If you aspire to have chevron patterned area rugs, Project-Runway-worthy bulletin boards, and a coffeehouse vibe with plush furniture and accent lighting in your classroom, this is not the post for you.
I am a guy that does not do Pintrest.
I teach, blog, podcast, coach, and parent, which means I don’t spend my summer working on a design board with color swatches, textured fabrics, and Ikea-inspired furniture. I am in awe of and admire those that can, but it is just not in my wheelhouse or my budget.
But the right decorations can go a long way. Research suggests that there are certain types of decorations that compliment daily learning, and certain types of decorations that detract from daily learning.
Here are five classroom pieces that you can make (or have your students help you) that will help to create a warm, inviting, academic tone to your room and make a positive first impression.
1. Book Wreath
I made this book wreath for my school’s librarian a few years ago.
She’s awesome. Books talks, Skype sessions with authors, an after-school book club — she does it all.
It was such an easy and enjoyable experience to make one, I ended up making another for a colleague’s classroom.
Cost: Under $10
How long it takes: 30-45 minutes
How to do it:
2. Student Acceptance Letters
I stole this idea from my good friend, Susan Barber, who first shared the idea of the Oh, The Places You’ll Go! bulletin board. I have used it with acceptance letters in the spring. In the fall I post photos of our school’s graduates with summaries of the interesting things that they are doing. It is empowering to say to students, “In the same seat that you are in right now once sat someone that now codes for Apple .”
How long it takes: 5 minutes to set up, students then post their letters
Supplies: A printout of the cover or the dust jacket of Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
How to do it: Ask your students to bring in copies of their letters of acceptance and staple them to the bulletin board. To highlight recent graduates, track them down on social media and ask them to share where they are living and the career path they have chosen.
3. Twitter exit slips
My former student, Erin Pipe, created this in her first year of teaching Spanish at a nearby district.
Her Instagram comment said it all: “Exit slips are so 2010. Señorita Pipe retweeting exceptional student takeaway tweets from lessons!”
Cost: Less than $5
How long it takes: 1-1.5 hours
Supplies: A Twitter logo printout, poster board paper, a few markers, and a funny photo.
How to do it: Erin put it together in parts but the total working time was about 1.5 hours. Making the template on the computer for the Twitter slip took the most time to complete.
4. Character Stencils
I have long admired the stencil art of Banksy. To pay homage to him, I started doing stencils of my literary heroes and favorite characters.
In my classroom you will find stencils of Frankenstein, Yoda, Shakespeare, James Joyce, and George Orwell.
Cost: Less than a dollar
How long it takes: roughly 1 hour per stencil
Supplies: A big piece of paper and a few black chisel tip Sharpies.
How to do it: Find stencils of book characters, authors, historical figures, etc. on Google. Project the image onto a SmartBoard or overheard projector. Trace with pencil, then have students color it in with black Sharpie permanent markers.
5. Classroom Tombstones
I use the grammar graveyard in the fall when my students are writing college essays and making one last push for the S.A.T. They bury the empty cliches that don’t carry any meaning, the usage errors in their writing that impede reader comprehension, and common grammar mistakes on the S.A.T.
Creating a tombstone isn’t punitive, it is a learning experience. That is because students don’t just bury their misstep, they resurrect the better form of expression — of the cliche, grammar rule, or S.A.T. skill — with the ghost.
Cost: Nearly free
How long it takes: 1-2 hours hour (depending on how detailed you want to get on designing it)
How to do it: Print out a class set of tombstones and ghosts. When you grade essays, identify one grammar error, weak sentence structure, usage problem, etc. in each essay. When they are returned, ask the students to record the error on the tombstone and have them develop improvements on the ghost.
What’s your favorite