Emotion Response – How does it make you feel?

Picture News resources allow a fabulous opportunity to explore emotions; how we may respond differently to the same thing and how although we may not agree with someone else’s feelings, we must respect and accept them.

The beauty of an emotional response is it cannot be wrong. It is yours; it is how you feel. It may change as you listen and explore other responses or see things from someone else’s viewpoint, which is actually another learning point – this is okay too!

So, how and when can you fit an ‘emotion response’ into your Picture News assemblies?

The first opportunity is after sharing the week’s story. This is a great place as it is the initial ‘gut’ feeling. Shocked, sad, happy, angry, confused? There is an emotion response grid on your assembly PowerPoint (found on your online area) as we cannot possibly miss an opportunity for children to be exposed to ambitious vocabulary and be given the opportunity to ‘up-level’. The more you do this, the more courageous children become. You will find instead of copying what they think is the right response, they begin to accept they cannot be wrong. They may disagree with their friend, but this is fine!

After the initial response, there are several open questions and opportunities to delve in a little deeper. Ask why we feel like this and share opinions. It is so wonderful to witness the dialogue between children with differing opinions, who can articulate their feelings passionately whilst respecting a response from someone else that is the complete opposite. This is something that does, for some children, come with practise and lots of support and modelling but the more you do it and the more children are given opportunities to disagree, the better they get!

For younger children or for children who have difficulty articulating emotions or even managing their emotions, we have Peter the Picture News Bear. You can explore his different reactions to basic emotions by looking at his facial expressions and what his body is doing. If a news story makes you feel angry, what are you going to do? How are you going to react? What will you do with that anger? How will you manage it?

When children are exposed to a variety of different words in order to express their emotions regularly, they are more likely to begin to use them in their everyday language.

We believe that being able to understand and manage emotions is essential – a life skill. Because Picture News is current affairs (it is real, and it is happening now), the emotion response is real. Children explore their feelings, learn about themselves and understand that we are all different. However we feel, it is not wrong. We should accept and embrace our emotions, both the ones that feel good and the ones that do not feel so good.

Deepfake Videos by John Dabell

Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn’t a technology of the future, it’s a technology of the present and it’s changing the world and how we see it and experience reality. It’s also transforming how we interact with services such as people now being able to get expert health advice using Amazon Alexa devices.

Although there are many benefits to AI, it does have more sinister uses and it is those we need to alert children to so they don’t get hoodwinked by GANs and deepfake videos.

Artificially intelligent algorithms can now generate incredibly realistic faces as well as take real people and manipulate them to say things that are totally fake.

Deepfake is the ability of AI to fabricate apparently real footage of people.  This animates a face from a still image, melds faces and can show real people doing and saying things they never did using text-to-speech machine learning algorithms that can literally put words in the mouth of whoever appears in a video. This is disinformation on steroids.

This unreal reality is disturbing and can spread misinformation, alter perceptions, create chaos, destroy trust and threaten democracy. If deepfakes and deep video portraits fool adults then they will fool children and they can cause real, concrete harm.

One of the most outrageous examples of a deepfake video and put on Instagram is that of Facebook’s  Mark Zuckerberg apparently talking about how he has “total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” and how he owed it “all to Spectre.”

This was pure faux-Zuckerberg and one of many others that have included celebrities and politicians such as Arnold Schwarznegger, Kim Kardashian, Freddie Mercury, Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

AI-produced videos are explosive  because they could show politicians and public figures saying or doing something extremely outrageous and inflammatory and these could threaten international security and change world events.

Deepfakes are spreading and can cause irreparable damage in the wrong hands and this is deeply worrying because they can be easily created using open-source software (e.g. DeepFaceLab) and online tutorials.

Just as we have a responsibility to teach children about fauxtography, we also have to share with them the dangers of deepfake videos and how their views and opinions can be easily shaped and twisted.

They have to question everything and can’t believe in old sayings such as “the camera never lies” because the world around them is being manipulated and now doctored by deep-learning algorithms. Seeing is not believing and it’s not what it looks like.

