Decorating Your New Classroom

Classroom decorating is one of my favorite topics for preparing your classroom!  The truth is the sky is the limit in this area. There are so many classroom themes and color ideas to be found on Pinterest and Facebook! Creating a creative classroom environment that is engaging for students and somewhere you want to be every day is so important.  When I think of how many hours a day I spend in my classroom and think of staring at blank walls it is just a non-negotiable to me that I need to make it my own space.  The importance being that it isn't just your space, but also that of other little humans and it needs to be inviting to them and functional.

There SO many aspects to your classroom decor that we could discuss. I love to decorate and to find new ways to reinvent and use things I have found.  Repurposing is the best!

Before we dive into this topic, I would like to first share my feelings on classroom decor.  As you can tell, I find it important or I wouldn't spend my time, energy and money on it.  I have run into teachers with different philosophies on classroom decorating.  Some believe less is more and others decorate every inch of their walls.  I don't believe either way is wrong, but I do believe it is important for the majority of your decor to serve some purpose and it should be welcoming to students.  A warm welcoming environment builds that sense of community and that feeling of home.  Many of the students I teach lack that safe place at home or they move often for various reasons, providing them a stable place that is inviting helps to put them at ease and makes it easier for us to continue our learning.

As a rule I do not redecorate my classroom every year. I have met teachers that change their theme on a yearly basis, but for me I found  that I would rather build a theme and continually add to it for several years and then change when I'm bored.  Below you are going to find photos of some of my classrooms as well as the steps I use to plan my classroom decor so that I get the most for my money!

Let's Dive In!

 The first thing I tell teachers who are looking to decorate is to choose a theme you like.  Some animal or topic that you can find decor in or make decor for depending on how crafty you want to get.  You can search Pinterest and find ALL kinds of ideas or go to sits like and find neat theme ideas as well.

I enjoy creating my own themes so I usually look for things that there isn't as much out for and then come up with my own.  For instance, this year I am doing a space theme. I've already looked through my local teacher stores and on Pinterest. I haven't found exactly what I want, but the ideas are coming to me and I have my summer list of DIYs that is growing by the minute.

In the past I have done several themes.  Keep in mind I will start year 14 next year.  In that time I have had 4 themes, YEP that's ALL, just FOUR.

They were...
Jungle - I used the phrase Wild About Learning and lots of animal Prints.  This was way back before my blogging or Facebook days, so unfortunately I don't have any photos of this to show you.

Monkey theme - from here I went to a monkey theme.  I was tired of jungle, but I wasn't ready to give up on the aspects of the jungle theme.  For instance, I had stuffed animal monkeys hanging from garland on my ceiling.  The monkeys held the table group numbers for my groups.  LOVED it. I kept this theme for close to 8 years.  So you can imagine I accumulated a lot of stuff for it. The greatest thing was this allowed my students to give me monkeys as gifts and I began collecting them. I really liked having something that I could collect as part of my theme because I could remember past students and there was something small students could find or had that they gave me as a sentiment and it was just a neat thing all around in my room.  Here are some photos from my monkey themed classroom.

Because I spread my monkey theme over so man years, some of these photos are from a second grade classroom and others are from my years in Kindergarten.

My other two themes have been Birds and then Superheroes.  You can view my Superhero room by clicking here since I blogged about it earlier this year. I don't have many photos of my bird theme because honestly I hated it. It only made it one year.  So I'm going to move on from it and give you guys some other tips!

My second tip is to choose colors to go with your topic or theme that you like.  I like to start with 3 complimentary colors.  This doesn't mean you won't have accents of other colors, but as you search for things you will stay in that color scheme.  If you struggle in this area you can go to Pinterest and search color palettes. I have linked my board of color palettes here for you to see.  These palettes often contain for than 3 colors, but I would pick 3 and accent minimally with the others.

Outside of the three colors you pick I would also recommend choosing one basic color to use that will go with these colors.  There are hot colors like teal and pink at the moment. I am more old school and prefer black or white or something neutral.  The reason being, that sometimes it is hard to find containers etc in the trendy colors.  Or if you choose to change your theme down the road, keeping black or white containers will let you save a little money because you won't have to purchase new containers.  My preference is black because they show less dirt, but that is just me.

