When I went back into my classroom this summer to start getting things set up, I knew I wanted a new look. In the past, my decorating tended to run toward the “teacher store vomit” look. Every cute poster, decoration, brightly colored doodad I could find was in my room. This year, though, I decided what would work better was to have a calm, organized classroom. Everything I did this summer was geared to making my room seem calm and orderly.
First, the colors: Instead of using tons of bright colors, I stuck to teal and black. At times, I had to go with more of a navy blue, but I kept it to blue and black. I discovered a can of spray paint can go a long way toward unifying hand me down items. After spray painting my file cabinets, the cardboard boxes that my leveled readers came in and a notecard box I found in the basement, I had storage that looked similar.
I had plastic drawers from Target from last year, so I used those for my art supplies. I also had matching milk crates, so those hold my dictionaries and a carefully curated set of novels. Labels make it easier to see what is in each drawer and help students return supplies to the correct spot. I found some square nametags that had black and white polka dots in the border. These allowed me to label things, but keep it looking nice.
My daughters’ school colors were red and royal blue, so I had a couple of leftover plastic tablecloths from their open houses. I used these as background on two of my wall panels. I have the removable walls on both sides of my room, so the panels are bulletin board from floor to ceiling. Using the tablecloths covered the white and made it look a little less stark.
One blue panel now displays a quote from Dr. Seuss. I change it out weekly. To make the Cat in the Hat for the panel, I found a drawing online, then used an old fashioned overhead projector to trace it onto a piece of paper. A little marker action, and I’ve got the Cat in the Hat talking to my students.
The other panel is being used for my class data. I saw the idea on pinterest.com (love that site!) and decided to use it in my room. Currently, I’m graphing the turn in rate for my two classes. I’m pushing a bit of friendly competition between the two groups to see which can have a higher turn in rate. The winning class each month will get a certificate up on my fridge (more on that later). In addition, I’m graphing the number of students who earn 100% on spelling tests each week. Again, a little competition between the two groups will, hopefully, spur them on to study more.
At the other end of my room, I have a printout of a refrigerator. Our building is focused on celebrating pride in ourselves, so I’m using that to help. I found an image of an old fashioned style refrigerator and had it printed on a piece of vinyl. I got lucky and had a friend who could do it for free. However, if you don’t have a friend like that, you could use the overhead projector again to create one on a large piece of paper. We’ve been posting things we’re proud of on the fridge (just like you do at home).
My desk is also designed to be calming. The front of it was looking a bit worse for wear, so I covered it with fabric. A little hot melt glue and some ribbon and it now goes nicely with the rest of my classroom. On top of my desk, I keep only the bare necessities. My lesson plan book, my powerpoint binder, textbook and some post it pads.
For storing all the paperwork that goes in and out of my desk area, I used a file holder that mounts to the wall. I discovered that Command makes Velcro strips that are removable, but hold up to 16 pounds. In one, I have a folder for each day of the week. As I make copies to hand out to students, I put them in the appropriate folder. I also have one that says “to grade” and one that says “to hand back”, for obvious reasons.
The other thing I discovered to keep the classroom looking calm is poster frames. I had a leftover frame for a piece of posterboard, so I used it for one of my anchor posters. It made the poster look much more professional. I then created several other anchor posters that we will refer to all year. Watching for the frames to go on sale saved me a few dollars. For the other posters that were going to go on the removable walls, I used black bulletin borders to create the look of black frames. This way, they won’t have a problem when the wall folds up, but they create a unified look.
By keeping the clutter out and the colors unified, the classroom has a calming feel as you walk in. The students have seemed calmer (although maybe that’s just because it’s early in the year) and I feel much better. I’m able to find what I need and I smile when I enter my classroom now.
What is your classroom decorating philosophy?