When thinking of classroom decoration ideas, it can be easy to be distracted with the pretty things we see on pinterest or social media. However, it’s important to come back to what is most important – getting ready for your students! I’ll share some classroom decoration ideas do’s and don’ts to help keep it manageable for you and welcoming for your students.
Don’t overcrowd the room
Children need empty space. Really, 20-50% of your walls should be kept clear so that your students can have some blank space. Too much stuff on walls can be overstimulating for many children. This causes them struggle with maintaining attention to the learning. The more stuff on the walls, the less value the stuff has. When we put posters or charts on the wall to help students, we need to continually reference them or else they become just another thing on the walls to students. If they aren’t used regularly, take them down. I like to make small charts to keep in their writing folders as needed. As soon as they don’t need the charts, I take them out to use charts.
Do decorate with a purpose
The purpose of decorating a classroom is to make it a welcoming environment for students so they feel valued, safe, independent, and calm. If a classroom decoration idea doesn’t support those main goals, then it shouldn’t be put up in the classroom. What do I decorate? I have schedule cards, calendar cards, labels, and nametags that are all a part of my color scheme. They have visuals for the students to understand and they are written in a font that is easily read by young readers.
I don’t label every single thing in my classroom – that becomes over-labeling and stops being meaningful for the students. However, I do label the things that I want my students to be able to find and put away independently. I label with a purpose – it should all comes back to the purpose. When you are wondering whether to put something in your classroom, ask yourself, what is the purpose?
Don’t decorate for you
The classroom is for the students. When we see a really cute inspirational poster and want to hang it up in the classroom, keep coming back to the purpose of the decoration. Is it for your students or you? Can your students understand the poster? Is it in a font they can read? Have you talked about it with them? If the poster is for you, is there a space near your desk or teacher supplies you can keep it? The main classroom area really should be left for materials that the students can access and will help them feel welcome in the classroom.
Sometimes we see really cute themes or classroom decoration ideas for our students and we want to decorate our whole classroom like this. I did that my first few years! Everything was Pete the Cat because I loved Pete the Cat. Well… it got to be wayyyy too much Pete the Cat. Now, I don’t have a theme. I really hated spending precious time during my summer redoing all the labels, nametags, schedule, calendar…. etc. and the thought of doing that multiple times when I got tired of a theme was way too annoying. I also realized my Pete the Cat theme was becoming overstimulating and distracting and taking away from the important learning happening in my classroom. So, I decided to go with calming colors instead. This way, things could come and go and I wouldn’t have to completely change up everything in the classroom so it still goes together.
Do leave room for the students
The classroom is for the students. Despite what you may think by looking at the pinterest-perfect classroom decorating ideas, empty walls and empty bulletin boards are actually important at the beginning of the year! It shows the students that there is space for them to leave their mark. This leaves space for them to hang up their important work. I always hang up hopes and dreams for the upcoming year and a self-portrait each season. Then I switch out other work we complete as a class, and when I am ready to change up the work again, I put the completed work inside of a class book for the students to look at again and again.
I also make sure to put student names wherever I can in the room. This shows that students really belong here. This is important to have up before their visit day prior to the first day of school. I put nametags on their lockers, they have nametags for their sign-in, and they have nametags on their desk. I also have their names on a birthday chart. After we settle in those first few weeks, I put pictures of them for their class job role and in lots of class books we make together. These are just a few ways to make your classroom welcoming to students and to make students feel special.
Don’t spend your whole paycheck
Just don’t go near the Target dollar spot… don’t do it. I have spent much more than a dollar there, let me tell you. And oftentimes I buy something that looks cute and fun and… it ends up in the back of my cabinet forgotten about. Lakeshore, Amazon, Dollar Store… these are all back to school traps! I always go with a list and try my best not to browse for more than I absolutely need. Under no circumstances should we be spending our first paycheck on decorations and classroom supplies before we’ve even earned the paycheck! It’s ridiculous that teachers even need to buy all this stuff themselves. Remember to first ask your school if there is something you need. If they can’t buy it, try looking on Facebook Marketplace or garage sales. When you say you are a teacher, they might just give it to you! Finally, don’t compare yourselves to the classroom decoration ideas you see online. They might have spent a lottttt of money to make that happen, and it doesn’t even mean they will be a better teacher for their students. You don’t need to spend that kind of money on your classroom to make it a welcoming space for your students.
Do go easy on yourself
It can be easy to compare your classroom to others. It can be easy to have grand classroom decoration ideas. But these expectations can cause unnecessary stress or self-judgment. Remember these simple do’s and don’ts, stick to the purpose of why you are decorating, and remind yourself that your students don’t really care if the room is perfect by the start of school. All your students care about is if the room is welcoming to them.