Math Mondays: Decorating the Secondary Classroom

I've rarely had my own classroom.  As such I have limited space not only for assignments but also any kind of decor. With multiple classes and limited space, it can be difficult to give student work their due. To solve this dilemma I created the "wall of awesomeness". 

The wall of awesomeness:
-encourages high quality work
-demonstrates what constitutes high quality work
-promotes student recognition of each other's skills
-develops persuasive argument skills. 
-delivers smiles. 


What is the wall of awesomeness? 
At the beginning of the year, the wall starts blank except for the words "wall of awesomeness". As the year goes along, students nominate pieces of work worthy of display on the wall of awesomeness. Pretty soon the wall becomes a display of the best of the best work. 

It's pretty informal...I have a short (quarter page) nomination form (although sometimes I just get a torn piece of paper or an email nominating a piece). A student can submit for themselves or someone else. The nominator simply explains why s/he thinks the piece of work deserves to be on the "wall of awesomeness." The pieces never show my assessment, so it doesn't violate FERPA. Essentially, it's like when you have students present their work, except that only the most interesting or high quality pieces of work are given a spot on the wall of awesomeness. When a piece goes on the wall, I share part of the nomination (typed so that no one can recognize handwriting) so the creator of the work AND others can see why it warranted a space. We don't vote on whether a piece should go up. Basically, if a piece is nominated, I am the final judge. It is rare that I don't include a piece that has been nominated. As the wall fills, we take down pieces that have been there a long time and add new pieces. It's a rotating gallery and an inspiration. After the first couple of pieces go up, many students "up their game" and improve the quality of work in hopes of earning a place.

How to create your own "wall of awesomeness":
  • post the wall of awesomeness title (I usually have a student color the letters for me before the school year starts)
  • A week or so into school I select one or more pieces of student work to display. This is usually a small project.  The work is an "outstanding" example of the assignment(no grade marks on it)
  • Introduce the wall of awesomeness requirements: the wall is for work that is exceptionally creative, thorough, challenging, cool, etc.  
  • Students complete nomination forms for each other's work arguing why it is worthy of inclusion
  • I review forms.  It's tough to get on the wall and it may be more than 2 weeks before a new item gets selected.  
Students love the challenge. I love the increased effort and quality in student work. 

If you try it:
  • Track who ends up on the wall. Avoid repeating any individual student too often and be sure everyone gets there by the end of the year. You can use part of an assignment instead of the entire project if you need to to get everyone on the wall.
  • Be selective.  It's not enough to be an "A". The work  should demonstrate truly "awesome" quality work.
  • Eliminate grades/comments for display.  There are lots of ways to do this. I've used post it's to evaluate as well as given digital notes(that way everyone can read my hand writing). 
Math Mondays is a bi-weekly blog post (2nd and 4th Monday of each month) sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching math.  If you have questions or think there is something I should include, you can leave me a message in the comments section below or at the store in the question and answer section.

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