Sunday, September 23, 2018

Bare Walls Theory -- not so much!

This is my fifth year teaching, and I spent the first two years of my teaching career on a cart as a travelling teacher, so I was very happy about getting my own room two years ago.  At that time, I decided that I did not want to follow a "bare walls" strategy that I saw in many high school classrooms, but I also did not want to go overboard with decorating and make the room a big distraction to the students.  The general rule that I followed was that each of the posters and decorations in the room would be there to emphasize a key concept from the units in the classes I taught and that they should be student generated whenever possible.

I have three main areas that I decorate:  there is a bulletin board in the hallway outside my classroom where I have general technology information that could apply to the whole school; there is a white board that I don't use because my class calendar is online, so that has become my WWW wall; finally the walls are typically decorated with small posters that emphasize various points from lessons.

Bulletin Board

Fall Technology Update - change your password!
Fall Technology Update
The hallway bulletin board I only change once per season.  The rub is that I have basically no artistic talent.  I overcome my lack of artistic ability by selecting my student aides very carefully.  I need them to do some organizing,  some grading, and most importantly, they create almost all of my classroom decorations.  Because this is viewed by all students as they pass through the hallways, I make it quite general and also make sure that it can be quickly read as students walk by on the way to class.  Last year's topics were:  School - There's an App for that -- APP-ly yourself;  A fall technology update (see the photo); Winter - A Blizzard of Technology Careers with career and education information; and a Think
before you tweet, snap, text, post bulletin board.
Think Bulletin Board
Think Before You...  (with my awesome student aides)!

I was sad to see my student aides from last year graduate, but I am fortunate to have another talented artist as my student aide this year.  I started the year with a welcome back bulletin board encouraging students to be their own unique selves.  The Fall Technology Update is coming back with new recommendations and new decorations, and that is going up now.

White board

The room I inherited was not originally planned as a classroom, but rather as a computer room that would be checked out by various teachers that needed to use computers for their class for the day.  When our school purchased a set of laptop carts that could be taken into the classrooms, the computer room came up for grabs and I got it!  Because it was not a classroom, its setup is not the greatest. 
A place for students to write, wonder, and draw
Weird, Wonderful, and Worrisome
The main white board for the room is off to the left and not useful for instruction, so I decided to give that over to the students for their own ideas and artwork. I got this idea by attending a Google Summit for teachers last fall.  One of the key note speakers was Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) who talked about creativity in the classroom.  It was a very inspiring session loaded with many take-aways.  One of them that I implemented right away was the WWW wall.

WWW stands for Weird, Wonderful, and Worrisome.  The idea is that a white board or other area for student creation is divided into portions where students can write, draw, and add their own unique
A place for students to write, wonder, and draw
More Weird, Wonderful and Worrisome
creativity that fits into one of those sections.  Some students would hurry in on Monday mornings to get their creations in.  Others would get up and stretch during studio time (another gem from Amy Burvall -- studio time is time to be creative in the computer lab instead of work time).

A word of caution:  it did require a little monitoring to make sure that all of the contributions were indeed school appropriate.  At the end of the week, the board was wiped down, new headings were put up and students would start again.  In general, the students enjoyed everything from adding new section headings each week, to adding their own jokes, to making some incredible drawings.  I decided that this was a keeper and have started it up again this year.

Student Posters

Student posters get added around the room and are gradually added throughout the year.  As we study a new topic and a student asks a question, there is usually a fun poster that has been created that delivers the point with some humor.  When we come across a topic or unit that doesn't have a poster, someone usually offers to make one.  Most of these are memes that students find on the web and then turn into their own creations.

One of my all time favorites is when a student fixes one bug only to introduce two or three more.  The poster is a twist on 99 bottles of beer that goes:  99 little bugs in the code, 99 little bugs, fix one bug -- compile again -- 100 little bugs in the code!  Another simple one for remember square brackets for arrays is [hip, hip].

It's nice to look around the room and see things that make you smile.  As a teacher I spend a lot of time in the room, so making it look nice for me and the students makes us all happy!

Note:  I forgot to take pictures of my posters so I will have to add those later.

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