Are you a brand new teacher staring at those blank classroom walls? Or perhaps you are a veteran teacher looking to mix things up a bit with a new theme or a new look. You have your entire room set up, but that big empty classroom wall is staring back at you just waiting for some fun resources! What should you put up there?
Our classrooms are pretty much our second home. Like our own homes, we want our classroom to be inviting, comfortable, and a representation of ourselves. However, here is the catch… our classroom walls also should be accessible to our students and provide meaning.
With that said, I always suggest that each item you put up on your classroom wall be a teaching tool. Our walls shouldn’t be too stimulating to distract students; however, they provide a bridge from that lesson you just taught. Don’t just toss up a cute poster with a funny saying to fill that gap on the wall; that space could be an interactive poster with math strategies that you teach off of.
Check out our Setting Up Your Classroom blog if you are still trying to set up your room, arrange furniture and find your bearings. Once you have the general setup of your classroom complete, let’s dive right into setting the mood of your classroom environment and what is going up on those walls?!?
The Classroom Environment
Your Classroom Does NOT Have To Be Pinterest Worthy!
Do you want your classroom to look nice? Absolutely! It ends up being our second home and we want our rooms to be inviting, comfortable and inspirational for our students. However, with that said – don’t feel you need to match those classrooms you see via Pinterest and Social Media. Don’t stress yourself or break the bank getting your room ready. Feel free to get some inspiration from those photos, but don’t compare… this is your space and community as their classroom is theirs.
The Classroom Environment
- Think about adding some various light sources. Have any extra lamps lying around? Some children learn best in bright light, but others do significantly better in low light. I love having lamps in my room for ambiance and a classroom management piece too! I always have the lights off after recess with some lamps on while playing music. The goal is for the students to reset and calm themselves after running around.
- Establish informal furniture arrangements where students can sit on soft chairs or pillows or lounge on the carpet or rugs. Research supports the common-sense notion that many students pay better attention and achieve higher goals in more comfortable positions. Before going out and purchasing hundreds of pillows and rugs, there are a few precautions and things to think about prior to bringing them into the room.
1) Check with your districts and school building. I know sometimes with fire codes, various items may not be allowed.
2) Be prepared that on occasion you will have to remove these items throughout the school year for various reasons. Pesky critters like lice or bed bugs may want to learn some ABCs and join your room. Keep the pillows bagged for 1 – 2 weeks and then give them a good wash if necessary.
- The sky’s the limit when it comes to designing a space. Just a few suggestions:
- Ask for materials or time donations from friends and family who have skills that could help improve the design and function of your classroom.
- Yard Sales or Second Hand Stores. Keep a lookout for “new” items for your classrooms. Most items can easily be refurbished with some new paint, reupholster, or new hardware.
- Add personal touches! The physical layout, environment, and furniture should also reflect who you are. Don’t hesitate to give the room your personal touch with plants, art, rugs, photos, etc.
As you are already aware, some teachers may go for a themed approach! I am a themed individual and I always found it easier when designing and looking for things that would fit a theme versus things I liked. You could look towards a character, cartoons, movies, superheroes, or a specific color scheme. Other friends of mine are not themed people, so they have tasteful things that fit their niche. Whatever your decision will be, go for it and own it!
Create a Calming “Corner”
With teaching tiny humans also comes strong emotions. Please consider having an area of your space designated for calming down. Check out Creating a Calming Corner for Your Primary Classroom for more information on the logistics of setting the space up. Once you teach the expectations of this space you are allowing your students a safe space to de-escalate and return to the appropriate task. Resulting in less time taken away from instruction to deal with behaviors.
What Do I Put Up On My Walls?
This may seem like a no-brainer bullet point, however, it is an important one! When I say “Be Purposeful”, I mean don’t toss things up on your walls if you are never going to utilize them! Sure, that poster looks cute, but does it serve a purpose? Can something more interactive or resourceful go in its place?
Prioritize & De-Clutter
Don’t feel you need to have every single wall covered with stuff. Classroom clutter can easily distract students, especially on walls. You don’t want to be competing with your students’ attention with so many brightly colored posters or pictures on the wall. I highly suggest leaving at least one area on the walls for student work. Showcasing students’ work provides opportunities for ownership and pride in their work. Until you have student products to place in that space, you can have an “Under Construction” or “Great Work Coming Soon” signage. This will allow families on the back-to-school night as well as students to know and understand that their hard work will be celebrated and showcased!
