This post originally appeared on the blog Secondary Sara.
There are three kinds of teacher-decorators: those who were born for Pinterest, those who can’t, and all the ones in between (such as the broke, the tired, and the I-have-no-time-to-decorate).
However, making a classroom appeal to middle and high school students doesn’t HAVE to involve serious crafting or expensive, time-intensive projects.
Check out these tips from me along with Bonnie from Presto Plans as you prepare your classroom for the fall (or at any time of year that you want to give it a boost!)
1. Have a color scheme (if you can)
Sara: My principal gave each teacher the paint for one accent wall, so that shade of turquoise inspired the rest of my blue decor: milk crates, bulletin board borders, etc. It helped unify the room to make it look pulled-together instead of random.
I’ve also learned about the importance of contrast. Even a full-blown rainbow color palette can look clean and cohesive (instead of cluttered) if you pair it with black or white to balance it out.
Bonnie: If you are looking for inspiration for colors that look great together, check out this Pinterest board. There are lots of combinations that will help you choose colors when you are shopping for classroom materials.
2. Stick to a few favorite fonts
Sara: Just like businesses create a brand, you are creating a classroom “look” or persona that you will be known for… or, at least a mood you will create. (Friendly? Professional? Fun? Minimalist?)
Try to pick a few fonts that most of your labels, signs, and other wall-hangings will consistently use. For example, I used the Google font Crushed to make and laminate labels for my whiteboard (see below), along with mint-colored painter’s tape.
3. Make your classroom library a focal point
Bonnie: Your class library should draw students in and works well as the focal point for any English classroom. Here are a few things you can do to make your library stand out:
Give bookshelves a makeover by rolling a new coat of paint on them and/or taking the shelves out and attaching wallpaper or scrapbook paper to the back.
Put a few floating shelves on the walls near your library area where you can feature particular novels recommended by students.
Add comfortable, flexible seating near a library to make it more welcoming. These items can be more expensive, so shop around online or scour garage sales until you find seating that may work.
Use old books as decorations! When a book is unusable, find a way to repurpose it. One easy way to do this is to cut out the pages and write a reading-inspired quote in black permanent marker on top of the page. Frame the page and put it on your bookshelf!
Sara: If your classroom library is small, nonexistent, or needs some attention, check out this blog post for more ideas about how to strengthen it.
4. Display student work
Bonnie: Use student work as decor by making a framed gallery wall. All you have to do is pick up some inexpensive 8×10 frames (check your dollar store) and arrange them on your wall. When you get a piece of exceptional student work, add it into the frame! If you don’t want the hassle of buying and hanging frames, order a pack of mixed color picture mats and use them to frame student work on a bulletin board.
Sara: Another way to get student work on display (while also practicing literary analysis!) is to have them complete this Quote Illustration and Analysis assignment; students use Canva (or any tool you wish) to make an inspirational or literary quote come to life. The results are stunning!
5. Use author-inspired decor
Bonnie: Find ways to incorporate the authors you will be studying into your classroom decor. You can do this by featuring fun facts or by sharing quotes by the author. For example, I use an interactive Shakespeare Hashtag of the Week bulletin display that exposes students to one quote from a Shakespeare play each week. If you don’t want to make your own, you might even consider assigning an author to each student and having them develop a bulletin display with a biography, fun facts, and quotes that you can swap out weekly.
Sara: Don’t forget to interject moments of literary ALLUSION or author-inspired inside jokes as well, like my favorite light switch art…
6. Make your posters work together
Sara: On at least one bulletin board or section of wall space, add some symmetry or consistency by hanging posters in a similar style (color, font, or other), or by displaying images that have a common theme. For example, check out these posters of stylized quotes to get some English class wisdom on your walls.
Bonnie: If you are looking for some ideas of common themes you could use for posters, try some of these ideas that could work in any English classroom: funny grammar quotes or fails, literary terms or genres, author quotes, famous lines from literature, idiomatic expressions, or jokes using puns! To read more about my favorite bulletin board ideas for middle and high ELA, check out this blog post.
|“English is Weird” poster set|
7. Make displays that are EASY to update
Sara: Two of my favorite bulletin board spaces were ones that took VERY little effort in updating, so I didn’t have the self-imposed pressure to redo the whole thing multiple times per year.
For example, my Word Nerd Challenge is quick to update on a Monday morning because all I have to do is add this week’s word to the list. (I made each word tile a magnet that can go on my whiteboard!)
I also made low-prep Quote of the Week flipbooks of reading and writing quotes, which students often asked to flip FOR me. I used Command hooks and spiral binding to hang it on a cabinet.
Secondary Sara is a middle school ELA teacher (and high school tutor) in Ohio, and Bonnie from Presto Plans is a Canadian English teacher. They write together with eight other English teachers onthe Secondary English Coffee Shop blog. Find Sara on her blog or on Instagram; visit Bonnie on her website or Instagram.