Bulletin boards are often the bane of our existence as teachers. If we want them to look nice, they eat up hours of our planning periods. However, if you think strategically, you can create bulletin boards that enhance instruction.
Bulletin Boards in the Classroom
As teachers, our tendency is to focus more on creating beautiful bulletin boards in our room because we think it enhances our classroom. In fact, sometimes we spend hours and hours creating boards seen on Pinterest. However pretty they may be at the end of the day, they may act as little more than wallpaper in your classroom. A well designed one, on the other hand, can become part of your instructional activities and enhance the classroom and student learning.
Use Bulletin Boards to Reinforce Information
If you want a bulletin board to enhance your classroom, it should reflect the information you are currently teaching in a way that is appealing and useful to students and visitors. Like many of you, I too have been guilty of thumb-tacking some pictures of my content to the board and calling it a day, but that didn't enhance my classroom. There are more effective ways to use bulletin boards to reinforce content in the classroom. For example, let's say you were creating a bulletin board for a history class. A better strategy might be to create an evolving timeline. At the start of a unit, set up a line using string across the board and go ahead and add the key dates. Then as students learn the content, they can add artifacts, poems, writings, etc. to the timeline to reflect the key events in history.
I have found that regardless of the topic being taught, sometimes a good place to start is by setting up the board by adding a few keywords for the unit of study. At that point, you can hand over ownership of the board to your students if you want. As you conduct lessons on the key concepts, let them decide what should go on the board to reflect what they need to know about each term. You can even choose only to start with a single key term and have students add to it during the unit, turning it essentially into a large, ever-growing graphic organizer of the content. Or if you prefer, you can add the content yourself.
Make Interactive Bulletin Boards
Another way you can use bulletin boards to enhance your classroom is to make them interactive. That is, make them something you can use actively in your classroom as part of instruction instead of the board just serving as decoration inside your classroom. I found that this is a fun and easy way to use bulletin boards to enhance instruction.
For example, in a science class you could turn your bulletin board into a review game. Maybe you create a large diagram of a cell and place it in the middle of the board. Then you could have cards for the cell structures and descriptions. As part of the warm-up in class, you could play different games using these three components. One day students have to move the cards to label the cell structures. Another day you could scramble up the labels and descriptions, and students have to come match them up as part of a whole class review game. That way not only is your bulletin board reinforcing content, but it is also doing it in a way you can use in your lesson plan. I have found that for just about every topic, there are diagrams that will work.
Math classes are another good opportunity for creating interactive bulletin boards to enhance the classroom. One way to make math bulletin boards interactive is to set them up with practice math problems where all you have to do is change the numbers around each block of the day. For example, if students were learning about balancing equations, set up your bulletin board as a model for solving equations. Everywhere you have a number, put a sheet protector. Students can solve the example by placing in pieces of paper with the appropriate number.
Let Students Create Bulletin Boards
Another way to create bulletin boards to enhance your instruction is to let your students help you create them! While it may be hard for you to let go of the reins and let your students take over your bulletin boards, you will often be amazed by what they can create that ties into the curriculum. I was terrified the first time I tried it in my classroom, but my students created works beyond my wildest dreams.
Students love to create a mural on your bulletin board that reflects a particular work of literature or period of history they are studying as a class project. Let your students decide on different components for the board, such as small artistic pieces, collages, or even poetry. Each group or student could then create one element that could be meshed together into a single beautiful bulletin board. In a math class, students could create a graffiti-style bulletin board showing examples of how to solve different types of math problems. Another option is to have students create word problems following your guidelines. The best word problems could be posted on the board, and you can challenge students to solve and post solutions for each one by the end of the week.
Meaningful Boards Enhance Instruction
The bottom line is to create bulletin boards that are meaningful both to you and your students. As Learn NC points out, you can even create theme boards around television shows if you want because creative boards enhance your classroom. You may need to let go of your boards and let your students design them around the content you are teaching. But if you get outside your comfort zone, you can create boards that enhance your classroom!