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Teaching Strategies for Better Bulletin Boards

Janelle Cox

Effective, eye-catching displays can be powerful teaching strategies. These teaching strategies in the form of bulletin boards can generate excitement about classroom content, help children learn to appreciate and value their work as well as their peers, and help foster a sense of community within the classroom. By carefully choosing what goes up on your classroom walls, you can get a lot out of the space that you have. Here are a few teaching strategies on how you can get the most out of your displays and bulletin boards in K-6 classrooms.

Teaching Strategies: Make Student Work the Main Focus

Oftentimes, a new teacher’s first instinct is to run to the nearest office supply store and purchase a bunch of pre-made displays for their bulletin boards. While this may be OK for the border of a bulletin board or to complement a display, it should not be the main focus of it. Try focusing on showcasing your students’ work. Here are a few pointers on how to do that.

  • Create displays that are whimsical and imperfect. Showcase all student work, not just the ones that look perfect. This will help students feel valued regardless of their ability level.
  • Make sure that every student in the classroom has something on display at all times. Never leave anyone out.
  • Create bulletin boards that reflect your classroom community. For instance, you can create a class poll or use the results from your latest student survey.
  • Invite students to help you create borders and pictures for the display. Ask students to bring in photographs from home or to help you create themes for each bulletin board. Get students involved as much as you can.

Keep it Simple

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Bulletin boards are meant to look appealing, not cluttered. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep them simple.

  • Display only a few items on each board and make sure to use proper spacing. Instead of adding to the display, try changing items or even rotating them.
  • To create an eye-catching bulletin board, use a plain color for the background versus a pattern. A pattern tends to distract the eye and take away from the content that is being displayed. Leave the patterns and whimsical colors for the border or for students’ work.
  • Display only what students are currently working on or have just completed. Don’t leave a bulletin board up all year with students’ work that they did during the first week of school. If you are going to do a holiday theme display, then make sure that you take it down as soon as the holiday has ended.

Create Interactive Displays

Bulletin boards can serve as a means to educate and can increase student learning when they are interactive. Try correlating your display with your curriculum. If you can’t do that, then try a “Student’s choice” board or a “Reader’s choice” board where students must answer a question from the board and give their opinion. This is a fun way for children to observe the board all week or month long, and read the opinions of their peers. Here are a few more ideas and tips.

  • Create an interactive exploration board. For example, let’s say that you were currently working on a unit about nutrition. Your display would have one or more activities about nutrition (with the materials on or near the display) that students would need to complete.
  • Usually bulletin boards are at an adult’s eye level, so for an interactive student display, make sure that it is at student eye level so they can easily have access it.
  • Interactive displays should have clear instructions that are age-appropriate, so your students can read and understand it on their own. Make sure that you take all students’ ability levels into consideration when creating these types of bulletin boards.

Choose Your Location Wisely

Location is key if you want your students to get anything out of the bulletin boards. If you are creating an interactive display that is relevant to your science unit, then make sure that you place your bulletin board right next to where students would conduct their science experiments. Next time you are planning a board, consider these locations:

  • On the wall.
  • On the Classroom door.
  • Near a learning center.
  • Create a traveling board.

Utilize your windowsills and shelves for displaying student work, but make sure that it doesn’t look too cluttered. Never hang anything from the ceiling, because it can be distracting and make the room look too cluttered. Lastly, don’t forget to position interactive displays at students’ eye level and instead of making one big bulletin board, try and create multiple displays with various themes and content.

Allow Students to Choose What Work Goes on Display

By allowing students to choose what work should go on display, you are teaching them to reflect upon their work, which will give them a sense of competency. Students can learn a lot from the choices that they make for themselves, it is a great way for them to learn more about themselves and grow through the process. Before you let students choose their work, give them a few tips on how they can choose wisely. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Have students ask themselves “Do I feel proud about this piece?” “Does this work show my best effort?”
  • Have students practice choosing a few pieces of their work to display. Ask them why they chose each piece.
  • Have students share their work with their peers before it is displayed and have them tell the class why they choose what they did.

As a busy teacher, you may choose to opt to purchase some of the materials for your bulletin boards. If you plan on doing that, then try and only purchase boarders, backgrounds, or fillers. Leave the content to the students or be sure to make that yourself.

Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to get the most out of your bulletin boards? Please share your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.