Bulletin Boards – Thinking Outside of the Box

Changing out bulletin boards was always one of my least favorite tasks as an educator. The task alone took a significant amount of time and it felt like my students’ work was shown for such a short amount of time before switching it all out again. How, as a teacher, do you select work over others, then showing students that not all of their work deserves an authentic audience? Work that was created early in the school year was never to be seen again and I became the ultimate authority in deciding which work was quality enough to display.

It all changed for me when I decided to utilize an interactive bulletin board with portfolios showcasing my students’ work throughout the entire school year! I wanted a way to show student growth, make student work interactive, and also be able to display digital products, which were impossible to showcase in a traditional bulletin board. Space was another problem that I encountered. My classroom only has 3 bulletin boards, which have been mandated as places to display our Word Wall, our Writing Through the Year samples, and a common team project each month. This left no room for the creativity that my students were demonstrating in so many other content areas.

I utilized the doors of my classroom cabinets by placing a simple 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper for each student with a sprinkles border (our classroom is themed “Hildebrand’s Happy Cupcakes”) and pasted a photo of each of my students on their personal paper. I then created a digital folder to stand as a digital portfolio in my Google Drive for each student where we would upload each of their products. With the links from each portfolio, I created QR codes and added them next to each students’ photo on their sprinkles page. I had these displayed at “Meet the Teacher Night” so that I could be ready to start contributing their student work immediately, and what I didn’t realize is how incredibly excited the students would be that evening when they walked into a foreign classroom but were able to immediately feel right at home with their photo displayed among many of their friends from kindergarten. It became a gathering space instantly and continued to be so throughout the school year.

Adding student work to their portfolios throughout the school year was easy and quick, and more importantly, it allowed me to showcase their growth throughout the year, rather than a stamp of their ability in one specific time. I added everything from their writing publications to green screen videos to sketchnotes they created. Visitors were always excited to come into our classroom, pull out their phones, and experience all of the great work that my students were producing! The smiles and pride that my students displayed when they knew their portfolio was being accessed has been one of the greatest joys I’ve experienced as an educator. I can’t imagine ever going back to a traditional bulletin board!

Julie Hildebrand is a first-grade teacher at Patton Elementary in Austin, Texas and has been teaching for 11 years. In addition to her general education students, she also serves Gifted and Talented students, as well as English as a Second Language students. Julie’s primary goals have been to increase student achievement in literacy and technology skills in and out of her classroom. In addition to being a Heart of Texas Writing Project Teacher Consultant, Julie is also a Discovery Education Ambassador, a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Digital Innovator All-Star and serves on the PBS KLRU Education Committee.