How to keep safe from lies and protect them from propaganda is no easy task and as AI becomes ever more sophisticated there are no short-cuts or quick-fixes we share with children for spotting fake videos. It’s a cat and mouse game for even for the best technology brains.  The first deepfakes were easy to spot but now it’s becoming almost impossible although journalists are being trained in how to detect them, especially in how simulated faces blink.     

The most effective advice we can give is to show children examples of deep fakes and to teach them how to exercise caution and check the credibility of what they see.

They can discuss the ethics of face swap technology and whether malicious synthetic media should be made illegal and how we can defuse disinformation. They can also debate whether they can also be legitimately used for art, satire, comedy, and entertainment.

You can share with children the work of WITNESS, a human rights organisation that shows how video and technology can be used to protect and defend rather than cause harm.

Deepfakes, cheapfakes and shallowfakes are part of mainstream culture and like it or not children will see them so we have to be pro-active in sharpening their critical thinking and digital literacy skills and help them to prepare, not panic and look at the world with critical eyes.

Our example assembly! By Jo Martin

Please click on the image to view the video

I was very excited to be able to visit Pickhill Church of England Primary School to lead a Picture News assembly.

As a teacher, I used to work closely with my teaching teams to plan and deliver lessons. I used to love seeing how different teachers and different classes would put their own spin on resources and steer their learning in slightly different directions. This is also one of the things I love about Picture News. Using the same starting point and the same resource, but the journey and end point can be so very different.

One of my absolute ‘must dos’ when delivering any session is to involve every single child. Assemblies can be quite tricky to do this, especially when teaching in large schools. Some of the ideas used to structure the Picture News assembly at Pickhill, do require a response from every child and do work in schools of all sizes. I have delivered assemblies to over 500 children, squeezed into one hall so I promise, it is possible!

I structured the assembly into different sections, and I borrowed Pickhill’s ‘Picture News Monitors’ to lead parts of the assembly, which, as I am sure you can tell, they usually do alongside their teachers. Overtime, I would be tempted to hand over whole sections for some children to lead.

You might also notice the Picture News display, which is placed in the hall and which the children instantly record their responses on after the assembly. The children change the posters and put up their own responses – can’t beat a time-saver!

You can never quite tell how a story is going to go and what response it is going to receive. Sometimes, you get so excited about sharing a week with the children for it to fall upon a relatively unimpressed audience, whereas other weeks the buzz and excitement created from it is just incredible. It is these weeks where I would encourage further responses and learning to take place back in the classroom. Remember, Picture News is a current affairs resource, meaning learning is real-life, children are given voices and they can potentially impact and bring about change to our world!

As embarrassing as I find it to release a video of myself teaching, here it is! I hope you enjoy it and as always, I’d love to hear from you about your favourite assemblies, sessions or ideas you use to deliver Picture News. Please feel free to email

A different approach to Picture News by Jo Martin

I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Trinity St. Peter’s CE Primary School and Nursery, after they captured our attention through their use of Twitter.

On entering, I was immediately made to feel welcome, not only by the happy, friendly staff but also by the incredible and inspirational messages and display boards, clearly demonstrating the ethos created by the school.

As a school, they believe that every child is a star and that they should work in partnership with all members of the local and wider community to provide each child with the skills and values that they need to SHINE in the real world. They want all of their children to enjoy their learning journey, to achieve their full potential and to become caring global citizens of the world, with the motivation and confidence to be the best they can be.

I was keen and very excited to learn how they used Picture News within their school. I was able to spend time chatting to the teachers from Year 1 through to Year 6 and learned so much I wanted to share!

Each week, Trinity St. Peter’s uses Picture News as stimulus for a class based discussion. Every class takes part in this discussion with their teacher on a Wednesday. Each teacher puts their own ‘spin’ on the resource and the way it is delivered often varies week-to-week.

I asked each teacher to describe to me how they used Picture News within their classroom. It was just so wonderful to hear the way they spoke so enthusiastically and passionately about their school, their class and Picture News. Trinity St. Peter’s have taken ownership of the resource and used it to be more than just an assembly resource and more than just a way to cover British Values. It has been used as a tool to support children in developing confidence and respect, to motivate and inspire children to learn, to challenge their thinking, to be the best they can be and SHINE!

