a Point 6 in EVERYTHING by the end of FS2. It just isn’t going to happen because children are not robots that can all be programmed the same way.
    Having said that, it is objective led planning and Continuous Provision, that is levelled and linked to assessment, that will give you the best chance of tapping into your children’s true potential.
    In your direct teaching session you will give them the tools that they need to become effective writers and then in Continuous Provision you will provide the stimulus to give their writing purpose and meaning which makes them want to write and write more.
    I promise you (and your Head!) if you really commit to it and do it all it works. If you just do a bit you get a bit of success, if you stick to whole class teaching and extended writing on a Friday, then you take your life in your hands!
    Good Luck

  2. HI- I am loving all these ideas about mark making and will be using these and many more in my reception class this coming year. I also like the idea of planning being objective led and us going to the children etc etc………BUT………my head teacher has said ( and no discussion here) the children MUST be writing a page INDEPENDENTLY at the end of reception. How do I achieve this using all the wonderful ideas on this blog???? HELP!!

  3. I saw this activity on Sunday, made some on Monday then introduced to the children on Tuesday. They have loved it especially the boys.

  4. Brilliant ideas Alistair mind if I share with folk as I meet them – will of course mention your name!

  5. Love these ideas! Fantastic. I really wish I was still teaching my Reception class in Libya – they would love this. Great to know that blackboard paint can be made – must try that some time.

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