Let's be honest, secondary teachers aren't known for their adorable classrooms. We're too busy grading millions of essays (only a slight hyperbole). However, with the popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, lots of teachers are stepping up their game, realizing that creating a comfortable environment where students can cozy up to a good book can benefit everyone.
As teachers, you spend most of your weekdays (and some weekends) in your classroom, so you might as well spruce it up and make it feel like what it is: a second home. Here's a cheap and easy way to get the job done:
1. Use old books
Like many ELA teachers, I had quite a few falling-apart books that I didn't have the heart to drop in the recycling bin. With the help of a large paper cutter and some glue sticks, I decorated all of my bulletin boards and my classroom library.
I stapled book pages to almost every bulletin board space. In my classroom library, I used old book pages to cover the faded book boxes where I arrange books by author's last name. On the other shelves, I used old IKEA frames I had lying around my house. I put a book page in the background and printed a genre label for each section.
In addition to book pages, I also used entire books and simply stapled the front and back few pages to a bulletin board to secure them.
Last, I created book chandeliers using two books stapled cover to cover. I threaded a string between the spines of both books, tied a knot, and attached them to the ceiling with a paper clip:
2. Allow student artists to design a mural
The mural you see in the picture above was completely student designed and painted. Last year, I had an incredibly talented student who was begging to add her artistic flair to my classroom. I allowed her to sketch out her plan in pencil. I asked for approval, then let her loose. Now this is one of my favorite classroom spaces.
3. Find freebies
I wanted to offer some functional flexible seating in addition to my regular classroom seating, but I couldn't spend money to make it happen. The first place I looked was our school's storage area. There were old stools and some 1970s orange chairs. I also found a standing table that was stashed because the top was badly damaged. I covered it with chalkboard paint, and now I have a great option for students who prefer tall seating or standing while they work.
The other freebies that are readily available are posters. The Smithsonian Institute has amazing and powerful posters available to educators as part of their Facing History program. I use these posters to display our one class rule: be an upstander.
My advice: if you want it, ask around. There might be furniture in your school that you can have for free. Outside of school, there are so many people looking to get rid of furniture that would be treasured by your students.
Your classroom doesn't have to be fancy or expensive to feel like a welcoming space that motivates students to learn. Use a few old books and some freebie furniture and your classroom can feel like home.
Have a great school year! I'd love to see your spaces. Share here or tag me on Instagram @readitwriteitlearnit