GUEST BLOG: @PrimaryTeachUK's Challenge Trays

GUEST BLOG: @PrimaryTeachUK's Challenge Trays




Oooooh, now this is exciting! I have been a fan of TPTC since back in September 2019 when Lisa (@yearthreeandme) shared her first post of her BEAUTIFUL teacher planner. I have my planner, feedback book and academic diary all ordered and wrapped up ready for this August and follow all things Rachel over on the TPTC Instagram. So when Rachel commented on one of my continuous provision posts ‘This is a #mytptctips skill share!’ I was very excited!


#mytptctips is all about ‘Challenge Trays’. In particular, the inexpensive yet invaluable IKEA STÖDJA trays which are meant to be used in the kitchen to organise your cutlery and cooking utensils. This tip isn’t exclusive to IKEA trays though. All those baskets and trays already in your school cupboard will work perfectly too!

“But what do you use these trays for?” Continuous provision (CP)! These trays organise my continuous provision challenges in my Year One classroom. CP is resources provided in the classroom for students to interact with creatively. The idea of CP is that it encourages the students to learn in the absence of an adult. You can base your CP on lessons being taught at the time but I also use it to recap and refresh over previous skills and learning. CP gets changed and updated in the classroom on a regular basis. You want children to be engaged and excited by each activity and ready to take on the challenge. I’ll now share with you the main reasons why these trays are a lifesaver so I can achieve all this CP goodness!

Lack of space: These trays keep all your CP resources for each challenge organised and in one place. My class are used to choosing a ‘Challenge Tray’, picking it up and finding a more suitable space to complete the challenge. Some go to their table space to work independently while others prefer the carpet area to complete it with a friend. Once they have finished the challenge they can get a photo of it on the class iPad (evidence for me and Twitter) and save any physical work they’ve created before scooping all the resources back into the tray. Another benefit of these trays is that they are stackable which will be very useful for when we return to school and lots of frequent cleaning will be happening. 

Obvious activity: My children know the drill now. They see a white tray and know they’ve got a CP challenge to try. The children (like us teachers) love organisation and even though they protest at tidying up at home, they love to clean up and sort at school. As these trays are always neatly presented in the classroom by me, the children mimic this and take ownership of making sure they leave the area as they found it ready for the next child. 

Different sizes: The STÖDJA trays come in three different sizes. My favourite is the 2-part tray for £1. The large section is perfect for showing the main resource while the smaller section at the end fits stationery, vocabulary cards and flash cards perfectly. The middle tray is £1.50 and has 5 sections. I love using these trays for providing a variety of maths resources. Perfect for getting children to explore different maths manipulatives and representing numbers or methods in different ways. The last tray has 6 sections (one being enormous) for £2.50. My classroom is currently too small to fit these trays but oooh I might have to pick one up soon and fill it with art supplies. The largest section could be where the child creates the artwork while the smaller sections are full of art goodies for them to use.

Extra parts that I make for each tray include an instruction card and a framed example (when appropriate). The instruction cards are quick and easy. I fold a piece of A4 card, write the instructions out as a ‘Can you…?’ question and dot and dash the key vocabulary. By dotting and dashing the instruction cards (as you would see in a phonics lesson) more children are able to read it independently, which is a big part of CP. They might need to use the resources in the tray as a clue or think back to when I explain the new activities in the morning, but if they don’t have to come ask an adult “What do I do here?” then that’s a big achievement to me.  The small white frame which you see in some of the photos is another IKEA teacher hack – The TOLSBY Frame. This 75p frame is used a lot in classrooms for lots of different brilliant ideas. I use mine to show which ‘Challenge Trays’ earn you a Class Dojo point* when completed sufficiently and also to model examples of the activity. 

I love everything CP. With the current COVID-19 crisis I full believe that CP is the way forward in KS1 to help build independence, social skills and confidence while learning and meeting the National Curriculum. These trays will be helping me do that. If you create any ‘Challenge Trays’ I would love to see them on Instagram, so please tag me!

Be kind,
Stay safe,
Thank you NHS,

Love Olivia x 

IKEA links: