Members of Education World's "Principal Files" team speak out about the power of bulletin boards from the primary grades to high school. They say bulletin boards loaded with student work add personality to school hallways and speak volumes about what teachers value most. Included: Photos and additional resources.
Principal Carol Robertson is a huge fan of bulletin boards. Bulletin boards help establish a positive climate in her school, she told Education World. "They can be an incentive for students to do their best work, they support the reading and math goals outlined in our School Improvement Plan, and they add interest for parents and visitors."
As a matter of fact, Robertson still enjoys creating bulletin boards to support each year's school-wide theme at Lewis Vincent Elementary School in Denham Springs, Louisiana.
As you take a walk around Lewis Vincent Elementary, you can tell that Robertson's enthusiasm for bulletin boards must be infectious. At the start of the school year, for example, you will see a bunch of bulletin boards that welcome students back to school and set a tone for learning.
On one bulletin board, a scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion make their way up a yellow-brick road that winds toward a school building. The headline on the bulletin board announces that "There's No Place Like School."
Large, colorful Olympic rings encircle real school supplies on another bulletin board, on which the headline shouts "Let the Classes Begin!" A three-dimensional torch accompanies the bulletin board, and more school supplies dangle from the ceiling to complete the theme.
A "Hall of Fame" headline and a picture of Albert Einstein serve as a motivator for math achievement in one class. Students will sign their names to the "Hall of Fame" as they earn a grade of A on a math chapter test. For each subsequent A they will earn a gold star to put next to their names.
Real velvet curtains frame another bulletin board with cutout letters that announce "Set the Stage for LEARNING."
Another bulletin board employs pieces of animal-print fabric and silk leaves to help kids feel "Wild About School."
"Most teachers enjoy designing inviting bulletin boards to inspire students or build concepts," added Robertson, who says colorful bulletin boards, bulletin boards that include 3-dimensional elements, and boards with great slogans are among her favorites.
Another bulletin board at Lewis Vincent Elementary will stay up all year in support of the school's reading incentive program. Real cheerleader pom-poms, and banners with the name of each class's teacher on them, appear under the headline "Let's Root for the Home Team!" As each student reaches his or her reading goals for the year, the student will add a helmet or another sports cutout to the class banner.
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Visitors to T.R. Simmons Elementary School in Jasper, Alabama, are greeted by a stone castle -- complete with 6-foot tall turret! That castle, "built" right outside principal Jim Clark's office, sets the tone for an exciting yearlong school-wide theme: "Where The Magic of Reading Never Ends."
But this particular castle is more than just a decorative announcement of the yearlong thrust. It also serves as a place of record for students' reading achievement. Each class is represented on the bulletin board by a knight's helmet with a long red feather attached. Throughout the year, as students achieve their reading benchmarks, their "headshot" photographs are strategically placed inside the helmet. The caption on the bulletin board announces that the students are now members of "King Clark's Knights of the Reading Table."
Clark told Education World that to help honor students for achieving their goals, each student chooses a favorite story to read to him. An "I Read to the Principal" certificate is posted alongside the image of the child donning the helmet. Clark also rewards the accomplishment by giving each student a special pencil and a paperback book of their choice.
"We also display their pictures on our daily closed-circuit television show," added Clark.
At the International School of Trieste, second-grade teachers Karen South and Brenda Markin have covered a wall in the school's lobby with their yearlong Flat Stanley Project.
"This cross-curricular and cross-cultural project weaves geography, literature, language arts, math, art, and so much more into a culminating project that shows off the multi-faceted talents of the entire grade 2 class," school director James Pastore told Education World. "It is wonderful for me to show this display off to all school visitors. Everyone is fascinated by how the teachers and children have learned how to work, learn, create, and play together so well. And the project's correlation to standards is simply amazing."
Pastore recalled how the second graders took the school's first graders on a "field trip" to see the Flat Stanley display. He thoroughly enjoyed hearing about how the second graders presented their work.
One day Pastore tried to explain the project to a group of parents. After trying for some time to hit the high points and answer parents' questions, he finally sent for some second-grade "experts" to get the story straight.
