Small project, big benefits: Our "Fill in the Blank Wall"

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Inspired by this idea shared by Chris Gerry, I encouraged my students to create a "wall" with me. We started with the sentence "Our class is ____________" and we all contributed our ideas to fill in the blank. Since my students are 6 and 7 years old, I helped students with spelling and vocabulary (for example: how can we say "good at art" in a shorter way). The students came up with a wonderful variety of descriptive words.

I'd already posted the beautiful rainbow collage art that students made collaboratively on one of our bulletin boards, but there was lots of room for them to add ideas around the collage. As students finished writing their words, we gathered in the hallway and we put their words up on display together. The result is a creative, interesting and colorful bulletin board that demonstrates our class is a strong community that works together.

I found many benefits to this activity. It was a fun, engaging learning activity on word choice, describing words, sentences that make sense and vocabulary. It was collaborative, encouraging students to work as a team. It also gave students ownership. Very often, I put student work on the wall, I create the bulletin boards, I make the plans and I choose what to display. Truthfully, I rarely enjoy designing bulletin boards because it often feels like just another thing I have to do and it often gets put off because I prioritize other tasks that I think are more important to learning and teaching. However, when we made this board TOGETHER, I really enjoyed it. Designing a bulletin board became important to learning and teaching. And... it just felt right... having a collaboratively-created display is much better aligned with my beliefs about the value of student-directed learning.

I didn’t think such a simple activity idea would lead to such great results! Although we often undertake long-term, student-led projects, this smaller project was really worthwhile too (and a great place to start if you are someone who isn't comfortable taking on a bigger project yet).

I’m now looking forward to watching our “wall” grow and change as new ideas are added. I’m already thinking of other topics and tools to be used (maybe a digital or online wall) and I want to ask students for their ideas about creating another "fill in the blank wall". And… I’m no longer dreading bulletin boards for the rest of the year!

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