005: Engaging Display Boards

I usually only write one post a weekend in order to keep myself from becoming too overwhelmed.  However, as I was working on my paper for school (teachers should always be striving to increase their knowledge), I came across a reoccurring element – Functional and engaging display boards.

One thing in a classroom that almost anyone can recall from their school days are the mass amount of display boards, but I’m guessing many people cannot remember what those display boards actually, well, displayed.  As a teacher, I found in the beginning that putting together a display board was one of my weakest areas.  Note, I said putting together a display board, not creating an impressive visual.  My display boards in the past were mediocre at best.  This was because I didn’t find purpose in them.  Sure, students love a new display, and whatever you have created may inspire them initially, but the moment is usually short lived.  This has been the case in my experience, and from what I’ve observed from many colleagues.

Sure, students love a new display, and whatever you have created may inspire them initially, but the moment is usually short lived.

However, the display board is not something that will go away soon, and every teacher will be expected to create them throughout the year.  So, if this is the case, then I feel we need to address two important questions:

  • How can we make a display that does not take a lot of time?
  • How can we make a display that engages the students throughout each term?

It has taken some time for me to answer this, and I’m still exploring the theory of display boards, but the following are 3 steps which I have found helpful to relieve my planning time, engage students, and to ensure they do not become “display board blind”.

Step 1 – What Must My Students Achieve?

The first step is to think critically about what your students must achieve by the end of the term, or half-term.  What is the topic?  What specifically should they know by the end of the topic?  Are there any surprise elements that students might struggle with, such as tricky vocabulary?  It’s important to understand where your students must be at the end of a unit, and what they’ll need to get there.

Step 2 – Apply Learning of Targets to Displays

Now that you’ve considered targets, and tricky parts students may need support with, how can students display their new knowledge?  This is key, so let me repeat myself – how can STUDENTS display their new knowledge?  This can be as simple as a KWL Board (What students Know, Want to know, and Learned), or as complicated as a research project that they build upon throughout the unit of study.

Essentially, your students are going to build the content for your display boards.  You just need to create the medium for them to do this.

Step 3 – Create the Display Board Structure

Now that you have addressed the first two points, create your display board structure.  I suggest backing your board, adding the appropriate boarder, creating a title for the display, and providing any relevant resources.  Once you’ve done this, take time to explain the purpose and structure of the board to your class.  After that, let them build it!

To help illustrate this structure, here is what I’ve recently done:

  • My students are learning about Brazil this term.  After a brief survey of the class, I found many of my kiddos know quite a bit about Brazil already, so I wanted to push their understanding of the topic.
  • I created a ‘Twitter’ display board.  Here, the students work to find facts they didn’t already know, whether through the lessons, or outside of class time.
  • They take a sheet of pre-cut paper, and a marker I provided, to write their own “Tweet” about the new fact.  For fun, the students then get to write a unique hashtag below their fact.
  • If the fact meets the objective of the board, then I put it up.
All About Brazil ‘Twitter’ Display Board

The display may be bare bones at first, but it quickly fills up.  It’s been 3 weeks into the Spring term and my students are still talking about new facts they have found.  They’ve even begun sharing good resources from which they found their facts.

The ‘Twitter’ display board only took me 10 minutes to put up, and it’s not at all an amazing visual, but it is growing quickly by the involvement of my students.  They are building the board, and they are learning while they do it.  What’s more, my display has been praised by my Head Teacher even though it’s far from eye-catching, especially compared to many of my colleagues’ amazing boards.  He noted that it may not be fancy, but the students love it and are truly demonstrating their learning in a unique way.

If you enjoy putting up colourful, and fun displays, then don’t let me keep you.  Keep being your amazing self.  However, if you’re like me and find yourself short on time, don’t waste energy trying achieve some type of wow-factor.  Create a display that engages your students, but leaves you time to focus on what matters, their overall achievement in school and in life.

Until next time!


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