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Putting Away the Parachute: Creating Meaningful Posters In Intermediate Classrooms

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by Janet Lee Stinson

Creating Meaningful Posters In Intermediate Classrooms

One afternoon, I was visited by a literacy consultant. She slowly passed by the student work, feedback notes, my cluttered teacher desk and finally stopped staring up at my store generated banner, Your Mind is Like a Parachute, it only works when open. I expected her to make a connection to the words or offer some pithy piece of praise. Instead, she remarked, “Janet Lee, do you realize that store generated posters are often ineffective?” I was very surprised at this! The next morning, I asked my students, “does this banner matter to you?”

The response?

Muffled laughter from the back, incredulous smiles. I never even noticed it, miss! One student pointed out in a very matter-of-fact way, that is the same poster Mr. Smith has over his desk.

Sigh!

The consultant had a point. My banner was not really doing what I hoped.

 

Here is what I did next:

*  First, I pushed all the desks away from the center of the room, removed the banner from my wall and placed it on the floor of the classroom. We gathered around the fallen banner as I described why I had chosen to place it on the wall in the first place. Students had some fun making inferences about me based on quotation.

*  We talked about how I might change the quotation by adding a different image to the words. Students volunteered to pose for pictures to pair with the words. This was a great way to model the activity for students.

*  We discussed what good advice can sound like and shared a few examples of advice (both good and bad). (e.g. Always do your best…don’t spit in to the wind…have respect for others)

*  Each student was asked to share (with the group or in pairs) some tried and true advice. Students offered advice from their own experiences and from mentors.

*  Students then created a suitable image with the cameras on their phones and spent some time positioning the words on the image.

*  We shared the poster creations including brief explanations about why the new poster deserved to be posted in our learning environment.

 

This activity worked on several levels. While my students showcased their voices and values they also demonstrated all four Language strands! During parent teacher night, each student pointed out their own poster to happy adults. The pride of ownership shined through and my classroom management improved too!

Maybe it is time we put away the parachute for a while so that other jumpers can have a chance.

 

What do you think of this idea? What other ways do you encourage students to take ownership over their learning environment?

 

Janet Lee has been an English teacher/Department Chair, Nipissing University Reading Part 3 Instructor, Student Success Literacy Consultant, and Nelson Literacy 7-10 instructional writer and media specialist. Janet Lee recently presented literacy resources at The Great Moon Gathering in Fort Albany, Ontario. She enjoys maintaining her blog This Side of the Mirror-A Journey Through Reflection to communicate with teachers and address current issues in education.

 

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  • http://corriganeducation.ca Kathleen Corrigan

    In the early years programs we really stress reducing, or better still, eliminating commercial charts. Yes, they make the room pretty – but pretty for adults, not children. K class rooms tend to be very busy places with enormous amounts of visual stimuli so why would we add pretty charts that mean nothing to the children and may stress some?
    One important way to have students take more ownership is by having them participate in the creation of your document panels. They select which photos to include, they decide which quotes help illuminate the learning process, they draw the conclusions and set goals.

    • Janet Lee

      Thank you for your comment, Kathleen! It would be a powerful way for students to enter the system knowing how to take ownership over their environments and communities by contributing in meaningful ways. By the time students reach high school, they will expect to make a contribution. We must be ready and willing to collaborate at all levels.

  • http://adunsiger.com Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca)

    Janet Lee, I love these ideas! We’ve been discouraged for a while now to post prepared posters in our classroom. My students have actually helped create the anchor charts and posters that we do post. They also do my bulletin board displays and think of what we’re going to hang and how we’re going to hang it. It’s great to get the students so involved!

    I really like the thinking behind the activity that you did though. What a wonderful one to link with the media literacy expectations of creating different media texts and considering the audience for these texts. Now you have me thinking. Thank you!

    Aviva

    • Janet Lee

      Thanks so much, Aviva!

      The environment of our classrooms is so important. I think that as Intermediate/Senior teachers many of us start to neglect this fundamental element of community. But you know, no matter how old I get, I love to have a great space to work inside. I feel inspired especially if I create that space myself. Why would our students be any different?

      Thanks for your comment!
      JL