A couple of days ago I posted an article exploring why I’m not keen on teaching being expected to spend time putting on displays in their classrooms. This made some people happy 🙂 but a few people were sad 🙁  . One criticism was that some displays contain important information that can be covered up so that students can be tested to see whether they’ve memorised it. This is the Bananarama Principle: It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it. Wall displays can be used well and table top mats can be used badly.

So, of course displays can be used this way (although they rarely are) but I reckon covering up sections of the classroom wall on a regular basis is an inefficient way to go if this is your aim. I find laminated table top mats work better, despite the time it might take to hand them out. Here’s why:

It would be a struggle to fit everything students needed to remember on the wall. This requires a compromise; you either have to make the information so small that the vast majority of students would be unable to see it or only put up a few displays and require that students memorise less. I can make as many table top mats as I want and fill them with as much stuff as I deem appropriate.

Covering up wall displays makes differentiation hard. If all students have their own mini-display I can take it away as I feel they can do without it. If they struggle too much I can easily give it make for a short while. This is one of fundamentals of effective scaffolding. Covering and uncovering large sections of wall displays would quickly become impractical.

The advantages of table top mats are:

  • The can contain a lot of readable information
  • They can be used more flexibly
  • They can be reused as often as required
  • Over the long term they will save time.

One potential disadvantage over wall displays is that you have to give them out every time you want to use them. This could be annoying if every students needed their own individual resource , but in that case it might be more practical to make students responsible for their own resource. But usually I find one mat for table works well so handing them out is the work of a moment.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t use wall displays if you prefer. Be my guest. I’m merely pointing out the merits of the alternative.