Jacob Woolcock, TTRS Entourage member, shares his knowledge on how to motivate students through impactful displays

Twelve months ago I created a Times Tables Rock Stars display in our Mac Suite, a communal space where each class in the school visits weekly. My plan was straight forward: to try and boost engagement with Rock Stars across all of Key Stage 2 by celebrating and encouraging friendly competition across classes, year groups and the whole key stage.

So the idea was simple, each child would have their name (both their real name and their Rock Star name) on a paper guitar pick and these would be stuck onto the board in the box that correlated with their current Rock Speed. As they got quicker and their Studio speed increased, they would get moved up on the display from one box to the next. If any students manage to get to the Rock Hero box then they would have the special honour of having their Avatar printed out alongside their name to show just what an awesome Rock Star they had become.




Jacob Woolcock


Penpol Primary School


Cornwall, England


Patrick Old Man O’Rock


1.88 but trying to improve!


  1. Find some kind helpers to assist you in cutting out the guitar picks. I soon learnt that cutting out 200 small pieces of paper is no fun at all!

  2. Invest in a good supply of blu-tack. The cheap stuff just melts and makes horrible marks as you move the plectrums around

3. Use the incredible design resources on the TTRS website to help you create your display so it fits in with the the game itself. Log in and head to Downloads > Displays.

4. If you’re going for more than one year group try and pick a different colour for each. Then in September it’ll be easy to remove all the children who have left!

So at this stage the display was finished, I’d gone through the Stats on Rock Stars to put the guitar picks in their starting positions based on the students current speed and I… well, actually I felt quite demoralised.

I had hoped for a good scattering of names across the whole display – showing just how ace our students were at Rock Stars. But that wasn’t the case at all. In fact almost everyone was at the lower stages of my display and only a handful of children had reached the top row at all. The percentages of our 238 Key Stage 2 students in each category looked like this…

At this point I was beginning to panic – had I made the boxes for Rock Star, Legend and Hero too big?  Having one guitar pick in a big empty box looked awful! But I stuck with it, particularly when the first class came in and saw the new display.

The buzz and enthusiasm was infectious – suddenly each of my classes wanted to move their names higher and higher up the board  They saw their friends in a different class and immediately had a drive to beat them. They saw the picture of the Rock Legend and desperately wanted their avatar up there as well. No matter the reasons, the children were suddenly invigorated and driven to get in the Studio and improve their speed.

However, as anybody reading this will likely be aware, you need lots of practice first before your speed changes!

Our engagement increased almost overnight. Suddenly children were playing at home on their parents phones in a way they just hadn’t before. They were asking for the iPads at Breakfast Club to get a few minutes of practice in. They were even encouraging their teachers to book out the iPad trolley for more time practising. It was quite something to witness.

And of course this hard work paid off. Suddenly students who hadn’t played a Studio game in months “Why is it so hard? I just want to earn coins with the tables I’m good at” were racing up the leaderboard. Children were graduating from Wannabe and New Artist in their droves. And every single day, children were lining up outside of the Mac Suite at break time and lunch time to ask if their guitar pick can get moved up a level.

So, twelve months later you’re probably wondering where our students are now on the display? Well, I’m thrilled to tell you that the display has had a really positive impact on our collective Rock Speeds!

So, reflecting on the impact that this display has had there are a few points worth considering:

  • There are still children in the Wannabe section, but they are mostly Year 3’s who are new to Rockstars and who are gradually improving their speed. Those who have been in that section for a longer period of time are still aware of their Rock Speed and we celebrate each time this improves, edging ever closer to becoming a Garage Rocker and starting their journey up the charts.

  • Children across Key Stage 2 are now far more aware of their Rock Speed than before, as evidenced by the fact they would now rather play Studio games when given the choice as they can see this impacting their Rock Speed.

  • I was initially considering getting some physical rewards for moving up the levels – stickers, pencils etc. But the excitement from simply moving from one box to another has lasted the whole year without any additional rewards.

  • Quite a few children have asked if they can have their teachers on the display too (so they can try to beat us!) – so my next project is encouraging all of my colleagues to share their Rock Speed with me too!

  • Be prepared to stop a lesson midway through when a student comes to tell you they’ve moved up. I want to celebrate this every single time and if that means that 30 children have to wait for ten seconds, so be it! They’ll have their time to move up too, but it should feel special each and every time it happens. A high five always goes down well too!

Lastly, I feel it only right to share one big issue that has come up as a result of all of this.  One that required a lot of consideration and planning to rectify….


The Rock Hero box was TOO SMALL! I had never considered the fact we might end up needing to extend our display board, but extend it we did!!!

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