This is the week when all around the world teachers are putting up displays. I have currently been putting up backing paper and that crinkly border thing and getting annoyed with finding the stapler, running out of staples, the resource room being locked, running out of green backing paper, putting up paper that looked just right and then realised it didn’t fit by an inch and then getting frustrated as the whole thing is wonky and creased.
I hate displays.
Well that’s not quite true. I like them when other people do them for me. Like this one:
Our resident artist put this one up in my last school during the summer holiday. It was great. No cork boards, staples hanging out, no backing paper, no crinkly border thingy. And when the kids came in they went wow. It was the power of my laziness that brought in something amazing that I could not possibly do to my classroom myself.
However, my wonderful back wall does not have a huge amount of learning in it. There are no word walls or musical terms or anything vaguely educational (btw – they were on the other wall). But I am doubtful of the value of display in general from both a research and a personal perspective. Firstly, there is evidence to suggest that classroom display can be detrimental to learning http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24855019. A calm, uncluttered room with white walls and nice paintings might foster a calm attitude to learning and engage students to interact with the teacher and each other rather than look around the room in an unfocused manner. I also remember my music room at school had a poster of composers from 1600. I used to spend hours looking at this poster and was always getting into trouble for not paying attention to my teacher. I now know an awful lot about classic composers – well more about how long they lived. I remember being suitably impressed with Stravinsky and Bach who had really long lines and felt a bit sorry for Mozart and Schubert who only had a short one. But I also remember having to cram in my GCSE course in two weeks because I had not been paying enough attention to the teacher in the lessons for the past two years.
There is much learning that can be delivered through the use of displays. But we need to know exactly what we want children to learn from them and what their purpose is. Probably the best displays will be ones which reinforce key words and concepts that will be perpetuated for the whole year or even years. I don’t see why we should always take down an effective display just because we have to tear them down at the end of the year. Why? But this is often a school policy and I have seen it happen in many schools. It seems more a policy to increase teacher workload than anything to do with learning. I guess the argument is so we don’t get lazy and keep up falling down displays where the crinkly border thingy is hanging off one staple. But most teachers wouldn’t do that if they actually care and if they don’t, why would you employ them?
There is a role for engagement and motivation and that can be delivered from the walls of the classroom but an alternative is to have a book of children’s work on a music stand that all children or parents can see – a record of the work they have done. Most musical work is musical and perhaps the best display of children’s work that we can have is a pair of earphones connected to a MP3 player of children’s performances.
Anyway. Now we have the key to the store it’s back to the backing paper. And if I can’t think of anything inspirational, I’d better contact Daydream Education quick and buy some of their excellent posters.