Updated: May 2
An attractive and welcoming classroom environment is important for learning. In saying that, it is very easy for us to get overwhelmed or carried away with classroom decorations and displays.
Even though setting up and decorating your classroom can be fun, it can also be expensive and time-consuming. It is important (just like when planning your lessons) that your classroom is carefully planned and contributes to the pedagogy that best supports learning.
When getting your classroom ready at the beginning of the year, we like to keep in mind these 3 rules of thumb:
★ You don’t need to spend a fortune on decorating your classroom.
★ The best classroom displays are those that are created by the students.
★ Classroom displays are valuable resources if referred to throughout your teaching.
In the last few years, it has become popular among the teaching community to choose a ‘classroom theme’. This can be fun (but not a necessity). If you decide to go down this track, here are few things to consider:
1. Choose a theme that you love so you can use it for a few years to come.
2. Make sure things on display are clear and easy to read for students.
3. Ensure your theme is age-appropriate.
4. Could your chosen theme be linked to something you will be learning about throughout the year?
5. Why not choose a theme that can be adapted slightly, so when you want to change it up, you don’t need to start from scratch!
We also asked some of our Instagram teacher friends to contribute their best tips and advice for setting up and decorating their classrooms. Enjoy these pearls of wisdom (and go and visit their grids to check out their advice in action!)
Ally from @theyoungeducator
Your first classroom is going to be a work in progress and that’s okay! That’s what your first year is all about - figuring out what works best for your students and your pedagogy! You will walk into classrooms that seem like they have it all figured out but remember that everyone starts somewhere and use the year to trial new things and see what works for you. The only essentials for quality teaching and learning are the relationships inside the four walls, what is on or in the four walls will come with time!
Taylor from @taylorteachestech
Create a welcoming space for your students and build the classroom with your students. It’s totally okay to not have displays on the walls in the first few weeks!
Bec from @littlemissbright
Mostly, I want my classroom to be a place I love being in! We spend so much time at school and if my room makes me smile and feel happy, I know this naturally transfers to my students.
Practically, set up wall displays that are sustainable throughout the year so you don’t have to change everything each term. This way you can swap out information needed for specific topics but still have core curriculum on display all year.
Lara from @mrspandasclassroom
When putting up displays, you really don’t need to put up every single little thing. Not only is it time-consuming for you, but too much can be overwhelming for some students and can even be distracting.
I always put up key displays (that we will refer to daily) right at the front of the room, and then most other displays are created with the students as we go. It’s so important that they have ownership over their classroom too and can see their work displayed proudly.
Ceri from @ourcreativeclassroom
Build excitement with a blank canvas. You will work together as artists to splatter your learning across each wall. My advice - make it interactive, stock up on post-it notes and allow student illustrations. Building shared understanding together is an unforgettable classroom decoration tool.
Also, take photos of the routines in your classroom during your first week and put them up on the wall. Here is how we do things! Do it nice, or do it twice!
Hannah from @missgirlingsclassroom
Something I found that really helped my class this year (had quite a few students with different needs) was only having important displays at the front (something they may need to refer to daily/weekly), and all other displays away from the front to reduce distractions and help them focus. All of the gorgeous art they did was on my back wall or around the sides, but their vocab words were at the front so they could easily refer to it.
Don’t stress if your walls don’t have much up at the start! If you’re aiming for student-centred displays that they have a bit of ownership over, it’s going to be bare for a while at the start! Finally, I know that I personally bought way too much before I actually got into my classroom and saw what was already available to use!
Jen from @goodmorningmsfoster
Firstly, take it slow! Stop and breathe and remember that most of what you do in your classroom needs to be guided by the children. With our Instagram and Pinterest world it can be scary and overwhelming with all the ideas out there but I recommend to start with the essentials first. This includes:
- How do you want your seating plan?
- Carpet spaces, where will it be? Do you have space for it?
- Do you need to move things around?
- Where are children going to put their equipment and how are you going to organise it?
- Think about big areas such as your book corner / calm corner and how do you want to set it up.
- Have some basic name labels ready.
Finally, dreams are not for rookies. Don’t kiss your dream classroom away just because you can’t set it up perfectly straight away. Keep collecting images and ideas and slowly work towards it over the year.
Cath from @cathwilliams05
To begin, wait and see what school resources are available before making your own purchases. Teachers share many wonderful resources on social media but really evaluate if it is relevant to your teaching and students.
In the first week establish routines and set class expectations together and focus on building positive relationships with your students by getting to know each student, their interests, likes and dreams (this can make beautiful class displays).
Tam from @misslearningbee
Some things I always recommend include:
- Really think about the purpose of your displays and only use ones that your kids will ACTUALLY use! Don’t just put displays up to look pretty. Explicitly teach them how to use displays. If my kids don’t use and refer to a display, I take it down!
- Minimise text-based displays. If students are overwhelmed by too many things to read, they won’t use ANY of it!!
- Be organised and not too cluttered- your kids will feed off the clutter/disorganisation
- It is ok to make things look pretty, particularly in old rooms. We want our classrooms to be spaces that inspire our kids and they’re excited to come into each day! I really dislike the shaming that can sometimes come along with classroom decorating- for me, that’s my main reason for doing any decorating! As long as it’s not overwhelming for kids and there’s purpose behind what you DO display!
We hope this has been helpful in getting your head around where to start and what to do when setting up and decorating your classroom.
Need more help? Our Classroom Setup Guide as been collated to help you have all the information you need about setting up your classroom. It includes strategies for planning your classroom environment, handy checklists, information about seating arrangements, teacher hacks and more!
And if you are a new teacher, Our First Year Survival Guide includes an essentials classroom display checklist as well as loads of other advice, tips and strategies when starting your career as a teacher.
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