Launching an Idea Wall

This year, new school construction provided opportunities for our middle school library.
A library office and workspace disappeared to create a hallway connecting the new lower school building to the middle school building. It felt like the old adage…”it’s not like we’re losing a daughter, we’re gaining a son.” The equation for the new library design might be the following:

new library spaces (hallway) + increased traffic (both lower and middle school students) =
literacy education opportunities

Installing large whiteboard Idea Walls along one side of this new hallway was a design that quickly took shape, but with every new opportunity is a challenge:

How do you prevent the Idea Wall from becoming a static space–a glorified bulletin board–and instead create a public space that ignites ideas, promotes discussions, encourages interactions, and makes visible a culture of learning in the school community? Here are a few ways the library has launched the Idea Wall.

Opening the Doors to Imagination


We began with a themed slogan at the top of the Idea Wall,
“Open the Doors to … Imagination,”
and Alice in Wonderland illustrations by Tenniel framed one large panel of the Idea Wall. Our school community was invited to write the titles of their favorites books featuring magical portals or doors as an important part of the storyline. We also had a Literary Door contest.  Students, faculty, administrators, and even visiting alumni had fun adding the title of their favorite books to the Idea Wall.

Exploring an Author’s Book


October’s Idea Wall theme was created by students in the Literary Magazine class to help promote our Book Fair Author, Allan Wolf, who wrote a novel in verse about the sinking of the Titanic, The Watch that Ends the Night. Students used the rich back matter of this book to create a “match-the-statistics” on survivors in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd classes, as well as write the names of countries of those on board the fated ship (these country names were written in a wave-like pattern beneath the ship). Blue-toned post-it notes featured the names of people and quotes, and viewers were invited to match the person’s name to the poem excerpt that described this character’s point of view. A final section of the Titanic Idea Wall featured a poem from the book and invited students to find words that showed onomatopoeia as well as words and phrases that used analogy or vivid language.

Writing Contests
November’s Idea Wall was also designed by the Literary Magazine students. Using the door theme again, fifteen door images were selected by the students (using Britannica Image Quest) and the students wrote writing prompts for each image. The school community was encouraged to select a door image that makes them curious, and write a poem, descriptive paragraph, or short story based on the writing prompt. The Literary Magazine editors will judge the entries, and winners will enjoy a pizza lunch with our January writing workshop author, Diane Stanley, as well as have the writing piece published in the Literary Magazine. Below is one example of an imaginative doorway image and writing prompt.

Thinking about Thinking
The second whiteboard panel along the library hallway invites viewers to “Think about Thinking.”  The first installation was titled “Thinking Fast and Slow,” and professional books were displayed tied to this theme: Making Thinking Visible, The Shallows, and I Read It But I Don’t Get It.

A Venn diagram and laptop screen graphics encouraged viewers to add their experiences of when they think fast/think slow when using print sources or the internet. Though this first installation did not get interaction from students, fellow teachers liked having a space to highlight metacognition and thinking strategies. This year our faculty meets once a week in PLC groups, and one of the PLC groups reserved the Idea Wall in October to display an interactive Growth Mindset board and also displayed fiction and nonfiction books themed to “grit” and “growth mindset.” It was wonderful to have this Idea Wall space spearheaded by other faculty, and I anticipate that the PLC groups will take turns highlighting their learning on this portion of the Idea Wall. This also provides a great way to showcase our professional book collection to teachers!

New Directions for the Idea Wall
Modular furniture has been ordered for the library hallway opposite the Idea Wall, and I envision that this will make the space even more inviting for students. Faculty have been encouraged to reserve the wall space if they wish to brainstorm ideas connected to their curriculum, and once a few initiators try this out, I think more faculty and students will take advantage of using this space.

I look forward to hearing how your school incorporates Idea Walls to ignite ideas.

Additional Resources:
This past summer I attended STLinSTL hosted by MICDS, and educator Lynn Mittler’s session on Design Thinking provided the following resources:

Design Thinking for Educators
This free Design Thinking toolkit includes Map Frameworks (maps to group thinking/data, as an alternative to a Venn Diagram).

Ideo U
Resources and workshops on Design Thinking

Book Resource:
Creating Cultures of Thinking, by Ron Ritchhart

Britannica Image Quest Citation:
Nanniebots. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. quest.eb.com/search/132_1304503/1/132_1304503/cite. Accessed 12 Sep 2017.

 

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