Thursday, July 11, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Thinking about Themes

Hi, Teaching Friends!

I'm linking up with Cara Carroll at The First Grade Parade again today for Throwback Thursday, a chance to look back at some popular posts of the past. So many bloggers are sharing favorites - it's fun to see some of the posts I've missed in the past, all in one spot!

Back about a year ago, I was thinking a lot about all of the amazing classroom themes that were popping up... and they are even more so now!  I'd like to share a post from June 22, 2012. 

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 2 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 that many of my students were already quite adept with the grid!

Click on the image to get your set at TPT!


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

Happy Teaching!

Thanks for joining me in this flashback!

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