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Your Working Wall

11/08/14

Beginning to dream of your classroom layout in September? What about your working walls? Miranda shares what she thinks makes a good working wall. 

Do walls have ears? What do your classroom walls say about you? 

Boy do I love a good working wall! You can tell a great teacher by her walls I think. You can tell the over-managed ‘Ofsted’ working wall because everything is laminated, lined up perfectly with a spirit level and there is not even the slightest smear of blu tack on backing paper that could have been put up by Terence Conran in person. The walls look like something smooth modernist and off-putting hung in a modern art gallery – they look under-observed. And often the learning bits and bobs are too high up for a child to read anyway.

The best are the walls that put usefulness before good looks. The class have moved parts of the wall around and added new parts, the wall is clearly a work in constant progress – from the initial post-it note ‘wish list’ for learning ideas, to finished pieces of work, which include good examples of completed work from children who are working across the levels, and not just the masterpieces of the highest achievers.

Often a good working wall will have bits of whiteboard attached –where during lessons, children have added sentences and ideas or discoveries;  string to help link concepts (a bit like those complicated police investigation boards you see in the Bill/The Wire); and best practice pieces held up in some kind of honoured area of the board. Some new learning and old learning hang together as the topic progresses but the best teachers organise the board to show how the learning is progressing.

The words are mostly the children’s own and the wall avoids and abundance of dry instruction. Often a good working wall is hard to interpret – or even make much sense of immediately - and that is because it is a visual brainstorming or brain-scanning of the learning of one particular class and its particular teacher who learn together every day. It is not for Ofsted and it is not for showing off to school visitors. No, like a homemade birthday card, the working wall is adorably and specifically for those who made it for one another to enjoy.

Miranda is a primary teacher who has worked with Protocol Education and is a regular blogger for us.

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