It’s about that time of year. How many times have you walked past your bulletin boards and made a mental note to add something later? Many teachers kick off the school year with blank bulletin boards and have been contemplating what to put up there ever since the bell rang on the first day of classes.
Maybe you even threw something up there as a placeholder until you’ve completed your first reading and writing unit. Perhaps you pinned up some activities from the first week of school to temporarily cover them up.
If you haven’t put much thought into your bulletin boards yet (I understand you’re busy!) — It’s time to get some real, authentic student work up there.
At Literacy Partners, we believe that bulletin boards can serve to celebrate student work and student process.
The bulletin board should reflect our kid’s independent work without any help from the teacher. If we’re co-authoring student writing, we might as well sign our names next to the student.
When I was in the classroom, I wanted the bulletin board to reflect my class — the diversity, and the beauty of every reader and writer in the room.
Here are 3 tips for creating bulletin boards that make administrators, kids, and parents proud:
- Make sure every student is represented.
I remember working in a school in Harlem and visiting kindergarten with one of my principals. We stopped outside to look at one of the bulletin boards and when I noticed the lack of writing pieces, I asked, “Why are there only 9 writing pieces up here? Aren’t there 25 students in this class?”
I paused and waited, “We only put up EXEMPLARY work.” My jaw hit the floor as I thought, What “should” exemplary kindergarten writing work look like at the start of the year? I felt that it was unfair and damaging to celebrate only a small portion of the kids.
- Reflect and celebrate the process kids went through in the reading or writing unit.
You can do this by hanging up kids’ authentic writing pieces at the end of a unit — errors and all. You could even hang their on-demand pieces before or after the unit ends to demonstrate their progress. If you’re working on a reading bulletin board, it might reveal what strategies kids have been working on, what goals they’ve been working towards, and what they feel proud about as readers and writers. Post a photo of a student with their favorite book from that unit and an index card with their writing goal, strategy, or habit they’ve been developing.
- Try to make the bulletin board TEACH the visitor admiring it.
Let’s be honest. The bulletin board is intended for visitors — be it parents, administrators, or buddy classes. Rather than spelling out, “Narrative Writing” or “Our Small Moments” at the top of the board, instead, explain the process kids followed and what they worked on.
Here are some examples:
Looking for a fresh take on bulletin boards?
Here are some possibilities to try:
- Display published writing pieces or on-demand writing
- Show the strategies kids used or group the writing based on craft techniques
- Display the strategies kids used with a photo holding a favorite book with a strategy, habit or goal they’re working on
- Create a board in response to a read aloud. Students can draw/sketch/write about the text and what they connected to, how it made them feel, or what they felt it was really about.
- Include a library pocket with notes of appreciation where kids can give positive comments to each other. This is especially effective for hallway bulletin boards.
- When kids publish a piece of writing and it goes up on the bulletin board, consider having them write a dedication to someone. This will also help them learn the importance of choosing an audience. (See Sebastian’s writing for an example of this)
A few words of caution: I believe bulletin boards should celebrate our students’ successes no matter how big or small.
Here’s what to avoid:
- Correcting student work before displaying it
- Helping kids make their work look perfect (including spelling) before presenting it
- Putting rubric scores on it outlining who’s a 1, 2, 3, or 4
- Displaying negative feedback or suggestions to the reader or writer on the work. Discuss this with students privately during a conference and keep notes. This isn’t something the entire class and all the visitors need to know.
Here’s to bulletin boards that celebrate all of our young readers and writers — many who are approximating the new strategies they’re learning.We’d love to see what you have on your bulletin board, try one of these suggestions above and tag us in your photo on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter.