Friday, June 22, 2012

Classroom Themes - To Do or Not to Do?

Hi, Everybody!

Classroom themes are huge right now. Cowboys or Hollywood, penguins or space, they are all quite adorable!

Have you read Debbie Diller's Spaces and Places? It's a gem of a book on classroom design and organization. Wish I had it here to quote from, but it's "among the missing" (er, what does that say about my classroom organization???). In any case, one of my main takeaways from the book was to simplify and give visual order to your classroom by choosing only 2 or 3 colors and sticking with them throughout everything in your room.

At the time, I had a fairly good starting supply of small lime green and aqua plastic book baskets in my room. I also happen to love those colors, so after adding in touches of bright yellow, there was my theme: aqua, lime green, and yellow.  I loved seeing the colors, and using solids really cut down on some of the inevitable visual clutter that just seems to grow in a classroom.
 


Think about some of your little learners and what the classroom must look like to them. I know that in the past I had students who couldn't have told you where the color chart was in January, even though it had been on the wall since September. (That's also a good case for starting the school year with bare walls, but that's another post for another day.)  All of the thematic stuff is incredibly cute and clever, but I wonder if it just adds to the visual mayhem for some of our students, particularly the strugglers. (If you're a follower, I guess you can tell by now that that is where my heart is!)

In addition to that, choosing to build your theme around colors makes it a whole lot easier to decorate for holidays. How do you blend colored eggs into your Hollywood theme? How about Santa when your room is done up with pirates? Things would be looking a whole lot too "busy" for me.

So, here's an option.  Pick your colors, whether primaries, brights, pastels, whatever, and brainstorm a list of ways you could use them to bring more visual order to your classroom. The easiest way to start is to use what you already have. Get yourself packs of 12X18 construction paper in your colors and cut them to make backing for your calendar headers and other classroom wall basic charts. Basically, you're making frames. It's a bit more complicated than just mounting on a backing, but you could also use strips of paper around the edges - it saves paper and keeps things a bit more lightweight.

If aqua, lime, and yellow just happen to suit your taste :), I'd like to offer you an easy way out. For the next 6 weeks, I plan to offer a classroom decor item as a freebie each week this summer. Expect to see classroom labels and signs, note paper, bookmarks, days of the week cards, calendar numbers and more, all in the same color theme, accented only with a little sunshine.

Here are your first freebies in the set! Use these signs on your classroom door. The second one would also make a good addition to your classroom library area. A hundred chart is also in the set.





In addition to these free items, I just posted revised two more components of this "theme" as a set at my TPT store. The set includes wall alphabet cards (which would also be great as headers on your Word Wall) and Study Buddies.







What's a Study Buddy, you ask? Well, it's kind of a desk nametag, plus. In addition to the blank for your student's name, there are a numberline, hundred chart, alphabet (with the same key words/pictures as the wall alphabet cards), and a color word chart. It's a handy reference all year, but here's my favorite way to use Study Buddies. From the very first day of school, encourage your students to use those down times  (finishing early, while papers are being passed out, etc.) to practice quietly with their Study Buddy. Count from 1 to 100, "read" the alphabet chart, practive hopping up and back on the numberline, count by 2s, 5s, 10s, and so on. My kids loved them, and when lessons about the hundred grid came along, I found them to be already quite adept with the grid!

Click on the cover to get your set at TPT!


What are your thoughts on decorating with themes? I'd love it if you'd share!

Happy Teaching!


     




21 comments:

  1. I love this post...and posted thoughts along this same line of thinking a few days ago. Happy Friday!

    Laurie
    Chickadee Jubilee

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! I left you a comment at your blogpost. :)

      Linda

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  2. Very true! I thinks sometimes classroom themes can be overwhelming. It is hard to keep them up all year as well.

    NotJustChild'sPlay

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    1. I agree! I think that the "heavier" the theme, the more I'd probably need a break from it after a while. Thanks for commenting!
      Linda

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  3. I like your ideas on decorating the classroom. I am thinking on what colors I want, but haven't narrowed them down yet to just 2 or 3! :)
    Lori
    Conversations in Literacy

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    1. Thanks, Lori! Have you thought about black, white, and red (think ladybugs as an accent) or primaries, the gold old basic standby?
      Linda

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    2. Oops - I meant "good" old basic, not "gold" old basic!! :)

