In preparation for next weeks #pypchat on learning spaces, I thought I would reflect on my walls, and see if the chat changes how I approach it. At the start of the year, the walls are empty. Like a blank canvas. They are covered in butcher paper and bordered with those border packages (I never used them but a staff member recommended it, and it does look more aesthetically pleasing!). As we learn new concepts or skills, we use marker and write it directly on the board.
[caption id="attachment_1405" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A section of our math wall[/caption]
For subjects like Math and Language, we keep the same paper up all year and keep adding to it. Like a continuously growing mind-map. It can get a little messy, but it lets us make connections, draw lines, separate concepts that are different and gel concepts that are similar Sometimes I do it, other times we collaborate on the walls, other times a student takes it upon themselves to update. The most important idea that we take away from this is the interaction with the wall. We use it as a place of research, review, or for developing new ideas. At the beginning of the year, I find that it is mostly me drawing attention to the wall, but as the year progresses, the kids begin to realize what a resource it is and do it themselves.
Our units of inquiry are a bit different. I wish I had the space to just leave up all 6 units and have them as permanent histories of our investigations, but I can't for space reasons. Instead, I have developed the following system. At the beginning of each unit we start with a blank canvas. As we get into our inquiry, we add elements to it. Sometimes we write directly on the board, sometimes we draw, sometimes we glue pieces of paper (the glue is key, as I will explain later). We are always interacting with it. It acts as a class brain. A storage space for memories and ideas. Like an external hard drive that is always visible.
[caption id="attachment_1406" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Near the end of our health and nutrition unit[/caption]
I print of pictures that I take and stick them up. We glue reflections. We choose work that helps us remember or that we are proud of. Since most of our final products are digital in nature (and posted on the class wiki) I tend to print out examples of work and ask the authors to glue them up. I try and have each student represented equally in each unit on the board. At the ned of the unit, we take out the pushpins, take down the large sheet of paper, roll it up, fasten an elastic around it, and put it somewhere safe. Later in the year, we will come back to it to sum up the year and look for more connections from unit to unit.
For now, we put a new piece of paper.
A blank canvas.
[caption id="attachment_1407" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A blank canvas for a new inquiry[/caption]
There is something soothing and relaxing about seeing that blank piece of paper. It sets the mood for the inquiry. We don't know where we are going, but we are going to get there together. We are going to create something as a collective. Discover what the blank canvas needs. And then, we take it down and start all over.