Lately, quite a few of the teachers and administrators that I work with have been chatting about different ways to maximize classroom wall space. This might seem like a trivial topic, but I don’t think it is. In fact, I know that when teachers are purposeful about using classroom wall space, kids can benefit tremendously. I also know that glancing around a classroom provides a bit of perspective about what teachers may value and how they define “good learning.” Classrooms reveal a lot about who each teacher is and what they believe. Here’s what I’ve noticed in my travels over the last few weeks:
Some teachers believe that the walls of their classrooms can be used as learning tools. Posting interactive anchor charts within reach of learners who may want to use them, making essential questions easily accessible, creating dynamic word walls and sharing artifacts that prompt creative writing provides students added support and inspiration. It also helps them understand that the walls are there to serve them in their learning. In order for that to happen, they must engage with the work of the wall, though.
Some teachers strive to make learning visible rather than posting final products. These teachers believe that while it may be nice to celebrate their students’ accomplishments, far too often, they know that this work is displayed only because it’s polished or has earned a high grade. Some teachers post student work that is IN PROGRESS beside their thinking, so that others might learn from it themselves.
Some teachers offer up their wall space so that students might share their connections to what is being learned. Essential questions for a course might be posted on different bulletin boards throughout the room, inviting learners to engage with them. Spaces might be reserved for learners to share their text to self connections, adding news clipping, photos, and other artifacts that make the connection explicit. I’ve seen teachers engage learners with wall space in dozens of ways over the last few years.
Some teachers know that pictures can inspire a thousand words. They ask students to locate and post photographs that represent important concepts and understandings. Conversations spring up around these visuals, and writing ideas are inspired.
Considering the use of wall space is an important component of good practice. What does it say about a teacher’s expectations for learners when wall displays are limited to displays that define what acceptable behavior looks like and which students earned an A+ on last week’s spelling test? What does this communicate to students? What do you think: are the walls of our classroom intended for decoration or for education?
I’m program supervisor for our extended year program for exiting 3rd & 4th graders. Over the course of the program, the walls become papered with the large sticky posters from the daily target skills lessons. It is absolutely inspiring to witness. What makes it even more amazing is that one of the rooms we use is a teachers’ lounge during the regular school year, so there aren’t the decorated bulletin boards and wall decorations, and posters–but everywhere you look there is evidence of the learning occurring in that space.
As a high school teacher, I have been ordered to place posters, student work, etc. on my walls. However, I find that having items on the wall can be distracting to the instruction that occurs in the classroom. As I reflect upon my own undergraduate and graduate studies, I don’t recall the walls being utilized as a means of engaging student learning. I found that for me, a clean and orderly classroom was the priority; any displays, artifacts, and/or student work must have been be relevant to that day’s lesson. Otherwise, it was simply a distraction. Sometimes I feel that the mandate to post student work and posters on the walls is more for administrators to show guests that “instruction is taking place” instead of actually benefiting student learning in any way. Any thoughts?
Is it possible to have a clean, orderly classroom and still use wall space to enrich the learning that goes on inside of one? I know that many teachers use wall space to effectively engage, rather than distract, students. I’m not suggesting that anyone mandate this–but I do notice that many of the teachers I work with are skilled at making great use of wall space. I’ve also seen kids use what is posted on walls in strategic ways–to problem solve, support their writing, and assist them in comprehension. Perhaps using wall space in this way would satisfy your administrator and serve your kids as well?