Sunday, September 23, 2012

Classroom Walls - Who Are They For?

The classroom that I share with my students is a continually evolving and changing space.  The furniture is set out in a way that can be easily moved to suit the activities that we are doing in the class.  Recently I had a conversation about the walls in my classroom and the question was asked as to why I didn't have a lot of student work on display.  Why didn't I have a lot of student work on display...this too has been a thought out process - but don't get me wrong, I do have student work on display, but it all has a specific purpose and reason for being on the wall.

Clutter-free Classroom
With a constantly changing room, I like to have a clutter-free space.  Often I walk into other classrooms and the environment is very 'print-rich'. Work is hanging on wires diagonally across the room and  every space is covered with literacy or artwork.  These spaces make me feel quite claustrophobic and I personally find it difficult to concentrate in such an environment.  Of course when visitors visit these classrooms they are wowed, but how do students feel day-in and day-out in these environments?  Do they really look and engage with the work that is on display?  Who is the display for?  After speaking with a few colleagues most admitted that the work is put up and forgotten about.  Some teachers had work from previous years up - who is this for?

So what are on my classroom walls?
Every wall in my classroom has a purpose.  We have a Twitter wall as we use Twitter in the classroom on a weekly basis.  This wall we constructed at the start of the year.  We deconstructed a twitter page, so students know what certain Twitter terms mean.  They have an example of a tweet (that they have each written) and some rules around using Twitter in the classroom.  Students are referred back to this wall if they have simple questions and students who are new to the class, can easily read this and be up with the play!
We have two displays dedicated to our iWrite programme - adapted from the Big Writing - a UK based writing programme. We have a VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, opening and punctuation wall, where students have been part of creating pyramids for these key elements.  We also have a WOW word (impressive words) wall.  Another wall is set-up at the start of the year and shows the country where each student identifies themselves with.  I like to keep this display up as it shows the diversity of the class.  We also have guidelines for using the iPads.  These are put around the room and are written by the students for the students.  There is the obligatory 'notices' board, where notices relating to the students are posted (e.g. ESOL timetables, school jobs, fitness timetables, etc).  A new addition this term has been a reading response wall, where students have created possible response questions they can answer after a reading (e.g. what emotions do you feel after reading this story? If you could end the story in a different way, what would that ending be?) We also have 'functional' posters on display - a poster which has relavant usernames and passwords for whole class sites (e.g. vimeo, youtube, etc) and booking sheets for devices.




The question was also asked of me, if the students are not online how do they share each others work?  Students are often working collaboratively on a project and sharing is part of this process.  Although the work may not be displayed on the wall, this does not imply that students are not sharing their work.  Often the work we do is not intended to be put on a wall. My students are year 5 and their writing can be pages and pages in length - the intention is not to display this on a wall, instead we have folders for this work, which is easily accessible to anyone in the room.

Food for thought - who is the display for? Who is benefiting from the display?  How is it promoting student learning?

Is the writing on the wall for busy 'print-rich' classrooms?