Teacher Bulletin Board Ideas:  Creating Compelling, Utilitarian Displays



Introduction

If you are looking for teacher bulletin board ideas that are holiday-themed or "cute," you've come to the wrong place. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing whatsoever against holiday-themed or "cute" bulletin boards--they look really good if they're done correctly.

As a former principal of mine pointed out, if bulletin boards don't have a clearly defined, utilitarian purpose, kids will look at them two or three times and then totally ignore them.
teacher bulletin board ideas
At that point they become white noise.

What you WILL find here are teacher bulletin board ideas that are exactly that--clearly defined and utilitarian. Kids will not only look at them constantly--they will be compelled to look at them constantly.

This page is about designing displays for your bulletin boards, classroom walls, and whiteboards that augment your classroom management system.

Do I consider myself an expert designer?

Of course not.

I'm just passing along what works for me, and I'm sure that you will take from this whatever best suits your purposes.

Quick Links for THIS Page
teacher bulletin board ideas
You may use the following quick links to go directly to what interests you on this page. You may also scroll down the page manually if you choose to do so.

Recommendations/Suggestions
Bulletin Boards
Annotated Student Work
Classroom Whiteboards
Book Charts
Classroom Walls
Document Center
Word Wall
The Classroom Theme
Free Downloads
Customized Signs and Displays
Conclusion

Recommendations and Suggestions
teacher bulletin board ideas
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The wide reels of multi-colored bulletin board paper that you have to pull out and tear off are nearly impossible to keep creaseless, as you transport them to your classroom. Additionally, the color in that type of paper fades quickly, particularly when exposed to direct sunlight.
teacher bulletin board ideas
Burlap or other types of inexpensive fabric are the better choices.
teacher bulletin board ideas
Bordette can be cut twice as quickly if you unroll it with the two strips still attached to each other. Once you have estimated the length that will be required, cut through both strips while they're still attached. That way you have matching pieces for the top and bottom or the left and right side ready to go.
teacher bulletin board ideas
Another recommendation involves the letters that will appear on bulletin boards. Many schools' media centers have Ellison die-cut letter machines and laminators. The quality of the die-cut letters is superb. With an additional investment of time and effort, laminated letters will last a long time.
teacher bulletin board ideas
This is particularly relevant given the tendency of many principals to assign teachers to different classrooms from time to time. In that case, you simply take the letters down and put them up in the new room completely intact and unharmed.
teacher bulletin board ideas
If you don't already have one, I would STRONGLY recommend that you purchase a color laser printer. They've come down recently in price, and I think for most teachers, they are affordable. The impact of high-quality color printing makes a bold and vivid impression on kids (and those who are large and in charge).
teacher bulletin board ideas
Other recommendations and suggestions will follow as this page proceeds.

Bulletin Boards
teacher bulletin board ideas
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I'm going to begin here with these four signs that I placed directly outside my classroom door on a tall narrow bulletin board. Because of this board's location, students coming to my classroom could see it as they approached the door.
teacher bulletin board ideas
What you see here is a simulation of what I used recently at Twin Lakes.



This, I think, is a good example of a bulletin board that has four clearly defined, utilitarian purposes. Here's a closer look at those individual signs.



This sign, which appears at the top of the bulletin board, is a pacing guide for students. As I've mentioned many times before on this site, kids at Twin Lakes were required to read 25 books each school year. Knowing that, I simply divided the number of days by the number of books and came up with a pacing guide.
teacher bulletin board ideas
Then, I prepared 25 signs--each one with a different book number. Over the course of a 180 day academic year, that meant that students should be finishing a book approximately every seven days. So, once a week I had to replace the current sign with the next one.
teacher bulletin board ideas
I would strongly recommend using card stock--paper with a weight of at least 60 pounds. Additionally, if you use Velcro fasteners to mount the signs, your signs can be used over and over, year after year without unsightly staple holes in the corners.
teacher bulletin board ideas
There is one note of caution, however. Once the Velcro has been stuck to the bulletin board, it is extremely difficult to remove. As a result, careful thought to the placement of the Velcro is paramount.
teacher bulletin board ideas
This technique can be used for any tasks that require pacing--the number of journal entries completed, the number of days remaining before projects are due, and so forth.
teacher bulletin board ideas
Directly below the pacing sign was this sign:



