When it comes to classroom decorations, mine have tended to fall into one of two categories: things students and I use as part of our lessons and for reference year round (ex.: Vocabulary Word Wall and our Genre & Author’s Purpose Wall), and things the students create themselves as part of a specific lesson (ex.: Shades of Meaning and Spooky Synonyms Bulletin Board). The most popular bulletin board by far doesn’t exactly fit in either category, but is closer to the second.
Each year I choose a bulletin board, or section of the wall, to be my “Wise Words from Famous Figures” display. My students insist on calling it “Wise Dead Guys,” despite the fact not all of the people represented are dead and about half of them are women, but I have to admit it’s kind of catchy. Before school starts, I post the twenty posters that make up my personal collection, being sure to leave plenty of space for additions.
On the first day of school the students and I look at the posters, take turns reading some, and talking about which we find particularly inspiring and why. I then challenge students to help the collection grow. They can participate by bringing me a name and a quote from people they learn about throughout the year, or people they know of and admire for some reason. I then do my best to find a photo of the person (Creative Commons has some good search engines to help you ensure the images are royalty and copyright free.), add the quote and their name, print, and add the newest poster to our board. If students wish, they can design and submit the completed poster themselves, but I never want lack of knowledge, or access to a computer and printer, to prevent anyone from participating.
The other option students have for participating is to submit different quotes by people already represented on our board. These I type up and print on 3×5 cards, attaching them around the original poster. Some people end up with many additional quotes, others end up with none, but that’s fine with me. Each year’s board is different and I love how unique they are.
Other teachers often remarked on the board and expressed a desire to have one of their own, but specific to the content area they taught. In response, I developed seven more sets of posters, each for a different content area. Each set has 15 posters, with the exception of the presidential set which has 45. My American history and government friends got a presidential set, including a quote from every president from Washington to Biden. My STEM friends ended up with three sets to choose from: computer/technology, mathematicians, and scientists (there are a few people who repeat, but I tried to ensure the quotes were different in each set). Before you think I forgot the A in STEAM, I didn’t, there’s a complete set of quotes from famous artists. Physical education teachers often don’t have many bulletin boards, but I created a set with quotes from athletes as well. Finally, the one closest to the area I teach, is the authors set, designed for my friends in ELA. To my music teacher friends, I am sorry, the set of musicians and famous composers has yet to be finished.
This bulletin board, whatever you choose to title it, is truly one of the most popular ones in my classroom. The students really get into curating our collection of quotes, and it helps me learn a lot about who they are how they think. If you have some blank wall space I highly suggest you give it a try. Happy teaching, everyone!