Disclaimer: Pictures of the discussed bulletin boards are not included due to strict picture policy to protect our students.
I hate bulletin boards! I was scarred for life when my first teaching evaluation, which was excellent by the way, contained only one suggestion. My principal at the time wanted me to work on more bulletin boards. The result…the creation of bulletin boards that work!
The following are the bulletin boards that I’ve developed for my classroom. Think easy creation, easy update, student centered, and you have the gist of what I do on the walls of my classroom.
#1 – Backdrops
I’ve been the route of using butcher paper and cute borders from school stores to highlight the area I’m using. But a more experienced teacher pointed out that the paper fades with time, the borders become tattered and are often unusable the next year, and finally, I have to start over again the following year with new materials. Two solutions were suggested, and I’ve used both successfully!
The first – Fabric. Measure the bulletin board area and buy enough fabric to cover the board. I use inexpensive fabric from JoAnn’s, sew the pieces together, turn the edges using an iron, and then staple it to the wall. I have even gone so far as to buy contrasting fabric to sew on the edges to create borders. May sound like a lot of work, but I now have a stash that I rotate in and out when I want something new and different. Easy when the initial work is done and long lasting too! And students are reluctant to write on fabric!
The second – Paint the board. This one is great too! I have painted my bulletin boards with white semi-gloss paint, and they last forever. Of course, you could use any color, but the white seems to work best for my needs. The benefit of this is small holes don’t readily show, and if my board ends up with a mark on it, I just paint over the problem. Again, easy solution once the initial work is done. One caveat – be sure and ask for permission before painting anything. I had to demonstrate what I wanted to do on a small piece of bulletin board material to prove that it wouldn’t harm the surface. Once my principal understood, it was full steam ahead, and he even painted the ones in his office!
#2 – Inspirational Sign – Catch your students’ attention before they walk into the classroom by posting inspirational sayings outside my door. One per week. I print these signs on a regular sheet of paper and tack them up. Sometimes we discuss them; otherwise, my students just enjoy. To alternate my signs I use periodic questions that pertain to the learning objectives of the unit. When a question is posted, the routine is for students to come in, immediately sit down, and to write a quick answer to the question. I provide scrap paper cut up into quarters for the answers. No discussion is allowed before the bell rings and once you are in the room, your answer is disqualified if you go back out to read the question.
This has become a great way to stimulate thinking before the class starts as well as leading to discussion as our entry task. Another side benefit is the development of awareness of the students’ setting and information that is available. As the year goes on I’m always amazed at how the students suddenly begin to discover information in their environments that they hadn’t noticed before.
#3 – Word Wall – Whatever vocabulary you are focusing on, this is a great way to place the information before the students. Students use sentence strips to write the word, its definition, pronunciation key, and a sentence using the word correctly. These are posted on the wall. To make this bulletin board interactive, I ask the students to use the words correctly during class and then to quietly get up and point to the word on the wall. If the word is mispronounced or misused, then a quick correction by the other students occurs. To prevent blurting, the student who used the word is empowered to call on a peer to make the correction. Magically, the words begin to become part of the students’ academic language and are used throughout the year even when the words are no longer on the wall.
#4 – Word Wall Variation – Who Are You? – I was horrified when I realized that my students didn’t know each other! I teach in a small school and community, so I falsely assumed that everyone knew everyone else. After all, most of them had been together since kindergarten or first grade. WRONG! Many couldn’t name each other or state one simple fact about that person. Without this basic recognition, it was very hard to build community and a non-threatening/safe environment where my students would risk. The solution? My variation of the Word Wall. Labeled “Who Are You?”, I start the wall with my picture, my name – first and last, a Wordle including concepts that are important to me, an information sheet labeled what you should know about me, and any clippings or other pictures that capture my true essence! Sometime in the year students are assigned to post their information on the wall, and they are encouraged to add to it as new events occur. I’ve learned that splitting my classes into manageable chunks for creating each individual’s version assures that everyone is part of the wall by the end of the second month of school.
