Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
For over 20 years, I have been a visitor in hundreds of schools. As a visitor, it is impolite to make negative comments about the host’s decor. Yet, as a consultant, I have to get to know my clients and what matters to them. The first place I can learn is in the hall displays. The halls actually say a lot about what is important in a school. For this post, I am asking upfront for a pass on being polite. Hopefully, I will raise some awareness and give you some tips I hope you’ll find helpful. So, what do your hall displays say about you?
Teachers put effort into their hallway bulletin boards and displays. The boards themselves are often clever and very cute. The student work is usually seasonal and crafty. Yet, as I walk the halls as a guest, I wonder about the values these hallways express. What is the message about high expectations and rigor? What does the student work say about the commitment to standards-based tasks? In this post, we will explore 3 ways that leaders can use their halls to show what matters in their schools.
Step 1: Set a standards-based rule for hall displays.
Firstly, notice. Have you seen the air freshener commercials where people go nose blind in their own spaces? It seems this is what happens in school hallways. People stop seeing what their walls say about their school. They rarely take notice of the kindergarten handprint turkey activity in November. They walk casually past the third-grade president’s blackline coloring with a single sentence caption in February. Instead of walking right past the adorable jack-o-lanterns, stop. Look. then ask yourself, “What does this display tell us about what students know? What have the students shown they are able to do?” If the answer is anything less than “They have met the expectations for standard x”, then the display is probably sending the wrong message.
After noticing, make a rule: Only standards-based tasks in halls. With this in mind, use your implementation strategies to motivate and enable. Motivate your teachers to display standards-based tasks with “Love this Task!” stickers that you place as you see great work. Simultaneously, give them the ability by providing curriculum with standards-based activities.
“At a minimum, I would suggest listing objectives for all content addressed in the lessons on display. For instance, the display above had science, language arts, and visual arts standards addressed. Those were listed on the side of the display. Also, a description of the process should be provided so that others can understand what steps were taken in the process.”
Step 2: Use the hall display as a meeting space for instructional improvement.
Because the hall displays show what teachers are proud of, they are a powerful place to hold team meetings. I once worked in a school that did exactly this. They used their hall displays to discuss student learning and how to improve tasks for next year. They took photos of their hall displays and posted them in the classroom to show what students have learned.
In this way, this school was able to build social motivation and ability toward standards-based instruction. Coupled with the hall displays, the tasks in the classroom improved overall.
Step 3: Use the display to show the learning process.
Another idea evolved from this practice. They expanded their displays to include the assignment direction images of students working hard, sharing resources, and modeling the expectations for learning behaviors alongside the work to showcase the effort.
Step 4: Let it be.
The best part of this strategy is its simplicity. You are promoting standards-based learning by incentivizing and rewarding a standards-based environment in all of your halls. There is no expensive training. No fancy difficult protocols. No additional time is required. All it takes is a matter-of-fact expectation that, in this school, we proudly teach the standards we are required to teach. So, what do your halls say about you?
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