9 Ideas for your Economics Classroom Display


I'll start by saying that I know classroom decoration is controversial (or at least it is in the twittersphere). First there is the question of whether it should be a teacher's responsibility to for a classroom to look good (after all, an accountant wouldn't be expected to manage the art on the office walls). Next there's debate over whether the competition of teachers to have the 'most engaging classroom' is a zero-sum game, or the argument that teachers spending time making their classroom look nice aren't spending time planning rigorous lessons. And then there's the research that questions whether an engaging classroom might actually do more harm than good.

However, if you choose to decorate your classroom, or if you receive pre-Open Day decrees that it needs to be done, here are a couple of things you might want to look at.

#1: Gallery of Economists

This is a long one because it's the one most of us actually do! If you're going to put time and effort into a display, it's nice to have something that you can actually use. I ended up referring to my Gallery quite regularly last year, and students really did ask about them. I'm gutted I didn't get any photos of it on the wall, but these are some of the pictures I used, professionally modelled on my kitchen floor.

I made up a list of Economists I wanted to showcase. You might want to start with Tutor2U's Famous Five, and then add in the extras you want. I had a quick look through my SOW and added in those that sprung to mind as the Economists we refer to in class.There have been some good discussions re: Economists on the Tutor2U Edexcel Facebook page, I couldn't work out how to link to specific posts so I've screenshotted a bunch and chucked them right at the end of this article, so head down there if you want ideas of economists.

I made sure I had a real variety in terms of old, modern, classical, liberal, male, female, race etc, because as a middle class white gal, I don't think I can really understand what it's like not to have role models who look like me. However, Will Wearden suggested ensuring representation of LGBTQ Economists which is a great idea! He suggests Keynes, Deirdre McCloskey and Evan Davies.

Anyway, I googled pictures, whacked them in a powerpoint, adjusted the slide size to A4 portrait and then printed them off. Nothing special there.

I had some a3 coloured paper lying around so I mounted them and drew on some funky frames in black whiteboard pen (I say I, it was actually my Year 13 tutor group.).

If I were to do it again (and I definitely would)...

First of all, I wish I had put name cards on them. Because a few times even I got confused between similar-looking Economists.

Second of all, I wish I had added little gallery cards to each one with a quick explanation of each person and their theories. I was forward thinking enough to set the research and writing of such cards as homework for after Year 12 exams, but I wasn't quite organised enough to actually organise printing and sticking them up.

#2 Where are they now?

Sue Worthington suggests taking the gallery idea one step further and getting in contact with former students via LinkedIn. She then made a display about their careers to show current students where they could be in a few years time. I love this idea - it would be awesome to show prospective parents on Open Days too!

#3 Data Data Data

We all know the importance of our kids having a basic idea of Economic data. Someone on one of the Tutor2U groups (I can't find the comment now!) mentioned they assign an indicator to each student who is responsible for updating it.

A whiteboard would be perfect for this. If you don't have enough boards, Magic Whiteboard is an option but a little pricey. My classroom last year was a little damp, so magic whiteboard didn't stay up, so I got my hands on one of these Pocket Charts with the intention of using it for just this purpose. I planned to make up some cards to go down the side with each of the indicators and maybe some flags to go along the top, and then some blanks for kids to update. (Needless to say, I got distracted by the craziness of school and never actually got round to it!)

#4 Quotes

I've snuck this in here because as a 16 year old, a quote in my Economics classroom had a profound impact on me. If you do a Google image search of your chosen quote, you can almost always find a poster-ready image to print.

My personal favourites:

JMK - "The Master Economist must possess a rare combination of gifts..." (<3)

George E Box - "All models are wrong, but some are useful"

Jean Robinson- "The purpose of studying Economics..."

Alfred Marshal - "Economics is the study of Mankind in the ordinary business of Life"

Bill Vaughan - "Economics is the Science which..."

Murray Rothbard - "It is no crime..."

#5 World Map/Currencies

Tara Worthington suggests laminating/ printing pictures of different currency notes and indicating on a map where they can be used. Honestly, just having a world map in your classroom is of huge benefit as some students have no idea where they are, let alone anyone else. She also suggests using the currency when you do exchange rates, using whiteboards or sticky notes to record the value in sterling.

#6 Economics in the News

Lots of us are trying to get our students reading more widely. Martin George on theTutor2U AQA group gets students to bring in clippings of their reading, allowing them to pin it on the wall after they've explained the economics of the article. This is quite a visible way of creating a culture of wider reading.

#7 Economist Covers

If you haven't done before, take a moment to appreciate the cover art of The Economist - they are great at portraying an Economic story in a single image and are show the broad variety of subject matter Economics deals with*. If you have some copies lying around, take the covers off and staple gun them to the board to have make a really quick, interesting looking display. This display isn't especially useful to refer to in class but is really good for promoting your subject to potential students, so it's particularly useful if you have to fill a board outside of your classroom (eg if you are attached to a secondary school). I used them to wallpaper the board, and then just stuck some key info on top.

#8 I, Pencil

I've written before about how much I love Leonard Read's I,Pencil (and this beautiful video), it reminds me of my awe of Economics. I'm getting a bit romantic here but I reckon it would be pretty easy to make a great display from this, a giant pencil like the one below (from The Cartoon Introduction to Economics but I can't remember which book), with labels about the people and processes behind it, displayed like a family tree. I might work on making a beautiful poster version - I can dream, right?

#9 Flipchart Walls

There's a growing movement away from classroom displays. Craig Barton argues that "The problem is that all that bright and colourful work is pretty hard to ignore. Our students have very limited capacity in their working memory, and need to keep as much free as possible to attend to the thing we are trying to teach them."

Instead he advocates for Whiteboard Walls: "Students have an opportunity to showcase their work, I can model work to small groups, the work is always directly relevant to the lesson, it can be easily rubbed off when it is not needed, it is always changing and hence always fresh, and perhaps best of all it allows students to take advantage of something else from Cognitive Load Theory – the power of studying worked examples."

In cash strapped times, your department requests for more whiteboards may well be denied, but the same principle can apply by blue-tacking (don't tell the caretaker) flipchart paper to the walls. If fancy splashing out, the Magic Whiteboard paper I mentioned earlier wipes off nicely, but you have to have the right sort of walls for the static to work.

Right, that's it! If you've got any more ideas, let me know and I'll try and update it for next year.

Next Week:

*You can call me out for ending a sentence with a preposition, but that's the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put. (Oh, Churchill, what a guy.)