With the days winding down to summer break, JETs around Niigata start to contemplate what to do in their free time without lessons to prep and students to entertain. Why not spend some time this summer working on your bulletin board?
Turn Desk Warming season into
Bulletin Board season.
Do my boards look beautiful?… Most would say no. In fact, they could be considered the Don Quixote of bulletin boards. An amalgamation of colors and images designed with no other motivation than to scream “look at me”. But the system works for me. And more importantly, it results in boards that the students read and interact with, which after all, is the whole point!
“In fact, they could be considered the Don Quixote of bulletin boards.”
I’ll be the first to admit, that my artistic skills are lacking to say the least. And with a busy schedule and lots of classes to prep for, I don’t have a ton of time to draw and cut beautiful bulletin boards. So I have opted to make as much of my board on the computer as possible, then when it comes to the day to change my board, I only have to spend one period to cut, glue, and hang everything. I have several repeating sections on my board, so many of the decorations stay up all year.
… So what do my boards consist of?
An Interactive Component
I try to make my boards as interactive as possible. A simple way to do this is to have questions that flip up to reveal answers, or tabs that a student must pull to read.
I also always include a question, or a voting section where students answer via sticker. It’s an easy, anonymous way for the students to interact. I purchase the stickers at a 100 yen shop, and usually only go though one sheet every other month, so this system certainly doesn’t break the budget.
I tried having a free write area before, but I think the students were too embarrassed or self-conscious to write publicly. But if your students are more confident than mine, I think it could be super cool to have an area for them to write.
I try to use the same grammar we are using in the classroom on my bulletin boards. Also, I know how much seeing a wall of text that you can’t read is frustrating, and can demotivate you. And the last thing I want to do is demotivate my students. So, I do use quite a bit of Japanese on my boards. I still struggle with finding the right English/Japanese balance. But whether it be English or culture, as long as students are stopping to read something, they are learning and I am happy.
My Japanese level is low, very low, so I use google translate to write all the Japanese on my boards. I always ask a teacher or friend to read it over just to make sure there are no glaring mistakes or things that are confusing, as we all know translation apps can’t be 100% trusted.
My students are really into movies and dramas, but I was surprised when they didn’t know many foreign (or at least English language) movies. So two of the sections of my boards are dedicated to expanding on my students’ interest in cinema.
The movie section of my board always consists of two popular movies that I’m fairly certain at least some students have seen, and one movie that I recommend. Of course, I make sure all the movies are appropriate for middle school age children. I also try to have a “theme” for the movies. For example, one month might include “space movies”. So the students can vote as to whether they preferred “The Martian” or “Wall-E”. And then in the “Miss Kim’s recommendation” section I introduce the movie “Hidden Figures”.
I also have a celebrity birthday calendar for each month. I try to choose celebs both from the English speaking world, and celebs that they know. So one month might have a K-pop artist, a Japanese athlete or actor, a US president, and an anime character. Sometimes I’ll get cheeky and add in a teacher too. Since I can’t tell Brad Pitt from Bradly Cooper, I do a lot of asking the younger teacher about who the popular Japanese celebs are at the moment. I’m pretty sure the staff room thinks I run a secret fan-girl website now…
I like to teach a little bit of culture on my board. So sometimes I write about a sport, a food, or an interesting person. Recently I’ve been doing my boards on “Strange Holidays”. Those holidays that no one really celebrates but allows you to talk about subjects that you won’t discuss in class (like Pie day or National Video Game day).
And then, so the bulletin board isn’t 100% fluff, I also include some actual Eiken questions.
Opportunity for additional communication
Because not everyone always feels comfortable speaking in front of others, I include a mailbox for students to write to me if they wish. They can write in English, Japanese, or a mix of both, and I will try my best to respond in the same manner. To be completely honest, I only tend to get one letter a month or so, but it allows me to connect with some of the quieter students.
How do your boards compare to the exorbitance of mine? Do your boards have any repeating themes or sections too? Do yours use only English, or a mix of both languages?
During summer break I know I’ll spend some time trying to level up my bulletin board game. Maybe I’ll take a walk through Don Quixote for some inspiration…
If you think you have a great bulletin board, or even just a part of a bulletin board that you’re really proud of, we’d love to see it! Who knows, maybe we’ll even feature it here on the Niigata AJET blog so other’s can use it for inspiration.