Bulletin Board Best Practices – #1
It’s the beginning of a new year and time to start thinking about what’s to come and forging ahead. For me, the beginning of the year bulletin board is always a fun and stressful task. Some of us want to put up a bulletin board that we can use all year long in the music room with musical content and vocabulary words. Some of us are working on hallway bulletin boards that highlight upcoming content, welcome students, or function for music education advocacy. Some people want something fun to start the year that will get students excited. Some people just want to cover up that white space on the bulletin board QUICK before their principal says something. 😀
Well, I have several bulletin boards to think about at the beginning of the year. I have a huge bulletin board in the hallway that I usually use for general music advocacy or to advertise for upcoming concerts. I also use this big board occasionally to display student work or teach musical content. I have several smaller bulletin boards in my music room that I use for musical standards, objectives, “I Can” statements and other required material. I have a lot of spaces to think about and when it hits crunch time I’m rushing to get those spaces finished and filled.
I told my student teacher on day one that one of the things he would have to do by the end of his time at my school was create and put up a bulletin board. It’s not on the checklist of official things that his University requires, but it’s great training and something that I had to do when I student taught. He admitted to me right away that that’s not something he feels overly confident about and that I would have to help him figure out what to display, why it’s important, how to put it up, etc.
I figured that all of you might have some of those same questions and that if I blogged about it, some of you veterans might also chime in in the comments with ideas that you have. Below you’ll find just a few quick little tips to help you as you set up your classroom and start to think about bulletin boards!
1) Don’t Just Make It For Now
Even when you think that you’ll only use this bulletin board set once, it’s probably better to use the nice stuff and laminate, laminate, laminate than make it quickly and toss it in a month or two. There are things that I made in my first year of teaching that I’ve used over and over again (when I thought I would only use them once and then throw them away). I think it’s worth the time and small extra effort in the beginning to use card stock, print with the nice printer, and really take time as you cut out and prepare. You could potentially use something forever if you make it the right way.
There are instances when I don’t take the time to make everything more durable through lamination, but most of the time I think it’s worth the effort. For instance, when I put up a bulletin board to advertise an upcoming concert, I’ll laminate everything except for the date of the concert. I know that I’ll do “A Bear-y Merry Holiday” sometime in the future, so why not save myself trouble years from now and keep this bulletin board set around so that I don’t have to remake it later. Make it well now and you’ll save yourself hours and dollars in the future.
2) Sometimes it’s better just to buy
My perfect example of this is the Composer of the Month bulletin board sets that Sara Bibee created. These are total gems! You can buy a set, print it off, laminate, and use FOREVER! There’s great content, they’re so visually appealing, and it’s super convenient to print and laminate. In theory I could spend the time to go out, do the research, buy the fonts, find the cute backgrounds, spend the time formatting, try and find good pictures, rework the formatting, adjust things that weren’t working, and on and on. Or, I could spend $2 and download this amazing set that’s already done for me. I got 12 in one purchase and I’m not looking back. If you wanna see all the composer/performer sets she offers Click This Link for the complete listing.
Conclusion: Sometimes it’s worth it to do it on your own. You might be able to make something cute and fun and put a unique spin on it… but sometimes it’s worth the money to avoid the loss of YOUR time and to avoid stress and just buy it.
3) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Buy Fabric
I think that almost every bulletin board I make includes an element from something that I’ve made before. Maybe I’ll reuse the fish cut outs from that beach theme a year ago or pull out the colorful borders that I use with my beginning of the year bulletin boards. As often as you can, reuse the materials that you already have AND when you’re buying stuff, plan on buying things that you can reuse.
One thing that I always try to reuse and recycle is bulletin board backing. I learned during student teaching that you can use butcher paper from the big colorful rolls in the teacher’s lounge but those fade quickly and are easily torn. You can use plastic table covers that you can get at the Dollar Tree for cheap because those don’t fade. However, they have their downsides too and if you have a lot to cover it can get pricey to have to buy them every time you change the bulletin board. My cooperating teacher suggested that I use fabric. You can get it at any craft store, you can buy sheets, or you can find random fabric remnants at garage sales, consignment stores and more! Cloth doesn’t fade, doesn’t show staple holes from previous uses, and can be used over and over again. Get something on it? Just throw it in the washer! You can even tie-dye and manipulate the fabric if you want a certain effect. There’s one navy fabric that I use about 4 times a year and it’s the perfect background for any occasion!
4) Know your audience!
Also, think about who ELSE will read your information. We get formal and informal walkthroughs from administrators all the time. There are little things you can do to make any bulletin board professional and impress the “higher-ups.” If you can include a reference to a learning standard or course objective from your school district or state then do it! Put a little poster or tag off on the side that says in smaller adult sized letters (District Music Standard 125.16) or whatever coincides with your district system. If you don’t have a district curriculum you could tie your bulletin board content to the National Music Standards. It makes you look super on top of your game! Heck, if you can sneak the words “I Can” into your bulletin board or mention something about higher order thinking, triple points for you!