Sunday 4 May 2014


I've spent a fair amount of time in Skaha Lake Middle School recently and also visited Columbia Elementary and am always interested on what is on the walls. Last year, I taught in a room now occupied by Lindsay Guza and I must admit, she has done a far better job with renovations. Her walls are alive with student work and ways for students to learn!  

It got me thinking about the ways our walls can be used to teach. In Lindsay's case, there are a few new things at play. First, there is a learning component, with notes pasted around the room for a recent unit of study. Next, there are science fair projects from previous years, meant to inspire students during ongoing work they are doing. Third, there are cool biology projects that showcase student works. Fourth, in a cross-curricular style assignment, students have demonstrated art skills and academic skills as they've drawn excellent pictures of organs. These all add to a vibrant sense of classroom community and learning.  

Judy Schneider is a colleague who is also great at building community. Every time I go to visit, she's like the fairy-godmother, with kids abuzz around her. Of the myriad of ways i've seen her build community is also on the walls of her classroom. Each student gets a poster in Judy's class. On the poster they get to draw a picture of themselves  and they get to list three wishes and a star (three things they hope for and one thing they want to work on throughout the year.).  It is awesome as they can reflect on their goals and constantly look up and see their own potential. What a cool way to build community and to showcase student values and goals. 

Once in awhile a student will come in and ask about a poster on my wall. Over time I usually forget the posters and they become part of the background. However, once in awhile I am reminded of the power of decorations and what we hang on the walls. A police friend of mine recently came to my class to visit and do some community policing (a term for meeting with students and answering questions in order to build rapport with the community.) When he arrived, many of his questions were about he posters of World War 2 that I had up around the room, or about the student work pasted on the walls. It made me realize that students likely see and wonder the same. 

Judith King gave me a map of First Nation's territories last year and I put it up near the doors so that as students leave, it is in a place of prominence. It is also near the front so I can reference it in Social Studies 11. Two students of First Nation's  ancestry noticed it right away  last semester and were enthusiastically showing me what Nations they had in their ancestry. They also taught me some correct pronunciations and mentioned that it was important that I had it up; but also wondered why. They were also intrigued by the fact that the map had some teaching ideas on it.

Visiting colleagues has made me reflect again on the power of the periphery. These items are peripheral to teaching (more so in the high school) but what impact do they have? Should I put statements of values on the class wall? Should I showcase posters of content? How much student work should adorn the walls? How often should posters/student work/pictures be mover or changed to stimulate learning?  Thanks to Judy and Lindsay for making me think about how to decorate my room to maximize learning. 

Post by Jeff Fitton with permission from Lindsay Guza and Judy Schneider

1 comment:

  1. What a great reflection Jeff. It is a wise teacher that recognizes the strengths in others and co-opt's them to benefit his students. You have honoured their work and your own intentions.