When everyone is posted, and all students have had an opportunity to look the information over, the fun begins. Periodically, I create a PowerPoint (PP) with just the pictures from each specific class. The students then do an entry task where I show the PP and ask the kids to name each person correctly. The first time I leave the pictures and names on the wall. The second time I cover the information with paper and the students have to do the quiz from memory. Students learn who each person in the class is very quickly.
Once I’ve finished that, I warn the students that there will be a trivia quiz about their classmates. Each student chooses one fact about themselves they want included in the quiz and Ta Da! Another way to get to know each other is born. The resulting conversations among peers are amazing and natural as they learn new facts about each other. I’ve even heard students planning to get together outside of class once they’ve identified a mutual interest.
And in case you are wondering, the information sheet includes the following information: Name – first and last, hobbies, languages the student speaks, most exotic place student has traveled to, activities both inside and outside of school, greatest fear, greatest accomplishment, favorite movie, favorite book, favorite food, favorite holiday, and something no one else knows about you. I add new things as I think of them or add the students’ suggestions, but these are the basics. Notice I don’t include any information about family. My students’ lives are fractured enough to say the least, and I don’t want to require information that could potentially embarrass them or reveal too personal information.
#5 – Ceiling Sayings – Student will sometimes do almost anything to avoid thinking. Where do they usually look? Either out the window or at the ceiling. My ceiling is covered with quotations that cause students to think about a new idea or controversial concept. As the Borg would say: “Resistance is futile!”
#6 – Brag Wall – This is the place where I hang my degrees, pennants from the schools I have attended, my teacher of the year plaque, certificates of achievement, awards, and anything else I’m very proud of that establishes my credibility. Students have taken to adding items of their own that they are proud of to show their achievements as well. One of my favorite additions is acceptance letters from colleges, universities, the military, vocational schools, and other post-secondary endeavors.
#7 – Good Stuff – Here I hang students’ work that I believe is exemplary. Beside this work are comment sheets that students may fill out documenting why they believe this work was posted here. The student’s comments must include evidence from the work and their analysis of the quality. These comment sheets are place in an envelope beside each piece of work. When the work is taken down, I review the comment sheets to make sure they are positive and appropriate, and give the sheets to the student along with their original work. This bulletin board takes time to develop, but usually after the first posting of work and the return of comment sheets to the authors, the activity blooms. I’ve even had students ask if they could post work from other classes to receive comments. I now have art pieces, math tests, history papers, etc. on the wall as well. It’s fun to hear the students defend the inclusion of their particularly piece and it’s quality before it’s posted. A 100% on an assignment doesn’t automatically ensure inclusion on the wall. The student has to explain why it’s “good stuff” to me before it goes up. Eventually, I’d like the work juried by the students’ peers, but I’m not quite ready to release my control.
#8 – Information Center – This is the place where students can find key information about the logistics of the school and class. This bulletin board saves me a lot of time answering questions. The information I post here includes the current bell schedule – this changes as the schedule changes for special days; the daily bulletin if the school provides one; a map of the building with emergency exits highlighted; earthquake, tsunami, and tornado procedures; weekly special events or activities including sports, concerts, clubs, trips, etc.; scholarship opportunities, deadlines, and financial aid information such as FAFSA; community service opportunities; and a list of weekly assignments and due dates. You may notice that I don’t include lockdown procedures. Since the bulletin board is public, I decided not to share this information in case a person, who might be a potential threat, was to read the plan. Also to save time, I eventually turn over the list of activities to a student to keep up to date. I do the assignment information myself to insure accuracy.
#9 – Parking Lot – This is a blank board with sticky notes available. Students, who are shy or have a question they don’t want to ask during class, may write their concern as well as their class period on the front of the sticky note. The student must write their name on the back of the note before placing it in the parking lot. This helps me know who to talk to if I need to speak to someone individually. I collect any and all sticky notes at the end of each class, and address the comments at the beginning of the next class as appropriate. I do this either as a group or individually as needed. Again, I like this because it gives the students one more opportunity to communicate with me.
Well, that’s it for now. I hope some of the ideas are helpful! I’d love to hear some of your bulletin board ideas and tricks. These have served me well, but I’m always looking for ways to jazz my classroom up!
@DebWebb100, coreleaboratewa.org, readywa.org