If you are going to be surrounded by them everyday, you might as well make them work, right? No, I don’t mean the kids in your Production Lab classes—I’m talking about your walls. Classroom bulletin boards tend to have a more elementary school connotation and bring to mind images of bright colors and mono-syllabic words with those weird curvy borders around them. But, have those of you on a middle and high school level considered what a resource that real estate is?!
Let’s explore some ways to think about your walls that could maximize students’ learning.
Anchor for Material
When you are introducing a new concept, you will certainly have some students who will latch onto it right away. But there will always be some whose learning style just doesn’t jive with your teaching style. By creating a wall space representing the material and teaching from the area around that space, you have the potential to create a more memorable impact for that information. Colorful posters with information, past students’ examples, and tangible evidence will be one more avenue for getting that knowledge into their brains. It doesn’t need to be cluttered, over-stimulating, or Pinterest-perfect (ahem). A simple, creative, visual representation of the material will give the opportunity for better recall of the information later for the more visual learners. It will also provide a reference point for future material that builds from the concept.
Work in Progress
Like your students and you as a teacher, your walls are a work in progress. The school year is always a journey and the students start somewhere and (hopefully) grow to land somewhere else by the end of the year. There is no rule that says your walls have to be finished before students ever enter the classroom and must remain as such, forever and ever amen. Why not start with simple rules and procedures and build the wall displays in clever and creative ways as the instructional year progresses? The fluidity provides a break from the monotonous and can help get the attention of your learners. This will also make sure that the time you spend decorating your room is going to make a real impact on what students retain when they leave it.
Resources for Objectives
We know you are busy. Between classes, rehearsals, staff meetings, duties, and everything else, there isn’t always time to make the students memorize every detail of every lesson objective. Let’s say for example that you want your students to use Strasberg’s Method in an improvisation exercise. You have discussed this method before when exploring influential theatre practitioners, but your students are getting it confused with Meisner’s repetition exercise. By displaying the information they have already been taught, you spend less time re-teaching and more time empowering the students to discover the differences on their own. So the time you put into creating a wall display while teaching the material could save Future You some time (and frustration) down the road.
Imagine the possibilities. Maybe the idea of creating a wall-sized presentation isn’t feasible for you for whatever reason. Consider the innumerable possibilities instead of using the wall space as a launchpad for your students’ learning. By having them create the bulletin board ties all of these things together, leaving you with an interactive, reference point that is fluid, interesting, and provides a reliable resource for your learners. Consider:
A Graffiti Wall
A simple prompt is written boldly on the display area and students are encouraged to draw, write, or use post-it notes to answer the prompt.
Example: “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream is…” The objective would be to let students write, draw, or post facts about the play after reading it. Not short opinions, such as “a good play,” but factual statements. Nothing can be repeated, so they could take turns adding to it and having to come up with new, thoughtful responses each round. This could also be used for cross-curricular studies.
A Character Wall
Example A: Cut out very basic/cartoonish shape of a body (think gingerbread person) and give to each student. They will choose a character to represent by creating a makeup design on its face and using fabrics to create a costume. Then, using the visible spaces in the body or a separate card, they write out physical mannerisms on that body part (particular hand gesture written on the hand, etc) and emotional/situational affectations that occur during the character’s journey.
Example B: Have students lay down on butcher paper and trace one another’s outline (crime scene style.) Each student takes his/her paper character and fills it with physical and emotional traits of the character being portrayed. This could be used in cross-curricular education with health and science when discussing tattoos, piercings, and body modifications, as well as with literature and history studies.
So as we march onward into a new semester, consider changing your walls or changing your perspective of how you use your walls. You will enrich the learning experience for everyone!
Please share with us some creative ways you use your walls to help teach your theatre classes and ideas for interactive bulletin boards!