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Looking to rejuvenate your classroom decor?
As educators, we want to make sure we are creating a safe, supportive classroom environment that promotes learning and emotional and social development. Your classroom decorations and displays should do the same. That's why we created this guide on how to ensure your classroom decor is filled with child-led displays that reflect their learning process and development journey.
Later on, we’ll talk about the Learning Journey Display Approach, which is one way to create displays and decorations that are truly child-led.
But first, why does it matter that we make early years displays child-led? And where do educators often go wrong?
It’s easy to get too caught up in making displays that are finished, final, and pristine.
One of the biggest challenges is getting your educators to understand that their displays aren’t really a reflection of them. Or at least, not in the way some of them might think.
They don’t need to look perfect or show off something to other educators, parents and caregivers.
When we focus on how other adults will perceive our classroom decor, we often have:
You put the child first in everything else when it comes to the environment, so why not have child-created decor too?
Dr Sue Allingham recently wrote for us about rethinking next steps, and among other things, she explained why displays or decorations that focus on next steps to where you are aiming to get to can be damaging. By focusing too much on linear attainment, and by putting those expectations up for all to see, you can actually be preventing children from reaching their potential.
Classroom decor and themes should not reflect an endpoint, but instead should showcase the children’s learning process and journey.
When done right, displays can actually help educators deliver child-led learning.
Here are just some of the benefits of involving children more heavily in the display-making process:
First and foremost, just ask yourself one question: “Why?” Why are you choosing to make this a display? Why are you choosing to hang this on your classroom wall?
If you want to improve your learning environment’s decor, here are three ways to get you started:
Here are some questions to consider the type of work and content you're putting in your displays.
To be truly child-centred, classroom decor has to be accessible to the children. That means getting on the floor and seeing what they look like from a child’s perspective.
One of the biggest conversations happening in the early years for some time has been about bright coloured backgrounds vs a more neutral approach. While the former can often be more fun and engaging, research suggests that busy bright displays can distract and overstimulate children.
In addition to the three themes mentioned above, The Learning Journey Display Approach is all about having displays and decorations that celebrate individuality and reflects the journey, not the destination.
Start with a long, low section of wall that the children can all easily see and interact with.
Next, choose your preferred backing, considering colours, overstimulation and everything we talked about above. Use borders to divide it into equal sections, giving each child a section of their own.
The idea is to give each child ownership of their section of the display, turning them into active participants, not passive observers.
Each section should begin with a photo of the child, and then ask them to bring in photos of their family, carers, friends, pets – the people important to them.
This makes it feel familiar and inviting, while promoting a sense of self-awareness.
With the start of a new year or when new children join, sit down with them and show them what children have done with their sections before.
Show them photographs of what other children have added or talk to them about what they might like to add, so that they have some ideas and know it’s their choice.
Maintain a conversation with the children about what they want to put up. Explain to them that things can go on, and come down, so they challenge themselves with what they want to display.
You can add photographs of play, activities, or creations. You want the child to take the lead with what goes up. Once new things go up, you can keep the old notes, photos, messages and work in a folder.
This is where you can work with the child to add context around the work. Speech bubbles about what they said. Short texts about the child’s interests. Detail the words and language they were using while their play was going on.
It’s important that the child is a part of this process, so sit down and write these speech bubbles with them, so they know you’re using their words.
This is by no means the only way you can have displays that contain the child’s voice and their interests in your setting. But hopefully it might inspire you to rethink the way you approach displays, and come up with your own interpretation that works for you and your classroom or center.
It can feel scary to move away from finished, polished wall display, but once you get into the swing of things, you’ll see how this approach to display and decor can increase children’s confidence and pride in their learning journey and classroom environment.
And it saves you more time!
Encouraging more child-led displays gives you, the educator, more meaningful time with the children and decreases the hours you spend creating displays.
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.