Some of the ways they delivered their sessions are listed below, you may find them useful!

  • Use iPads to allow children to independently access the information resources. They are then able to read independently and have their own thinking time before discussion.
  • Begin with a relevant stimulus or practical activity to promote the big question.
  • Ask children to answer yes or no before the discussion then after to show how they can influence one another’s ideas.
  • Ask children to apply creative thinking skills in order to respond from different perspectives.
  • Organise the classroom as a formal debate (as in parliament), assigning children specific roles.
  • Give the assembly resource first, ask children to guess the story and question from this.
  • Children create the British Value that best matches the question prompt.

So, what next? Once the session is complete, is that it? No! Every single week each class shares their response on Twitter. There is no recording, no display, no worksheets. At first, I was surprised. I have to say, I do like the big class scrapbooks of comments and work based on Picture News but after speaking to Deputy Head, Louisa, I realised everything that needed to be done, was being done. Twitter allowed them to share each classes response with one another, it showcased their thinking, the children and the school had a global platform, where they could influence and bring about change and it provided evidence for SLT monitoring.

There is still more! If a story happened to spark an interest or inspire their class, it wasn’t just forgotten about or lost once the session was over under the mountain of other ‘must complete, things to do’ that every teacher has, it was acted upon. The Year 1 class requested to visit an old people’s home after the story ‘Should we spend more time with people who are older than us?’. The visit was organised and, as it was so mutually beneficial, it became a weekly occurrence. The story ‘Can we learn to be happy?’ inspired the Year 6 class to work towards and apply for the ‘Wellbeing Award’, which I am excited to tell you, they achieved!

I asked the teachers to share the impact Picture News has had in their school. I have shared the responses below:

  • Open the children’s eyes to the world.
  • Bring the world into the classroom.
  • Spark interest.
  • Can assess SMSC.
  • Shows children it is okay to disagree with someone else.
  • Children have matured.
  • Learn to disagree civilly.
  • Improved social skills.
  • Transfer skills to become more independent thinkers.

I was so humbled to also hear that Picture News had played a part in achieving their Christian Aid Global Neighbours Gold Award and their Gold SMSC Quality Mark.

I was actually quite sad to leave the building. Everything I feel so strongly and passionately about in education was happening within this school. Children were given opportunities to be inspired and learn from the real world. Children knew that their opinion mattered, and they felt valued. Children felt excited and engaged and wanted to learn. Children were not afraid to express and talk about their emotions. Children were given opportunities to identify with news stories, allowing them to share worries, concerns and feelings such as loneliness or feeling different. Children learned that not everyone is the same or feels the same and this is something to be celebrated. Children, who have been encouraged and supported to develop confidence, resilience and independence and have learned to respect, tolerate and understand.

Thank you so much for having me Trinity St. Peter’s and keep doing what you do!

A few of our favourite packs!

Each week, we are tasked with finding a new and current story to use as our weekly focus.

We asked the Picture News team to choose their favourite story from all the stories chosen this year!

Fauxtography: Teaching Children To Look Again by John Dabell

What you see is what you get, right?

Wrong. WYSIWYG might suggest that there is nothing hidden but when it comes to pictures, photos and images in the news then take a big step back. And then again!

Research by Nightingale et al (2017) suggests that most people can’t tell the difference between real and photo forgeries.

It’s easy for anyone to look at something and just accept it for what it is but pictures don’t tell the whole story. A picture is a split-second snapshot and only a slice of the action. That’s if it is even a real one.

To improve children’s media literacy we encourage them to be critical consumers so they don’t believe everything they read.

The same applies to pictures too and so what children see has to be questioned. Is it a fake? Is it misrepresenting a particular person, group of people or situation? Who is behind the lens and what is their ideological agenda?

Misleading pictures is something children will encounter all the time online without realising it which is why promoting a critical pair of eyes is essential. The pictures that go with a story might be real but only show a portion of what is happening. They might relate to a completely different event that has nothing to do with the news being reported – pairing an unaltered image with an unrelated story or an event that happened at a different time is very common.

