A Learning Journey Approach to Display.

abc doesEnvironment, Nurseries18 Comments

This week I am revisiting a blog post from way back in 2013 that focussed on a method of taking children’s learning journeys into display.

It was a really popular post and since then I have seen the display replicated in many different ways on my travels all over the world.

Thanks to Ladybrook Primary  for being the initial inspiration!

At Ladybrook they had a version of this in both Nursery and Reception


This is Reception. A large display board has been divided up so that each child gets a large(ish) square.

The whole thing was really well thought out from the backing paper to the mounts that the photographs were on.

Reception Collage

The display starts with a photo of the child and their ‘significant others’. These are permanent features. 


The squares are then enhanced with examples  of children’s work and creations. Adults then annotate the work that is on display.

As this changes the examples and the annotations could go straight into a child’s  learning journey as evidence.


The speech bubbles record what the children were saying, so that gives a nice bit of context to the display.

This is what it looked like from a distance.


There was SO much information on it about learning, attainment, children’s preferences, skill development. It was a very informative read.

This is the Nursery version of the same idea.

Nursery Collage

There were a huge variation in the creations that children had chosen to display from up-cycled models to stick art – nice!

Stick Collage

Sometimes when settings are thinking about stripping back some of the colour everything ends up being a bit too ‘beige’ and a great deal of impact can be lost. In the infamous words of one Headteacher

‘They used to have a lovely room and now they have made it look like a morgue!’

Well, there is nothing deathly about this space. It is ace!

Remember, less is more NOT less is morgue!

Some things to think about….

The idea works well when each child has a decent space. When the space allocation is small it tends to look very cluttered and difficult to decode.

The display is there to show the individuality of the child so lots of  squares that are reproductions of the same activity don’t tell that story or show that uniqueness

The Ladybrook display is definitely more of a ‘curated’ display with some pieces being permanent – like the photos of the children and families. This means that you are not constantly changing everything in the square.

It can be used really effectively to support children in discussing their work and creations, especially if they get to choose what is on the wall

Lots of settings approach this way of ‘learning journey’ display by allocating the responsibility of changing the content to the child’s key person. I have found that works best when the content is changed as and when it is appropriate to the child and what they are proud of, rather than on a given date. This also means that the display is constantly changing.

In rooms that haven’t got this much wall space, I have seen the display idea used in the cloakroom and in one setting the parents comments were included in the squares which the children loved.

Some settings have had this type of display at child height and the children have had complete ownership of what they put into their square and responsibility for displaying it themselves. That sort of approach produces a display that looks exactly like you would expect it to if children had free rein to get creative. Children can find it very empowering to talk about their choices. Some adults may struggle with the aesthetic!

If you have got a display like this  then please share some photos as I would love to see them.


18 Comments on “A Learning Journey Approach to Display.”

  1. We love this idea and adopted it a few years ago, we give complete ownership to the display to the children and they decide what to put up, take down etc. it provides great conversations about whether something will fit, will not fit. Visitors have already been very impressed with it, however today someone questioned the idea as some children’s spaces were blank as they often prefer to put it up and then take it home at the end of the day. We have always thought this is fine but I was just wondering what everyone else thought about this?

  2. Really love this idea! Would look fab in our cloakroom! Getting the parents/carers and children involved.

  3. At my previous setting we used this approach. They were our Belonging Boards, in key worker groups. Started with photos and child’s picture (Mark making) from the home visit and built on from there. Both children and parents loved them and always were interested and looking at them.

  4. I love this idea however working in a private nursery with a room that holds 40 children where many are part time there can be 60+ on the register. Is there a way this could be adapted?

  5. Hi Emma
    This might help…
    I have responsibility for Art and Design at Ladybrook and have the good fortune to also be the Reception teacher!
    Our journey as a school has led us to focus more and more on the process in learning rather than product at the end. So often classroom displays reflect products, don’t you find, and teachers plan displays to show the end of a learning journey before the children have even been involved.
    We are interested in the journey itself – so Alistair’s original posts about scrapbook approaches to EYFS display intrigued myself and our Foundation Stage leader (also our Nursery teacher). However we have a reputation for ‘high quality’ display within the borough so were keen that whatever we did reflected our ethos.
    There are 2 long display boards in both classes (plus 2 very small boards which in reality are ‘neither use nor ornament’ so we use them for collaborative creativity displays such as exploration of Mondrian’s art or ‘productions’ that occur naturally out of exploration and skill building). I don’t plan for these boards.
    In both classrooms – the 2 long display boards you see on Alistair’s blog dominate the room. The hardest thing is letting go of the idea that displays are put up as finished things. In Autumn these boards will be prep’d in cream Arlin paper / border and divided into 30 equal spaces – 1 for each child in Reception. I have already taken photos of the new intake when they visited and these are already laminated and mounted on black sugar paper ready to be put up before term starts. During the first week children will be asked to bring in photos of family/ pets which will be mounted and placed alongside their own image. Then I will talk to the children about the boards – show them photos of last year’s boards and encourage them to choose objects / take photos of constructions / events etc that they have enjoyed being part of/ found interesting. I can then add speech bubbles which I write with the children so they know I am using their words and possibly annotate some images to give them context (mainly for parents who come in to view). Ultimately I want the children to be able to reflect on their learning, articulate how they learn and display things they find challenging – so that they begin to understand that learning is about risk taking / failure along the way. We are interested in this then becoming a feature that develops throughout the school as we are developing responsible learning approaches with children.
    These 2 boards now change regularly with the children – but are no longer massive events in terms of dismantling. They are the permanent displays that are tweaked over the year. Some children have more up than others. some have more speech bubbles than others – this is part of the power of the display – it’s about the unique child. Parents love them and now we have reached the end of the first year – staff are comfortable with the idea of empty boards at the beginning of the year!
    To respond to your other comment – whereas I would have previously had literacy and maths displays for reference – these are now developing according to the needs of the cohort. This last year I had a group of children who did not seem to be absorbing initial sounds as quickly as others via out phonics approach (ReadWriteinc) . So my classroom assistant created an alphabet display with this group using photos and pictures of things that interested them. It worked! Equally number lines were created by the children as we went along according to their needs. They were not put up on the wall but taped up around the setting as and when they were needed.
    hope this helps.