The teachers and Pastore have even discussed how they might make the world map portion of the display permanent, so that it can be used all year long by the entire school as a "learning wall."
When Pastore traveled recently to the American School in Paris, he met several senior boys who instantly lost their "cool" affectation when he asked them to take a photo of him with Flat Stanley. "It turns out that they had done a Flat Stanley project years ago and still remembered it like it was yesterday!" Pastore recalled.
"You don't see too many bulletin boards make the kind of impact that this bulletin board has made."
Many of the best bulletin boards described here by members of Education World's Principal File's Team are wonderful because of the way they engage or involve students. That is the case with a few of principal Roy Sprinkle's favorite bulletin boards at the Bay Haven School of Basics Plus, a K-5 magnet school in Sarasota, Florida.
"Recently, one of our fourth-grade writing remediation classes rewrote well-known fairy tales from the viewpoint of the antagonists," Sprinkle explained. The students wrote their revised tales in Reader's Theater script form, and the "Land Far, Far, Away" bulletin board served as the backdrop set for the students' presentations of their plays.
"I thought this was a truly original use of the bulletin board combined with original student work," Sprinkle told Education World.
Another original bulletin board that impressed Sprinkle was one geared to his school's ESE (exceptional student education) students who have difficulty remembering information. The bulletin board included a display of place value, which can be a very hard and abstract concept for those students. The board is there for them to refer to often, said Sprinkle.
In that same classroom the teacher also created a "Memory Board." That board includes information students need to memorize. The first five minutes of each class period is spent reviewing the information on the bulletin board. Currently, for example, the board includes the 3 [multiplication] tables; current lists of reading sight and vocabulary words; and spelling words that don't follow the normal rules.
"Any high school principal who has not encouraged teachers to make good use of bulletin boards is robbing themselves, their staff, and their students of a great opportunity to 'get the word out'."
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That's how principal Duane Kline of Jackson (Georgia) High School feels.
"Actually, maybe I ought to say 'get the work out'," added Kline, "because sharing student work takes precedence over everything else we make public."
Recently, as Kline walked the halls of Jackson High he showed off hallway displays of Spanish vocabulary; an ocean panorama running most of the length of one hall; a bulletin board full of displays of students' "If I could burn one" writing spurred by their reading of Fahrenheit 451; and a classroom with tessellations painted on ceiling tiles and geometric kites hanging from the ceiling.
"I encourage our staff to get student work publicized as much as possible," Kline told Education World. "The more public displays we have of student work, the more ownership the students take, the better work we get from them."
"I'm very proud of my teachers and students and the work they do," added Kline.
If you found this article to be of interest, you might also want to check out these Education World articles:
Best Bulletin Boards: Principals Share Favorite Hallway Displays
Some bulletin boards reflect student learning. Some attract attention as they display students' work or family photos. Others simply brighten school hallways. Included: Principals share "best bulletin boards."
Bulletin Boards That Teach
See Education World's archive of bulletin board ideas for use throughout the school year.
Your Search for Bulletin Board Ideas Is Over
Two educators who searched for bulletin board ideas on the Web and found little have solved the problem for the rest of us! Education World talks about bulletin boards with teachers Kimberly Steele and Kathy Schrock -- both of whom created useful bulletin board resources on the Net. Included: Links to ten bulletin board resources for educators across the grades.
Children's Work -- Visibility Leads to Value
Displaying children's work lets them know you value it -- and them. Documenting the process of student work benefits children, engages parents, and guides teachers. Included: Comments about making children's work visible from a researcher at Harvard Project Zero.
From "Pretty" to Practical: Using Bulletin Boards to Teach
If you've ever been guilty of ignoring a clearly out-of-date bulletin board or of putting up anything that will do, maybe it's time to give your bulletin boards a second look. Experts tell Education World that classroom bulletin boards can be more than just "wallflowers" -- they can be tools for teaching too.
Article by Gary Hopkins
Copyright © 2009 Education World
Originally published 10/09/2006
Last updated 08/25/2009