Pick one or two accent items that you can put in your classroom that inspire the theme.  Now, this could be a bulletin board set or a DIY project you have completed.  Me personally, I like to find something in the craft section of Hobby Lobby or Michaels to drive my theme.  When I had my monkey theme it was a trash can for a bathroom that looked like a monkey and an ape piggy bank that my mom had in college and passed down to me that I centered my theme around.

For my theme this coming year, outer space (you'll have to come back in August for the reveal) I have these awesome inflatable space shuttles my college friend picked up for me while she was visiting the NASA center in Houston.  So I will build my theme around that.

In the photo you see a Beach theme.  If you struggle with finding things like this, you might go to a craft store such as Hobby Lobby that puts items like this on end caps together.  Pick an item or two that you can display in your room or incorporate into your theme.  Keep in mind (because I know things can get pricey and you are on a budget) that there is a 40% off coupon on the Hobby Lobby App and they run great sales, as does JoAnn and Michaels.  I wouldn't buy every item either, just one or two to inspire the other ideas to flow!

I struggle with this one, and before I speak on this, I confess I have a corner in my extra bedroom already dedicated to the treasures I am finding for my new theme at garage sales etc.   However, learn from my mistakes...PLAN FIRST.

It is so easy to get caught up in the buying and next thing you know you have a pile of stuff, no idea what to do with it all and you have stuff you can't use and things you still need. You can curb a whole bunch of this by listing out your essentials and planning what to buy.  Then hunt for the sales.

It is important to look at this sad photo up here.  If you do not yet have a classroom, this is likely what you will see just to give you an idea.  They are BARE when you come in.  If you can have a general idea of what you want to put in it, even if you don't know the specifics of your room, you will save yourself some trouble and money.

I like to prioritize what I absolutely need.  I decide what bulletin boards I need (I talk about that further down more) and what I need for them.  I set my budget and I list everything in order from greatest need to least. I shop until the budget is gone and then I put the other items on a wishlist for later in the year or the following year.  In this profession there are always just a few more things to be bought.  You will always find something you want or "need". Its okay not to have the perfect Pinterest classroom your first year.  That comes with time as you build your stash of stuff.

 Decoration-wise, once I get past my one or two inspirational pieces in my room all comes down to the bulletin boards.  To decide what you need you have to think about your content. Ask yourself:

  • What subjects do I need wall space for?
  • Do I need a word wall?
  • How will I display vocabulary?
  • Where will I have a place for student work?
  •  In lower grades, do I need a place for a calendar, alphabet, number line etc?

All of these things are going to guide what boards you have and what you need.  Once you decide how many boards you can decide what to put on them and how to construct them.  I like 3-D boards so I often embellish with tissue paper, clothe, or other items I've made.

If you are in a pinch with money, I would recommend using dollar store table clothes for your bulletin boards.  They work very well.  (See the photo above.) And it just doesn't get any cheaper.  If you have a little more to spend consider getting fabric.  And of course there is fadeless paper which works well too.  The bigger issue with the paper is having enough.  Again, Hobby Lobby has this paper and the coupon is a great way to save a few dollars.


 To read more about how I decorate bulletin boards check out this post from last week with a free video tutorial on how to make your own buntings and headers for your boards for FREE at home!

 At the end of the day you are the one who is locked in this classroom with your kids.  You are the one who stays after and grades in it, does lesson planning and so much more! Making this environment something you love and something your kids love will help you to enjoy your time in you space.  I hope you have found this post helpful! Please leave me feedback, what themes are you thinking of doing?  Feel free to post in our Facebook group, New Teachers Unite and share ideas and ask for ideas...we would love to talk about this with you!

 Head on over to Beth's blog to learn about setting up your classroom culture...which is equally as important to plan for and is sometimes missed.

Come back next week as we talk about your first day of school and what to expect...and what you won't expect (BUT WE HAVE YOU COVERED!)

1 comment

  1. Thank you for the wonderful ideas and tutorials. This first year teacher needs it!!


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