Clearly, the purpose of the sign is to inform students what we will be doing on each particular day that they arrive at my class. It also contains a brief reminder about materials and/or expectations that will be required.
teacher bulletin board ideas
This particular sign is about Readers Workshop. Just as in the case of the pacing sign, I prepared a number of signs for particular classroom initiatives and projects. Some of those included . . .

  • Orientation
  • Orientation (continued)
  • Open House Day
  • Writers' Workshop
  • Readers' Workshop
  • Media Center Day
  • We Are Testing Today
  • Computer Lab Day
  • Special Projects Day

This approach can be adapted to any subject area at any grade level. It does take some time to prepare ahead of time, but if you use card stock and Velcro as I mentioned earlier, I believe you will consider it to be time well invested.
teacher bulletin board ideas
Directly below that sign was this one:



Of the four signs that appeared outside my classroom door, this is the only one that NEVER changed. Not only does it serve as a welcoming message--it's also a handy reference for visitors.
teacher bulletin board ideas
This sign as well as the other three that are displayed with it, was designed with Microsoft Publisher.
teacher bulletin board ideas
Microsoft Publisher, in my opinion, is the BEST desktop publisher available. It comes bundled with all sorts of designs that can be adapted for pretty much any purpose. As you may know, Microsoft Publisher is part of the Office package.
teacher bulletin board ideas
To the best of my knowledge, most school districts supply their teachers with laptops and the Office software package. If your school district does not provide those resources, you may want to consider purchasing Microsoft Publisher yourself.

Publisher can be purchased as a standalone application and can be found at multiple locations on the Internet--with discounts for educators. Just be prepared to provide proof that you are a teacher--most vendors require you to e-mail a photo of your photo ID.

No, I am NOT getting any compensation for recommending Microsoft Publisher. I'm just saying that the ease-of-use and the compelling results justify its use. Much of what you will see here was developed with this application.

The final sign at the bottom of the bulletin board outside my classroom door was this:



This one, of course, was designed to be a companion to the pacing sign regarding the number of books read. This sign came pre-designed, along with an additional 99 others.

Here's a closer look at some of those 100 signs.



If you would care to use these signs, they may be downloaded in the Free Downloads section further down this page.

Directly across the hallway from my classroom door, there was a very large bulletin board. I used this board to display some of those additional 99 pre-designed signs. A portion of it looked something like this:



Although they are not fully visible here, I used die-cut, laminated letters to spell out the phrase, "These Books Are Really Hot This Year."

Once again, I mounted these signs with Velcro and used them as weekly replacements for the Book of the Week sign that you saw earlier. I just removed the current Book of the Week sign and exchanged it with one of the others from across the hallway.

Annotated Student Work

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If your administrators insist upon displaying performance standards and annotated student work, as mine were, you may be interested to see a few photos I took recently at Twin Lakes.

The photos that appear in the following brief slideshow feature bulletin boards designed by Kim Lisenby, the language arts chairperson at Twin Lakes.

I thank Kim for graciously allowing me to display her work here on Daily Teaching Tools.



As you can readily see, Kim does an admirable job displaying annotated student work. She prepares a series of annotations ahead of time and prints them out and cuts them to size. Then, she selects the most appropriate comment to attach to each individual student paper.

You may have also noticed that Kim displays performance standards and rubrics prominently for all students (and administrators) to see.

I have used a similar annotation system in my classroom. Although I personalized each comment by using the student's name, the approach is similar to the one that can Kim uses.

Here are some examples of those comments:


Classroom Whiteboards

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In my part of the country, the administrators' demands for what needs to be displayed in the classroom, in my opinion, are excessive. Because of that reality, my colleagues and I have to use every space available to meet those demands.

