Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Board Walk

One of the well-organized boards that my group discussed
I have written about standard-based bulletin boards often at this site.  Over the summer I was most distressed when our Union negotiated that schools would no longer be required to do standard-based bulletin boards as a step toward paper-reduction.  I am thankful that as the year began our school's Shared Decision Making group voted to continue with the bulletin boards.  I have always thought that the boards are such a great opportunity for self-reflection, for looking at alignment and a way for teachers to look at student work, really reflecting on what the students did and how they did it.  It is a window into the instruction that is going on in the classroom.  How appropriate that our school would vote to continue a practice that is time-consuming but that they see value.

To honor that work and time they put into SBBB, teachers have often reflected that if they are going to put the work into the boards, they would like to know that someone is reading them and they would like some constructive feedback.  So... at Early Release this week, we did just that.  Our faculty went on a "board walk."  Teachers were assigned to a group of three and were given a list of three boards to visit in a certain order so groups were not on top of each other.  One teacher was assigned to capture the conversation on a chart that asked for comments/compliments, wonderings, and next steps.

As I joined my group (which was all teachers teaching different grade levels) I overheard several teachers in other groups wondering how their boards would be received by the group that was reviewing it. Hmmmm...  As we approached each board we looked for a title, standard, a description of the task, 3-4 pieces of student work and commentary on the student work.  Of course, many of the boards had extras such as pictures of the students whose work was displayed, photos of other students in the classroom involved in the same work, artwork in borders and surrounding the boards, rubrics, etc.

One of the things that hit me immediately is how a well organized board is so much easier to read and understand.  Seems obvious, I guess, but sometimes it was hard to see which commentary went with which piece of student work or it was hard to understand the task because the teacher included so much that it was hard to really focus on the point of the board.  I also noticed that the format of the commentary made a difference too.  Bulleted commentary was especially easy to read or commentary that was in a t-chart format with the standard on the left and an explanation of how the student's work met the standard on the right.  This walk certainly gave me a unique view of the boards and set me thinking about how to design a really significant board.

The charts of collegial feedback that we filled out went to the Principal to review.  The names of the teachers that reviewed the board were not included.  The paper will go to the teachers who completed the boards.  Wonder how the feedback will be received...

This was really a very stress-free and constructive way to look deeper into bulletin boards that teach. I hope that we will do this again, maybe with different group configurations such as looking at the grade above with your grade level or looking at one board in each grade level, k-1-2-3-4-5 all in the same subject.  Or maybe the Academic Councils could choose some of the best boards in the building and have the teacher stand with the board and explain her thinking to groups of colleagues...  Oh, the possibilities are endless!

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