  6. There are 2 long display boards in both classes (plus 2 very small boards which in reality are ‘neither use nor ornament’ so we use them for collaborative creativity displays such as exploration of Mondrian’s art or ‘productions’ that occur naturally out of exploration and skill building).
    In both classrooms – the 2 long display boards you see on Alistair’s blog dominate the room. The hardest thing is letting go of the idea that displays are put up as finished things. These 2 boards now change regularly with the children – but are no longer massive events in terms of dismantling.
    How many children could fit on your 4 small boards? If I were you I would utilise lower wall space by moving furniture. Get the children to bring in photos early in the new term so you can ‘whack them up’ overnight to surprise them.

  7. We have done this in our setting. Each child has a square with their photo on to identify it as theirs. They choose what goes on and when it comes off it goes into their learning journey as evidence. We annotate on speech bubbles to provide context for parents looking at it and to highlight the skills used.
    It takes up all of the 2 classroom boards that we have plus a bit of wall space too.
    The only other board we have is in the cloakroom.There we put a display of child initiated activities with explanations of theme progression.
    The only themes we have are those that come from children’s interests (and there are plenty!) Some last longer than others. You can’t predict this!
    Our other flat surfaces that can be used to put work up on are the sides/fronts of cupboards.Here we have put alphabet cards and number cards that feature photographs of the children. There is nothing they like to look at more than themselves! You can’t beat it so join it and take advantage of the ego that is a 4 and 5 year old child (especially the lads we have found).
    Loving your work and ideas Alistair.
    Janice Markey
    HLTA, Reception Class, Long Furlong Primary School, Abingdon, OXON

  8. Thanks for reinforcing the very special time that we give to listening to children talk. So undervalued and recognised at times ( if at all) by others. Love the talking resources and know that the children do too. Jane M

  9. Hi Emma
    Yes, there was space for 30 children. It wasn't the only display, there were others up that referenced other areas of learning. Don't know about the policy (can try and find out) but that would be something that you would do to suit you and your team. I imagine you would change them on a rolling programme rather than all at once. 
    Alistair Bryce-Clegg
    Early Years Consultant
    07772 387 203

  10. Gorgeous! I’m thinking I might try it but instead of adding a photograph of each child I might add their personalised puppet instead. Each year we laminate a favourite photograph of the child they have brought in from home. We cut around it, laminate it and attach it to a lollipop stick. I then place the puppets in areas of the classroom they haven’t yet ‘bravely visited’ or areas I would really like them to visit first thing in the morning (as they are set up first thing in the morning specifically to address their next steps in learning). I start with a talk about the puppets having a party and wanting to play with them etc etc and they get very excited. It’s telling when a child keeps hold of their own puppet ALL day! Thinking I could velcro the puppet to a hessian wall and then the puppets can jump up and down from the display board when I need them to boost an area. Mmmm lots to think about. Thanks Alistair and Ladybrook!

  11. Hi Alistair! This is great – just wanting some nitty gritty specifics… Did their display cover 30 children or was it a smaller class? Also, what other displays did they have up – this display could be so useful that I could imagine it could be the only display, or did they have maths and literacy reference display boards etc? And finally, did they have a policy on how often they changed the display square contents for each child? It would be so useful to find out so as to think through in more detail how we might apply this in our setting. Thank you!

  12. Love this idea , just wondering how I could fit this into our setting as we only have four small display boards.

    1. These displays are amazing. I am currently on the new EYTS course in Lincoln, and a teacher in a school pre-school in which the ethos is based around neutral colours, nothing bright and bold. For my research assignment for my course I am studying the impact of displays in Early Years Settings. I have your article about the ‘scrapbook’ approach and many other books but would be very interested in your opinion on displays. Many early philosophies seem to believe in very little colour, creating very calming environments, such as Waldorf and Reggio. High Scope seems a little more ‘easy’ on its use of colour. Waldorf and Reggio barely have displays where it would appear High scope follow very child based displays, displaying the learning process more than end products. We follow this principle in our school and the displays look lovely however I think I believe that children do sometimes like to see their achievements on the wall but then this can sometimes have a detrimental effect on other children. Does your book cover a lot of his information? And what are your principles and beliefs on the use and impact of displays? I would be extremely interested to hear.
      Many thanks. Emma

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