If you are lucky enough to have your own classroom, you will probably be tempted to spend too much money and time in hopes that it will look just like the images of those beautifully decorated classrooms posted online. While those classrooms may be picture perfect, it’s far more important to create a learning space that is as welcoming as possible for your students.
Instead of thinking in terms of decorating your classroom, think about how you can create a functional space that sends the message that you value your students and the work they will be doing in your class. With creativity and careful planning, it is possible to create a student-friendly classroom without spending a lot of money. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
Consider How You Can Use the Whole Room
- Set aside at least one area to display students’ work. Instead of expensive posters, decorate your classroom with students’ accomplishments. Students feel a sense of ownership and pride in a classroom where their work is displayed. Be sure to display something from every student so that no one can accuse you of playing favorites. You can display all sorts of things, not just creative projects or excellent papers. Post colorful drawings, notes, sketches—anything that shows how much you value your students’ efforts.
- Set aside an area for class business. You can keep your students informed and involved by posting such items as assignments, due dates, school announcements and other shared business. Even young students will benefit from learning how to organize their time and work in this way.
- Set aside an area for tracking progress on class goals. If you have class competitions, students should see the results displayed in this area. For example, if you want to improve the way your students complete homework assignments, create poster-size bar graphs to record each day’s results. Making progress visible is a powerful way to keep students on the right path.
- Set aside an area for motivation. Use this area to help students stay focused on their goals. Students could post words of wisdom from the internet, books they have read or song lyrics. Students could also bring in images of the heroes who motivate them. You can use “motivational banners for classrooms” as a search term to browse hundreds of ideas on Google Images to create this space for your students.
Consider the Traffic Flow in Your Room
Traffic flow in a classroom is an extremely important consideration when you are creating an inviting workspace for your students. For example, if you place your trashcan near the door, the stapler on your desk at the back of the room, and a tray to collect completed work near the front, students will wander all over your room just to throw away scrap paper, staple their papers and turn in their work. If these are grouped together in one easy-to-access location, then students can quickly turn in their work and stay on task with greater ease.
Carefully consider the routine activities your students will perform before you set up your room, so that you can minimize distractions and interruptions. Some of these routine activities could include:
- Entering class
- Checking the calendar
- Checking the clock
- Using hand sanitizer
- Checking the board
- Passing in papers
- Speaking with you privately
- Using a computer
- Picking up supplies
- Disposing of trash
- Sharpening pencils
- Using a stapler
The space you need for yourself is a final important element to consider when you are creating an inviting classroom. You will need a place to work and to store the materials you will need to share with your students. Like the rest of the room, this area should reflect a businesslike approach to your responsibilities.
The most obvious mistake many teachers make when setting up a classroom space is to place the teacher’s desk at the front of the room in front of the board. If you place your desk at the back of the room instead, you will be able to monitor students from your seat during quiet times. You will also discourage students who might be tempted to pick up a teacher’s edition or other personal items from your desk.
Create Quick and Effective Bulletin Boards
As a rule of thumb, creating an appealing bulletin board will probably take you far longer than you can anticipate at the start of the school year. Make it a point to keep your bulletin boards as uncluttered and simple as possible to save time and money. Try these tricks to make your classroom bulletin boards an effective way to build connections:
- Use wrapping paper as a background. Staple it into place at the start of the term and you will be able to reuse it for several months. Fabric or even plastic table cloths from discount stores work well also.
- Save time when you print out messages you plan to display by using a large font and cutting out the letters.
- Borders can be as simple as strips of construction paper, or they can be more creative: cut outs from old newspapers, magazines, wrapping paper, or even maps.
- Many websites have helpful tips for using the bulletin boards in your room to connect with your students. In particular, you can use the following sites to search for good ideas to adapt for your students:
- Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything (www.schrockguide.net/bulletin-boards.html) includes a comprehensive list of sites, images and books devoted to bulletin boards.
- Teacher’s Corner (www.theteacherscorner.net). This award-winning site offers many seasonally themed bulletin board ideas as well as bulletin board ideas of general interest.
- The most popular site for bulletin board ideas of all types is Pinterest (Pinterest.com), where you can find ideas for almost every grade level or subject.
As a final reminder, no matter how you decide to arrange your classroom, keep in mind that it’s far more important that your students feel comfortable and at home rather than to have a picture-perfect classroom. When you put your students and their needs first, you will find it easier to create a welcoming, productive learning environment where everyone is able to work in comfort.