Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Don't Decorate My Classroom

I don't decorate my classroom before school starts.

I stopped making elaborate bulletin boards for the first day of school. I stopped spending hours creating cute spaceships or race cars, each personalized with a student name and picture. I don't buy pre-made education posters to adorn my walls. I've even stopped making job charts, weather charts, calendar charts, behavior charts, editing checklist charts, how to write a paragraph charts, you name it charts. Yes, my students walk into a classroom where the walls are bare, the bulletin boards cry out, "Cover me!" and the absence of pictures and print in the room would leave enriched classroom environment enthusiasts shuddering.


  • I spend time getting to know my students before I even meet them.
  • I set up my class and student accounts in VoiceThread, KidsBlog, Voki, Animoto, Wikispaces, and Glogster
  • I go through my books and pull out the ones that I think my students will be interested in. I display those books with the covers showing and I put many of the other books away to be revealed as the year goes on.
  • I organize and add to my collection of classroom and online math games.
  • I compose my welcome back blog entry.
  • I clean up my class wiki, archiving last year's contributions, and making room for the new.
  • I collect pictures of all the parts of my life so that my students can get to know me.
  • I fold and glue together lots of blank Foldables; empty bound books for our beginning of the year class books, top pockets to hold our learning during our science units, 2-tabs and 8-tabs for side by side word study books, and pocket books for our life timelines.
  • I plan and prepare for a fun science lesson, a math game, and a team challenge on the first day of school.
  • I make bubble letter name tags for each student to personalize on the very first day.
  • I carefully choose the books I'll use for my beginning of the year book hooks and read alouds.
  • I work on my Writer's Notebook.

My room will get decorated.

I have no idea what it will look like, but I do know that over time the walls and spaces will be filled with things that matter to my students. Over time, my room will be a celebration of the personalities, talents, and gifts of the group of unique individuals that inhabit it.

Do you decorate your classroom? 
What do you do instead?
How does what you do or don't do reflect what you believe about kids and learning?


  1. Hi Rebecca,
    Ditto to most of what you have stated here. I make sure my room is sparkling clean and organized, but I leave the decorating up to my students. I spend my time getting our online spaces set up and ready to use (Edmodo, blogs, wiki, Glogster, Diigo, etc.)

    Then I make sure I have engaging lessons that we help us get to know each other, build team spirit, and start learning digital citizenship so they can work safely in our online spaces.

    I am excited to meet my new students on August 15. This is going to be an awesome year. I hope the same is true for you too.

  2. Hi Paula,

    Thank you for your comment! How exciting to be starting soon. We don't start until the 31st. Good thing because I have not yet been to my classroom.

    I wrote this post after our #4thchat this week. I got to thinking about how we arrange our spaces, how we decorate, and how we organize the materials says so much about our own teaching and learning beliefs and visions for our students. I also started thinking about how teachers need to give up some old traditions of preparing/decorating the classroom in order to focus on preparing for activities that are going to develop 21st century skills like collaborative and communication skills, digital citizenship, the use of technology and problem solving.

    Can't wait to see how the classroom evolves. Maybe we can share on the #4thchat wiki.


  3. I really like how this post shows the understanding that it's not about doing more and more every year, it's about replacing the practices that can afford to change with practices that we cannot afford to ignore.
    I'm assuming that you teach elementary- a level where the bulletin boards are legendary. I teach English at the high school level, but I approach my classroom the same way - Day 1, the room is clean but a little bare and as the year goes on, the students fill the walls with their ideas and creations. I do think it's important to make the classroom an inviting space, and that even more inviting than walking into a 'finished' room is walking into a room and being asked to complete it. Thanks for the post!

  4. Hi Erin,

    Yes, putting up cute bulletin boards has long been an elementary tradition, I love how you said "it's about replacing the practices that can afford to change with practices that we cannot afford to ignore"

    It is so great to hear that your high school students ideas and creations fill the walls. I don't remember ever having my work displayed in high school. As I recall, the walls were pretty bare all year except maybe some posters and signs put up by the teachers.

    Thanks for your comment!

  5. What a better use of our time than creating a bunch of stuff! I am always much happier with the materials students create than the posters I put up all over the room. They are way more creative than I.

  6. Thank you for this article. I haven't decorated my room for years. I also want to know my students and I want them to create the room so all the stuff on the wall before they arrive doesn't become wallpaper. I want them to own the room.
    You are not there to impress anyone. You are there to connect with the children. Having them create the room gives them a sense of ownership which I am sure goes a long way throughout the year.

  7. Much like I have pledged my allegiance to Apple and Google, I also pledged my allegiance to Carson-Dellosa and DJ Inkers for the first 3 years of my teaching. It wasn't until last year, when our instructional facilitator said that we couldn't have so much visual noise, that I began to understand the importance of anchor charts and student-created work that "decorated" my classroom.

    This year I'm moving into a new district, a new school, and a new position. I will not have a classroom of students, but rather students with whom I work in their classrooms and sometimes mine. I did paint ocean colors because it's calming and I like light blues and greens. But other than that, I haven't put anything up - at all. It's a really foreign feeling, even in the second year of doing so.

    My supervisor and my principal have both been in to my room. I'm sending this post to them to let them know why my room may look so sparse, but I really am ready for students this coming Tuesday!

    Thanks for pointing out the important things to focus on at the beginning of the year, instead of the cute bulletin boards or yesteryear.

  8. Mrskmpeters,

    It does feel a little empty until the children arrive! I also use a light green or blue fabric to cover all of my bulletin boards. I hang my plants, put out my personal things and organize the furniture to create a variety of learning spaces. I want my room to look welcoming and homey, not stark and institutional.

    I hope you have a wonderful first week back!

  9. Its A Small World,

    You are so right about the wallpaper. I notice that the students use the charts that we've created together so much more than store bought charts.

    Thanks for your comment!

  10. Mr. Thompson,

    I like to think of my classroom looking more like a kid clubhouse than the typical image of a classroom. You are so right, the way they decorate is so creative and they think of things I never would have.


  11. This is a great post. I really agree that student created boards are much more meaningful that any amount of pretty wallpaper or pre-printed stuff. I suppose it is partly to do with ownership of the space, if you feel it is 'your' classroom then it is hard to let someone else control it. For me it is all about working together to create a good learning environment and involving the children in that process is vital.
    Another point is work/life balance. It really worries me when I see so many teachers spending hours of their own time (and often money!) fussing about their classroom decorations.Breaks are much needed to avoid burn out!