There is a place in school for gorgeous classroom displays like this one, that have a real, magical, ‘Wow factor’. Displays like this don’t have much input from the children, don’t showcase work. However, they can be used as a focus for speaking and listening, just so long as staff make the effort to keep referring to them.
This display would not be hard to copy. You just need some sort of shiny background for the sky area. The figures could be traced from The Snowman big book or even scanned, printed off in grey scale, blown up to A3, then coloured in with good pencil crayons and outlined in black felt pen. This version does have hand cut letters which can be time consuming. It’s always worth laminating them when you do use them and storing them for future use. I usually pop them in a plastic pocket in my folder. Oh, and don’t forget to paper clip the letters for each word. Saves lots of sorting! I think I’d get the children involved in making the houses and the trees. You might end up with a few more, and they might not be quite so similar to the book, but I still couldn’t resist getting them involved 🙂
I think having at most one “wow” display in the classroom, or better yet in shared areas, is quite acceptable. Children can be quite entranced by them and this one graced our library for a whole winter term. When the time came to take it down the children were quite sad and if I’m honest so was I 🙂 Every time I looked at it my mind supplied the first few notes of “Flying in the Air”.
When I was researching the effectiveness of different types of displays for my degree I found some interesting responses from a group of Year 5 children that slightly took me by surprise. They absolutely loved some of the “wow factor” displays and talked with great fondness of ones they remembered from previous years. Not only that, but where some of those displays had been well integrated with the work the children mixed their memories of the display with their reflections on what they had learnt. Good stuff!
So decorative classroom displays can have a greater impact on learning that you might first suppose.
Creating a classroom library may not seem relevant to classroom displays but I think we need to consider all aspects of the learning environment and the way they work together when we plan displays.
I want to highlight some of the more interesting classroom libraries that I’ve seen recently. This one is a simple, yet soothing space. The colours are muted and not too stimulating but with just a touch of red for warmth. The books are tidy but accessible. They can be quickly popped back into the trays with very little fuss. There are cuddlies to hand which can be surprisingly important even for older children. The mat, rug and cushions combine together to make a cosy welcoming space. (Just a note about cushions. These are much better than beanbags as children with asthma can find the filling problematic.)The bookcases have been used to create a discreet, yet visible area. I think this is a lovely, well thought out space and it makes me want to curl up there with a good book so hopefully it will have the same effect on children!
Here’s a very different approach:
This time there’s a child sized sofa rather than rugs and cushions. It’s a nice idea but I wonder if it’s less practical. It’s definitely more expensive! It limits the number of children able to use the area and makes it harder for an adult to join them at the right level. The children will be side by side rather than clustered and whilst this might be useful for maintaining a quiet area, speaking and listening aren’t really well served by this arrangement.
On the plus side the area looks welcoming and cosy. Displays have been used discreetly to remind the children what this area is about. The area is clearly visible but it’s not quite as defensible a space.
This space is more enclosed than the others. It’s got child sized furniture and it’s quite small. It looks like an interesting and engaging space that will appeal to children. It’s going to provide a good speaking and listening environment but it worries me slightly on a few counts. Firstly, it is almost too private. If children do feel unobserved there is always a potential for bullying behaviours to go unnoticed. Secondly, it’s not an easy space for an adult to enter, get involved and facilitate discussions.
One other advantage of the first area is that there’s less attempt to control how the children sit. Child sized furniture is often most appealing to adults and to those children who like to sit quietly anyway. For those who are more kinaesthetic or squirmy as I prefer to call it 🙂 even the most delightful furniture can, literally, be a pain!