This week I am publishing a series of blog posts about classroom display. In May 2012, I wrote a Masters essay about classroom display entitled ‘Classroom Display: An alternative to wallpaper or a valuable learning resource?’ These blog posts will serialise my essay and this is Part 3. Click here to read Part 1 and here to read Part 2.
Are children more enthusiastic about their learning when they are involved in classroom display?
Involving children in the process of classroom display is a theory that is recommended by many authors. Beadle (2010, p.177) states that when children are involved in designing and putting up the displays in their classrooms, ‘it will give the students a real sense of ownership of the classroom in which they are taught, and this being so, they will be more likely to respect not just the school fabric, but also the learning that takes place in the room they have ownership over.’ Cowley (2009, p.79) states, ‘displays will elicit a more positive response if the students have been involved in creating them.’ Packard and Race (2000, p.33) suggest that when children are involved, ‘often they will come up with original and exciting ways of doing it which should be encouraged and facilitated.’ These positive words of encouragement are often met with negativity in the classroom, as younger children cannot always be relied on to produce a display that is perfectly perpendicular and completely aesthetically pleasing. This was backed up by a piece of feedback received after my presentation about this report, which stated that a child displaying their own work is ‘difficult for someone with OCD!’ Luckily I do not approach classroom innovation with negativity and decided to test the advice of the above authors in my own classroom.
At the beginning of our ‘Unsinkable!’ topic, which focused on the Titanic, I set the children in my class the challenge of creating a display on our main display board. From the beginning of the year, they had always had responsibility for producing and maintaining a display of flags on one wall of our classroom, but the main display board had always been my responsibility and I always changed it outside of school hours. Therefore, the chance for them to create a display themselves on this board was a novelty and an exciting opportunity.
Taking the advice of Beadle (2010, p.176), I devoted a whole lesson to designing and putting up the display, which would form the basis of an on-going learning wall, chronicling the information that the children would learn over the coming weeks. I split the children into teams, with each team being given a responsibility for one part of the display. When they completed their section, it was added and eventually the whole display came together.
As part of the display, the children were able to add facts to the display, which formed the ship’s windows. This kept their enthusiasm for the display alive over the course of the topic, as they were continually adding to it.
As a result of this collaborative effort, the children had a rapid recall of facts, as they always wanted to read the latest facts on the windows. Echoing the quotes above, they showed a great deal of pride in their display and looked after it much better than they had looked after other displays in which they had played no part.
Pointon and Kershner (2000) discuss the prominence of teachers who ask children what they would like to be displayed in their classroom. From my personal observations and experiences, these teachers are in the minority. Involving children in the process of putting up a display is one step in that direction, which gives children ownership of the classroom in which they learn.
Having undertaken this exercise, I will continue to trust the children in my class to conceive and put up the displays in our classroom. They may not be perfectly straight and they may have slight errors, but the children will know that they have had a major input into the design of their classroom walls, meaning that the displays can be used for a purpose, rather than just decoration.
The Titanic display in our classroom has been up for half a term now, so it will be changing very soon. However, how many displays are changed this regularly? In some schools, displays in the corridors are changed, on average, on an annual basis. This leads me to question who these displays are for. Are they for the children, to extend and support their learning? Or are they for visitors, who might be impressed with colourful walls? Schools exist for the former reason, so if it is a case of the latter, the purpose of displays in schools should be addressed. Our children and supporting their learning come first, not the hope of positive comments from visitors.
Part 4 will be published tomorrow.
Beadle, P. (2010) How To Teach. Carmarthen: Crown House.
Cowley, S. (2009) How to Survive Your First Year in Teaching. 2nd edn. London: Continuum.
Packard, N. and Race, P. (2000) 2000 Tips for Teachers. London: Kogan Page.
Pointon, P. and Kershner, R. (2000) ‘Making decisions about organising the primary classroom environment as a context for learning: the views of three experienced teachers and their pupils’, Teaching and Teacher Education, 16(1), pp. 117-127. Science Direct [Online]. Available at http://sciencedirect.com (Accessed: 12th May 2012).