One of the small joys of teaching – outside of nurturing the young minds of future leaders, of course – is having a classroom to yourself.
Depending on your school or class schedule, this will be the place where you spend most of your time. Waiting in between classes, eating a packed lunch, having private consultations with students, teaching – this place will be your abode, your headquarters, your Batcave for the rest of the semester.
Decorating it according to your tastes is essential, for the sake of your own productivity and your students’. Here are a few classroom decor ideas that can help you better engage with your students while still keeping a pretty environment.
Designate a “meeting” corner
Any interior decorating plan starts with a good table at the center – metaphorically, not literally. Horseshoe and half-moon tables are the choice for collaborative projects.
Whether you’re teaching a graduate class of five students total or your curriculum’s heavily based on group projects, a space focused on meeting small groups is essential. Even if you just place your table and chairs at one corner of the room.
The shorter and more informal distance signals to your students that you’re open to questions and help should they need it. Plus, a setting that reminds them of office meetings on TV might make them feel more mature and on equal footing with you.
Inform with your carpet
One quick method to keep a modest interior is to focus on your carpet, perhaps the largest object in the room after the chalkboard. Then, keep the rest of your room relatively minimal.
This classroom has a rug that doubles as a map of the United States, perfect for middle schoolers. Apropos, if you’re teaching geography, there are more sophisticated options available with a ‘burnt edge’ look to them. As well as a pastel, baby-friendly version that might fit better with contemporary aesthetics.
Relate to their culture
You might be inclined to put up posters of memes and mention “on-trend” references for a context in your problems, and this is a good impulse to follow. Relating your lesson plans in terms that are familiar to them could help students visualize and remember your teachings.
This is a tricky line to tread, though. Kids can smell hesitation at the drop of a hat. It takes one wrong use of the word ‘hype’ before you’re thought of as cringey, like that Steve Buscemi meme where he asks: “how do you do, fellow kids?”
Keep it simple. Minimize it to icons on a bulletin board like in this photo. Stick to what you know and use them sparingly, on smaller details.
If strict rules are regulating how much you can personalize your classroom, then you’ll need a ladder. Double-sided foam tape, too.
Outside of placing ornaments and personable paperweights on your desk, hanging banners with tape is another way to decorate your classroom without leaving permanent marks.
This classroom has a black, white, and brown motif running through all the decorations to keep them muted. But if you want more colorful and cartoonish posters to attract younger children, Sproutbrite offers a range of motivational posters.
Make your own decorations
Of course, if neither the lessons nor the look of store-bought posters fits what you need, you can always make them yourself.
Go to your local arts and crafts store. Pick up rolls of colored paper, thick washi tape, stickers, and maybe a couple of magazines to cut out from. Google some inspirational quotes from historical figures in your subject, whether that’s Charles Dickens or Albert Einstein.
It will only take hard work and a weekend at most to get the decorations you want!
Let your students help
Past experience at the school means you might have already built a rapport with your students. You can set aside an afternoon for arts and crafts. Let them in on the process, so the room feels more personal and homey to them.
This can be something as simple as letting them paint plain wooden or paper mache alphabet. Or they can make print-outs that you can paste on the wall.
Find fun seating
This option is probably more accessible to private tutors with their own learning spaces. Turn your teaching area into a place as fun as a playground with colorful, but still functional, furniture.
The semi-circular and modular stool set-up in this room is perfect for storytime and show-and-tell with a room full of children. But if you’re a tutor working from home, you might want a version that fits inside your apartment.
This sofa and stool set on Amazon is just as bright, except it’s for a class of four to eight kids max. If you have a smaller apartment, a foldable sofa – especially one that stretches into unique shapes, like this one – is the better buy.
Settle with colorful furniture
Even when you’re teaching older students, there’s nothing wrong with giving your room a pop of color. Limit it to vibrate fittings and bare walls, so the colors can inspire creativity in your next art class, rather than stifle it.
Keep fresh flowers
To match the interior of a more old-school, er, academy with wooden walls and floorboards, inject a bit of color with bouquets of fresh flowers. Better when there’s a flower shop nearby that you can visit.
The refreshing air from plants also keeps your students from feeling suffocated with information during lessons.
Install a small exhibit
Whoever said educational murals are just for science fairs? If you’ve got the room and a fair bit of leeway from the higher-ups, you can even go as far as creating a small exhibit on one side of the walls.
A chronological list of men and women who made significant contributions to learning, a skeleton model dressed up in quirky finery, and wall-to-ceiling infographics are some options. You can even have your kids experiment with graffiti and paint by installing a faux brick panel at the center.
Paint your lockers
In 2015, Biloxi teachers painted the school’s lockers to look like famous book spines. It brought novelty to the hallways, to say the least.
If you’ve got lockers in the classroom that need a new coat of paint, take a page from their book and color them in a way that’s fresh and inspiring.
You don’t need to paint a story. Paint in a color that’s complementary to your walls. Use the colors of a rainbow. In the case of these lockers, add a bit of oomph and contemporary visuals to your classroom by using simple color blocking techniques.
Use a fresh wall paint
We’ve already talked about how to choose the right paint color for your walls. When it comes to jumpstarting inspiration and memorization, green is the perfect choice. But what if your school’s already heavy on the color?
In that case, pick any color you want, but keep a light touch. Choose a less saturated tone, possibly with gray undertones. Break it up by alternating colors according to the room too. The last thing you want is a solid monotone decor that reminds your students of Dolores Umbridge’s strictly all-pink fiasco.
Decorate your door
Before students can even walk into the room, they can get an idea of your energy if you place some ornaments on your door. Are you a big movie buff? Then you can emulate this starstruck Hollywood-inspired door.
Like the others before it, you can buy stickers or, in this case, find glitter paper and cut them into stars yourself. Word of warning: keeping the points even is going to be a chore unless you’re crafty.
Set a “pantry”
Is your classroom oddly shaped, with a nook or extended room on one side? If you have the budget for it, you can put up some shelves and stock it with necessary supplies, from poster paint to stacks of paper. Maybe even rulers and calculators, depending on your subject matter.
This is especially helpful if you’re in a school where kids are on the less-privileged end, though it’s still a neat feature for those genuinely forgetful tykes. Make them feel like Masterchefs going into Gordon Ramsey’s pantry whenever they need a new eraser.
Have your class outdoors
You know how people always say, “there’s more learning to do beyond the four walls of a classroom”? Well, this idea takes that rather literally.
If you’re not restricted by a school board, as a private tutor or mentor to otherwise homeschooled kids, why not turn your own backyard into a classroom?
Drag furniture from your patio, and put up a breathable fabric awning for shade. Maybe trim your garden in the meantime. And there you have it, a makeshift learning space that encourages movement and freedom.
Everything in this list so far requires a bit of talent in crafts, on top of nimble fingers. What are you supposed to do, then, if you barely passed your own art classes in high school?
Store-bought is the way to go. If you want a lot of color for not a lot of work, why not hang a fabric tapestry? This one features animals and scenery fit for any biology class. But there’s a range of designs available on the market, from astronomy to astrology.
Set up a large centerpiece
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat since the photo shows a museum classroom. Still, the idea of having a sizable ornamental piece at the center, such as an ambitious paper mache project seems fun. It’s like a quickfire way to wow your students every visit and maybe make them believe in magic.
As such, this actually seems perfect for English teachers. Anyone care to have Yggdrasil in their classroom? No?
Both low maintenance ideas and exhausting passion projects could brighten up your classroom. The important thing is putting the students’ productivity and well-being at the center of your design decisions.
How will you engage your students this semester?