Student agency on classroom displays
Student agency allows children to have a voice and choice in how their learning is represented in the classroom. In grade 3, we have worked collaboratively in the new block to create an environment that reflects student agency.
By Debbie Hazlett and Tayla Webb, classroom teachers 3 Orange and 3 White
Continuous reflection is a part of student agency and after a period of transitioning between distance and in-class learning, we are currently reflecting on wall space. A fun example of student agency was a task for our current language unit, persuasive writing. We were interested to find out what should stay or be removed from the class. This task was a refreshing reminder of why student agency is important, and it sparked interest in finding out how students feel about classroom displays.
It was very interesting to read the various responses and thoughtful persuasions. Here are some of the students’ responses:
- “I want my work on the wall because I want others to see my learning and how I think.”
- “If we put printed work on the walls, we will all have the same work.”
- “We can check our own work when we forget something.”
- “I like to see our work and someone else’s, so we can compare.”
- “You can put your work on the wall to help other people.”
It is a teacher’s natural instinct, almost in the DNA of a teacher, that classroom walls need to be filled. However, research shows if students are over stimulated by print and colour, it does not benefit them. One thing we are learning as education is evolving, is that the walls should reflect students’ current thinking process and not the final product.
In grade 3, we strive to develop word walls that are print-rich and relevant to current units.
According to Green Brabham, E. & Kidd Villaume, S., (2001), word walls provide a reference that enables students to become more independent and strategic problem solvers as they read and write.
Word walls should be:
- developmentally appropriate,
- a social scaffold for conversation and an individual scaffold for independent work,
- actively referred to and interactive.
Unless you specifically need something, how often do you pay attention to the top shelf in a supermarket? When possible, it is important for wall displays to be at students’ eye level.
In summary, when classroom walls are created by students, they are more likely to make meaningful connections and take ownership of their learning.
Student agency in classroom displays helps develop children’s confidence because their learning is valued and celebrated. Classroom walls are not only a learning tool, but also celebrate student thinking. While classroom wall space has multiple uses, student agency is paramount to making it meaningful.