Then there is the classic Photoshopped image using image tampering techniques such as splicing or merging parts of one image with another, cloning sections within the same image, or removing an object.

Fauxtography is everywhere and dangerous because doctored photos are designed to manipulate our emotions and provoke a response or extreme view. Fake news and fake photos can do considerable harm as they blur the lines of reality, distort worldviews and could inspire criminal behaviours and drive the misallocation of resources.

Photoshopped images can quickly go viral and breed fear and mistrust and misinformation can cost lives. Humans love to spread gossip and lies spreads faster than the truth.

Full Fact, the UK’s independent factchecking charity, has a great article online to help us when we might be suspicious about an image. One of the things they point to is using a reverse image search using Google Chrome:


Common Sense Education have also produced a video to help.

There are other websites that do a similar thing such as TinEye to help with image verification and matching. It is especially good at showing how and how often an image is being (or has been) used online.

Empowering our children’s digital citizenship is massively important if we are to help them learn that what you see isn’t what you get. Pictures can spin some really tall tales and so need to be approached with caution.

Unfortunately, fauxtography is a feature of life so children have to be forensic photo experts if they want to be part of the real world. We have to help them to think like fact checkers and lie detectors and use tools like the CRAAP test so they don’t let their eyes deceive them.

A CRAAP test is a set of evaluation criteria developed by librarians at California State University, Chico that can be applied to websites, articles, blogs, books and a range of media sources to help children determine if the information is reliable. The acronym stands for:

  • Currency
  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Purpose

Pictures and photographs are often recycled or doctored to fuel interest and provide visual “proof” for fake news but they don’t fool everyone, especially visually literate children who scratch beyond the surface.

Debunking misinformation is a key responsibility of all teachers and so it is our job to keep children in the picture and help them spot fauxtographs so they question everything they see.


Picture News Webinars – Autumn Term 2019

It may feel that summer is only just beginning, but at Picture News HQ, we’re already looking ahead to the Autumn term! 

We’re running three new exciting webinars to help you learn more about our weekly resources and how to use current affairs in school. The live web sessions will be open to everyone and every subscriber will receive a recording of the session – just in case you are unable to attend on the day!

Details and registration for each session can be found below. All of the sessions are limited to 100 places and places for the September session are already limited, so don’t hesitate to book your space!


Monday 2nd September 9.30 – 10.15am  – Using Picture News in your school

In this session we cover:
– Why and how to use Picture News;
– Picture News in the new Ofsted Framework;
– British Values and SMSC.


Wednesday 2nd October 4-4.45pm – Picture News and Early Years

In this session we cover:

  • Why teach the news to EYFS;
  • How it links to the EYFS framework;
  • SMSC and British values.


Wednesday 6th November 4-4.45pm – How to embed British Values in the primary classroom

In this session we cover:

  • What the DfE’s ‘Fundamental British values’ actually are;
  • Practical examples and ideas to show how schools have successfully embedded British values;
  • How to collect evidence and show impact across your school.

Meet Lisa!

I am the newest member to the Picture News Team, having been an Early Years Teacher for the last 12 years. After completing my BSc Hons degree in Primary Education 3-7 years at York St John University, I quickly discovered that Early Years was where my heart lied and found a job in a school in Garforth, Leeds teaching Reception. Being a Newly Qualified Teacher in a two-form entry school enabled me to learn so much from other experienced teachers. I really enjoyed planning for and engaging in child centred learning, seeing the children excited to explore and pursue their own interests. After having my own children, I decided to move to a school closer to home. My most recent school is an amazing school in Ripon. I began teaching Year 1 there, but soon found myself back in Reception!

Whilst teaching Reception, I was very fortunate to be asked by Picture News for my ideas on how the Early Years Picture News Resource could begin. This developed quickly and I have been writing the Early Years resource each week ever since. Teaching alongside writing the resource enabled me to teach the children in my class all about the different news stories Picture News covered. They loved it and their confidence to share their thoughts and ideas really improved. They really enjoyed linking the news stories to their own life experiences.

