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 or whitebaord– often with a stack of ancient raggedy textbooks/workbooks 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, magazines  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

gm growth-mindset   the-learning-pit

  • 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 and affixes and trending words selected by students and teacher – not too many, 30pt+ plain font

Math WW.JPG word-wallWWw


  • 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.

book-display-2            book display 3.JPGbook-display

  • 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.


The Mindset of Culturally Responsive Educators

EQAO finds reading for pleasure boosts test results -Toronto Star

The Global Language Monitor: Trending Words

The Ontario Ministry of Education: Word Walls

Research on Word Walls,

Think Literacy –Subject Specific Word Lists

The Cognatarium: root words and affixes


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