Common bulletin board problems solved
Too many classroom bulletin boards? Not nearly enough? Maybe you’re not allowed to hang things on your walls, or everything keeps falling off? This page will give you functional and attractive bulletin board ideas for ANY classroom or school!
The dreaded bare wall
Some teachers love to spend hours creating adorable bulletin boards at school. They have perfectly coordinated borders and change their displays at least once a month. They even die-cut letters for cute, rhyming titles that make everyone who reads them say, Aww, that’s so clever! Why didn’t I think of that?
I am not one of those teachers. Decorating bulletin boards is low on my priority list. Many new teachers get caught up in constantly changing their displays because they feel like they have to, not realizing that their time could be used for planning and implementing really dynamic lessons. (Unless you so enjoy staying late and bringing work home that you don’t mind spending hours on lesson plans AND decorations). If you love bulletin boards, there are some fantastic links for you at the bottom of this page. You will find links to thousands of attractive and functional boards that will inspire you and get your creative juices flowing. If you’re overwhelmed with the demands of running a classroom and just want something attractive and functional on your boards so your room doesn’t look neglected, this is the site for you. I highly recommend that you put up bulletin board paper and simple borders in August and leave them up all year. Display the reference tools your kids ACTUALLY USE, not the cute commercially-bought posters they never look at. If you don’t reference it during your instruction, the kids will never reference it during independent work. Put up some of their best work and change it periodically, leaving the background and border the same. It’s as simple as that. Whether you have too much space or not enough, this page will give your ideas for creating functional and attractive displays for your classroom.
Bulletin board problems solved!
PROBLEM: An excruciating large space for displaying work in the hallway and no time to change it out. SOLUTION: One permanent display that can have new student work added periodically. This is the display I had outside my classroom door during the 2005-2006 school year. I had each of the kids paint a self-portrait on bulletin board paper. (I had a para-professional working with me that year and she managed the painting one day during indoor recess. You could also ask your art teacher to have students create self-portraits during their art time). The kids then typed their autobiographies and paper-clipped them above their pictures. As the year went on, they switched out their work for seasonal pieces and other favorite works. (About once a month, I let them choose a new piece to hang in the hall.) This was fabulous for me because it required so little effort, yet was always fresh. This is another year-round bulletin board I used in the hallway during the 2002-2003 school year. Each child had one section and was responsible for selecting from her Friday Folder the paper that she was most proud of. The students wrote on sticky notes (“This is my best work because__”) and hung the papers up on the way out to the bus on Friday afternoon. This bulletin board changed weekly, required about five minutes on the part of each child every Friday afternoon, and resulted in absolutely no maintenance for me apart from the initial set up.
PROBLEM: No wall space for bulletin board displays, or administration does not allow teachers to hang posters on the wall. SOLUTION: Hang papers over windows, on cabinets, and even from the ceiling. Mrs. Paige, a first grade teacher at one of my former schools, hung students’ work on her cabinets. She taped up one piece of construction paper for each child, and switched out the kids’ work throughout the year. . We had limited bulletin boards in my old building, so my former colleague Mrs. Widelitz got creative and made one! It’s a large piece of heavy cardboard covered with bulletin board paper, suspended from the ceiling using metal hooks. I once taught in a very old building that only had two tiny bulletin boards. The school had just been painted and the administration wouldn’t let us hang anything on the walls. There were no windows in the classrooms, and I wasn’t about to stare at four white walls all day like the place was an insane asylum. So, I strung up some yarn and hung displays using clothes pins. In this photo, you can see my word wall, in which I cut out ‘clothing’ from bulletin board paper and labeled each piece with a letter of the alphabet so that vocabulary words could be prominently displayed. . Another year I had windows all along one wall and chalkboards along two others. There were lots of posters I wanted to display for students’ reference. I could have clipped them to the blinds using clothespins, but I wanted to be able to open and close the blinds. So, I hung yarn from the top of the blinds (knotting a three inch piece of yarn around each end of one blind). Then I hung posters from clothespins attached to the yarn. This took about an hour to do for 5 windows, but it was worth it to me!
PROBLEM: Too many bulletin boards in the classroom and nothing to put on them. SOLUTION: Use large functional displays such as word walls that students can reference during their work. A former colleague (Mrs. Buckley) had a classroom in which all 4 walls were bulletin boards. So this kindergarten teacher took up as much space as she wanted with her math bulletin board! The number cut-outs were huge so kids could see them from any point in the room. Mrs. Rivera, a former 4th grade teacher, used her massive amounts of bulletin board space to create this cute and simple display. She left the same border and title up all year and changes out the kids’ work. Now that’s my kind of bulletin board. Mrs. Amento, formerly a 4th grade gifted teacher, allowed this board to take up a huge part of her wall. The kids chose new work every week to add to the board, simply stapling the new paper on top of the old ones. I love that the KIDS were responsible for updating it, freeing the teacher to do more important tasks.
PROBLEM: Students aren’t using the displays you’ve set up. SOLUTION: Create unit reference boards to help kids recall and synthesize what they’ve learned. For our American History unit, I typed a caption for each time period and provided a short summary of some of the activities we completed. This display was in the hall, so visitors to our classroom could learn about what we had been studying. Students often read the board in the morning before they were let into the classroom. At a different school (same bulletin board border), I taught my kids started about ancient civilizations. I knew it would become difficult for them to keep each culture straight, so I decided to create a board to help them remember what we had done. I typed up the title and the names of each time period we would study and stapled them to the board. Each time we learned about something new, I stapled a sample of the kids’ work to the board and wrote a simple caption underneath in permanent marker. This was our last unit so I knew the paper would be thrown away afterward: if it had been earlier in the year, I would have just written it on paper or typed it and stapled the paper up. The unit reference boards for social studies were so helpful that I decided to do the same thing for science. I wrote directly on the paper again because it was the last unit of the year. Any time I’d review previous material for quizzes, tests, and culminating projects, the kids would immediately turn and look at the board. Seeing their actual work immediately triggered the knowledge (“The different bodies of water? Oh, yeah, the flap books we made! One half was for…freshwater! And the other for saltwater!” The visual aide was awesome!
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