Classroom eye candy – does it really help with learning?

A few weeks ago, my class made a large wave machine out of jelly babies and skewers as a provocation of a unit of inquiry into energy.


We did some maths figuring out how many skewers and jelly babies we would need and how much they cost. We made the Jellybaby machine. One of the kids made a bold prediction that if we removed the jelly babies the wave would move faster. What better way to model the scientific method and use tally charts by gradually eating the candy?  The kids decided they wanted to share their learning with the other Year 4 classes, so they created a book with instructions to make a wave machine.

70  kids and  12 bags of candy.

The chaos was unreal.

Nevertheless, one of the teachers salvaged a wave machine which has been dangling in the middle of a learning space for the last two months.


The crazy thing?

All the candy is still attached!

Once the novelty of the experiment wore off, the candy became just another classroom furniture.

This got me thinking about classroom wall displays.

Some teachers invest a lot of time and money into decorating their classrooms. Visible thinking routines are placed carefully around the boards. But just like this candy dangling in the middle of the room, it can easily be forgotten if it isn’t referred back to frequently.

Essential agreements are meaningful only if we give it meaning by talking about them.

Visible thinking routines are only useful if we use the data to inform next learning steps.

Our attitudes and learner profile are just words on the wall if teachers aren’t there to guide and model them.

A growth mindset isn’t the result of pretty borders and cute clip art. It happens when teachers showcase learning as a process rather than as a glossy product.

This isn’t an argument against spending time making learning spaces inviting nor preclude space being used to stimulate curiosity and wonder.

However, just like candy, classroom displays can be a quick sugar hit. Something to look at once and ignore or you can use the space to really develop a culture of thinking.

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