I almost always start my day by reading Doug Peterson‘s blog posts. On Thursday, he issued a hilarious challenge in his post with lists of creative blog post titles all focused on Ontario education. While his post was tongue-in-cheek, I do like a good challenge. I’ve also been contemplating a blog post of my own about bulletin boards since reading this tweet by Sam Hammond. This is that post.
Doug Ford claimed that teachers fill their bulletin boards with anti-government posters which are radicalizing students. In response I encourage teachers to post pictures of their bulletin boards on SM. @ETFOeducators #ETFO #onted pic.twitter.com/4zyeRxw29Q
— Sam Hammond (@etfopresident) April 8, 2019
I’m not looking to delve into Doug Ford’s claim here, but I am looking to suggest a few radically different kinds of bulletin board options. When I look on Pinterest and even in Hammond’s tweet, I see the kinds of picture perfect bulletin boards that I’ve never had before.
- First of all, I can never hang anything that straight no matter how hard I try. I’d love a world where crooked is the new normal. 🙂
- Secondly, my bulletin board space is never that well-organized. I think that I’m spacing things out well, and then objects overlap, I run out of room, or I have a huge chunk left in the board to fill with a really big piece of work, an awkward decoration, or a large hole.
- Finally, I never want to spend that long on bulletin board decor. I applaud those that do invest this kind of time, but when I see these beautiful displays, I always think, that would take me hours to do. What will I have to sacrifice to make that happen? Some of the displays are also very season-specific, which makes me wonder how many times I would need to change the board. Ahh!! The thought of changing a board that often causes me stress. 🙂
It’s for all of these reasons that I started to think differently about bulletin boards. In the past few years, my teaching partner, Paula, and I have come up with a number of different ways to use our bulletin boards that work for us (two people who are very creative without being very artistic) and for our students. Most of our decisions come down to two important questions.
- What’s the purpose of this bulletin board space?
- Who’s the audience for this bulletin board space?
With the answers to these questions in mind, we now have three major uses of these bulletin board spaces: none of which include borders, decorations, or purchased items.
- As a place to share our evolving thinking/learning around an inquiry topic. We were inspired by Rhonda Urfey, another teacher in our Board, who posted some of her documentation on her class’ water bottle inquiry a few years ago. We loved the use of the lines to connect the different areas, and the information about each part of the process, to show how it evolved. Her bulletin board contained information, work samples, photographs, and objects, and we wanted to also use our boards to show the observations, conversations, and work products involved in an ongoing inquiry. Since Paula and I are unlikely to redo bulletin boards frequently, we decided to pick topics that are ongoing. The Environment this year, and our Letter Inquiry last year, were perfect examples of this.
- As a place to highlight the writing continuum. In Kindergarten, students are often at various stages of a writing continuum. We want all children to feel comfortable and confident as readers, writers, and mathematicians, and we know that this often happens when they can see themselves in the learning environment. This doesn’t necessarily mean seeing their work, but it does mean seeing the kind of work that they do. So if there are “scribble writers,” it’s valuable for them to see examples of this, and realize that this is a valuable part of the writing process before moving onto random letters. This often seems to help with risk-taking. Just like in the example above, we love how students visit this kind of bulletin board often, and even add to it. This allows us to extend the display together and make children part of the display process.
- As a workspace. We often cover our long back bulletin board with brown paper and create murals or other writing/drawing/painting/art experiences together. There is something incredibly calming for many children as they stand up high and face a board to create. At times, we wonder if it creates an illusion of quiet: something that is hard to come by in a kindergarten classroom with 30 children and no full wall between us and the room next door. We love the creativity and storytelling that comes from these kinds of activities. With the brown paper, it’s also easy for students to recover the board and start again.
Compared to many bulletin boards that I’ve seen online, these examples are …
- far less perfect
- and ever-changing without always starting again,
but they are also …
- created with the kids,
- accessed by the kids,
- highlighting the process as well as the product,
- and inspiring further work and learning in the classroom.
We love these imperfect, “radical” bulletin boards. What about you? What are your radical bulletin board ideas, and how do they benefit your kids? I’d always welcome some new inspiration!