In a few short weeks teachers, students, and parents will be in the midst of back-to-school preparations. I deal with this annually because my wife is a teacher, and I watch her start to gather her supplies, decorations, and lesson plans for another year. Every school year brings a new crop of students, and with them the need for teachers to update their classroom decorations. For teachers looking for back-to-school decorating tips, or Zazzle designers who want to know what designs teachers are looking for, you’ve come to the right place. I spoke to my wife, Amelia Ramos, and received some classroom decoration tips that will benefit both teachers and Zazzle designers. Enjoy!
When did you start teaching?
I student taught with two master teachers in 2004 and started teaching in my classroom in 2005.
What grade(s) do you teach? What subjects?
I am a middle school teacher. I teach grades 6th – 8th in the subjects of English/Language Arts, English Language Development, Humanities (English and Social Studies) Support, and Intervention. Think of the students who struggle with reading and writing the most, the students whose first language is not English, and those are my kiddos.
Before you first entered your new classroom, did you have a plan for how you wanted it to look?
Yes, I had a semi-sketched layout of my classroom before I started organizing and decorating. As a teacher, you want to have a certain amount of flow. It is important to make sure that desks face the direction you plan to teach most your time. Therefore, you want your agenda, objective, and homework boards where they can be visual daily. You also want to make sure that your supplies and resources are labeled and are readily available for students, but not where they (the supplies and resources) interfere with student learning. I cannot emphasize enough how important labels can be for teachers and their classroom organization. Students need to know where to turn an assignment in and where to file papers. Teachers will mark books in their classroom libraries, so students can identify different genres, and return the book to the proper section on the shelf.
Were there any colors, patterns, or messages that you wanted to be sure to have on your walls?
I wanted my classroom to be a place where students felt welcomed, comfortable, and safe. I tried to stick to calm colors: blues, greens, lavenders and soothing patterns: circles, bubbles, and solid borders. Too many bright colors and “busy” patterns can be very distracting for students with learning differences. I also chose posters with specific positive messages for character building, positive reinforcement, and growth mindsets.
What was your plan for decorating your second year? Did you want a whole new classroom look? Or did you just tweak it a bit?
I only tweaked a couple of decorating ideas for my second year, but when my teaching assignment changed from English/Language Arts to ELD and RTI, I revamped my entire classroom. I switched out some student work bulletin boards to student interactive learning walls. Interactive learning walls offer more student engagement. Now that VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) teaching is becoming popular again, interactive learning walls are hybrids of student knowledge and concepts taught. It’s about offering students a hands-on approach to their education.
How much time do you spend planning how to decorate your classroom each year?
I find that the longer I teach, the less time I spend planning how to decorate my classroom. I think because everything is so new during those first two years, the idea of planning and decorating your classroom can seem cumbersome and feels like it takes forever.
How do your students react to your classroom decorations? Do any of them make suggestions on what you should add?
Students love posters with silly quotes or memes, but what I have noticed is that students don’t care much else about what’s on the walls if they see something that belongs to them posted. They like to see their projects and assignments posted for others to see.
At the end of each school year, what do you do with the past year’s decorations? Have you found yourself keeping your classroom virtually the same? Or do you make significant alterations?
Depending on the school policy, teachers can leave decorations up for the summer, or they must tear down all the walls. My school prefers the latter. At the end of each year, I would save borders and posters, but I would throw away the bulletin board paper. Borders and posters can be expensive, so I try to take care of what I have and save it for the following year. Unfortunately, bulletin board paper is not something you want to keep. It tears easily, and it can fade over time. Now, teachers are moving to an eco-friendlier form of decorating by using fabric instead of paper. I tend to leave most of my classroom organization the same; there’s no reason to mess with a format that has been successful.
Do you have any classroom decoration tips for teachers who are getting ready to head back into the classroom?
Plan and decorate with intention. Don’t go shopping for decorations and supplies without a plan. Otherwise, you might end up buying a ton of decorations that you won’t use. Consider how you want students to transition from whole-class instruction to independent practice. Ask yourself how your walls will reflect student learning and the classroom environment. Finally, find opportunities to share some of your passions on your walls with your students. My students loved my “Raider Wall;” it was always a conversation starter.
So, what have we learned about decorating a classroom?
- Teachers, make sure to plan out the setup of your desks so that the most important decorations are visible. Students love to see their work displayed, so make sure to have backgrounds that leave ample room for their papers, drawings, and projects.
- Designers, teachers need calm colors and patterns, along with inspirational, motivational messages. Teachers also need designs for practical uses like agenda, homework, and objective boards.
We hope that these classroom decoration tips make it easier for you as a teacher, or Zazzle designer, to get ready for back-to-school.