I inherited a classroom-lab from a retired teacher, and I want to replace some of the generic posters with displays of student work. One of my colleagues says this is not a good idea. She didn’t explain her reasons, but now I’m not sure what to do.
—Therese, Charlotte, North Carolina
I’ve worked on statewide projects in which I had the opportunity to visit K-12 classrooms. The classrooms were generally very colorful; the bulletin boards and walls included motivational posters, teacher-created displays related to seasons or holidays, or artifacts related to the teacher’s interests. But I was surprised by the lack of student contributions. In some places, the student work was limited to cookie-cutter artwork (e.g., snowflakes, hearts, pumpkins). In some classrooms, every available inch was covered with something, which I found very distracting. And there were a few with completely bare walls.
By having students create the displays or showcasing student work, you show that you value student work and that the classroom really belongs to the students. Students have a chance to learn from and celebrate each other’s work, as they demonstrate connections to the current content or the processes they are learning.
I would check with your principal or department chairperson to see if there are any guidelines about displaying student work. (There are some schools where this is not allowed.)
The purpose of student displays is to reinforce students’ efforts and creativity, not necessarily to reward perfection. I would not display answer sheets from tests or quizzes or assignments with teacher-awarded final grades on them. Likewise, papers or projects with a simple “good job” comment don’t provide enough feedback on why they are on display.
Here are some suggestions: