Monday, July 22, 2019

Make the Most of Your Classroom Theme

Hi, Teaching Friends!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase via a link, it will not add to the cost of your purchase.

When do thoughts of your new classroom start filling your daydreams (and invading your nighttime dreams, too)? Are you a midsummer planner, or one of those (okay, this one was always me!) who starts planning the next year while the current one is still going on? Are you doing a complete classroom makeover, or tweaking what you already have in place? How are you going to make the most of your classroom theme this year?

The first question of all, of course, is whether you'll even use a theme.  In my classrooms over the years, I wasn't a theme girl.  I had trouble getting my head around how I was going to bring seasonal things into a theme like space or penguins. It just seemed easier at the time to use colors as my theme.  You can read here about how I did that here.

But do I admire people who do cohesive and cute themes well?  I sure do!!  There are some amazing photos on Pinterest of teachers who've used clever and attractive themes, and done them beautifully!

So, in all this pondering that I've been doing about themes, I started wondering about ways that a classroom theme can be integrated into the curriculum throughout the year.  

Here are a few that you might like to try!

One idea is to search TpT for clipart that fits your theme. With so much there, you can probably find a reasonably priced set for whatever theme you've chosen. I'd recommend looking for a set that includes clips in both color and blackline.  Not all color clipart will show up well when printed in black and white, but that's fine, because so many artists have sets that give you the option of both.

How can you use the clipart you purchase?  Even if you don't make any of your own resources, I'll bet you send home a newsletter, or print up an occasional simple something like spelling lists or math sheet of your own. Just copy and paste a little cowboy, or penguin, or bear, or whatever fits your theme at the top of the page to make it a bit more interesting for your kiddos!

Another easy way to integrate your theme with your curriculum is to get a mini-mascot, like a small stuffed animal, that fits your theme. Put your mascot in your writing center and have your students...

  • Draw a picture of your mascot and label the picture.
  • Write a list of questions you'd like to ask your mascot.
  • Write a letter to your mascot to invite... or to thank... or to explain... lots of options!

Another fun activity is to turn your mini-mascot into a Take Home Pet. Put your little guy into a little tote bag, along with a notebook/journal and cute pencil. Your students will love taking him home and working with an adult to write a little about its adventures. Journal entries in my class ranged from "We watched TV" to a detailed saga of every event from the time they went out the classroom door until bedtime.

Are you wondering where you'll find a stuffed animal to be a mascot for your theme?  Put on your creative kids' thinking cap! Here are a few thoughts!  Sports: use a bobblehead, or just draw a face on a ball.  Hollywood/movies: create a movie star by putting sunglasses on a Beanie Baby. Cats: Everybody's favorite, Pete, is available as an 8 inch tall stuffed character, or you might want to take a plain old cat stuffed toy, but send him home in a special Pete tote bag!

Did you notice those cute little pups in the picture above? They're mini-erasers, from Target, of course! If you happen to pass through the Dollar Spot, be sure to look for little treasures like these to coordinate with your theme!

How can you use mini-erasers? Well, that would have to be a whole 'nother blogpost, but for starters...

  • As shown in the photo, use them for game playing pieces.
  • Use them in sensory bins. Picking up mini-erasers with tweezers is super for fine motor development!
  • If you have several kinds of erasers that fit your theme (there were four kinds of dog erasers the day that I bought these!!), mix up a bunch in a bowl or bag. Your students can grab a big handful of erasers and graph them!
  • Use them to build numbers. Two ten frames (make them quickly with tape on a desk) plus a handful of your themed erasers is great for working with teen numbers.
  • Use mini-erasers as math manipulatives for solving or creating problems.

Can't find the erasers you need at Target? Be sure to check out the mini-erasers at Oriental Trading. I'm not an affiliate, just a fan of the selection. I bought this exact set probably about 15 years ago. Hey, it's got pups in it! And fish for your ocean theme, and balls for your sports theme, and ... :)

As you can see, you don't have to be tremendously creative or spend a lot of time coming up with ways to connect your classroom theme to your curriculum. It's all about thinking of ways to keep learning fun!

If you're interested in math games that will help you make the most of your classroom theme, I have a number of them in my TpT store. Here are a few - just click on any of the pictures to see the details!


Click here to see more game collections for classroom themes like superheroes, dogs, bees, camping, and the beach, at both kindergarten and first grade levels. If you're interested in a set but don't see your theme, please leave a comment below and I'll put your theme on my to-do list!

Happy Teaching!

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