How engaging is your learning environment? Even if you’re predominantly teaching in a lecture theatre, there is still plenty of reason to celebrate work in the hallways and shared study rooms. For students coming in just once a week, wall displays can be a great reminder of the value of getting your practical learning evidenced for the assessors.
When used skilfully, the best classroom displays add real value because they can provoke interest, inspire engagement, improve self-confidence and give young people ownership of their environment. They help students remember what they have learned, they act as a means for checking their ideas and explaining their ideas.
Top classroom displays can also be used to share learning with visitors and the wider world. Displays are there to help us teach and they can be rich interactive spaces to learn more.
It has been found that too many things in a learner’s field of vision negatively affects their ability to focus; it reduces their learning and limits their ability to process information and increases their anxiety.
Research tells us that heavily decorated classrooms can actually disrupt attention and learning and although sensory stimulation matters, too much of a good thing can be deleterious.
Sometimes, despite every inch of space being covered, learners ironically don’t see any of it as they can shut it off.
‘Clever Classrooms’, the University of Salford summary report of the HEAD project (Holistic Evidence and Design), say their single most important finding is that,
The displays on the walls should be designed to provide a lively sense to the classroom, but without becoming chaotic in feel. As a rule of thumb, 20-50% of the available wall space should be kept clear.
Clever Classrooms found clear evidence “that the physical characteristics of primary schools do impact on pupils’ learning progress in reading, writing and mathematics.
The following ideas represent just some of the ways you can use your classroom wall spaces and promote active learning. Why not try a few and share them with your colleagues?
- Use QR (Quick Response) codes and Augmented reality apps like Aurasma or String to embed student's work that can be unlocked digitally – this makes a truly interactive display – examples of work can be used to trigger video explanations from students. That’s a wow!
- Prove it Board – ideal for English, fill a board with talking/writing prompts as a way of citing evidence to support/strengthen ideas: ‘Based on what I have read…’, ‘….. proves that’. ‘I know this because…’ ‘The reason I think….is because…’ Extend the idea to make critical thinking posters to use across the curriculum.
- Mindset Moments boards – devote part of a wall space to create a place for students to post their reflections about learning. Provide students with post-it notes so they can write down what they have learnt about and how they have improved. It provides learners with a chance to show how their mindsets have grown and shifted. For example, “I wasn’t sure about how to take turns in a debate but now I am more professional and confident”
- Use a ‘Professional Conversation’ prompt board and post this on a wall for students to refer to in order to foster healthy interaction, e.g. provide prompts such as ‘I agree with…because…’, ‘I take your point but disagree because…’. ‘If I can go back to what…said about…’, ‘What you seem to be saying is…but…’ ‘Couldn’t it also be the case that…?’
- Create Achievement Boards to recognise accomplishments – rewards in learning help students develop pride in themselves and what they can do.
- Visualise goals with timelines – provide a chart for students to post daily messages of what they intend to achieve and get better at.
- Key Words Wall and subject-specific/technical vocabulary displayed and discussed for a variety of curriculum areas.
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- Problem of the week – an opportunity for learners to post responses to a weekly problem (science, maths, English).
- World Wall - promote multi-cultural connections and links through textiles, maps, photographs, artefacts, and books.
- Have a Big Questions board – provide a wall space for wonder based questions.
- Daily/weekly news board – display class, local, national and international news that occurs through the week (see here)
- Mind maps or spidergrams lend themselves well to wall spaces for exploring and connecting ideas together.
About the author
John is an ex-primary school teacher and Ofsted inspector who has spent the last 20 years working in the education industry as a teacher, writer and editor. John’s specialist area is primary maths but he also loves teaching science and English. John has written a number of educational and children’s books, and contributed over 1,000 articles and features to various educational bodies. John is eTeach’s school leadership and Ofsted advice guru, sharing insights on best practice for motivating and enriching a school team, as well as sharing savvy career steps for headteachers and SLT.