Now as the Early Years Picture News Resource has grown, so has my role at Picture News. I recently made the difficult decision to leave teaching. My exciting new challenge is now to go into schools and see how different teachers are using the Early Years Picture News resource, as well as leading Early Years teacher workshops, attending headteacher meetings and creating webinars to support other Early Years teachers.

Thank you, Picture News, for this great opportunity.

Does Your School Lack Emergency Planning? By John Dabell

Is your school ready for anything?

If there is one, big gaping hole in whole school training then it is emergency and contingency planning.

There is plenty of training for teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment, workload, wellbeing, etc but very little for when things go wrong.

An emergency, crisis or disaster, affecting the school community, could happen at any time, either in school, on a school visit or in the local community.

There is an awful lot that can go wrong and we need to be prepared but how many staff and children are?

This isn’t just something for senior management to know about, supposing they even do. Every member of the school community needs to be clued up and clued in.

[Tweet “How much emergency planning training have you had?”]

I don’t remember one training day in over 20 years where anyone has discussed what to do in disaster situations.

Would you know what your roles and responsibilities were and those of your colleagues?

Coordination, communication, welfare, media management, business continuity – who is doing what?

An emergency requires people to be hyper-focused and this requires hyper-planning for a spectrum of bad possibilities.

Training should be provided to ensure that everyone understands their role, they are confident to perform tasks assigned to them and have access to available resources and facilities.

Break Glass In Case Of Emergency

Schools do fire drills regularly and half the time staff know when they are going to happen. Some staff moan because their lessons get disrupted and children get excited because its time out.

They are not always treated seriously because they are expected. The failure might not be the drill but the culture and leadership around it.

[Tweet “Schools are well versed in fire drills but what about other emergency scenarios?”]

Children and staff might treat emergency drills more seriously if they widened to include other serious incidents.

What do we do if our school is caught up in a terrorist attack?

Do you have invacuation procedures in place? Some schools carry lockdown drills twice a year so why don’t all schools? Take a look at this video to see how Reinwood Junior School do it.

In emergencies people are more likely to respond reliably if they “are well trained and competent, take part in regular and realistic practice, have clearly agreed, recorded and rehearsed plans, actions and responsibilities.”

[Tweet “Schools are lacking emergency preparedness for a range of incidents.”]

School Emergency Preparedness involves contingency planning for critical incidents, risk and crisis management, health and safety, first aid and security.

Advice From Above

We do have official guidance available to us (last updated about three years ago) and this should be readily available.

There are some good links in here notably to a school emergency plan template and guidance from Nottinghamshire County Council. See also the classroom resources available from Essex County Council.

Many councils have adopted these guidelines and improved them so there is wide variation between schools.

Without training we run the huge risk of running around like headless chickens and making a situation worse. This could involve lives being lost.

[Tweet “Be honest, have you read your School Emergency Management Plan?”]

Don’t assume you know that others know what they are doing. If you don’t, chances are your colleagues won’t. Hand on heart, how many of us have read the School Emergency Management Plan? Would you know if it was comprehensive enough?

Would you know how incidents are grouped and what situations fall into what level?

Every year staff should be getting together to discuss and train for different incidents and situations that could happen. This is not only sensible but necessary. To pounce on a problem we need to know what to do and what not to do.

We just never know what will happen or how we will react. So why aren’t we taking the opportunity to simulate scenarios seriously?

What’s The Plan?

Training for a range of incidents is crucial and all staff need to know the procedures detailed in the Schools Emergency Plan.

Keeping your head in a crisis and responding effectively isn’t an instinct but comes with training. In a high-stress situation it is knowledge that comes to the rescue. If you have been trained what to do then you will know your job and be more in control.

Schools should devote regular training sessions throughout the year to bad-news scenarios so staff can act them out. This gives everyone the opportunity to intellectually and physically engage with incidents and how to handle them.

A little bit of training can go a long way because it takes people out of their comfort pits and injects challenge and confidence.

[Tweet “Emergency planning builds deliberate teamwork, collective wisdom and resilience.”]