Prioritize! Think about your physical classroom setup. Are students typically facing one direction or the other? If this may be the case then make sure you are strategic with resource placement on the walls. Perhaps you want to include the alphabet or ELA posters in the area that the students are all facing. Make this prime time space engaging, but not distracting. After all, all eyes should be on you, not necessarily a colorful explosion of words and images behind you.
I love to have my students in “pods” working. So students are facing all different directions since the students and I are constantly moving around the room. I prioritize the important resources by placing information low at eye level and in central areas that will assist and continue to be interactive for the students.
Reading Resources for Classroom Walls
What kind of resources could you include on your walls for Reading? Just like you did when you were setting up your physical environments, don’t be nervous to walk around your school building and see what other teachers have on their walls. In most cases, if not all, an alphabet is a staple in every Primary Classroom. Although each may look different, there is usually one.
Think about what your students may need throughout the year? Do you want some posters about phonics? Looking for some short vowels, long vowels, digraphs, and possibly blends posters? If space is an issue for you, don’t feel you need to hang them all up at once! Remember about our declutter conversation? You can switch out the posters as you teach the skill if need be.
🚨*Freebie Alert* ~ Phonics Posters Freebie Use these short vowel posters to add to your ELA area, your centers or Sound Wall!
Sound Wall vs. Word Wall (…and Grammar Wall?)
Speaking of Sound Walls for those FREE phonics posters, let’s quickly talk about a Sound Wall, Word Wall, or even a Grammar Wall! There seems to be a lot of research coming out about the use of word walls versus sound walls. A word wall is often high-frequency words/sight words or targeted spelling words that are generally listed by alphabet order. Meaning the word blue would be posted under the letter ‘B’ and the word ‘would’ is posted under ‘W’.
Sound walls feature words students are learning just like the Word Wall, however are organized a bit differently. Words like ‘write’ and ‘right” would go under the /r/ sound for their starting sound. They can also be placed underneath the long /i/ vowel or even /igh/ sound.
A Grammar Wall is a wall of words and vocabulary organized into the eight parts of speech. Students would utilize this area just like the word wall or sound wall, but a grammar wall provides the students an opportunity to understand words and how they serve their purpose in a sentence. Looking for more information regarding Grammar Walls? Check out How to Implement a Grammar Wall in Your Classroom.
Whether you use a sound wall, or a word wall, or a grammar wall one thing remains constant for each… Don’t overload them! Add a few new words a week. Too many words can become overwhelming and also possibly too hard for students to utilize the space how you originally thought it would be used. Also, as is the case for most resources on your walls, make sure to use this space regularly.
Math Resources for Classroom Walls
What kind of resources could you include on your walls for Math? As was the case within the Reading bullet on this list, math is the same setup. Think about how you will utilize your math resources and what you want to include on the walls. Will you have a number line? Number posters themselves? Hundreds grid? Besides what was stated, I also have a poster of Math Strategies that I use while teaching. I always make sure to refer back to the resources on the walls and directly teach how to use these items. If we are learning a new strategy like drawing tallies to solve, draw a picture, use our fingers, or mental math, then I point to that math strategy on the poster and explain that when I ask you how did you solve the problem you can choose one of these ways.
Add Personal Touches and A Sprinkle of Fun to Your Classroom Walls
I know I said this before, but the classroom is your second home! Just as you did with themes, lighting, or furniture that strategy is carried over to the walls. Add some personal touches to your walls that scream you! Photos, a wall calendar of your favorite animals, or if you have a theme some characters spread them throughout the room. Add a little sprinkle of fun if that fits your personality! I hung hula hoops from the ceilings and created a “chandelier” type art piece with hula hoops for the center of my room. I also like to hang characters of my themed classroom from the hula hoops like a mobile.
Please remember that your room and your walls will change and progress over time. Don’t overthink and cover your walls prior to your students arriving. They will fill that empty wall quickly with all their amazing work and they will put a stamp of their own to make it a wonderful classroom community. Have a great upcoming school year and remember Education to the Core will always be by your side guiding you along the way!
Written by – Christopher Olson
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