      Delete
  4. This post is a huge relief for me. I have most recently taught 4/5 for students with learning disabilities and autism specific classes. This upcoming year I am moving to general ed 1st grade and have spent hours trying to "choose" the perfect theme. However, your post reminded me of my own philosophical ideas and got me back on track! This way is far more practical for me not being the most decor oriented person, not to mention the cost savings involved. Thanks so much!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I think the heart of your decision on a theme should be just what you said - reflect on your philosophy of teaching and decide how the idea of a theme meshes with your beliefs about children and learning. I'm not saying themes are wrong per se, but speaking for myself, I know if I don't take some time to reflect, it's so easy in teaching to get swept along with whatever everyone else is doing and lose sight of my own philosophy.
      Good luck with your grade level switch!
      Linda

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  5. I have that book too. I agree with your thoughts. Less is more and color schemes are a great option to bring the space some unity.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

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    1. I agree - and I think that the "color theme" makes it easier on you as a teacher, too!
      Linda

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  6. I agree that themes are cute as a button Hmmm...maybe Pete the Cat and his Buttons theme?!) but I don't have one. I like the idea of a color theme for the reasons you stated although I don't always adhere to JUST a few colors. I TRY to but if I need something and orange is all they have and it's not my color...well, I'll buy it.

    Great food for thought!

    Thanks!

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    1. Pete the Cat and his Buttons!?!?! Perish the cute but copyrighted thought! :) (Been reading the Forum? Wow.)
      Okay, put in lots of solid colors if you'd like and call it a rainbow theme!
      Thanks for commenting, Lisa.
      Linda

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  7. I have the same colors in my classroom--I love them! They are bright and cheerful and the Dollar Tree always has bins in those colors :)

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    1. Tasha, I must say that you have lovely taste! LOL
      Thanks for commenting.
      Linda

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  8. I couldn't agree with you more! I love "Spaces and Places" too, and I believe the quote you're thinking of is "How about if our theme is 'what we're learning'?" That book really changed the way I thought about designing and organizing my classroom last year, and I chose the very same colors as your freebies - yay! Can't wait to collect them all, and I will certainly have to check out your TPT collection as well. Thanks so much for brightening my day. :-)

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    1. Isn't that an awesome quote? Thanks for sharing it!
      I'm so glad that the color trio will work for you - enjoy!

      Linda

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  9. What a relief! After 21 yrs of teaching I was convinced I needed to have a full blown theme to keep up with the Joneses. For a month and a half I have been stressing over which theme to do and if I can get all the things needed for it to look right and not turn into a mess. Even thought of switching between 3 themes throughout the year so we wouldn't get bored of whatever was there from the beginning. I'm a bit OCD.

    My classroom walls have always been filled with at least 80% of my students work. Long walls for subject work and back wall for 3D projects, diorama's, etc. I would change the walls often throughout the year. Some of my students even asked me to take pictures of them by their work to show family members. They love it. Seeing so many full blown themes in blogs I did wonder where is the kids work? So much is on the walls that will be there all year which seems a bit boring to me. Then I saw Dandelions and Dragonflies room and now reading your post I have decided to stick to 3 or 4 main colors. Resources and anything themed throughout the year can be kept in tubs and brought out when needed. I always did feel good after taking the time to change my room out every now and then. Refreshing to say the least and its a nice surprise for my students when they walk in to what looks like a new room decorated with their latest work, projects, and art work. Thanks, Michelle

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    1. Oh, Michelle, I am soooo with you! Your room sounds like a delight! I think that ownership of the room has so many benefits for kids, from excitement about learning to increased responsibility (in the citizenship sense). If the teacher picks a theme that some of the students don't happen to like or care about, I'd wonder if for some children that might lead to opting out in general. If the theme is "what we're learning", then everybody has a stake in it.

      By the way, as far as being OCD, after spending much time on teacher blogs and Pinterest, I'd have to say there are a whole lot of us in that club!:)

      Thanks again for commenting!
      Linda

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  10. I am a "no theme" gal! While the classroom pictures being posted around blogland are beautiful, I have to wonder. I'd much rather have a room full of my students' work and anchor charts (which, btw, are not perfect works of art like seen on so many blogs and Pinterest boards). I'm okay with doing my best to keep my room neat, clean, organized, and attractive.

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    1. I agree, Mrs. Yazzie. All the beautiful décor in the world isn't important compared to our students being able to quickly locate the references they need on our classroom walls. I'm sure that some teachers are organized enough to accomplish both, but I know personally that not all have that degree of organization (and I'm on that list)! Time forces all of us to make choices, and our students' learning needs to be the top priority if other things, like making everything match, are getting squeezed out.

      Linda

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