The beginning, or even the middle, of the year is full of activity in a teacher’s room. Teachers are in the classroom at least a week in advance getting things ready for their kids. We all want our rooms to be “cool” and interesting. Really, we just want the kids to come in, feel comfortable, and be motivated to learn. Here are some things that I have found to be successful in grabbing student attention.
Babies are not the only people who like to look at things floating in the air. Now, you don’t want to be too distracting with large, brightly colored items covering your ceiling, but a few items can really accent a room and make students relaxed. I created a “book mobile” (a reference my students don’t understand anymore) made from laminated book covers or copies of book covers. It allows me to encourage reading and also show the students some of my favorite novels. I find this more interesting than a list of my favorite books on the wall. Other things that I hung from the ceiling are my 6-Traits of writing posters, and some origami sea life that some students made for me last year. Why not put up letters of the alphabet, standard equations, or major elements from the periodic table? You’ll be surprised at how many kids will notice these things and learn when they don’t know it.
As a language arts teacher, I like to put up movie posters that are popular (or good) books that were turned into films. The kids come in and are excited to see some of their favorite movies on the wall. Some are also amazed to find out that certain movies are books first. Shakespearean plays made into modern movies are especially mind blowing to my students. This is not only an option for Language Arts teachers. Science teachers can put up movies that depict scientific content or are based around scientific research. There are movies based around mathematical concepts. There are many sports or athletic movies that illustrate healthy living or the value of exercise. The sky’s the limit.
Let the Kids Decorate
The idea of letting students decorate your room can be a bit scary, but there is definite value in allowing them a space in your room to share their talents and interests. I usually have a bulletin board that i cover with paper, but then allow them to put things on. They know the ground rules about what is and is not appropriate, and usually I don’t have a problem with it. Students will put up news articles and comics that they find. They’ll also post their own artwork. When they have ownership in a room, it makes them feel more represented and comfortable. Another thing that I have done is to have students decorate large sheets or rolls of paper with quotes and artwork to hang from the ceiling or to use as window coverings. I have a wall full of windows that I cover with paper every year so that I can use my projector. I give students a chance to create artwork on the black paper with chalk or light colored pencils. They post inspirational quotes and other items related to my class. I usually get some really great things and they have a great time doing it.
As a secondary teacher, I am always trying to encourage my students to think about college. A way that you can be a passive influence is to cover your room with memorabilia from local colleges and universities. I have a bulletin board dedicated to college, as well as pennants, posters, t-shirts, etc. that I’ve acquired from local schools. It allows students to see what’s out there when they’re daydreaming in your class. Most universities are happy to send you t-shirts, pennants, etc. as part of recruitment packets if you ask. It also gives me a chance to talk about future choices.
Decorating a classroom can be crucial to the success of a classroom. the more comfortable the students feel, the more likely they are to share and participate in your class. Make your decisions wisely and use it as a passive way to reach your students and show them more about you, the things you value, and the things that a true learner values. With just a little effort, you can reach some of the most difficult kids and make your classroom the one that they love to come to.