Bulletin board ideas. We have Pinterest boards dedicated to them, we scour the sections in teacher stores, looking for pre-packaged inspiration, and we search for them on Google or Amazon. Sometimes, we even sneak peeks into other classrooms—all on our never-ending quest to find that perfect bulletin board idea. Then comes the tough part—turning our hard-won bulletin board idea into an actual bulletin board display—with, for many of us, the self-added pressure of having a display worthy of showing off on social media! (Guilty!)
I am happy to let you know that I have found a cure for breaking this cycle of addiction, for conquering your case of bulletin boarditis, and for freeing your mind and body for much-needed, better-spent activities like family time or the gym (guilty, again!) Let your students do your bulletin boards for you!! Yes, your kids can and will happily create the material. And, if you let them, they will design and hang the display, too! And what’s more, they enhance their learning in the process.
Consider the cinder block wall. A staple of schools across America and probably beyond. These walls have corralled countless students, effectively muffled sound, and stubbornly resisted just about every teacher’s attempt to hang something from them permanently.
Now consider the same cinder block wall with student-created art and projects on them. This produces an entirely different picture, doesn’t it!?!
Just imagine the positive feelings that students will have when they come around a corner, walk down the halls, or enter a classroom and see artwork that they themselves created.
Even more so if it is part of a display that they took part in putting together and hanging up. Especially if is it one carrying an inspirational message, a positive affirmation, a reflection of some hard work, or making the previously blank wall a more beautiful place in your school.
Of course, educators long ago figured out an easy way to dress up these drabbest of spaces by creating bulletin board displays.
With just a few pushpins and without too much effort, teachers could put colorful borders, travel photos, cute graphics, monthly calendars, and more on display on the bulletin boards that now hang in their classrooms or hallways.
But times have changed, and the stakes are higher. We live in a Pinterest-conscious world, and the pressure to keep up with Mr. and Mrs. Teacher and their oh-so-perfect bulletin boards feel real.
Adding to that feeling could be that teachers’ evaluations are often tied to the classroom environment and learning spaces.
Ever-more elaborate bulletin board displays, complete with hand-crafted borders, content-specific clip art, special fonts, and even three-dimensional elements. It’s a visual feast, to be sure (and a wonderful opportunity for the more crafty among us to show off our artistic skills).
But missing from some of these works of art are the fingerprints of our students when, arguably, it is their creations that should be the real showpieces. A bulletin board filled with work made by students is a beautiful and meaningful thing for teachers and students alike!
My Welcome to Our Patch Collaborative Poster decorated by a class of preschoolers.
We love to stick our kids’ artwork on our refrigerators at home, flaws and all. Anything can go up, we don’t hold out for a perfected masterpiece before adding their drawings to the fridge display.
We should think of our school bulletin boards in the same way. As a space to proudly display what our students have accomplished. A space to reflect on where they are now, and how far they have to go or have come. One suggestion would be starting or ending your year with my All About Me Selfie project pictured below.
In fact, a bulletin board gets even more interesting when it reveals not just the polished, final product, but the process that went into it.
Try snapping photos of your students as they are working on their display pieces and put those up along with the completed essay, poster, painting, etc.
Similarly, you could include rough drafts alongside the finished work—before and after can show the progress your students have made!
Below you can see where a teacher displayed a portion of my Art-integrated Reading Comprehension Resource and the questions (and answers) used to guide the artwork. In this way, the whole process, from learning to art, was displayed for everyone to see (and be proud of!).
Just putting up the display can be a learning opportunity if you get students involved. Let them hang up the work. Let them figure out what should go on the bulletin board and how it should be laid out.
They will be invested in making sure that what they are creating is truly their best work.
After all, any number of people could be laying eyes on it—fellow students, teachers, parents, members of the community, and possibly even the school board (that happened to me once!).
And what these people want to see is work by students—not work by teachers that love Pinterest!
For those of you who are thinking, “But I’m not creative at all,” check out what this teacher had to say about using some of my resources with her students and the bulletin board she created…
The great news for those of you who, like me, do want to inject your own creativity into the bulletin board displays—there is always plenty of opportunities for creativity on your part.
Rarely do I see any two teachers display my projects that their students made in the same way.
For example, below are three examples of my All About Me Tessellation Project. Notice how they all put their own spin on this project. When the bulletin board displays were finished, they were unique. Each reflects the individual students that created the pieces and the influence of their teacher!
The displays provide you with a glimpse into their class sizes, what subject they teach (I bet that middle image is an art teacher), and even their classroom bulletin board shapes (the top one in the corner is pretty interesting) and their perseverance (I am amazed the teacher at the bottom was able to stick the pieces to a stubborn block wall!).
Even if your students don’t take part in the actual installation, they can still learn something from the bulletin board display when it’s finished.
You can have students take a “gallery walk” and reflect on their classmates’ work.
Or you can extend the walk and have them look at bulletin boards all around the school.
Seeing the work of a class hanging together in a single grouping can also have an impact. Maybe your students collaborated, and their individual contributions can be even more appreciated when viewed as a whole.
Most of all, the message you give your students when you hang up their artwork instead of pre-made posters and adult-created bulletin boards is that they are the important ones. They are special.
This is their time—let them shine!
Teach your students, through example, that you love what they create, and that you are proud to show it off.
A side effect is that you won’t have to spend your evenings and weekends working on searching, planning, designing, and then making the perfect bulletin board. It’s a win for all!
According to researchers at Harvard University’s Project Zero, bulletin boards reflect a school’s identity. Also, they can help foster a sense of belonging to a learning community:
[Bulletin boards] show what we value, offer opportunities for reflection, help learners make connections within and across subject matter, and contribute to a shared and public body of knowledge.
In short, the researchers say bulletin boards make learning visible, and what a sight to see. Especially when the alternative is a blank, cinder block wall, or the even handiwork of a bulletin board “pro.”
Other studies have even suggested that classrooms decorated with student artwork rather than cluttered, commercial products, provide a better, less-distracting, learning environment:
[Teachers should] step back and critically examine the quality and quantity of commercial materials on their walls to determine whether they actually contribute to children’s learning or whether they ultimately silence children. We should respect children as active, curious learners with ideas to communicate.
So go for it—let your kids take over!
Teachers often share the creative displays their students have done with projects I’ve developed. Whether you are using something of mine or not, let the students take the lead—they are the creative experts. Trust me. They won’t let you down.
I want to share a few bulletin boards and other displays that teachers have shared with me over the years using some of my resources.
Maybe some of these will inspire you to hand control of your bulletin board to your students.
Or, at the very least, fill the displays with art that your students created.
This post is full of pictures teachers have sent me using projects from my Teachers Pay Teachers store and this blog. However, don’t feel that you need my projects to make this happen. You can make meaningful student-created bulletin board displays with all the work you do each.and.every.day!
Happy art making!