Thinking about displaying something?

Why? After my blog post last week I have had a number of conversations and messages about display.  Well, it’s got my fingers tapping again.

A couple of years ago I was sitting in a heads office in a very lovely outstanding school.  It was my first meeting, but felt like we had known each other years, and were engaged in a rich and varied conversation.  What we were exactly talking about at the time, I can’t remember, but do remember saying “yes, it’s like when I see displays where children have had to sit for hours and scrunch up tissue paper and stick under supervision within the lines.  My first question is always, (after an internal sigh and why?)  ‘what was the learning?’ And ‘could it have been a richer learning experience for those children?’”  The head smiled and agreed.  We then went on a tour of the building, and as we rounded the corner, a giant display made up of scrunched up tissue paper loomed down on me which must have taken the best part of a week to construct.  At least I didn’t have to ask my questions, as she already knew them…..

I know that there is learning in everything.  What makes it stronger is how that is consolidated in the minds of learners, recognizing the learning and discussing it.  There is a degree of dexterity.  It takes some skill to scrunch up tissue paper enough to not waste the covering potential but not be too loose.  Then there is the teamwork aspect.  I just think there is more productive use of everyone’s time.

Whatever your setting, Early Years, Primary, Secondary through to offices and care homes.   Things need to be displayed.  So here are my top tips…..

  • Why are you putting up the display? If the answer is there is a board and it needs to be filled, contact maintenance and get it taken down.  Once you know your purpose it’s easier to think about the aesthetics.
  • Why are you putting up the display, and not your students?
  • Variety is the spice of life.   Don’t just stick to finished pieces of work, displays can:
      • Show the process of learning – photos, workings out, ongoing debates with paper and or post-its.
      • Be interactive –  I once saw a display put up by year 11’s on riverbed systems as part of their revision.  Year 9s studying the same topic spent a lesson devising questions which were attached to the display and then answered as further revision by the year 11 class.  If students have to turn things over, press buttons to hear clips
      • Get people thinking……Set up a provocation, object or words.  Thunks are good for this try  A simple question on a plain background.  Could be used as a starter or debate topic.
      • evolve over time.
      • Celebrate non academic achievements.
  • Displays can become wallpaper.  Tying to find a balance of leaving things up long enough, but not so long parents can remember from their days at school….
  • Break out of the box.  Start from ceilings or floors.  For permanent fixtures get hooks put into the ceiling, or temporary solutions to suspended ceilings can be found here
  • Use fabric as a backing (lasts longer than paper), or drape over boxes to create different surfaces.  If I’m being a bit arty and draping I use a kimble tag gun to give some texture and secure quickly (also great for putting fabric together for instant costumes!)
  • Putting things on a fluorescent background is not the answer to visibility.  Choose your colours wisely.
  • Does it really need a corrugated boarder?  They aren’t cheap, and what does it add?
  • Does it really need to be a board?  What are you likely to display?  If it’s a wall of fame or photographs, clip frames might be easier to maintain?
  • In every school there is an Art department.  Meeting rooms, corridors, receptions can be easily transformed with gallery style displays celebrating work produced within the school.  A rolling program changing them over holidays keeps buildings up to date….Art rooms are also a great place to be inspired…

Teaching and learning is individual.  It can be guided by others, and there is always advice out there, but you need to find what works for you.  If you’ve got some examples of great learning environments, I’d love to see them and share, or you could tweet them to us?

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