Decorated walls, done properly, are crucial for the learning process. It gives students, particularly younger learners, another focal point for their learning, with bold and eye-catching displays and decorations possessing the ability to inform students. Vibrant walls are particularly conducive for visual learners.
Walls can, and must be, active in the learning process. They can form part of the teacher’s lesson plan.
For example, students may be asked to write their questions or thoughts about a particular topic on a post-it note, and then they can stick it on the wall. They can then look at the suggestions of other students, before the teacher addresses the queries in group discussion. Or, the teacher may display information around the room, and the students must go around and study the materials.
Walls can also demonstrate the learning journey of the students. It is vital to display the work of students, so they can be reminded of what has been learnt in previous lessons, and also so they can feel proud of their achievements and progression. It is absolutely the right thing to do to display students’ projects and artwork; the displaying of these can be a great source of pride for students and inspire them to continue to do their best in class, because they know they will get recognition for their hard work.
It is not just theory that I put forward to you, I have seen evidence in our school that points towards the merits of colourful and living walls.
We have made a concerted effort to display students’ work, educational posters and other information around the school this academic year. We have been painstaking in our approach to ensure the displays are relevant for the students. For younger learners, we have created collaborative displays, for example, collages that were made up of their own artwork and painted hand-prints.
We have seen students sparkle with creativity when creating displays and taking great care with their work. Furthermore, we have seen them pay keen attention to the walls, reading the information that adorns it, and showing evidence that they are learning from what’s on the walls.
Children should not have their curiosity quashed. In fact, the opposite is desirable. There should be points of quality contact on the walls of classrooms and corridors that satisfy their inquiring minds.
My message to the Department for Education would be the following: to what extent do you really believe posters, artwork and displays are distracting learners from their task at hand? This, of course, seems to be their central justification for removing displays; to allow students to focus on their work.
Is it really sustainable to have adolescents glued to a desk seven or eight hours a day focused on their school work? I would argue that the attention span of students- particularly younger learners- is limited, and stripping the walls bare is not necessarily going to lead to an increase in productivity.