18 Things to Consider When Decorating Your Secondary Classroom

Some teachers love it. Some dread it. But no way around it, decorating your classroom for the new batch of students can be time-consuming, exhausting, and costly. So we pooled together the collective wisdom of some fellow teachers to discuss 18 things to consider when decorating your secondary classroom. NOTE: Many of these apply just as much to elementary classrooms as well. :)

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It's weird how sometimes our decorations end up disconnected with how old our students really are. I teach 7th and 8th graders. Some of them come from fine, constant, healthy family and personal lives.
They are the 3rd and 4th sibling to come through our school and succeed. They play Flappy Bird, use Snapchat and Ask.fm, watch videos on Vine and play medieval phone app games before school.
However, while still maintaining privacy, I can share that just last year, I had students bullying each other, students sharing racy photos on social media to improve modeling portfolios, students cutting themselves, students attempting suicide, even students creating fake online profiles to bully themselves to gain attention.
This is the middle school world we teach in. These are the students we are decorating our rooms for. These just might not be clip-art kids. And high school is another giant leap forward (or backward), but it's a giant leap somewhere. What would our classrooms look like if we designed them to engage these minds and attentions?

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Rules, procedures, and expectations are important to establish right as the school year begins, but these materials don’t need to be drab. In addition to the required course outline/syllabus, use Internet memes your students already love to showcase your classroom rules in a manner that will be impossible for them to ignore. Use a Meme Generator to create personalized memes and then set them to scroll as your whiteboard background while you cover the rules. Alternatively, you could print your meme creations and build a delightfully snarky bulletin board.

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I know we're all the best teachers in the world and stuff, but can we just admit it? Is it okay to say it out loud to the world? There will be moments when students get bored in our rooms. When they are done with their work early and wanting to gel their brains. When they aren't done with their work at all and are staring at our walls because they don't have windows to the outside world.
What would our walls and decorations need to look like to redeem these moments of boredom? What if, during these moments when they're unengaged or refusing to listen to us, they could be intrigued by what is on our walls? Because they have to look somewhere. How are we using our wall real estate?

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As a teacher, you can use words in clever ways to “decorate” your classroom, not only to fill up walls but also to make your students wise. One idea is to title specific areas of your wall in a
http://createdforlearning.blogspot.com/2014/08/18-things-to-consider-when-decorating.htmltargeted/meaningful way.  Carol used an idiom over her writing wall to teach idioms and open the door to the fundamentals of figurative language. In John’s class, he uses “Cognitive Content Dictionaries” to be placed in a prominent locations which teaches key academic vocabulary as well as “Tier 2” vocabulary to aid in understanding text for EL learners.  Inspirational or humorous posters and quotes can also be used to fill smaller spaces and give students ideas to ponder on their own.
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Sometime soon we're going to have to teach some stuff that they haven't heard before. Or some stuff they were taught and forgot, flushed straight down the toilet of summer brain. How can we use our wall decorations to engage them? Can we help them see new material and learn a bit of it themselves before we ever get around to that unit? Because our students are reading our walls. That's what they do. They read Facebook walls, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter feeds, and your walls are the closest thing you've got to an academic feed. So how can they learn from your walls before they learn from you?

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I have several items that I have in my room from my first year of teaching in 1999. Why do I keep them around? Mostly because they are either funny, sentimental, timeless, or related to a favorite book. Here are some examples: 
• (Funny) Close to Home (by John McPherson) comic: It has hung on my classroom door for many years. I like to show my students that no matter how strict I may seem, I’m nothing compared to Mrs. Mutner. 
Classroom Pictures from www.traceeorman.com  
• (Sentimental) Pictures of former students: Students love looking at pictures of past students. Plus, it helps me remember the names of my former students.
Classroom Pictures from www.traceeorman.com 
• (Timeless) This quote is timeless (and a great lesson on perspective), funny, and sentimental: my brother was an assistant coach for the St. Francis baseball team at the time (April, 1996). Robert Morris threw in the towel after the fourth inning, but the fact that they persevered until then also shows character.
Quote on Perspective from www.traceeorman.com 
 • (Favorite Book): My To Kill a Mockingbird framed pictures. TKaM is still my favorite book and I love being able to share my love for it with my students. My framed pictures and book review from 1960 are probably my most prized classroom items.
TKaM prints from www.traceeorman.com