Hypothetical situations have to have buy-in. There is nothing worse than someone mumbling “that would never happen here” but that’s dangerous talk. Anything is possible. Every school is at risk. Every school is vulnerable.

Follow The Seven Ps

Devoting time to risk and emergency planning allows a school to discover weaknesses in their responses and approaches. It helps us to consider how we can prevent, prepare, respond and recover.

[Tweet “Emergency plans need to be practiced on a regular and ongoing basis.”]

When we rehearse for emergencies we find gaps in our knowledge. Play-acting is a serious business when it involves human lives.

Thinking through practicalities helps everyone improve their problem-solving skills. When we think negatively this helps to drive positive responses so we formulate and deliver more effective responses.

If there is one area where over-preparation is a necessary then it is emergency planning. Making decisions are guided by knowledge and groupthink so we don’t get in a spin.  The Seven ‘P’s saves lives: “Proper prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance.”

Emergency procedures in schools should be a part of a school’s risk assessment. Has your school prepared you for if the unthinkable happens? My guess is that you’ll have the paperwork in place but not the contingency sim training.


Cabinet Office Guidance for Preparing for Emergencies.

National Counter Terrorism Office guidance Recognising the terrorist threat

Security Service MI5 Threat Levels

Children need training too and need to be heard. If you haven’t seen it, take a look at the Save the Children Take Care programme, a resource designed to build children’s resilience to disasters.


What’s the point of display? By John Dabell

Why do we bother with classroom displays?

Some classrooms don’t really need their walls because they don’t actually do much. Okay, they might hold the school together and provide teachers with their own little habitat to teach in but why have walls if you don’t use them?

When you walk into some classrooms they scream at you. Apart from a few posters and a timetable, these are just spartan resting places for drawing pins to rust to death. They show little effort, are devoid of personality and are hardly inspiring.

Displays are important to any school but they are often abused or abandoned.

They are powerful points of reference in class and can make a huge difference to drab and dreary corridors.

Some teachers invest a huge amount of energy in their classroom displays but this can often be detrimental to learning. Some classrooms are drenched in displays and become so cluttered they bring about claustrophobia and get in the way. Too much display is harmful.

Getting the balance between being overwhelming and underwhelming is clearly important. Decluttering is one thing but sterilising a learning environment of displays, artwork and resources can be detrimental too. Heaven forbid that your displays include ‘data walls‘.

On Display

Dave Burgess (2012) in Teach Like A Pirate reckons that one of our secret weapons as teachers is being able to control the physical space. He suggests we use ‘interior design hooks’ to transform our classrooms to create the ultimate atmosphere for a lesson. He describes having special days where he creates a blank canvas by covering every wall in plastic sheeting and then adding decorations on top to a particular theme.

Some might argue that even when changed regularly, classroom displays have little educational value and pupils see them as just wallpaper or window dressing. I disagree that they are just mere decoration and it is nonsense they are there for the teacher to look and feel good about themselves. Displays can support the improvement of pupils’ learning, they create a mood and they can be shocking. Learning needs to shock sometimes to be memorable.

Hywel Roberts (2012) in Oops! Helping children learn accidentally says that “Display is to the teacher what the saw is to a carpenter: essential.”

There are lots of things to remember about display and he points to ten top hints. He says that display:

  1. should carry meaning to those who look at it
  2. isn’t the job of the teaching assistant
  3. is a reflection on you as a teacher
  4. needs to be managed in the same way you’d manage a flower arrangement
  5. can be personalised using photos of pupils
  6. can be used to celebrate success
  7. can be put anywhere
  8. should stimulate enquiry and be challenging
  9. should show processes as well as final and best pieces of work, but shouldn’t be dated
  10. is often ignored

Research tells us that Clever Classrooms are those where wall displays are lively without being chaotic and “As a rule of thumb 20-50% of the available wall space should be kept clear.”

It’s tempting to use every available bit of space on a wall and spread educational nuggets all over then like magic margarine. But that doesn’t work. Children need space to think and that mind space can’t breathe if the walls feel l

ike they are closing in.

