Love them or hate them; people do for a range of reasons, not good at display, so argue against, arguing that they are distracting, that they serve a passing need, so lose their value quickly, that they take time that could be spent elsewhere. During my career, I have heard all these and more, but, as a life-long Primary practitioner, I am convinced that the value of display outweighs the negatives. Children who know their work might be displayed in some form will put more effort into their work, as there is a defined, visible end product. If all work is in exercise books, they become secretive efforts, with only the classteacher to respond. Interestingly, there are simultaneous arguments against marking. One or the other serves a purpose in providing a response to effort.
Displays serve a variety of purposes within a school classroom. They should allow individual interpretation, not be part of corporate working.
Regular turnover of displays, linked with the current topic allowed flexibility to ensure that every child had a chance of having some aspect of work shared with the others. I found it a very pleasant end to a school day to put up a display that would be noticed the next day. A good display can enhance the wellbeing aspects of a classroom, especially if incorporating children’s work.
Sharing good work and Modelling thinking. It is almost self-evident that displaying work allows for sharing, but it can have a very positive impact on an individual and can also offer opportunities for evaluative interactions with an outcome, leading to further improvement. If the process is also displayed, for example, with the earlier drafts leading to the final product, this allows insights into the personal thought processes involved. Learning how people think is as valuable as passing by a nice piece of work. Encouraging engagement with post-it evaluation comments creates an interactive element.
Teacher modelling should be incorporated within displays, with hand-written rather than computer printed headings to model the school approach to writing and writing expectation; if a teacher writes badly, why should children be different? Careful questions embedded within the display which encourages further thought, together with post-its to enable responses, makes the display interactive and, in some case, evaluative. Mind maps of ideas or carefully selected images provide useful visuals from which discussion can be generated.
I wouldn’t have a general word wall, or large, bought charts. If words are important, they should be beside the child, for ease of access, a one side of A4 essential word list. Topic words could be written on a chart. Charts for memory jogging should also be with the child, filtered as personalised targets, not generalised statements. As “fold-out” sheets attached to the edge of an exercise book, they serve a closer purpose. The bought charts are usually very easily replicated by a teacher or TA, modelling school writing expectations.
Technology allows for temporary display to a purpose, through the IWB, for example. Images are really important, especially for children who may experience working memory issues.
But, I wouldn’t double or triple mount. In the words of one mentor, the venerable Peter Dixon,
Single mount= I really like this piece of work,
Double= I really, really like this piece of work,
Triple mount= I like this piece of work, but I have time on my hands.
Children, including infants, can be trained to mount their work for you, or at least find the right paper and put them together. As a classteacher, I did not have the facility of a class Teaching Assistant. I met my first one when I became a head, and that lady was largely helping in the office, rather than the classrooms.
I would have an interactive/working wall, based on a current topic, with some essential starter images and questions, but which, over the timescale of the topic, changes to the needs of the class and allows celebration of different aspects of working. It might from time to time be a little scruffy, as on-going mind maps, or post-it notes are incorporated, but it should be about learning.
I would have time lines, either as story boards for literacy, or within a history context, to embed concepts of time and associated vocabulary.
I would have displays, not too fussy, but each to a purpose, supporting a specific aspect of learning, so changeable daily if necessary, but always seeking to celebrate children’s work enhancing their self-esteem, so encouraging further effort.