Saturday, 28 January 2012

Planning and Paperclips: a School Story

A two-week accumulation of dust has settled over my blog.  Ooops.  But real life has got in the way I'm afraid.  Plus all my crafty time is going towards my class Just One Sketch.

But while I don't currently have any scrappy projects to share, I think I can still scrapbook.  It's real life that's going to end up on those pages after all.  Planning a page in advance means I can dive right in when I do find a bit of me-time.  My title, journalling and picture will all be ready to go.  It also gives me a chance to draw inspiration from myself and think about the kind of page I want to make.  So this is more of a note-to-self, a page I want to make when I can find the time...

The Title 

Broken Record (Or: Don't tell the physics department)

The Journalling

I got back after the holiday to find that someone had been using my desk.  My draws resembled the place that old stationary goes to die.  Only it wasn't my stationary.  I'm nicer to my stationary than that.  Hello, scrapbooker!

I rescued a jar of paperclips - according to the label there were 500 in assorted colours - and began absent-mindedly clipping them together into a chain during a Year 11 lesson.  The students' heads were, for the most part bent over their work.  But as always, there was one who had cheerfully abandoned any pretence at improving his mind, and was regarding me curiously.


"What's up?"

"What are you doing?"

I raised an eyebrow.  "I'm going for the world record" I confided, conspiritorially.  

"Oooh, what in?"

"In weasel catching."


"You muppet.  No, I'm going to make the world record paperclip chain."


A reasonable question.  Somehow explaining that I'd just found a lot of paperclips in my draw didn't seem to be a sufficiently inspiring reason.

"Why not?"

The student accepted this without question.  I resisted the temptation to call him a muppet again.  

"But miss!" A new head was raised from its work.  The attached student waded into the discussion. "Miss, what is the world record though?"

"You should be working, sunshine" I admonished.

He smirked.  "Nah miss, you said we had to listen to everything you said".  

This was undeniable.  

"Yeah miss, you did."  Two more students.  "So what is the world record?"

"Does it matter?" I enquired.  "All I've got to do is keep doing paperclips.  It can't be that many.  People have got to have better things to do than sit around hooking paperclips together."

"You haven't miss"

"Yes I have, I'm teaching you a valuable lesson about setting goals and achieving your dreams and being the best you can be.  The paperclips are a metaphor.  So there"  

"Can we help, miss?"  Another student.

"You've got work to do" I reminded him.

"Yeah but think how much quicker it would be if you gave us all 50 paperclips and we made chains for you. Then you could just clip the chains together and get the world record."

I pondered this. "I could make a speech in which I thank my Year 11s for their continued support of my paperclippy endeavours."

They nodded.

"No, I'm sorry gents, you've got work to do."


"I said no."

"But miss, we wouldn't do it in your lesson."

"You're right, you wouldn't, because I said no."

"But we've got physics next. We could do it then and bring the paperclip chains next lesson"

"Oh. Well. OK then."  I sent a mental apology to physics and doled out handfuls of paperclips.

The next lesson, the boys were true to their word.  The arrived in the classroom all wearing extremely colourful necklaces.  Made of paperclips.  We linked them together and made a chain that wound around the room several times.  That's teamwork folks.  A second valuable lesson.

As it turns out, if you go for the world record paperclip chain, you can use up to 60 people who all spend 24 hours clipping paperclips together as fast as they can.  It's not allowed to be one person who does a bit here and there between lessons.  I let my Year 11s down gently.  And refused to set up an official record attempt.  I explained that first of all, I do have better things to do with my time, and that I'm teaching them another valuable lesson about how sometimes, even when you work really hard, you can't get what you want.  Even if all you want is a really long chain of paperclips.

An the moral of the story is that you can turn any situation into a good maths problem. If you have 1,560,377 paperclips and each one is 4cm long, how long would the finished chain be in miles?  (NB: there's a bit of overlap between each paperclip.)  If 60 people spend 24 hours hooking them all together, how many paperclips much each person do in a minute?  Extension problem: see if you can do this.

Learning objectives:  Functional skills, reading and interpreting information, conversion between metric and imperial units of measurement.  Fine motor skills.

The Inspiration 

I'm going to take a combo of the two pages posted here: both ones I've made before, and both pages where I liked the outcome.  The first has room for a lot of journalling and the picture is much less of a focus, which is true of the page I want to make.  In fact I don't have a picture at all, but I'll snap one and print it at a size around 2x2.  The second uses a background patterned paper that I LOVE from Studio Calico.  Going round in journalling circles will add a bit of interest to a lot of text.  And the paper I've got is a neutral colour, and I want to experiment using lots of pops of colour over it.  I want to take the best of both worlds and create my new page.

I'm looking forward to making this page!  Also, it was fun to go back and take bits from two layouts I like and coalesce them into one page I hope I might love.

Kisses xxx

P.S. In the end I draped the paperclip chain around my noticeboard in the office.  You can only see a bit of it as most of it is coiled into a jar.  But it looks pretty and nobody else's desk has one.  And scrapbookers can always find a use for stationary.


  1. Brilliant story. And I love your LOs :)

  2. Great story. Love the first LO especially

  3. Thanks for the comment re: the page! I think I would have layered more and liked it more, but didn't want to spoil the pretty paper!

    I know the phrase "where stationery goes to die" - I feel sorry for abandoned stationery and need to take it under my wing. Cute pages! Where are your graph-type papers from? I need some in my life!

  4. I love your stories! Being in the teaching proffesion for a year, I really can picture this scene. It made me chuckle!

  5. Loved reading your story and your approach to making a page is very inspiring! I can't wait to see it now!!!

  6. Looking forward to seeing the LO!
    Alison xx

  7. u tell such cool stories. working hard on keeping up with class, Miss,
    Jo xxxx
    I did 7 LOs today! Personal record.

  8. I like this article. I was searching over search engines and found your blog and its really helps thank you so much. we also provide Vedic maths course for teachers. for more information visit on our website.