Decorate for Back to School! August 18 2009

Decorating the classroom is one of the more fun tasks to accomplish before kids arrive on the first day of school! I'm usually annoyed by what I consider interruptions to my focus of creating a space that kids will enjoy all year long. There are, however, some decisions to make when surveying your classroom for decoration.

Decide What’s Most Important

How do you want to start the day? In my classroom, for example, I started each morning as quietly as possible (I’m not a morning person). The overhead had to be front and center since I trained the kids to read directions from it upon entering the room. Usually the kids needed to put their homework in a specific place, sign up for lunch, and get started on Morning Work. So in addition to the overhead, I figured I needed some consistent places for turning in homework as well as a lunch sign-in system. Then while they were working, I could turn in the lunch count, check off homework, and conference with kids as needed.

I taught intermediate grades, so I could get away with a morning routine that required more skills of independence. If you have a classroom with younger kids, establishing a morning routine may require more time and visual cues. Even with the intermediate level, I loved pocket charts, and they are incredibly versatile. It may be helpful to plan on using one to establish a morning routine, with a sequence of pictures that show signing up for lunch and working at their desks on Morning Work. This would allow everyone to get settled before transitioning to Morning Meeting or Calendar Time, which involves the whole group and usually introduces or reviews basic math skills.

Don’t stop with the Morning Routine, though. Thinking through what you’ll need for each part of the day will help you figure out how you want to decorate your classroom.

Choose a Theme 

I love collections of items that coordinate, and choosing a classroom theme is one of the most fun tasks when preparing for a new school year. The nice part is that you can be as creative or as simple as you want; I am traditionally not (I repeat, not) a bulletin board kind of person. Therefore, the more prepackaged a bulletin board set, the happier I felt.

There are two basic ways to approach choosing a theme. The first is to see what’s out there. Each year there are new themes, from basic letters, colors and borders, to elaborate sets of materials that revolve around a single idea (this year, traffic signs are pretty popular).

The second way is to build around a theme you already have in mind. For example, one year I had a worm bin in my classroom, so the theme was WORMS! Another example is a colleague of mine who had the last name of “Wolf,” so each year she called her classroom the “Wolf Den.” And if you don’t find pre-packaged materials, you can make your own (or, if you’re like me, change your theme).

Incorporate Community & Curriculum

An easy way to think about decorating your classroom is to consider what kinds of information will need visual space. For example, will there be a space for school events and announcements? What about inspirational posters? Do you have a favorite quote that you’d like to display? I always like to devote wall space to certain pieces of curriculum that I knew I would refer to throughout the year. These could include:

  • Announcements
  • Daily Schedule
  • Birthday Bulletin Board
  • Reading (Word Walls are a great example)
  • Math (such as the Hundreds Chart)
  • Writing Process
  • Social Studies and Science (topical and rotated)
  • Artwork by Students

Don’t forget to incorporate space outside the classroom, and not just the hallway outside your room. If possible, create a rotation of hallway bulletin boards, such as outside the gym or the office, with your staff. Then those who looooove creating bulletin boards can have some more space, and your school will be more colorful and inclusive! Happy decorating!