Staff and students spend hours each day surrounded by 4 walls, and what is posted on those walls and who created it, matters because it reflects how staff and learners use, interact with each other and learn within the space. Classroom walls can convey whose space this is: Does the teacher believe this is a shared community space –it belongs to staff and learners? Does the teacher believe this is my classroom  — students are guests in the space?

What’s on the walls tells a story of what’s happening daily in the classroom in terms of teaching and learning, student voice and choice, diversity and inclusiveness, who and what is valued.  With thoughtful planning, classroom walls can provide a dynamic welcoming, culturally responsive, collaborative, inclusive, and literacy rich environment that reflects the learning of all students and elevates learners’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.

21st century ed.JPG

 Thinking about the learning environment …
“Look at your Learning Space with 21st Century eyes: Does it work for what we know about learning today, or just what we know about learning in the past?” Sir Ken Robinson, The Third Teacher. Capacity Building Series #27


THEN – TEACHER CENTRED: Information that the teacher/school wants to communicate

STATIC AND UNCHANGING: Once the info was posted, it remained static –often for years, turned yellow with age.

  • Classroom/school rules, regulations, expectations, often negative – Don’t….. or No…. important to the teacher
  • Commercially published posters – focused on the 3Rs, selected by the teacher
  • Images depicting the dominant culture, selected by the teacher
  • School/Public service announcements (Bullying, Sexuality, Safety, College/University/Apprenticeship posters, etc
  • Chalkboard – often with a stack of ancient raggedy textbooks on the ledge right inside the door
  • Periodic tables, Maps, Charts, Graphs, Formulas, etc
  • Grammar and spelling rules
  • Project deadlines
  • Motivational/ Inspirational posters selected by the teacher.hang-in-there
  • Posters featuring famous “successful” people selected by the teacher

bill gates.JPG  albert.JPG

  • Finished, polished pieces of student work (A+ students) selected by the teacher
  • Teacher’s favourite nature or travel photographs
  • Bookshelf tucked in the corner overflowing with old binders, workbooks, dictionaries/thesaurus and raggedy novels, donated or purchased at yard sales or thrift shops with books that the teacher liked and felt were “appropriate” for students.



NOW – STUDENT CENTRED: Information that is important to everyone sharing the space

DYNAMIC: Changed yearly/monthly/daily, depending on the theme, topic

  • Co-created Welcome Board with Inclusive Community Building Goals and Success Criteria for interacting, collaborating and learning with others in the community space
  • Co-created Growth Mindset Bulletin Board – brainstorm with learners

growth-mindset                    gm


  • Co-created What Success Looks Like– brainstorm with learners
  • Diversity – visible and invisible, in the images/photographs posted
  • Interactive whiteboad
  • Student work – includes work in all stages, in addition to finished pieces with all students represented – selected by students and teacher

student work.JPG

  • Subject specific and cross curricular space with visual representation/infographics/webs, QR codes of Themes, Topics, Subjects, Courses, currently being studied – contributions from staff and learners.
  • Word walls –subject specific, roots & affixes and trending words selected by students and teacher – not too many, 30pt+ plain font

WWw   lm-word-wall word-wall

  • Book display – featuring a wide range of books /magazines/graphic novels- fiction and non-fiction that appeals to a diverse population (not just diversity that is “visible” but others, eg sexual orientation,  mixed identities) covers facing out for students to browse or read during independent reading time.

shelf     book display bokshelf tdss.JPG

  • Co-created Transitions Space with info showing how students participate in: classroom/school/home/community/workplace/post-secondary education& post-school lives
  • Co-created Health and Wellbeing space that includes information on promoting physical and mental health and healthy relationships
  • Shelf containing current Trillium approved resources and student textbooks

Walls should not be jam/packed with every square inch covered. There should be blank space framing the displays, so that the walls are not so busy they create a distraction.

ACL (Section 23 Programs) Lynn Murphy shared this:

I turned my books cover out and voila, the interest has surged!  Now they all want to read 13 Reasons Why, and being an open-minded person, I won’t give them 13 Reasons Why Not as it is one of my least favourite books of the decade. But I know I am in the minority….now that the books are turned out, they are talking about them, recalling favourites (Diary of a Part-Time Indian) and suggesting to others (“You have to read Speak”). All that literary activity and I didn’t have to say a word 🙂

Chris L. (English teacher) shared:

…I did a 1-minute “merchandising” and got 3 new books selected and a genuine exclamation of …”Oh WOW” from one of the students.”





MoE: 21st Century Competencies.

TDSB: A Vision for Learning in TDSB

TDSB: Integrated Equity Framework Action Plan


The Mindset of Culturally Responsive Educators

EQAO finds reading for pleasure boosts test results -Toronto Star


The Ontario Ministry of Education: Word Walls

Research on Word Walls,

Think Literacy –Subject Specific Word Lists



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