Walk into a classroom and you will see posters with information about rules, norms of interaction, instructions, procedures, warning, etc., to communicate expectations to students. Some posters are required by the school. Others are of our own choosing. Have you ever stopped to think about how they tell students about your beliefs about children – intentionally or unintentionally?
Patricia Tarr, a professor at the University of Calgary, gathered research on the topic and concluded that teachers should “step back and critically examine the quality and quantity of commercial materials on their walls to determine whether they actually contribute to children’s learning or whether they ultimately silence children.” The goal of this activity is to encourage you to consider whether every piece of your classroom environment contributes to your goals.
Download the attachments of materials above and make sure you can view the images in full. Download and print the reflection sheet.
Choose (at least) four of the posters, which you may find in a teacher supply store. Think about the intended purpose of each poster. Then fill out the t-chart: What are the intended or explicit messages it sends? What are the unintended or implicit messages it sends?
Carefully look at every element of the poster: vocabulary; word choice; image placement; depictions of people (What do they look like? What are they wearing? What emotion do they convey?). Consider what the poster says about teachers, students, and learning.
If you’re familiar with this poster or posters like it, challenge yourself to move past your familiarity and look at it with new eyes. Imagine if you were one of your students, seriously examining this poster for the first time. What might he or she notice?
Once you’ve analyzed each poster, reflect on the activity overall by using the questions on the last page of the sheet.
What would it look like if you encouraged your students to engage in a similar activity? What if you asked your administrators to do the same? What messages does your school send about teachers and students, implicitly or explicitly?
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