Have you ever had the experience of looking for a household object, knowing you’ve seen it somewhere but unable to remember where, then finding it in a place that you walk past several times a day? If things are there long enough and we don’t make use of them, they become ‘wallpaper’ and we often stop noticing them altogether.
Unfortunately classroom displays can suffer from the same fate. We can spend hours in the Summer holidays putting up impressive displays, but if we don’t ever refer to them, sooner or later our children will stop noticing they’re there, let alone making use of them. This is where working walls should come into their own. The idea of a working wall is that it should be full of things that will support children’s learning and help them to learn more independently. They should be constantly changing to match our current topic. I appreciate this can be difficult to achieve in the life of a busy teacher and so my top tips for saving time would be:
- Keep things simple – there’s no need for triple mounting and laminating (unless it’s a resource you will use again and again), as long as it’s legible and clear.
- Keep everything – devise a system for filing away your resources so you can dig them out next time you teach this topic. I usually keep things in folders labelled by topic.
- Make use of printable resources – lots are available from sites like Teacher’s Pet and Communication4All.
- Get the children to help – independent or homework tasks could include making posters about your current topic, showing how to use a method or illustrating some new vocabulary.
What should be included on a working wall? This might vary according to the age of your children, but might include:
- Vocabulary related to your current topic (the very useful Cheney Agility Toolkit has this editable word wall which you could use)
- Relevant models and images
- Worked examples of methods – these can be screen shots from your whiteboard or photocopies of children’s work
- Problems and challenges – make these interactive if possible, perhaps by children responding on sticky notes (Nrich have some good posters that could be used for this)
- Number lines or washing lines related to your current learning (eg. lines counting in hundreds or in decimals or in multiples of 2)
- Examples of children’s work (What A Good One Looks Like)
- Real life examples of your current topic (again this is a good task to give for homework – ask children to look for eg. examples of circles, or bar charts or timetables and bring them in)
- Photos of children working on practical tasks
- Practical resources that children can use (eg. mirrors, hundred squares, number lines etc.)
- Success criteria
Whatever you include, make sure you refer to it often and wherever possible refer children to it when they need help.