I admit it. I hate bulletin boards.
People might assume I enjoy them because of my love of the arts. However, visual art is not my strong suit. When I was an elementary classroom teacher, my room was the most sparsely decorated one around. I don’t like overly-stimulating or busy environments (too distracting for me). I’ve never been tuned into creating a pleasurable physical space. Once, I had a date look around my first apartment and say, “Shouldn’t you have stuff hanging on the walls or something?” True story.
The reality is, however, that our physical spaces do matter. They have an effect on us, and we need to consider that when setting up our classrooms and our schools. As well as creating a more pleasant physical space, bulletin boards are a great way to share student work which helps create a nurturing, supportive and celebratory environment.
I was just talking about bulletin boards with a colleague who is working on trying to encourage the teachers at her school to put to good use all the boards around campus many of which are currently either empty or which are old and faded. Being an art teacher, bulletin boards actually are her strong suit and she really wanted to encourage the staff at her school to take full advantage. In talking about bulletin boards, she and I not only discussed what makes a good bulletin board but why we should use them.
They can be motivating.
When I was in kindergarten, my teacher was putting up pictures of sneakers we colored with yarn attached to them. She only put up your picture once you could tie the yarn like a shoe lace. I remember going home and practicing tying with anything I could get my hands on. I sat for what seemed like hours with my Winnie the Pooh trying to tie his bib on. All so I could get my sneaker added to the bulletin board. Use your bulletin boards as a place of honor and see kids working to have their piece added to the display.
They are informative.
They can be created to reinforce for the students something they are learning in class, they can be created to inform a visitor, or they can do both. When someone comes into the school or classroom from the outside (parents, visitors, fellow educators), they can see what kind of learning is happening in an efficient and aesthetically pleasing way. If you do have concerts coming up in the next week lots of people will be entering your school. Bulletin boards are an effective way to communicate with the masses without having to say a thing! That leads me to my next point about what makes an effective bulletin board.
Make it eye-catching.
Think of the bulletin board as an advertisement. You want to draw in your consumer. Create a catchy but informative title that can be seen from a distance and use contrasting colors to draw attention to the work. Go daring and add a three dimensional aspect.
Frame the work.
Whether a piece of writing, a piece of artwork, or a photo of students at work, create a frame. This gives it a finished look and another way to help the work stand out.
Use “board-worthy” work.
If you are using a bulletin board to display student work, be sure the quality is worthy of presentation. If you as a professional were to give a presentation or if you go to a museum, the work that is displayed is final draft form.
Label the work.
If a child created “board-worthy” work, be sure the work is clearly labeled in letter large enough that they are easy to see. Let them get credit for their work!
Consider elements of design.
If you think of the bulletin board as a work of visual art or a billboard, you want to consider things like balance, emphasis and variety as you create the layout.
Next time you look at a bulletin board and think, “Oh there’s one more thing I have to do” think about the benefits to the school or classroom climate and the great PR service they provide to the greater community to motivate you. Happy stapling!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.