Creating a beautiful classroom space is important because you and your students spend a lot of time in this space every day. I am in my classroom every day at the very least from 8 am to 4 pm (many days a lot longer) – I don’t want to be surrounded by ugly walls and messy spaces. For this blog post, I have teamed up with teacher designer extraordinaire Stacey Lloyd to give you some tips for creating a beautiful classroom space.
Declutter the Classroom (Kristy)
The most important thing you can do is declutter. Get rid of any extra furniture like desks, tables, chairs etc. Only keep what you need in your classroom. I walk into teachers’ classrooms all the time and they have way too much furniture and the students can’t even walk around without tripping on things.
Whenever Possible, Display Students’ Work (Stacey)
Teenagers feel pride when they see their work on the walls of their learning space, even if they don’t admit it! Displaying current work throughout the year – projects, essays, posters, even just notes pages – is a wonderful way to keep the room alive, changing, and relevant to students. In this way, my room is fairly empty at the start of September and fills up over the year. This is a great visual representation of students’ learning and a meaningful reminder to them of their hard work.
Create a Colour Scheme (Kristy)
Create a colour scheme for your classroom. Mine is lime green and white. I try to only buy bins and borders etc that match this colour scheme. I want the classroom to have a cohesive vibe. I buy almost all my classroom supplies at the local dollar store, so I don’t feel guilty about changing my colour scheme every few years.
Use Displays to Reinforce Content (Stacey)
I love it when a student’s eyes flit to one of my figurative language posters while they’re answering a question, or when they copy down and respond to a key quotation displayed, while writing in their journals. Having subject-specific posters and charts displayed around the room can reinforce content in a really meaningful way – especially for highly visual learners. Do just remember to make sure that displays are age appropriate and visually exciting for students.
Set The Stage With Your Data Projector (Kristy)
For special lessons use your data projector and YouTube to create a background for the lesson. In winter, you can use a fireplace or a snowy scene. If you are hosting a poetry cafe – find a coffee shop background to project. Having a visual can get students in the lesson mindset.
Make Your Displays Interactive (Stacey)
Whether it’s a large timeline which students complete as we study a novel, or a wall of handouts which students can access to help with areas of challenge, or an interactive map which we use to chart the reading we do from around the world, I try to make the walls around the classroom as hands-on as possible. Students need to know that the room is theirs too: it is a space for them to engage with their own learning, a place in which we co-create knowledge in a meaningful way.
Say Goodbye to Your Teacher Desk (Kristy)
We all love those perfectly staged social media photos of teacher desks with cups of Flair pens, but those desks take up a lot of space in a classroom. I use my guided reading table as my classroom workspace, which also does triple duty as a student workspace or small group instruction space. If your teacher desk is not multi-purpose it’s time to give it a new home.
Think About Classroom Layout in Your Lesson Plan (Stacey)
While this tip isn’t exactly about making the space beautiful, per se, it is about making the space engaging, and intentional. When planning a lesson, ask yourself how the physical space can facilitate the goals of the lesson: Move the desks into groups for station work? Arrange chairs in a circle to encourage discussion? Put out colourful paper for note-taking? I find that whenever students walk into an unexpectedly re-arranged classroom, they do a double-take and are instantly intrigued: their interest has been incited; they are already engaged.
Keep it Clean and Tidy With Student Help (Kristy)
Keep your own broom and dustpan in your classroom. I often give my classroom a quick sweep if we have been doing a messy activity (interactive notebooks anyone?) or if my students leave crumbs behind from lunch (my students eat in my classroom twice a day). A clean and tidy classroom looks great and does not cost a lot of money. I have a classroom jobs system in my classroom and I just ask those students to tidy up the communal supplies areas to make sure things are put back in order.
Include Living Things (Stacey)
Not only do indoor plants purify the air, but they also add greenery and life to a classroom: a quick and easy way to make the space beautiful. Even if you have low light, a gorgeous Dieffenbachia can thrive, and I have also had success with plants such as the hardy Peace Lily, and the more dramatic Calathea (and this is from someone who is notoriously incapable of keeping plants). If you are looking for something even more low-maintenance, a couple of succulents around the room will definitely fit the bill.
About The Authors
Stacey Lloyd is a high school English teacher currently living in Vancouver, Canada. She has a passion for both curriculum planning and graphic design, and loves to create meaningful, engaging, and visually interesting resources for teenagers in the ELA classroom. You can see more of her work here.
Kristy has taught ELA and almost every other subject to 7th and 8th-grade students for over 11 years in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, Canada. She is guilty of always having a book in her hand – even at the dinner table! She writes the blog 2 Peas and a Dog and shares her education resources for middle school teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers.
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