We plan many things to ensure that for the time that a class is in front of us learning can occur. We plan the questions that we will ask to probe pupils’ understanding. We plan activities, seating plans, starters and plenaries. We try to plan as much as we can so that we can provide the best learning experience that we can for the pupils in our care. At the beginning of my career there was one aspect of the learning experience that I very rarely planned or even considered at all; the environment in which that learning experience took place.
It wasn’t until I started working in my current school, just under two years ago, that I discovered the delights of creating displays. The school where I work, a converter academy in North London, has a fairly strict policy with regards to classroom and corridor displays:
- Displays MUST be changed at least once a year – normally in time for open evening every October.
- Displays SHOULD NOT contain pupils work.
- Displays should be linked to particular areas of the curriculum. Displays should be focused on particular elements of the subject or pedagogy.
Displays are checked by SLT every year and amendments can be ‘suggested’. There are also prizes given to departments and individuals who produce the most creative, innovative and interesting displays.
Above is a picture of the first display I created. It took up one of the spots on the Science department corridor. It took me HOURS to think of an idea, plan, draw put the display up. It may seem incredibly silly but I was so incredibly proud of the display. My very first! I even managed to sneak in a picture of one of my idols – Eddie Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam.
Like all displays in the school, the purpose of the display wasn’t just to brighten up the corridor, but to help pupils learn. With my ‘Energy is Everywhere’ display pupils had to find an example of each energy transfer from the fairground scene pictured.
Having talked to many teacher friends about the display policy in my school, many often reel back in horror at the thought of spending so much time creating displays and being under so much pressure to create high quality displays. At the beginning of the academic year there are plenty of grumbles about the hours that staff have to spend preparing and putting up displays. Of all the things a teacher has to do in September, sometimes stapling large pieces of coloured card to the wall doesn’t seem the best use of your time. I have however grown to love the process of designing, preparing and putting up displays.
Below are some of the displays that I have created this year.
This display has two purposes. It is placed at the front of the room. The section where you can see the word REVISION is the ‘Keywords’ part of the display. A word goes on the board every lesson. The word can be used in many ways. Sometimes, as a plenary, pupils are asked to define the word. They can be asked to write a summary of what they have learnt making sure they include the keyword in their summary. Sometimes pupils themselves decide what the keyword of the lesson has been. The aim is to, in a small way, highlight the importance of literacy in our learning.
The traffic light colours are glued on to boxes which have been fixed on to the wall. I use these often to gauge pupils understanding. Each pupil in my classes has a lollipop stick with their name on. I use the sticks as part of the ‘hands-down’ approach I often take with questioning in lessons. Sometimes I will give pupils their sticks before they leave the class, and they place their stick in the box that best represents how well they feel they have achieved the learning objectives. I can then use their feedback to plan the next lesson.
The ‘Science Wordsearch’ display contains individual letter cards that are fixed on to the wall using velcro. The letters can be taken off and moved in to different positions. They can also be used with the keyword section of the display described above. I use this display in revision lessons to highlight topic keywords. Pupils have sometimes built their own wordsearch to test their colleagues.
Below is a picture of our ‘Science Question time’ display. This was designed as an engaging way for pupils to think about Science outside of normal lesson time (registration/tutor time etc.). There are a number of questions on the display including, ‘ Will we ever have an invisibility cloak like Harry Potter has?’. The answers to each question has to be found in various random areas of the classroom.
Above is the display I am most proud of, partly because it drives much of what I am working on in my own practice at the moment. The SOLO display was inspired by blog posts written by Tait Coles
. It is a constant visual reminder to pupils of the principles underpinning the taxonomy. It also attracts the attention of other teachers who don’t have knowledge of SOLO and is a good way to get people ‘hooked in’ to the SOLO ‘army’!
I love the creativity of the process of making displays. Most of all I love the fact that every year I will work hard to try to make my laboratory a welcoming, inspiring and productive learning environment. I truly believe that the displays I have created help, in a small way, to improve the learning that places place in my lessons.