I am often asked what 'good' EYFS display should look like. My answer is usually that it is easier to say what a 'not so good' display looks like and work backwards from there!
When I was an NQT I spent HOURS on my displays. Every board a different colour, every boarder picked for maximum contrast! Foil backed boards with tinsel boarders, swags, drapes, fairy lights - you name it I had it (with knobs on)! I very much saw my display as being an obvious judgement of me and my abilities as a teacher rather than a mechanism to inspire, motivate and teach my children.
Over time and with experience my view has drastically changed an I have become the worlds biggest fan of a beige backed board. This is a prime example of how I would now back all of my boards for the beginning of the year
In an Early Years environment that has really good display I should be able to stand in the middle of the room having not spoken to an adult or a child, not looked at a planning file or observation, and I should get a STRONG sense of the children who occupy the space. I should be able to see evidence of their voices having an impact on their environment. Their personal preferences shaping the learning and their self esteem being raised by seeing photos of their achievements everywhere.
If I stand in the middle of a space and face a wall full of computer generated, downloaded laminates (however pretty they look to adults) I could be in anyone's space, anywhere. It may be bright and the walls may be festooned - but for children it is dull and lacks any sense of motivation or impact.
I have been working with a few settings on a fairly regular basis for some time now and developing an approach to display that makes engagement and attainment very obvious. The concept is that they capture moments in time and show how an idea based on children's interests has grown into a full blown topic or theme.
When you are finished, the wall should look like a HUGE scrap book page and reflect diversity, differentiation, attainment, next steps judgements and most of all high level learning.
When I last visited The Friars Primary in Salford they had gone all 'Gruffalo'. Lots of the children in the setting were struggling with very basic aspects of PSE especially when it came to making and maintaining friendships. The children had shown a high level of interest and enjoyment in the story of the Gruffalo, so this was used as the starting point for a mini theme.
The Mouse has got lots of friends in the wood but the Gruffalo ran away and has none, so the children decided to make him a house that he could live in. They wrote him letters to tell him all about it. To show how important the children's writing is it has been pegged to the outside of the tent. The yellow post its are annotations from the team, the children think that they are the staff writing to the Gruffalo to tell them how hard each child worked on their writing. That way no child thinks that they haven't done 'proper writing'!
Gregory showing some lovely symbolic shape making in his letter and providing a fantastic idea for an activity that will build on the theme and also impact on the development of fine and gross motor skills.
This is where daily planning can really make the difference. At the end of this session the children might read out their letters to everyone else. When Gregory mentions his 'crocodile bread' it is the perfect opportunity to suggest bread making/salt dough modelling for everyone. Who's idea was the activity? Who was the inspiration? Gregory! Therefore the buy in from him and the other children is likely to be greater.
Back to the Scrap Book display...
Emma and her team started theirs in the top left hand corner of their main display board.
There was a picture of the main stimulus and then one of the first activities that was done in a response to the interest. Now then, what we have to be REALLY careful of is not to over theme our activities and keep thinking of the mantra 'PROCESS NOT END RESULT'. In this case most children were showing high level interest in the Gruffalo. The dough was on the dough table and the dough was brown...BUT, what was the learning outcome attached to the dough activity? It was to develop fine motor manipulation NOT to make a Gruffalo. If I want to make Spiderman out of my dough and you make me make the Gruffalo then my level of engagement and involvement is going to be low. You have to be clear about why you are doing the activities you are doing and how they relate to teaching children about a process or skill rather than to produce 30 items all the same.
Emma's setting has large and small 'scrap book' displays dotted all over it. Although they are all very different in content and often appearance there are a few elements that remain the same which means they are very easy to understand.
Adult explanation and context is always on green, children's speech is always in a speech bubble. This is how it looked on the Gruffalo
The addition of the adult context and the speech bubble add a huge amount of meaning to the display. The children cannot read what has been written by the adult but they know that their work was SO good that not only is it on the wall but what they said has been written down and is up there too for all to see, which has to be good for your self esteem?
At the bottom left corner of the board there are a lovely collection of posters made by the children. Again the use of the speech bubbles adds context and extra depth to what might be just a 'nice' picture.
One of the children asked what would happen if the Gruffalo came to school when it was shut. Then he wouldn't be able to get into his house. This question was then thrown open to the children for discussion. Another of the children came up with the idea that they needed a house in the outdoor areas, so this formed the basis of another activity and a much smaller 'scrap book' display on the window next to the outdoor area.
Here are another couple of examples of mini scrap book displays. Lots of them are on windows and doors around the setting so that will explain why they look a bit transparent!
Imagine for a moment that you have visitors to your setting who's job it is to make judgements about your practice and its impact on attainment. Just say, for the sake of argument, that these visitors are not particularly well versed in the finer points of EYFS or an experiential curriculum. One small piece of paper can make learning that is not always apparent, very obvious.
I have also been working on this concept with Natalie and the team at Marlborough Road, but they have gone in a slightly different direction. At Marlborough Road all classes have to have a 'Learning Wall' that is split into 3 terms and should show progression in attainment for each term. I find these a bit useless in Early Years and find that they become very contrived and a pain in the bum. So, a 'scrap book' display was our alternative.
There are 2 Reception classes at Marlborough and every day they meet with their class teachers before joining together for Continuous Provision. During this meeting time they are encouraged to talk about what is happening in their lives, what they like and also to bring in things from home.
It is these discussions that staff use (alongside other information) to come up with themes to 'dress' the curriculum in.
Outside each of the carpet areas the staff have created an 'interest board' and anything and everything that the children talk about or bring in goes up there. When something sparks a great deal of interest they run with that until the interest changes.
Ongoing assessment tells the team where the gaps are in the children's learning. In their planning sessions the team will come up with next steps (NOT activities) that will fill those gaps and then the activities will be themed around the children's interests.
Once an interest or two have been chosen they move from the 'interest board' to the 'scrap book' display Here is an example of 2 of their boards.
The arrows are a really good idea to help you to follow the process, the photographs and speech bubbles show you what they children said and how that was then reflected in the planning and environment.
The Superheroes theme gave children the opportunity to experiment with their 'capes' in the wind and this then led to lots of discussion about flying. Although the Superhero theme continued it was overtaken somewhat by the children's fascination with flight.
In the true sense of being a scrap book the display should contain lots of different examples of children's work in a variety of media.
You would keep photographs of your boards and the individual work on them as evidence. You could also create an actual scrap book for the children to keep and read when you change the display.
How you choose to present your 'Scrap Book' display will be very much down to you and your artistic talents (not to mention how much time you have got). But whether you double mount your photographs or just stick them straight up, what you are aiming for is a display that could only have been created in your setting with your children. One that speaks volumes about the diverse range of activities that you offer, your judgements about attainment, how engaged your children are, how well you differentiate and how what often looks like children 'just playing' is indeed playing but also high quality learning.
I have talked a great deal in the past about the impact of personalised display. On my recent travels I have been collecting examples of that sort of display in use. I will share what I have got so far with you in my next post.
If you do have a go at a 'scrap book' display please send me a couple of photos so that I can share your ideas.
Have a good week
Thanks to Mark from Aintree Davenhill Primary for sending me his scrap book display which was generated from children's interests in Castles. Good job!