There are those teachers who quiver at just the thought of them. Others cannot contains their enjoyment. But as a teacher or teaching assistant you will have your fair share of displays to put up. But are displays really just a waste of time?
For starters we need to establish the different types of displays.
1 – The printed display – This is a display made up of either bought posters aimed at children or A4 sheets printed from a selection of websites and then laminated. These often have magical, but unexciting information about grammar or maths rules.
2 – The paper display – A collection of children’s work stuck to the wall based upon a single theme, all roughly looking and sounding the same. Normally the piece that took the longest to create was the title and the border by some poor teaching assistant.
3 – The model display – Constructions created by the children, or if done as homework more than likely done by an adult, placed on a table to be poked, pulled and knocked over and parts forcibly removed by little fingers.
The trouble with displays is who bothers to look at them?
A display in a school reception area is fine. There is a steady stream of fresh adults eager to view the pictures by reception class that they first thought were fireworks, but upon reading the typed notice that accompanies them finds out they are actually self-portraits.
But inside the school is a different matter. Model displays always attract attention for a short period of time. The wonder of a 3D object draws children like a moth to a flame. There is no work required to view it. No reading, no need to understand it, the chance to touch it or poke it or even see which parts come loose when pulled. But the attraction dies quickly and soon children walk past without even a glimpse.
The paper display requires stopping, reading and understanding what it means. This is way too much work for a child. And who really wants to read their own work stuck to a wall? They spent way too long creating it to start with. So there is even less desire to read another child’s work. So apart from the occasional glance of a passing teacher or teaching assistant they generally go unnoticed.
Which brings us to the shiny world of the printed posters. There are some teachers who get a massive buzz from surfing certain websites and printing and laminating colourful sheets that they feel explains a simple process in a new and exciting way, such as i before e except after c (except the 923 words that are spelt with a cie, such as efficient, society, science, ancient, concierge or glacier.) But to children these are like wallpaper. They simply blend into the background. Every KS1 class in the country will have a number line hanging on the wall, or even from string tied across the classroom. Anywhere between 10 and 100 colourful numbers displayed either on kites, sunflowers, boats, planes, spaceships, caterpillars, fruit, dinosaurs and even underwear! They hang there day after day since the beginning of the year when they were carefully cut out, laminated, cut out again before being hung for all to see. And yet 4 months later when you ask a child what number comes after 6 the first place they look is at the child next to them in case it was drawn on their forehead and then at the floor. If you take any child out of the classroom and ask them what is on the wall in their classroom most of them would probably reply “paint.”
Parents of course love to see their children’s work displayed. There are many fridges and notice boards in houses filled with works of art that look like they were created by an epileptic squid on speed. But displays in schools are changed so often and parents never get the chance to see many of them.
So is it time to say goodbye to the display? Instead would we be better off displaying prints of some of the greatest works of art or even allowing local artists to display their work? Or maybe pictures of some of the most beautiful scenery from around the world? Maybe posters with famous quotes about love, peace and learning would help inspire our children more?