5th August 2020
Teachers in the UK are often responsible for decorating their own classrooms – it could be all that your first classroom will come with is basic equipment and tables and chairs. You may have some leftover bits such as books from a previous teacher but in essence, your new classroom will be a blank slate to fill with inspiring learning opportunities for your pupils!
This might seem daunting – how do you decorate a classroom to fit the learning needs of 30 completely different individuals? How can you engage and interest them in your displays as well as ensure you are creating the best environment for non-distracted working?
We’ve put together a beginners guide to decorating your new classroom to bring some colour and creativity to your classroom walls!
A study by the University of Salford made several discoveries when it comes to student learning environments. The study states that in 153 schools, better learning outcomes were recorded where students had classrooms filled with fresh air and natural light. Removing cellophane or displays that block light from windows and ensuring a fresh air flow either with ventilation or a fan are two quick and easy ways to improve the environment.
Students benefit from well-thought-out displays and classroom decorations, from primary to secondary. The study by Salford does state that overly busy classroom decorations can have a negative impact on learning in just the same way that under decorated, plain classrooms can, so it’s important to strike the right balance!
In the UK, schools budgets often don’t extend to fancy decorations for classrooms. There may be a budget for classroom supplies, such as pens, pencils and storage, but learning displays, themed decorations and stationery supplies are sometimes provided from the teachers own pocket. There are lots of fantastic free ideas for decorating classrooms on Pinterest – check out our latest Classroom Decor pins:
Not only do classroom decorations help to create a more engaging and welcoming atmosphere for your new pupils, they have other functions as ways of engaging pupils with other aspects of school life. Student-created displays of school policies are a great way to get children to remember the rules. Displays around time, the weather, phonics or maths functions can help to support children when they are working independently. Displaying of student’s best work helps to build confidence and in some pupils may encourage a better quality of penmanship or neatness!
Here are some of our top ideas for decorating your classroom:
Create a calm, welcoming, airy environment.
With natural like and good airflow at the top of the list, the first step to creating a great learning environment might be to move things around. Try to avoid using windows as display areas (although some window displays look wonderful if there is enough natural light in the room!), remove thick curtains, make sure windows are openable and position fans if possible although you may have to provide your own if the school has a limited supply. Plants make any environment feel fresher and are a great way to get students involved in looking after their own learning environment, plus they make fantastic props for learning about plant life cycles!
Design Suitable Storage & Labelling
Whether you are teaching secondary or primary, classrooms have lots of equipment. From stationery supplies to books to blocks and maths resources, making sure pupils are taking responsibility for keeping their own working environment tidy, looking after equipment and finding a place to put everything can be a challenge. We’ve seen some fantastic storage ideas online, from colourful tubs to in-trays made out of cereal boxes and pen pots decorated by pupils for individual tables – getting your pupils involved is the surefire way to an easier tidy up! Make everything easily accessible, so students know where equipment is stored and can keep activity change-over times to a minimum. Creative labelling solutions such as Cricut vinyl lettering is very popular on Pinterest, and saves a lot of work writing out labels by hand as well as having lots of fun customization options. We’ve seen vinyl cut-outs being used creatively all over the classroom, from fun quotes on the walls to one-way system markers.
Style A Reading Corner
Most classrooms have a reading corner, and if yours doesn’t, it’s not hard to create something really fun for pupils that will encourage them to read. We’ve seen beanbags, cushions, teepees and fabric shelters used to create a cosy corner that feels separate from the main classroom. Themed reading corners are a fun idea if you are trying to encourage your pupils to pick up books. Why not encourage pupils to reach their reading goals with a space-themed reading corner? Students can fill out what they are currently reading on a rocket ship that moves across a paper solar system. Or how about a football theme, with cheap astroturf covering a section of the wall and each student filling in their current reads on their own ‘player’ There are a huge number of fantastic ideas on Pinterest – the key is choosing a theme that will resonate with your pupils and what they are currently learning about or interested in! Books can be provided by the school library and added to from your own collection – they can be picked up extremely cheaply in secondhand shops, so keep an eye out for anything you feel might interest your students to add to their options.
Dream Up Interactive Displays
There are so many fantastic ideas out there for creating areas within classrooms to display students work or encourage positive behaviour. Some teachers have a ‘noise level chart’ with a moveable marker to show what kind of noise level is acceptable during an activity, from silent to quiet talking to whole-class interaction! Primary school teachers often create displays that show the date, weather and any other news or announcements – these type of displays are fun and the regular changes keep them fresh. You can also use displays for positive reinforcement. In one primary school, the teacher covered a whole wall in a huge paper rainbow and moved pupils photos up and down the rainbow towards a pot of gold or a thundercloud depending on their behaviour. If British History is on the agenda for that term, why not create a display around a King’s court, with pupil photos on the throne to reward excellent contributions or in the dungeon if improvement is required?
Your displays should reinforce schools values and rules and support learning across different topics. If you are about to start a new role in a school, it’s worth checking the school policy on classroom decorations before you start! Some schools do provide a budget or have certain guidelines and this varies widely across all education facilities, so do your research before putting lots of time into creating thoughtful displays! Your time is precious and it’s worth remembering that the most important function of the classroom is the actual learning.
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