The classroom whiteboards, as a result, become bulletin boards themselves.

Here, for example, is how Kim Lisenby turned a portion of her classroom walls into a CHAMPs classroom management display:



If you would care to see more about the CHAMPs classroom management, that page is located here.

Kim and Brett Hartley, a math teacher and former Teacher of the Year, chose to display class agendas on their whiteboards (the first four shots are Kim's work and the last three are Brett's):



You may have noticed that Brett displayed the beginning of his new word wall immediately next to his daily agenda. More about word walls follows further down this page.

My thanks to Brett for allowing me to display his work here on Daily Teaching Tools.

In my case, I chose to use a substantial portion of my whiteboards to display color photographs of students who were on schedule to read their 25 books in a school year. I printed them on card stock and then used magnetic tape to mount them on the board.

The magnetic tape is the type that has a magnet on one side and adhesive on the other. This tape is very inexpensive and can be found at your local office supply store.

It's very easy to work with. Just take a pair of scissors and cut small pieces for the corners of your signs and posters.

Then I arranged them in horizontal and vertical rows in this manner:



The die cut letters across the top of the board said, "On Track to Reach the 25 Book Goal." Although not show here, I also printed the first and last names of each student directly below his/her photo.

As you might imagine, this was a highly effective motivator for the kids. Here is more information about this as well as additional ideas for motivating students.

On the far right side of the front classroom whiteboard, I mounted my CHAMPs signs like this:



Again, if you would care to see more information about the CHAMPs Classroom system, it is located here.

Finally, on the far left side of the same whiteboard, I placed my daily workshop schedule. The photograph below features my workshop signs as displayed by Cheryl Bond, a world history teacher at Twin Lakes.



Here's a closer look at each of those five signs:



These signs, along with several other resources, are included in a free downloadable package available near the bottom of this page.

Book Charts

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I used the whiteboard at the back of my classroom to display class book charts for the 25 book campaign. They looked something like this:



The die-cut letters above the chart (only partially visible here) said, "Charting the Voyage to 25 Books."

I used Microsoft Publisher to lay out each of these book charts and took them to a print shop to have them enlarged to approximately 36 inches wide by 42 inches high.

At that size, students could easily affix multicolor stickers in the columns of the chart to track the number of books read (I kept the stickers and issued them at the appropriate times).

Here's a closer look at one of those book charts:



I found this to be an efficient, low maintenance way to track student progress. Additionally, it's very motivational for the kids.

They see their names proudly and professionally displayed. Then, as they begin to accumulate multicolored stickers next to their names, they are inspired to acquire even more.

I would imagine that this technique would be appropriate for any subject area class in which progress toward a goal needs to be tracked.

If you are a teacher who would like to do something similar to this in your classroom, but don't think you have the time and/or expertise to get it done, let me know about it!

I've had so much practice doing stuff like this that I can put them together relatively quickly FOR you. And the best part is that I work for cheap!

More about that later.

Classroom Walls

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As I mentioned previously, those who are large and in charge at Twin Lakes require teachers to display lots of stuff on bulletin boards. Having consumed all bulletin board and whiteboard space, the only area remaining is the classroom walls.

If you are fortunate enough to have drywall, as is the case at Twin Lakes, mounting materials on the walls is relatively easy. You can use pushpins, or for that matter even staples, to attach signs, letters, and posters.

If you have concrete block walls, the only viable options I have found are doubling back masking tape or glue guns--I've had much better success with masking tape, however. But, even with masking tape, you'll have to re-stick materials from time to time.

For a really STUNNING effect, you may want to consider assembling a paper tapestry as a background for your letters, signs, and posters. This method is time-consuming, but the results are compelling.

To create a paper tapestry, spread several pieces of card stock out on a table and butt their ends and sides up against each other like this:



Of course, when you flip this unit over, you won't see any masking tape. But, you will have a large paper tapestry ready to attach to the classroom walls anywhere you choose. Additionally, you can make it is wide or as high as you wish.

