Creating a Calm and Content Rich Classroom - Decorating My New Space

10 August 2023

The countdown is on.  After 22 years at the school I started at, I'm moving to a new school this year.  Like any good introvert, the prospect of change is a scary one for me, so I'm excited that my new school isn't so new to me.  In fact, I'm heading to my own kids' elementary school ... and MY old elementary school.  I do enjoy a whole full circle thing.  ;) 

While packing up my old classroom, I decided to change my classroom theme and colours.  I thought this would help me purge more, but the stacks of boxes in my basement report that was a lie.  Oh well.

If you're redecorating your classroom, or just starting out in upper elementary, I have a few back to school classroom decor tips for you, and I will be back to share more as my class comes together to match the calm and organized classroom vision in my head.

1.  Set the Tone with a Calm Atmosphere

Creating a soothing classroom environment is crucial for students to feel comfortable and engaged.  Consider using a soft, neutral colour palette for your walls or bulletin boards, that way you can make the important academic pieces POP on your board, rather than compete with bright colours everywhere.  Cozy rugs or pillows, soft lighting like fairy lights or table lamps, and different textures and fabrics work together to create a sensory calming space that encourages relaxation and focus.

In my new room, all the walls and bulletin boards were painted the exact same bland beige tan colour.  Like, the whole room.  I was going for neutral, but that's a bit much.  I also know my classroom may change in a year or two so I didn't want to take on repainting.  Instead I chose a calming neutral colour theme that matches the walls, and chose to not paper the bulletin boards.  Not buying bulletin board paper leaves me a little extra to get some fun touches for the room that I can't wait to show off a little later when they're done.

I'm using a combination of "Everyone is Welcome" and "Home Sweet Classroom" pieces from Teacher Created Resources to create this calming classroom atmosphere, and adding in some extra special pieces to spark learning and joy.  In an upper elementary classroom, I don't worry as much about an overall decor theme as much as I try to pull together a pleasing colour scheme with matching decor pieces when possible.

2.  Thoughtful Wall Displays

THIS is where the magic happens.  Decorating these wall spaces, like bulletin boards, is very important.  You know your students and their needs better than anyone, so make sure the information on boards is important, relevant, and engaging.  Plan bulletin board displays around their actual work spaces so it is a content-rich classroom environment they can pull from when working.

This is the start of my math wall.  Yes, that's a big chalkboard (it's actually twice that length).  Apparently 50 year old classrooms still have these.  haha.  I used a roll of whiteboard wall sticker to make 6 "thinking boards" for the wall, and this is where groups of 2 - 3 will work on problem-solving while other students work with me, independently, or in small groups.  These groups are always rotated.  

I want to provide students with useful tools while working at the boards, so the first thing I created for my math wall are these Factor and Multiple Number Posters.  I've seen the great skip-counting number posters on classroom walls on instagram, but I knew I wanted something where students could see BOTH factors and multiples, so I made some.  My students really need this visual reference in the classroom.  I will be adding our math response goals next.

My language wall is huge and will need to be divided into smaller sections for morphology, writing. and reading.  I'm actually quite excited about all the space I have.  Since cursive writing is coming back into the curriculum, a new alphabet was put up first.  And then I started on the borders (keeping the same neutral calming theme through all the borders).  As I was finishing up the borders, I got the idea to turn my grammar dots into a fantastic bulletin board border, and I absolutely LOVE how it turned out.  This Grammar Dot Bulletin Board Border includes 45 common grammar errors - ones that I definitely want my students to be aware of as they're writing.  My students used my old grammar dots all the time in the classroom, but the sizes and colours wouldn't work for me this year, so this new resource is perfect.  I can't wait to get back into my classroom and hang it up!

And lastly for today, my agenda wall.  This space is SO important in my classroom - we refer to it all the time, so I wanted it to have the same matching colour theme.  Again, more blackboards, so I ordered magnetic borders this time.  I don't like the way paper borders hold up on blackboards that get cleaned all the time (even when laminated).  This 'motherboard' has everything - our daily agenda, homework, reminders, new vocabulary, learning goals, and catch-up space.  I even started to include our "You Try / I Try" spelling technique on the board last year - just another way to keep them looking at the board.  You will notice I don't have the times beside the subject labels on the agenda board.  Totally intentional.  I have found that when the times are listed, that's all the students pay attention to.  The last 10 minutes of the class are spent watching the clock rather than in lesson consolidation, and that's not an awesome thing.  And I frequently run over time in some lessons, and borrow time from other lessons, and that's perfectly ok.  But the students would struggle with this if I had the subject times on the board.  So, a few years ago I kept the agenda schedule, but ditched the times, and it's perfect.  Students look at it first thing every day, even if it is just to check if we have gym that day. ;)  My Agenda Board Subject Labels resource contains over 40 different labels and subjects, so you're sure to be covered.  Better yet, assign it as a student job and have them post the agenda cards each day.  I leave all the extra cards in a magnetic cup holder beside the schedule.

That's it for now, but I'll keep sharing tips and ideas as I get my new space set up.  Happy Back to School!

You can take a peek at some of my newest resources by clicking on the pictures below.

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