Friends, it’s the time of year where we are either just starting to think about our classrooms for the upcoming year or we are in the thick of it. If this were an Instagram post I’d put a poll here asking “Do you just LOVE to set up your classroom each year or would you like to walk into a room done for you on your first day back?”
Can I take a moment or two to be honest? I used to absolutely LOVE to go in and decorate my classroom every year. As I had kids and my kids started getting involved in athletics setting my classroom up each year became more of a chore than something I enjoyed as I was fitting it in, between kid stuff. Setting up my classroom is something I have to make time for, bring my 3 children into the building with me, and set up my room while also parenting 3 kids. I have constantly compared my room to Pinterest pages, to Instagram posts, and to other teachers’ rooms in my own building. I have constantly told myself,
“It’s not enough!”
“You can do more!”
“Will this impress the parents at Open House?”
A few years ago I started to let go of comparing myself to others… for the most part at least. 🙂 I have slowly decorated my classroom less and less over the last few years and it has felt so good to drop that stress. To drop that expectation that I PUT ON MYSELF! If that’s what you enjoy and that’s what you want to do, please do what fills your bucket.
After the year and a half we have all been through, the stress of teaching through COVID, and now the unknown of what’s to come with numbers on the upswing in places, I’m here to tell you this…
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DECORATE YOUR CLASSROOM!
Yes, you read that correctly. You don’t have to decorate your classroom and make your classroom look like a “Pinterest room” if it’s not really what will fill your cup.
I’m not saying don’t set your classroom up and make it presentable and ready for students to come in and make it their home away from home for the next 10 months. I’m saying you don’t have to make it look like the pictures you see on social media or in school magazines.
My friend, Matt Halpern has always been an advocate for leaving your room undecorated and allowing the students to decorate your room as the year progresses. Matt has almost 20 years as a teacher. He’s an educational consultant, author, and one of the best Instagram accounts to follow for teachers in all grade levels, he’s hilarious! The best thing about him is how genuine he is and how he builds relationships with students and adults alike. (Check him out here at his website.)
Matt has always believed that classrooms don’t need to be picture perfect and decorated to the nines when the school year starts and I AM HERE FOR IT! It has spoken so strongly to me. He recently shared an article from Edutopia about the research behind NOT decorating before students arrive. We use research based strategies for our instruction, for student behaviors, and intervention… it’s time we start to use it for how we set up our classrooms as well.
Edutopia has an article and a video about setting up your classroom. Check them out here…
What struck me was the very last sentence “The takeaway: Classroom walls should feel warm and lively but not overcrowded—keep 20 to 50 percent of the wall space clear, and fill the rest with student work, inspiring pictures, and learning aids.”
As Kristin always reminds me, throughout her travels she is always looking at classrooms. Her favorite rooms are the ones where student learning is evident on the walls. If you just print off or purchase cute posters and put them up, what’s the chance your students will actually use them or know how to use them? Instead, when you use your walls to decorate with materials you make with your students, they know what those materials are and how to use them throughout the day.
Sttudent work and learning aids are what I tend to put up the most. The following images are examples of things you can do with your students and put up in your classroom that has meaning and ownership for your students. These items were all created with students and added throughout the year.
Anchor Charts: You make them on chart paper each year and your students create their own version in their math journals with you. Student ownership!
Mathematical Artwork: These student examples are from Mathematical ART-O-Facts written by Catherine Kuhns. You can get this book on Amazon for $6.32 … hurry! Students LOVE these activities and they make for great decor each month.
Patterns for Multiplication or on a 100’s chart: When students can make connections and find patterns, that is when their conceptual understanding really starts to soar.
Monthly Data Talks: In the past, we have used various food items to collect data and create line plots and various graphs from the information gathered. Students have a hand in collecting, analyzing, displaying, and then of course devouring the treats.
Measurement: Students do not normally have any idea how long 1 foot, 1 yard, 1 meter, etc are. Have students measure out a specific length and create something with it.
State Flag: Have your students create your state’s flag! Figure out your state’s “birthday” and build all of your lessons around facts about your state. We have so much math in Ohio’s state flag and it’s always something the students remember, year in and year out!
The point is my friends, nobody needs any more stress right now. When it comes to decorating your classroom, do what works best for you. I hope all of you enjoy your last bit of summer and when it’s time to walk back into your room, take a deep breath…you survived last year, you can do anything! Happy New School Year Everyone!