While every classroom should reflect the personality of the teacher who teaches in it, there are a few additions that will add some creativity and interest to any classroom. These will give your students something different to observe and will help to create a more enticing learning environment. Here are five of my favorites.
Something on the ceiling This can be a kite, a Chinese lantern, fabric, or painted ceiling tiles. Students will spend about 1,000 hours in your classroom. Give them something thought-provoking and interesting to view above their heads. If it is nearer to the front of the room, more students will be able to see it.
While most of us have a bookshelf (or two or three) in our classrooms, many of those books often never leave the shelf. Each week, pull a few good storybooks and a few books on whatever topics you are studying in science or history off the shelf. (Right now we are studying mammals and early American history, so I’ve got several books on mammals and indiginous peoples inside my reading teepee.)
About once a week (I usually do this on Monday), take a minute or two in the morning to give a brief description of each book you’ve selected as you hold them up one by one, and then set them where all the students can see them at the front of your classroom, even if they are leaning against the wall on the floor. Spread them out so they can all see the titles. You’ll be surprised how many of those books will get read at various times throughout the day.
Learning should be creative and interesting at times.While some students will be happy with just reading, most are more hands-on learners. Find some puzzles, educational games, art supplies, and anything else you can find that is edifying and will cause your students to think, using their hands and brains in other ways. Have a special place in your room where these can be accessed by students. These should only be available to them when all their work is finished. I’ve even required students to have good grades before they could leave their desks and do something like this if I felt that they were rushing through their work to get to do another learning activity. (i.e., All work must be completed with a grade of 93 or higher before students can leave their seats to get a learning activity. Then I’d write the names of the students who did meet the requirement on the board.)
An alternative place to sit
As teachers, we get to walk around our rooms wherever and whenever we want while we teach. Do you remember what it was like to be a student and to go from class to class and just sit? I really enjoyed school, and I love to learn, but I remember just sitting and sitting and sitting at the same desk and it did get old. Besides moving students’ seats around fairly often (which does help), it is nice to have another place in your classroom for students to move to and to enjoy a different place and view of the classroom (when all their work is done and their grades are good, of course.) This can be as simple as two folding chairs in a corner, but it will make a difference. Crates, stools, or benches can also be used. I know of two teachers who had clawfoot bathtubs with pillows inside them in their classrooms.
It is also helpful to go through the class alphabetically and let one student a day sit in the “special seat.” The students can keep track of whose turn it is so that you don’t have to. They will all look forward to their day, and it will create not only a more attractive, but also a more upbeat atmosphere in your room that you and your students will enjoy.
Something on the walls other than posters
Thrift stores abound with inexpensive framed art. Hang your students’ artwork, tapestries, or anything on the wall, but have something there besides a poster or two so that your students will have something interesting to view and to spark their interests.
A few simple additions like these can transform the atmosphere in your classroom for the better. Instead of blank white walls and ceilings, your students can enjoy interesting things to view and experience, and new places in which to do these. I have found that rather than detract from learning in my classroom, these additions actually enhanced it. Plus, they and you will greatly enjoy the change of pace.