Have you felt as if you've been neglecting class displays since the advent of the literacy strategy? Well, don't despair. You can turn your classroom into a teaching aid that will also make it much brighter, probably with a lot less effort than teachers traditionally put into displays.
First, look upon your classroom as a whole-year project. Over the year it should build into a reflection of the year's work.
Do not strip the walls at the end of the summer term but prepare your classroom for your new pupils by emptying one main topic frieze board. In the centre of this, for the first day of term, prepare a curriculum map showing the topics and subjects you will be covering and how they interlink.
Talk to your class about the learning that is going to take place over the next few weeks. You can use examples of the work left from the previous year to inspire the children with a vision of how successful they are going to be this year. Involving children in their own learning is one of the most effective methods of ensuring success.
Next, plan your classroom in terms of colour and space. Unless you are really good at colour matching, choose three colours that go well together. If you get stuck, try royal blue with a turquoise border, or yellow with a royal blue border, or turquoise with a yellow border, and so on.
Now look at the space. Choose areas for all the subjects or topics and label the areas to let the children - and anyone who visits your classroom - know what the purposes of these displays are.
All displays need to be rich in the vocabulary that was introduced to the children as they undertook each area of learning. This applies as much to art as it does to English and maths. This language needs to be displayed in a variety of prints. Use a mixture of computer-generated and handwritten labels (in the script the children are learning) to create an interactive display - one that not only exhibits examples of the children's achievements but which also stimulates future learning by asking thoughtful questions, provoking further research or enquiry.
Interactive displays are not static. You or the child whose work is on the board should read their work to the rest of the class. Discuss who chose it - you or the children. Explain why and in so doing teach the rest of the children to appreciate good work and what they should aim for.
Have the children talk about what they like about each other's work so they will develop critical skills and learn to analyse their own work. Keep the interaction going. One way to do this is to let the children use the display to reinforce what they have learnt. The lighthouse and robot are good examples. The children can fit the battery, complete the circuit and make them light up.
In the same way, try to make numeracy displays flexible and interactive - this is particularly useful in the nursery and the key stage one classroom. So as well as just having a picture of eight objects by the side of the numeral eight, attach a see-through pocket or container to a large "eight" and add a card which invites children to place the right number of objects in it. An additional refinement is to ask for objects of particular colours.
Ask a science question each week and create a mini competition by writing the question on the board with an answer box. For a history display, use a time-travelling spaceship that lands on different years or facts.The children can then say why they are important.
When each board is filled and more space is needed, take down the frieze and transfer its essence - whatever demonstrates the learning that took place - to a smaller space elsewhere in the room.
With this type of display your room is always ready. There is no last-minute rush for parents' night, unexpected guests from other schools or, the most judgmental of all visitors, OFSTED inspectors.
Barbara Redhead is headteacher at Dinnington first school, Newcastle, and is on secondment to Newcastle local education authority as an adviser
HINTS AND TIPS
* Mounting. Put backing paper on the board, or paint it. You can double or triple mount if you wish, but the point is to make your display flexible, interactive and responsive to classroom developments.
* Use flat surfaces. A fabric-covered desk pushed up to the wall can bear objects that relate to the wall display. You can use ribbon to link them. For instance, if your display has a map of Argentina, you could have a ribbon leading from it to a tin of corned beef on the table.
* You need a good paper trimmer, a staple gun and a staple remover. Don't use drawing pins for display work; they look unsightly. Use a staple remover with a blade that slides under the staple.
Short of display space?
* Build towers with cardboard boxes covered with corrugated card. Fix the boxes together with soft iron wire.
* Make temporary boards with sheets of thick card stapled to battens on the wall. (Leave the battens up for future use. Painted, they are unobtrusive.) * Hang things from the ceiling with nylon thread. If your class has square ceiling tiles, lift them and loop the nylon round the aluminium frame. Alternatively, push big-headed pins sideways into the tile and hang the nylon from them. (Don't push drawing pins straight up into the tile - they will pull out.) * Try not to mount on glass - it can look tatty. If you do, make sure that your display looks tidy from the other side, by using backing sheets. (Unless you want a stained glass effect.) Safety first
Never let children take staples out of a board or let anyone use makeshift tools - scissors for example.
Contact Pauline Carr at the Alternative Display Company, 91 Bristol Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B5 7TU, 0121 440 2569.