I have framed an entire whiteboard using this technique--I used a long strip across the top of the board and attached it to narrow strips along the sides.

I devoted one area of my classroom wall space for the Readers Workshop display.

Before attaching the individual signs for the display, I covered an entire portion of classroom wall with a blue paper tapestry that reached from the ceiling to the floor.

This display contained the performance standard, the task, the rubric, and multiple examples of exemplary student work (partially depicted in the final column on the right).

This is what it looked like:



The die-cut letters at the top of this display said, "Readers Workshop."

Because of space limitations, I had to drastically reduce the size of the original documents that comprise this display. Although the signs with the graphics are fairly clear, the documents they point to are not.

Here are those three documents, beginning with the performance standard.

This is the description of the task.



Here is the rubric.



The Writers Workshop display occupied another wall area. This time I used a red paper tapestry to cover a portion of classroom wall from floor to ceiling.

It also contained the performance standard, the task, the rubric, and multiple examples of exemplary student work. This is what it looked like:



The die cut letters across the top of the display spelled out, "Writers Workshop."

Once again, the signs with the graphics are clear enough, but the signs they point to are not.

Here are those three documents, beginning with the performance standard.



This is the description of the task.



Here is the rubric.



As you might imagine, there are a number of benefits when using these kinds of classroom wall displays. First, students have a very clear idea of what is expected of them.

Additionally, they have the opportunity to see exemplary work from their peers. They are able to observe what's right, and perhaps, what things need some work.

Kids are proud that their own works have been selected to be examples of what other students should strive for. Once again, it's highly motivational.

Just as importantly, administrators who come into the classroom to observe will absolutely LOVE these types of displays. I know this to be a fact from personal experience.

My classroom was designated a "model classroom" two years in a row. As a result, my classroom along with five or six others were required destinations for my fellow teachers during "focus walks" conducted on selected early release days.

Don't get me wrong here--I'm not trying to toot my own horn. I'm merely pointing out that this is a winning situation for all parties involved. The kids benefit. The teacher benefits. And the administrators are delighted.

Document Center

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The Document Center is an area in my classroom that is an integral part of my classroom management system. For a complete explanation of its purpose and the rationale behind it, please see this page.

Immediately inside the classroom door, I positioned a low, wide bookcase where I placed five file trays arranged side by side from left to right.

Above that bookcase, I hung a paper tapestry and used die-cut letters to spell out, "Document Center." Directly below those letters, I placed five signs pointing to their respective trays. It looked something like this:



On the first shelf of the bookcase below these file trays, I placed two additional trays (not shown here). They also had signs pointing to them.

Here are all of the seven signs that were displayed in my Document Center, beginning with one designed specifically for parent notes, tardy slips, progress reports, report cards being returned, etc.



This one, and the one immediately below it, spared me the every-class-period chore of collecting students' papers.



The next two signs pointed to trays for students to deposit their book summary forms whenever they completed them and their weekly homework logs.



The last two signs pointed to trays containing the two primary forms that I kept in stock for their use. Once again, this relieved me from the chore of handing them out individually when they were asked for.



Because all of the trays and their associated signs were located immediately inside the classroom door, students could deposit their paperwork as they came in.

So too, they could turn in whatever they needed to on their way out to go to their next class.

This eliminated the impulse to approach me in class with paperwork that needed my signature or initials.

I know that I'm repeating myself here, but not having to set aside time at the end of every class to pass papers forward and collect them row by row is, even by itself, well worth the effort of preparing a Document Center.

If you are not currently using any areas adjacent to your classroom door for this type of management strategy, I would strongly urge you to consider doing so.

I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Word Wall

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Across the top of the front whiteboard, I placed the Word Wall signs arranged in three rows from the top of the whiteboard all the way up to the ceiling and stretching the entire width of the whiteboard.

