Classroom displays are great things. They brighten up the room and can cheer up the most miserable of walls, but the best ones are useful. Ever since my NQT year many moons ago when I was given my first classroom all to myself I have tried use the walls, windows and, in one very interesting year, the ceiling...
I have nothing but admiration for the 'Pinterest-Ready' teachers, theming their classes every year. This teacher's dedication to his Harry Potter plan was astounding!
It would be wonderful to decorate my history room like a Medieval castle or Tudor banqueting hall. But sadly I don't have the time or the cash to splash on such things. (the UK £1 shops have nothing on Dollar Tree unfortunately.)
Also, I fear it could actually limit students' learning. If they are studying the Vietnam War and its impact on the USA, being in a room decorated as a Victorian Work House will be of not benefit to them. (Unless of course they catch the work ethic!)
Therefore I prefer useful, subject specific display material that my students can use to support their understanding of the topics we are working on. Below are some of the things you will find in any classroom I'm responsible for:
One of the most powerful tools in my teaching arsenal is displaying my student's work. It can take a variety of forms. On my desk is a giant clothes peg and clipboard. I use this to display any piece of work that I feel deserves recognition. It can be classwork or home work, but it exemplifies the effort of the child. It doesn't have to be particularly neat or beautiful to earn 'Work of the Week' status either. The younger years love this as they often have project based homework from history, but the slightly more cynical upper school kids have been known to a smile when I have selected their work for display. Everyone likes (quality) praise and moody teenagers are no different in my experience, even if it is only shown on the inside...
Another way I use students' work is with model answers. Our curriculum repeats each year and having things on the walls that they can use to work out what they need to produce has proved valuable to my kids. I'm not suggesting having something they can copy word for word, but examples of how others have made notes on a given topic or how to mind map are useful to those who have never done it before. 'What A Good One Looks Like' (or WAGOLL) is part of most curriculums for a reason.
In history one of the things we spend the most time on is how to write up your ideas. History is a subject that often requires a high level of literacy to access the highest grades and so developing this is time well spent. One of the most successful instructional displays I have in my classes is my P.E.E.L. display. Its actually a large version of my P.E.E.L. literacy mats. The students can use them individually or take a quick look at the wall for connectives and frame their writing. It was so widely used by my students that we built the department KS3 assessment attainment descriptors to match it.
They are skills-based descriptors:
EMERGING = IDENTIFY = POINT
DEVELOPING = DESCRIBE = EVIDENCE
SECURING=EXPLAIN = EXPLANATION
MASTERING = EVALUATE = LINK
Learn - Remember - Revise - Use.
I think word walls are brilliant. They have proven their use to my classes though I admit I never knew what they were called when I started out! Simple ones like the one here contain the key words that should appear in answers on the topic of Votes for Women. It's in a giant V for VOTEs and in the Suffragettes colours of purple and green. Each topic on the GCSE wall had its own key word letter - I for Indian Independence, A for the America unit and a big pink G for Nazi Germany. These visual queues helped the children to recall the words in the exam and improve their answers in general.
I've also made more detailed word walls. These contain photos and descriptions that can also be used as flashcards or as pointers in a living graph.
In the end, displays are only as good as they are useful and engaging. My students tell me that they use the ones in my rooms and that they are helpful. I see evidence of this when I ask questions and they refer to the information on the walls or when students are peer and self assessing and use the language on the grade descriptors.
Just remember to cover everything up when there is an assessment - it takes ages!
Let me know your best display ideas in the comments below!