Posted on 09, March, 2016
Last Modified on 01, March, 2023
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Whether they're displaying the periodic table, the classroom calendar, or welcoming students back to school, bulletin boards have an important role in any school setting. Sure, they do wonders to spruce up dull and bare walls, but they're more than a colorful wall decoration.
Bulletin boards are a powerful learning tool for classrooms ranging from preschool to high school and beyond. They can be used to relay information to students, reinforce lessons, display student work, and more. Planning a creative bulletin board is more than slapping some poster board and funky-shaped construction paper on a wall. Here are some tips and ideas on how to make sure your bulletin board isn't a wallflower.
4 Ways to Use Bulletin Boards
Bulletin boards are typically used in four different ways - decorative, display, informative, and interactive. They each have distinct functions and require different levels of planning and effort to set up.
Decorative - Turn a bare wall into a creative masterpiece. Most classrooms incorporate a decorative bulletin board to employ a theme, such as back to school, seasons, holidays, etc.
Display - Used to showcase students’ work, these school bulletin boards are commonly placed in hallways outside classrooms. Since their function is strictly display and the content comes straight from the students, these boards are simpler and require less planning.
Informative/Conceptual - Reinforce a skill or subject by visually illustrating those concepts with an informative board. Use these bulletin boards to supplement your current lesson plan. This type of board is great for displaying reference materials like periodic tables, maps, times tables, and even homework assignments.
Interactive - Though interactive bulletin boards require much more planning and time, they are indispensable learning tools if done right. Students are encouraged to interact with these boards, allowing you promote skills like recognition, problem solving, hand-eye coordination, and more.
To create a bulletin board that not only grabs but keeps your students’ attention, take a page from how advertisers do it. Steal their best practices and use advertising design tricks to boost your board’s layout and give it a little pizzazz.
Color - Choose color schemes that are aesthetically appealing and don’t clash. Your display’s colors need to be eye-catching, not eye-aching. More on color theory here.
Dimension - Give your display depth with vibrant borders, multi-layered backgrounds, or even attachments for a three-dimensional effect. Fabric, newspaper, plastic tablecloths, and other unconventional materials are great board coverings that are low maintenance and low cost with high returns.
Structure - Your layout should have a flow or structure to it that makes viewing effortless. Use the basic principles of visual hierarchy to guide your students’ eyes through the board, focusing on the most important elements first. Start with your most important content on the top left of the board and start the flow of your display from there.
Placement & Location
Imagine you’ve created the perfect bulletin board. It’s eye-catching, colorful, and awe-inspiringly informative. Then, you ruined it by placing it in a terrible location like that creepy corner of the classroom known for being low on light and high on spider webs.
Make sure your bulletin board display is free of obstructions. Especially for information or notice boards with daily assignments or calendars, mount your bulletin board somewhere that is easy to view and within students’ line of sight, not tucked in a corner.
The height of the board is dependent on the age and height of your students. For interactive boards where accessibility is critical, the midpoint of the board should be mounted at eye level with the average sized student. ADA guidelines recommend hanging the board so that its center height is no more than 54” from the floor.
Keeping It Updated - Board Ideas & Themes
The most common pitfall of maintaining a bulletin board is, well, not maintaining it. Many teachers pour hours of time and energy into creating decorations and planning every square inch of their bulletin board, then never update it. No matter how pretty it is or how much time you invested in it, your bulletin board’s message is going to lose all its gusto if it hasn’t been touched all school year.
The type of bulletin board and its function will determine how often you should be giving it a makeover. Decorative bulletin boards should ideally be changed monthly to reflect the current season, upcoming holidays, or classroom lesson plan. Display and notice boards, or at least a portion of them, should be refreshed more often to show updated assignments, events, birthdays, etc. Having trouble coming up with bulletin board ideas? Here are some ideas for monthly- and seasonally- themed boards:
|This Summer I...||Have students draw their favorite memory from the summer to share with the class, then post on a display board.|
|Back to School||Welcome students back with a fun and inviting decorative board. Use positive messages like "Welcome Xth Graders!"|
|Classroom Rules||A list of classroom rules and code of behavior are a great static feature to have on a bulletin board, helping to reinforce good behavior|
|Changing Seasons||Use the change from summer to fall to make a beautiful decorative board or even an education opportunity with an informative board.|
|Team Building||A great way to foster camaraderie in the classroom, make an interactive bulletin board that helps introduce students to one another.|
|Halloween||Many teachers make a decorative Halloween board for the classroom, but this holiday lends itself to other possibilities. Pictures of students in Halloween costumes or student-made scary stories can make great display boards!|
|Elections||More applicable for middle school and high school bulletin boards, dedicating a bulletin board to any upcoming elections is the perfect way to inform students about government at an early age.|
|Thanksgiving||Create a collection of student-made hand turkeys, share what everyone is thankful for, or make an informative board about the history behind this holiday!|
|Winter Season||Let students help design a winter-themed poster with paper snowflakes and other creations from craft time.|
|Happy Holidays||Whether it's Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus, celebrate the holiday season in the classroom with a decorative board. Educate students on the different holiday traditions and customers with an informative board, too!|
|New Year's Resolutions||Help students better themselves in the New Year by exploring and sharing resolutions from the new year. You can even make a resolution as a class to volunteer locally, mapping your progress on a bulletin board.|
|Winter Safety||For schools in snowier regions, highlight some winter safety lessons on a notice board.|
|Stay Healthy||Teach students how to combat the harsh winter months by avoiding sickness and staying active. Offer tips on how to prevent germs from spreading and ways to exercise in the classroom or at homes.|
|April Showers Bring May Flowers||Celebrate the emergence of spring with a fun decorative board. Make an interactive board that simulates planting flowers to help teach students the basics of gardening.|
|Easter||Use baskets and eggs to create an eye-catching interactive board to reinforce your current lesson plan.|
|Earth Day||Expose students to the importance of conservation and protecting the environment with an informative board or an interactive display!|
|Mother's Day & Father's Day||Have students share their favorite memory with a parent in an essay, drawing, poem, etc. and display in the classroom.|
|Memorial Day||Dedicate time and space to teach students about the importance of this holiday through stories, pictures, and other learning materials.|
|End of the Year||Reflect on how far students have come over the school year. Reward students for their success and progress with an awards board!|
Updating your bulletin board doesn’t necessarily mean a complete overhaul. You can keep the bulk of your board static and refresh just a portion of it more frequently. With combo boards that are half bulletin and half white erase, you can keep one side intact and update the white erase side with current homework assignments, motivating quotes, facts, etc.
Picking the Right Bulletin Board
Not all bulletin boards are created equal, and not all bulletin boards are right for your classroom and needs. Some important factors to consider when choosing your school bulletin boards:
- Material - Most pinnable bulletin boards are made of rubber, cork, or fabric. The latter of the two can come in an assortment of colors while cork comes in, well, cork. Though they may be prettier to look at, fabric boards aren't as resilient to frequent display changes as cork is.
- Writeable - Do you want to be able to write on your board? Chalk and marker boards are some of the most common writing surfaces.
- Lockable - If theft and tampering is a concern, select an enclosed board with locking doors for added security.
- Size - Bulletin boards can range in size from 18" by 24" to full wall length. Bust out the measuring tape and find out how much space you can dedicate.
From elementary schools to colleges, bulletin boards are a staple in every classroom. Students spend a large bulk of their day within the four walls of a classroom. Don’t let those walls lull them to sleep: adorn them with vibrant bulletin boards to inspire and drive your students to learn each and every day.