Creativity for control freaks

12th November 2004 at 00:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Creativity on display

If you had been in charge of drawing up the 24 "Remodelling the Workforce" tasks, would your list look the same as the one we're all working towards? Mine wouldn't have had "display" on it. There are many things that I want to delegate, but the way my classroom looks, and the way that work is presented to anyone who cares to look in is something I feel I can only do myself.

Having someone else do my washing and ironing would be great, but I wouldn't want them to choose what I wear. In the same way, a teacher needs to be comfortable with what the walls are wearing. As the term moves on, take a look around your room and have a think.

Whether or not you delegate putting up the display, there are many ways to ensure the content reflects the way you teach and pupils learn. A bigger board lends itself to a working display that builds up with the knowledge of pupils over a period of time. The topic can be displayed in the middle and, just as with a mindmap, weekly work can branch out with examples of learning. This provides a visual reminder of what has gone before and, if labels for the branches are put up in advance, the promise of learning to come. Irrespective of who puts the work up, it says something about how learning takes place.

Another strategy, particularly if the display boards are at pupil height, is to give responsibility to the learners themselves. You know that if you can't present a clear purpose and audience to your pupils, they will be likely to present purposeless work you wouldn't want to show anyone. Making the design, production and presentation of a display the task for a group of pupils kills these birds with a packet of Blu-Tack.

The key is keeping the space fairly small until they become used to it.

Pupils know the audience is anyone who may wander into the room, both adults and children, and the purpose is to show them what has been learnt in a particular topic. The first attempt is never great. Just as when children first get the chance to choose their own clothes, so you get a display that looks as if it is wearing its pyjama top with swimming trunks.

So self-evaluation begins, "next-time steps" are decided and later attempts improve.

Pupils already know how the floor space in the classroom can be used creatively. By also opening up the four walls (or three if you live with me in open-plan land), you hand another canvas to the pupils and invite them to show what they can do. They also begin to notice the other displays that were previously just visual noise. In an amazing fusion of metaphor and irony, a pupil told me the other day that one of my titles was crooked and, as we talked, a teaching assistant walked past and put my collar straight.

I'm sure that's not one of the 24 tasks.

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester

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