By Sue Drury
Last updated 10 August 2020
The rise of the working wall has been one of the most noticeable developments in the classroom. With every minute of teaching time becoming more and more precious, new ways of maximising the learning experience are at a premium.
Most teachers have embraced the idea of having spaces on their walls that support ongoing learning rather than simply celebrate the finished article.
The question, then, is not so much what is a working wall, but are you succeeding in getting your working wall to, well, work for you?
Even if you think you are, there’s usually room for improvement. But that’s what working walls are for.
Teacher news notice board
First, the parish notices: be aware that we’re going to focus on literacy here. That’s not to say that maths isn’t important. Of course it is. But there is a time and a place for everything. And the time and place for maths is not here. Sorry.
Where to start with wall displays
Don’t be afraid of blank space. A working wall should not start covered. The whole point is to steadily increase what you pin up as you address it across a series of lessons. That helps the pupils to get a better idea of the relevance of what you are saying and how it builds towards the finished article, typically a piece of unaided writing.
Display ideas – keep your constants
That doesn’t mean there isn’t scope for having some constant features on your wall. There is always a place for learning objectives and, ideally, it should be the same place so that pupils get used to knowing where to look. Others find that it helps to have regular fixtures such as pockets for useful reminders, like lists of conjunctions, synonyms for said or genre-specific word mats so that pupils can feel free to come up and help themselves when they’re stuck.
Make it an interactive wall for children
In fact, embrace interactivity on your wall. Not only does this make the children feel that they have some shared ownership of this important learning space, but it also means that you have to do less in terms of updating the wall. Which also means you have to…
Effective working walls embrace randomness
Some teachers are so tidy and organised it’s scary. If you are someone who shudders every time a pencil is out of place, you might have to let go of some of your perfectionism. A working wall should not be a vision of regimented order. Give yourself permission to allow a slightly random, fluid look to this part of your wall so that you don’t have a melt down if Jaydeen has not put her post-it in exactly the right place. Many of the best thoughts come out of left-field so it’s unreasonable to expect contributions to a working wall to be in neat, straight lines. Save that for other displays, if it makes you happy.
Make it an interactive wall
As hinted at earlier, make space on your wall for sections where you actively encourage contributions from the class. For example, one of our interactive classroom displays for lower KS2 SPaG concepts starts with a common prefix, such as auto, complete with its definition, and invites pupils to add root words to form new words such as autograph. The resource includes a selection of printed roots that could be added to one or more of the prefixes although you could also invite pupils to think of and add their own. Of course, you will need to make a stash of suitable writing paper readily available.
Another way to get the pupils involved is in the creation of useful word banks. Our Word Webs resources not only generate a collection of synonyms as useful as any thesaurus, but they also help children to appreciate the concept of words having shades of meaning. This encourages young writers to think carefully about which words precisely communicate the meaning they intend to convey.
Teacher productivity – save yourself time
Even though there is scope for fostering an ad hoc feel when you create a working wall, that doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel every time you start a new topic or study a new book. Keep a stock of key elements that you know will come up again and again. You know, for instance, that you will be expecting children to write stories at various times over the year, so why not have attractive posters that you know will be useful and relevant, time and time again? For example, we offer a set of seven eye-catching posters for giving pupils tips on how to get their narratives off to an engaging start. Put them up when you need them; take them down and stash them carefully when you don’t … until the next time.
Show the learning process as you go
Great though interactive whiteboards are, do some of your shared writing on big pieces of paper so that you can display a constant reminder of your thought processes as you created a text together. After all, mistakes and improvements are often most informative.
Let good work feature in classrooms
For all the benefits of showing an evolving text and surrounding it with powerful vocabulary and useful grammar tips, don’t be afraid to display an example of the finished article too. A good illustration of the genre your working on can be very useful for showing pupils what they’re working towards. For example, you could take the text from a test paper, like our Year 2 SATs practice resource, and add it to your display.
Why use a working wall? Hopefully this has not only answered that question but given some ideas to make it work harder too.