Here is a partial rendering of what it looked like.



Once again, I used Microsoft Publisher to design these simple signs.

It's very easy to do. You just select a large font, type your words or phrases, draw a box around the outside, and choose from the many border styles available in Publisher.

Here's a closer up sampling of some of them:



I had approximately 65-75 word wall signs altogether. The die-cut letters that said, "Word Wall" (not pictured) appeared at the far left and right sides of the display.

Believe it or not, I'm almost done.

Above the side whiteboard on the wall that contained my Writers Workshop display that I mentioned earlier, I placed a series of seven posters side-by-side that is partially reproduced here.



The die-cut letters above the posters spelled out, "Authors of Great Literature."

Yes, you guessed it--I used Microsoft Publisher to design these signs, and then I took them to a print shop for enlargement and lamination. The individual signs looked like this:



The Classroom Theme
teacher bulletin board ideas
As it turns out (and not accidentally), most of the previous displays on bulletin boards, white boards, and classroom walls that you have been reading about here contributed to my classroom theme.
teacher bulletin board ideas
What follows in this final graphics section is a description of my classroom theme, accompanied by five photos taken with my iPhone 3. If I had foreseen at that time that I would eventually be writing a webpage about my classroom, I would have made it a point to use a higher quality camera.
teacher bulletin board ideas
So, in that regard, please accept my apologies.
teacher bulletin board ideas
In this photo of my classroom (and some of the kids), the book charts I mentioned earlier are partially visible:



Here are some additional photos of my classroom (complete with call outs):


teacher bulletin board ideas
Although it is not entirely evident here, I had an entire classroom wall that celebrated reading and another wall that celebrated writing. The third wall (the one at the front of the classroom) was devoted to the day-to-day instructional focus.
teacher bulletin board ideas
In the middle of the fourth wall, between the classroom windows, I hung a long, narrow, paper tapestry that displayed the theme of my classroom: "Read. Write. Imagine. Achieve." It is visible, but not readable, in the photo immediately above (top right).
teacher bulletin board ideas
To accentuate the "Imagine," part, I placed this polyurethane sculpture on the counter beneath that tapestry:



Free Downloads

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If you would care to download the complete package of 100 Books graphics completely free of charge, it is located here.

The five workshop model daily agenda signs along with the "Great Authors of Literature" posters are available in this free PDF package.

As always, all I ask in return is that you support my efforts by sharing an idea with your fellow teachers on the Teachers' Ideas page and/or adding a comment to one of my blog entries at The Teacher Beacon.
teacher bulletin board ideas
Take a few seconds to click on my Facebook Like button, or take a minute or two to add a brief comment about one of the Daily Teaching Tools pages that you may have found useful.
teacher bulletin board ideas
Or, how about grabbing a mouse pad or tote bag at The TeacherMarket?
teacher bulletin board ideas
If you really want to go crazy, purchase one of my software products!

Customized Signs and Displays

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The majority of signs, posters, and display materials that you have seen on this page either have MY name or were specifically designed for my, Kim's, or Brett's particular instructional situation.

Obviously, they are worthless to you.

If you don't have the time, inclination, and/or expertise to create your own display materials, I would be happy to help. Just let me know what you need.

Hey!

I work for cheap!

Conclusion

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Because everything I put on my bulletin boards, whiteboards, and classroom walls has a direct bearing on the subject of language arts OR features the works and photographs of the students who comprise each class, the kids are compelled to look at them.

Do you have to have a classroom theme?

Of course not. But, it's a nice extra.

Do you have to spend all that time preparing paper tapestries and die-cutting your letters?

Absolutely not. But, it sure makes a qualitative difference.

And, that helps underline your commitment to your kids. It also puts a gleam in the eyes of those who are large and in charge.

I sincerely hope that somewhere in these bulletin board ideas for teachers, you have found something that suits your subject area and classroom.

And again, if you want to design some stuff like this and don't have the time, let me know about it! .

Happy snipping and sticking.



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