One of the key differences that exist between learning environments in primary school classrooms and those in many secondary schools is the use of the classroom display space. Too often secondary school classrooms can be uninspiring places to walk into, so spare a thought for the students who have to put up with it. To those educators, who have made a significant effort to provide a classroom environment that makes a student want to walk in the room, thank you!

Classroom displays do not always have to be about displaying the work of our students. In fact, some of the best classroom displays that I have seen are purely functional and there to support explicit instruction, which enhances learning. Classroom displays can be reference points for what we want students to look for and incorporate into their learning. Here are 5 ways to do just that:

Academic vocabulary displays

Every teacher is a language teacher, yet some are lot better at it than others. Classroom displays with key topic vocabulary, question command terms and sentence starters / writing builders can make for fantastic displays. They can be an essential point of reference for both the teacher and the student in both discussion, reading and writing engagements. For second or additional language learners such displays are a must in a classroom, though we should not neglect opportunities to support language development of native speakers.

Quotes for inspiration or reflection

Having quotes of famous posted around a room can be referred to in challenging times, in moments of celebrating success / accomplishment, or even linked to a learning task. Over the years, I have seen some excellent classroom displays that support a book that is being read, with key quotes for students to reflect, discuss and incorporate into their work.

Academic honesty displays

With a cut and paste environment, teacher support for and encouragement of academic honesty is vital. Displays should aim to promote academic honesty rather than be punitive in nature. Speak to your school librarian for ideas and, perhaps, even adopt a whole school approach to this important aspect of student learning.

Assessment displays

Classroom displays that support assessment tasks, whether it be an assessment rubric, step-by-step guides and annotated exemplars of work. These can be fantastic ‘go to’ resources for the teacher to emphasize and make clear expectations for the student.

Values and character development displays

School mission, vision and values displays, particularly the latter. To build culture in a school and for everyone to live the values, then they must be present, explicitly modeled, taught and reflected upon through learning. Images to support values can make fantastic displays.

In summing up, classroom displays, if planned well, can be amazing tools for teachable moments, as well as providing interest to students, fellow educators and prospective parents and students, who may be thinking about join your school community.

Most of all, if you see it and reminded of it, then you will most likely remember to apply it. That can only strengthen learning.

Published by Richard Bruford

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology. With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools. Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin. In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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2 Comments

  1. An excellent post Richard. These suggestions are of great value. So to is student work that is dialogic in nature, and describes the often non-linear journey that learning takes, regardless of school section. Too often teachers defer, at the request of admin, to completed work that attempts to serve as a PR exercise, and lacks real value. To me, this represents an imperfect understanding of what displays can achieve. Imagine a visual classroom environment where expectations, affirmations, shared vocabulary and supportive resources sit alongside representations of process-orientated student work. Informed student action would do nothing but prosper!

    Keep up the great work educating the masses.

    1. Thanks Craig. I agree with your points about work associated with the learning journey of a student and also the various forms it can take. Ford Model T expectations should be no more

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