Lower Primary Teaching Ideas

Room to Learn: Telling the Story of Australia’s Classrooms

You and your class can choose which questions you want to answer for the national data collection. Choose as many or as few as you find relevant and interesting.

Lead-up ideas

The theme of Reach for the Stars in 2011 is ‘Room to Learn: Telling the Story of Australia’s Classrooms’. You might want to get your class engaged in the various ways that a classroom might be described.

Discuss your classroom

  • Identify the different spaces (the locker area, spaces for reading, spaces for storing mathematics equipment, discussion areas, places for display etc).
  • Identify the physical features and materials (windows, doors, fans, chairs, floor coverings etc).
  • What can you see from your classroom?

Discuss measurement

  • What can be measured in your classroom? How high is the ceiling? How wide is the classroom? How long? How much floor space is in it?
  • What will you use as your measuring instrument(s)?
  • Talk about formal and informal tools and units to measure the perimeter of your classroom.

Discuss data collection

  • Talk about ways to record and represent data (e.g. tally marks, in a table, graphing etc).

Ask the students to make some estimates before doing the core activity.

Collecting and recording the data

Check with your Reach for the Stars coordinator about the format for reporting the results. There are class data record sheets available to download from the Core Activity page on the website.


Q3–How many students are in your classroom today?
Q4–How many teachers/teacher aides/ other adults are in your classroom today?

Select a day and time when the students are engaged in mathematics.

Investigate the most efficient ways to count the total number of students in the class (e.g. count by ones, skip counting, making groups).

How many teachers/teacher aides/other adults are supporting the mathematics program at that time?

Q5–How many students (an arm’s width apart) fit around the inside edge (perimeter) of your classroom?

What do your students understand as the inside edge of the classroom? What will they do about the ‘ins and outs’?

Start at an easily identified place (e.g. the door jamb). The first student should stand with his or her back to the wall with the left side of the body lined up with the starting point. This student then extends his or her right arm out horizontally against the wall. The next student then takes up the position so that the extended arm is resting on his or her left shoulder. This continues until the students are standing around the designated edge one arm’s width apart (i.e. right arm out horizontally to the side touching the left shoulder of the next student).

It may be necessary for students to line up more than once.

teaching ideas

Discuss what to do about ‘going around corners’ when using people as the measurement unit. What will you do if the last student overlaps the first?

Q6–What is the perimeter of your classroom to the nearest metre?

If the calculation of perimeter in formal units is not a concept that your students are familiar with, please omit this question. The concept of rounding is also introduced here.

Q7–How many students could stand on the classroom floor if the space was clear?

Encourage students to brainstorm several strategies. It would be very interesting to compare the results from the various methods and then discuss which is likely to be the most accurate. You will judge which method(s) you actually use.

Students could model the area of a student onto pieces of paper and lay them out over the room.

Students could try to ‘pack’ students into a known area and count them, then find how many lots there are.

Q8–What is the area of your classroom to the nearest square metre?

The formal calculation of area may not be a concept that your students are familiar with so please omit this if it is inappropriate.

Q9–How many years old is your classroom?

Students might make a guess. How could the guesses be checked? Who would know?

Q10–What is the main view from your classroom?

The class may wish to discuss what ‘main’ means and how many possible views there are from the classroom. The picture book ‘Window’ by Jeannie Baker could provide a suitable stimulus.

There is a choice of nine broad options; try to fit the answer into one of these options before selecting ‘other’. The concept of classification can be explored here.

As a single answer only is required, the students could discuss how to reach agreement (e.g. vote - but what happens if there is not a clear winner?).

Q11–What is special about your classroom?

This may be one major feature expressed in a sentence, or several phrases about key aspects, or a collection of individual words. The specialness does not have to relate to the physical environment only. It may be that the classroom is special because of the people or the learning that takes place there. Or perhaps your classroom is special because it isn’t a traditional classroom.

There is a 20 word limit. Work out how the class will decide on the words/phrases/sentences. Random draw? Vote?

Other ideas

Expanding on the key ideas

Students may like to explore the possibilities of using different ‘people’ measurements such as standing shoulder to shoulder, using splayed hands etc. If not discussed before, the need for standard, formal measures could be investigated.

The concept of time could be developed further. Are all the classrooms in the school the same age? Create a timeline and plot the different ages of the classrooms and other buildings in the school. Students could place their ages on the timeline (and maybe your age, too!)

Fractions could be introduced. What proportion of the floor is taken up with furniture? How much of the room is allocated for storage?

Sharing with others

Perhaps a person from the local community (an ex-student or teacher) could be invited to talk about their experiences at school. Students could plan specific questions related to the core investigation.

In some schools it is possible to work with a younger or older class to work together in collecting and recording their data for the project. In previous years, many teachers have found Reach for the Stars a great opportunity to engage students in leadership and mentoring roles with younger learners undertaking the same activity.

Take photographs of your classroom to share with others in your school, or share them with Australia via the gallery on the National Literacy and Numeracy Week website. Perhaps a collage or a drawing of the special things about your classroom could be made. You could consider a foyer display, a presentation at assembly or an item in the school newsletter.

Investigating the national data

Once the data from hundreds of classrooms has been collected and analysed it will be made available on the website. This will give you the opportunity to follow up on the core activity.

Check the estimates the class made. How close were the estimates?

What similarities are there between your class and/or school data and the national data summary? What are the differences?

How many people were involved? How can you get a sense of the size of this number? What can you compare this number to?

What are some of the limitations of the data that was collected and reported?