Working walls and displays

Working with ‘Working Walls’

Within my role, I am privileged to get the opportunity to visit local schools within our learning alliance, the DLA (Deal Learning Alliance). During many of these visits, one thing I enjoy most is the variety of approaches to using display spaces in the schools’ shared spaces and each teacher’s own room.

One interpretation of a ‘Working Wall’ in a Year 5 setting

In many classrooms, there are a range of different displays, used for different reasons. None of the rooms that I have walked in has been identical, however, some rooms have clearly expressed the personality of the teacher, and children, more than others.

When I first qualified, and during my student placements, I would spend hours, often over several evenings, and with the help of dedicated teaching assistants, painting backdrops and making large, high visual impact displays that decorated the room. We were very proud of some of these efforts, the children enjoyed looking at them, but they had little impact on the process of learning.

As an end product, they were great for celebrating a final piece of work, but they did not support the children in their learning. They also did not encourage independence.

The concept of a ‘Working Wall’ had not really been discussed during the earlier years of my career. ‘Interactive displays’ were actively encouraged, and were part of the discussion during teacher training, but these were not as refined as the idea of displays dedicated to moving the learning forward.

Whilst at my previous school we started to look at the concept of developing more interactive displays. These were introduced to support learning and provide opportunities for independence.

This is one display from my Year 6 classroom at my previous school, it was probably the closest that I had got to what my interpretation of a ‘Working Wall’ is now. It was interactive. It encouraged independence. However, it wasn’t used by the children to assess their understanding, I was modelling the use of the wall as an extension.

Then I moved schools.

Working with ‘Working Walls’

During the 2012-2013 curricular year, our Principal purchased all teachers a copy of the Jackie Beere book, ‘The Perfect Ofsted Lesson.’ The use of display to further drive learning forward was one theme that interested me. I started to experiment with a range of different ‘Working Wall’ ideas with the support of my Year 4 colleague.  We tried different display ideas, in Literacy and Numeracy, using ideas adapted from the Thinking Maps resources.

One style of ‘working wall’ that had been a success for the children in our Year 4 classrooms has been the Numeracy working wall, examples of which can be seen below.

A ‘Working Wall’ from my classroom.

The concept is very simple, the children can identify the stages of development for the strategy or skill being covered. From the wall the children can then identify the stages of development they have already covered, can go back to check their understanding, and independently identify the next stages in their learning. The children in my class regularly self-assess using the wall, this enables me to facilitate the children in their learning journey far more effectively by differentiating the tasks more accurately.

Trial by OFSTED

During our most recent Ofsted inspection, the children demonstrated the independent use of the working wall to develop their own learning and explain to the inspector what their next steps would be. Whilst receiving the feedback from the session, during which no grades were given, the inspector stated that she would have liked to have had access to strategies like that at school as a child.  I have to say that I wish I had as well.

Since the inspection, we have been visited by several teachers, from schools around the county. Sceptical looks have been given to the ‘scruffy’ boards strewn with Post-it notes (other brands are of course available) but once the teachers have seen the boards in action, during mini-plenaries and prior learning tasks, and more importantly spoken to the children they can see the impact they have had.

I have found the use of large rolls of backing paper or lining paper to be very useful as the working wall can be rolled up and stored for the next time a topic is revisited.

Like all tools, this strategy/resource doesn’t fit all jobs and is not the only style of ‘Working Wall. We must also recognise that we still need to use other displays, to give children reminders, helpful hints and more importantly to celebrate their learning journey and share their final products.

These are things that all teachers, classrooms and schools do differently. As a school we have introduced different expectations for displays in some of the shared spaces in the school, using large photograph frames to share the process of learning.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Adam Atkinson and published with kind permission.

Read more posts by Adam by clicking here. All images courtesy of Adam Atkinson.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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