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If you're like me, you've totally made this mistake. You start the year with good intentions. Your walls are organized and thoughtful. Then the school year smacks you in the ear and steals all your time. You're neck-deep in papers and your walls just keep begging for you to update them. But you know you need to decorate them. So you throw something up. Where? Right there. In that empty space between Plot analysis and Point of View story conversions. It's student work, right? That's what admin wants to see. And it's good, it really is. We're not here to beat up on you or ourselves. You are a caring teacher who wants to showcase your students' effort, but if you're anything like me, your walls can look a little scatterbrained by the end of the year, or halfway through October. But what would it look like to plan our walls out so they are organized in a way so they can develop as the year goes on?

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A few years ago during Nutrition break, one of my students stopped by my class with her friends. "Whoa," the friend said. "What?" I said. "Don't take this the wrong way, but your walls have so much stuff on it."
And they did. It got me thinking. And it could get us all thinking? Are your walls overwhelming? Have you taken seriously all the advice to decorate your walls to the point that it's gone overboard? In your attempts to subliminally teach and entertain, have you overloaded the walls? Do your walls need Ritalin? :)

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As a 14 year teaching veteran, I have tried countless ways to create bulletin boards for cheap. Cost does become a factor, and something a teacher should think of- we spend enough money on our classes without adding the extra cost of bulletin board decorations.  
I have found that some of my most engaging and most talked about boards were not the ones with flawless borders and themed decorations. Actually, it was just the contrary- Black butcher paper background, with the titles and words written in chalk with borders that were hand-drawn, got quite the reaction from my students. These example pictures will help explain what I mean:
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Also, don't forget to use items in your room. For example, when teaching about a topic, I hang mentor texts from my bulletin board so the kids can "see" examples of published work that supports the topic. 
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Remember to keep it simple, engaging, and useful!

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All praise and adoration to my teachers growing up, but I can't remember a single one that decorated their room for us guys. And I probably lean toward decorating for the boys...I tend to teach novels that will engage boys. So we deserve it to both genders to take a good long hard look at our rooms and decorations and ask if the boys and girls will be entertained and informed, tantalized and taught.
"But what if I think it's good? What do I do then?"
  Ask our students. They will be honest. Sometimes too much so. But we'll always find out what they think. If we need to, we can do a quick anonymous poll or ballot or something. But we can find out what each gender thinks, if we ask.

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My classroom is very student-centered all the way from the lessons and activities...to the walls.  An estimated 50% of my walls are covered with cabinets, technology, and whiteboards. The other precious real-estate consists of my “décor.” I love to be crafty, but like most secondary English teachers with 75+ kids a day, I just don’t have the time to replace monthly boards with elaborate and often pricey art.  The solution is simple:  I picked a relevant theme that can stand the test of time, planned “bulletin boards” that are student-centered, and designed my room around that theme so not only do the elements match, but they also develop the theme. My strategy for keeping the boards up-to-date so students don’t get bored is all in the content and purpose – boards with need-to-know information and moments of celebration for students.  I chose the theme “Rock Stars,” and I use that concept to inspire, inform, and motivate my students. We are on stage like a rock star performing from bell to bell every day! In a secondary classroom, it is unique to find a room with creative and cohesive decorations, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.  The best décor is the kind that is thoughtful and doesn’t take much time to create but packs a huge punch and puts students first!

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Just do it...we dare you...ask your students which decorations are the cheesiest.

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Again...another dare.

