Posted in beginner teachers, high school, middle school, organization, resources

What’s with the posters?

It’s the second week of teaching for me and I’m feeling exhausted and confident. I know my students names and have lesson plans all ready to go. I even decorated my room for the second year in a row now. 🙂

As a secondary math teacher, I’m notorious for having blank walls. I have never really bought or made posters because I figured my students would make them as the year goes by. I didn’t even put up my classroom expectations/rules. I always assumed that since I verbalized what I expected, it was enough. But being a middle school teacher has changed that in me. Middle schoolers have such a hard time recalling or following instructions even when written. Now, I have a posters that I put up. They are colorful and have great messages. I even laminated them, making them a more permanent part of my teaching resources. My classroom looks great and not so empty. Then I made the assumption that my students would read them while they were in my room. But I was so wrong. My students don’t notice them or care about them. In the past whenever I pointed out my poster, my students would be shocked that I had a poster that showed them what I meant.

Last year, my coworker and I made a commitment to actually use them and point them out. She was the one who told me about an article (sorry I don’t know the reference) she read about the importance of actually talking about the poster. Why put up a poster and not talk about it? I didn’t realize that by not talking about them, I wasn’t telling my students why those ideas and messages were important to me and to being a mathematician.

As part of my commitment, I introduced the GROUPS poster after doing the 100 Numbers activity that @saravanderf used in her classroom (https://saravanderwerf.com/2015/12/07/100-numbers-to-get-students-talking/). Through the activity, I was able to show students how the acronym came into play. They understood it better and saw what GROUP looked like. I had taken pictures of their group work, and they didn’t even notice because they were so engrossed in the activity. Even that along helped illustrate group work for students.

With different activities that I do with my students will come the introduction of each poster. I do a lot of Math Talk (http://www.nctm.org/Publications/Teaching-Children-Mathematics/2015/Vol22/Issue4/Creating-Math-Talk-Communities/) and inquiry activities/discourse, which lend themselves well to the Math Talk and STRONG Mathematicians posters. My students take Cornell Notes, which in itself needs some explanations because it’s such a specific way to take notes. Then I always like to give my students the chance to say “I don’t know” without saying “I don’t know”.

Next time you walk into a classroom, whether it be yours or not, ask yourself about the purpose of what you see hanging on the walls or from the ceilings. Everything in our classrooms have a purpose whether you talk about them or not.

Much of my poster inspirations have come from Pinterest.

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Author:

I have been teaching math for 6 years. I currently teach middle school math (Accelerated Algebra 1, Algebra 1, and Math 6) in St. Paul. I have taught Geometry and Algebra 2 in the past.

4 thoughts on “What’s with the posters?

  1. I’d like to point out two things, as a student with ADD. (I’m studying to be a math teacher.)

    1) I’m not sure making the posters permanent is helpful. Things that have been there for a while become invisible. Changing them up brings them back into reality.

    2) Visual clutter, even when it has become invisible to us, adds to our cognitive load. Our brains use limited cognitive resources to process or ignore it, and those resources are not available for other tasks. I never notice it in the moment, but reflecting on my day, I often notice that times that I am not at my best, times when I am easily confused and grumpy, there was often too much visual stuff going on, especially visual stuff that is not relevant to the task at hand.

    tl;dr (too long, don’t (or maybe didn’t) read): for some of your students, taking down posters is also important. A few relevant posters that get changed from time to time work far better for students like me (I mean students with ADD, not graduate students in their mid-50’s) than walls completely covered with information and flash.

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    1. Thank you for reading and your comments. I do appreciate your personal insight into how to best teach students with ADD. I completely agree with visual saturation, and it is why I have never really had “real” laminated posters until this year. But I realize that some of them are important to help me stay consistent as a teacher more so than to help students. This posting was meant to just say that if you are to put up posters, the posters should be meaningful and be talked about. I personally only have these 5 posters up and a number line. The other things up are student work, which I think is more important. My colleague does what you said about changing it up and having only relevant posters. She hangs up ones that help students in the unit and takes them down after the unit. Then she puts up new ones.

      I hope you find this blog useful if not at least interesting.

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      1. I just noticed my tone seems a bit negative, and that is not what I felt.

        What I meant was that you appear to be thoughtful in your display of posters, and that is great.

        I’ve seen too many classrooms that have every surface covered with posters that apparently are just decoration. For every student, that is a missed opportunity. For some, it is an obstacle.

        I was assisting a student in a middle school math class a while ago, and there were math fact posters covering every wall. My student took a test, and some of the equations needed for the test were posted right there on the wall. 3 inch tall black on white letters, right in front of him. He didn’t see them.

        I think your blog will be very useful to me, thanks!

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  2. Not negative at all. I appreciate the different perspectives. And yes, there are too many classrooms that are too cluttered. Good luck with your endeavors into teaching.

    Happy reading.

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