There is no disputing that a classroom environment physically needs to be warm and comfortable for students to learn. I have found over a number of years that the classroom should reflect the learning journey of the children within it. It should stimulate the children to learn. It should set the standard for the expected outcome of learning.
In the last few weeks I have read three different versions of an article about a study looking at classroom displays and how they affect student achievement. This article, Heavily Decorated Classrooms Disrupt Attention and Learning in Young Children, According to New Carnegie Mellon Research, was one version of the articles. I have had the opportunity to engage in discussion and debate on this in three separate forums, one on Twitter through a UK education twerp, and two different teacher groups on Facebook. This is a topic with a lot of diverse opinions and experiences.
Displaying Student Work on the Responsive Classroom website says: "A classroom filled with the work of children is a delight to be in and sends a message to students that their work and their learning are important." This post even advocates students create the displays themselves! And then there is this little pearl of wisdom from a post called Tips for New Teachers: Classroom Displays from the ASCD website: "These days, when I'm visiting many classrooms as an elementary school consultant and coach, I'm more convinced than ever that classroom displays should consist mostly of work students have done themselves."
In New Zealand we place a lot of importance on the classroom reflecting what our students are learning, the classroom space supporting learning and that that space reflects the student's own works. It is also expected that the work displayed will change regularly to reflect the continual learning opportunities that come along. I personally believe that you take something down when you have something to put up. Occasionally I rearrange so that I can still keep up work that I consider needs to stay.
Consequently, this term, a lot has changed in my class on the walls compared to the visual tour I took my readers on in the post mentioned in the first paragraph.
Firstly, my topic wall changed. Instead of the Tiriti o Waitangi, we started the term with Anzac Day. This was a mini unit, so this is not the full range of things I could have displayed. The newspaper articles were brought in by a student. I go into more about how this display engaged students in my blog post Creating excitement about learning for Anzac Day.
Last term my students and I, for Poem of the Week, read a poem about what was in Grandma's cupboard. And we created a piece of art about it, which was put up on the wall late in the first term.
I may have mentioned in the post I wrote last term (link in the first paragraph) that my school had a centennial celebration last term. Schools tend to create books to celebrate those sorts of things, and we wrote poems about the school to go in the book. I put these up last term by rearranging the writing we had done about Brendon McCullum and the fish display. I'm not ready to take this writing down yet, so I squished it up a bit.
To fit my new displays I also moved the fish display this term, because underneath the centennial poems I put our new display about Keeping Ourselves Safe, because we're also working through that this term. The display is pretty much the children's thinking on the various aspects of the topic as we have gone through it. (Please excuse the missing e's - I ran out and haven't got to the resource centre as of yet to purchase more).
This was another activity that came from Poem of the Week with a poem called How does the sun rise? As you can see we painted our own sunrises using water colour paints and we wrote poems and descriptions of the sun rising.
The following week our Poem of the Week was called Autumn Leaves. So we went out and played in the leaves and wrote some poems and descriptions of autumn leaves. I also asked the children to collect leaves and do some drawings of them with detail and colour them in and cut them out to add to the display.
To add the writing about sunrises and autumn leaves I had to move our display on the fish, and remove our other writing inspired by calendar pictures.
On Friday it was a lovely sunny day, so I decided art should be done outside. Bruce talks about close observational sketching of nature in his blog I've linked in the first paragraph, so I thought we really needed this on our walls too. So out we went for 30 minutes with an A5 piece of cartridge each and after a wee chat the class concentrated their hearts out for that whole 30 minutes (except for the ones distracted by the kitten from the school house that wanted to play), and they came up with their own drawings of a part of a tree they choose to focus on. Some of the students also really had a go at shading and smudging their pencil to create greater effect. So proud of them.
To put up the kids drawings I had to squeeze up our similes display a bit. I also squeezed our similes display down a bit so I could staple up the collection of metaphors some children had researched. As you can see there is still some wall space above my metaphors.... that's where I need a person with a head for heights to put up something that will stay for a long time...
I still kept my fish from earlier in the year... I just keep moving them to fit with what I am putting up on my wall.
And this is what my back wall of my class looks like.
There are more changes currently happening. My topic wall has changed to being about New Zealand native birds, and new stories about rain and accompanying pictures have replaced the flags on the wires. My class are also currently working on posters about the birds. Watch the next post on my classroom environment to see my new exciting news....