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Okay, so you thought about your décor carefully and academically. It was great when you chose it, but that was years ago and you've grown as a teacher. That was sooo 4 PTA allowances ago. So do this...go item by item, decoration by decoration...and ask yourself, "Is it creative?" "Would it engage *that* kid? Or *that* kid?" It might be tough, but each item on your walls deserves a second look, and maybe a third. Maybe it used to be tried and true, but now it's old shoe. There's only one way to tell...go, look, evaluate...honestly.

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I like using motivational quotes and other thought-provoking visual aids in my classroom. I allow them to think about the quote, then respond in writing. I switch the quotes each week so they have a variety throughout the year.
Motivational Mondays from www.traceeorman.com
Another way to generate deep-thinking with classroom visuals is to have students create their own. My students like to create memes, but sometimes they just post a “What if…” question related to whatever we are reading at the time.
  Student-generated responses from www.traceeorman.com

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http://createdforlearning.blogspot.com/2014/08/18-things-to-consider-when-decorating.html I had a high-school history teacher who still had world maps up with the USSR, years after its dissolution. And I knew a teacher with a poster up about the word irregardless. I wonder if she's changed it since it's been added to dictionaries. How about that solar system poster with Pluto? Whatever subject we teach, do we still have outdated material out because we are (1) holding firm to our academic pedestal or (2) clinging to the old-time nostalgia?

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In your excitement to decorate the classroom one thing you’ll want to remember is to leave wall-space to display student work. When you hang up work your students have completed, it enforces the message that what they’re doing is important and that you are proud of them.  It also makes for cheap and colorful decorations! I assign my students something creative and colorful the first week of school so I can get material up right away. However, it’s best to rotate these postings throughout the year so that all students are represented and you can show your students’ growth.
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  So what do you think? Got any more tips for all us teachers our here in cyberspace? Leave your thoughts down in the comments section. And don't forget to be awesome, all you teachers! You are changing our world.
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  We are so grateful for our fellow teachers that contributed their thoughts with us. We look forward to future opportunities to collaborate and learn from you. 

Blog Contributors Cliff's Notes

Laura Randazzo
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The Teacher Team
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Tracee Orman
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Created by Mr. Hughes >>> Blog ||| TeachersPayTeachers Store
Julie Faulkner
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Students of History
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Created for Learning >>> Blog ||| TeachersPayTeachers Store


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26 comments:

  1. This is great! Thanks so much for compiling all of this. I love it!

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    1. I know, right?! You all brought such awesome ideas to the table here! Thanks for joining the party!

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  2. This is a great post! Thanks for sharing and putting it all together.

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    1. Not a problem at all! It's totally fun that it all worked out.

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  3. Super fantastic post! Thank you for your leadership. Great work:)

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    1. Thanks and you're very welcome! It was a lot of fun and you all have such great ideas!

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  4. Great idea! Thanks for including me!

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  5. impflip.com is gone. I checked and the domain is for sale. bummer.

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  6. Wow! Some great ideas here!! Thanks!

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    1. Aren't there? We just love so many of the different teachers thoughts. Did you have a favorite?

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. I love these ideas! I've shared the link to this blog on my Facebook Page. Check it out. https://www.facebook.com/anenglishteachersgarden?ref=hl

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  9. Is there a typo in #12? 75+ students per day? My building has six classes per day with a school average of 29 students per class. I have 175+ students per day.

    Many GREAT ideas I can implement in the fall. Thank you!

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    1. Numbers vary from school to school, of course. My particular school is on a block schedule.

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  10. Different reviews almost impacting upon their way, it will indeed help to most of the other professionals as well to have good instructions and do exactly whats been asked and required so.

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  11. I love your memes above? Are they available for printing?

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  12. I love your memes above? Are they available for printing?

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    1. Just type in teaching memes on google/bing/yahoo and click on images. You'll be able to find these memes and more!

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  13. i always read blog but this is one of the best for the viewers thanks for the real and helpful blog. krishna decors rohini

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  14. I would love to see pictures of your classrooms. Visual learner.

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  15. I would love to see pictures of your classrooms. Visual learner.

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