A Display of Affection

Classrooms are the core learning spaces in a school and so they need to be exciting and dynamic. They also need to be ‘owned’ by the class so that children see their own work on the walls. If a classroom is largely the work of a teacher and decorated with commercial resources and ‘inspirational quotes’, it feels soulless and corporate.

Displays make an impression and so careful thought has to be given to what messages they are giving out. The main message from a pupil perspective is “Does my teacher value me and my work?”

Children like to see their own stuff and can feel proud as punch if it gets displayed. If something doesn’t make the grade then this can have a negative impact on children’s thinking and self-esteem. Always displaying the ‘best’ work is a no-no because this excludes children. Every child needs their moment of glory and a class with an inclusive and growth mindset will recognise not everyone can be the same but everyone needs to be included.

Tait Coles (2014) in Never Mind The Inspectors: Here’s Punk Learning says we should display everything and we shouldn’t be “frightened of displaying students’ work that is wrong. Students can learn so much from misconceptions and so can teachers.”

For true ownership, we need to think about who is responsible for the displays. As Jim Smith (2017) suggests in The Really Lazy Teacher’s Handbook we also need to get “students to design and put up the displays.”

Why not take this one step further as illustrated by Tim Brighouse and David Woods (2013) in The A-Z Of School Improvement and get older pupils as ‘display for learning advisers’ (DLAs) as “volunteers to do something to improve all aspects of display in the school”.

What to Include?

Displays don’t have to drive us up the wall.

Planning what to include on your wall space needs a Clever Classrooms mindset so that children aren’t distracted yet at the same time challenged and engaged. This means managing the visual environment systematically and keeping displays alive and well on a rolling basis. Some ideas include:

  • a Working Wall to support children in their current learning and enable them to become more independent
  • an Anchor Chart display to frame discussions and prompt learning conversations
  • a Feelings Board so children can populate it with their thoughts during lessons (Coles, 2014)
  • a ‘Heavy Duty Learning Wall’ where children write on a sticky note what they’ve learnt after each lesson (Coles, 2014)
  • a News Board displaying local, national and international news. Picture News is ideal!
  • a Celebration Board to display the achievements of children inside and outside of school
  • a Wonder Board that poses a question of the week or questions that children have they’d like answered
  • a Mugshot Board showing the photos of everyone in class using a Top Trumps style format
  • an Open Me Board showing pieces of work with covered-up information that can be opened
  • a Feedback Gallery to enable children to give and receive feedback on several pieces of work at the same time (Griffth and Burns, 2014)
  • an Interactive QR Board that link to video projects that students have created
  • an Inspirational Quotes board to fire motivation and fuel growth mindset
  • a Mistake of the Week board (Claxton and Carlzon, 2019) or an Alternative Conceptions of the Week board using Concept Cartoons.
  • turning windows into Word Walls using window crayons for brainstorming ideas
  • a Puzzle Board containing a variety of problems, mind-benders, conundrums, riddles, challenges and brain teasers
  • a Personal Best board showing examples of children’s best work so far

Displays need to be informative, interactive, accessible and creative so that pupils are inspired.

But being sensitive to the needs of particular pupils is crucial. Visually rich and dense displays can have a negative effect for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Displays also need to be colour-blind friendly so that children who are colour-deficient are not hindered in their learning.

Displays seem to be something of an after-thought in some schools and as for training, well it is non-existent. When did your school last use part of an Inset day to debate Clever Classrooms and the visual environment and its impact across the school? If displays are the bane of your life, then clearly there is a training need.

A Fine Mess

No one expects every teacher to be a master in the fine art of classroom feng shui but teachers should know the difference between a Pinterest classroom and a classroom with soul as an active museum of learning or think tank.

Displays don’t have to be perfect because as every teacher knows, learning is messy so displays need to reflect the business and busy-ness of learning including learning pits, learning ladders and riskometers.

Displays do have their place in schools and when managed intelligently, they make classrooms a place where pupils feel safe, welcome, and stimulated, and where highly focused learning takes place. Try Picture News for when of your displays and get children immersed in the world around them.