With literally an endless amount of classroom decorating ideas, you’re only limited by the imaginations of you, your co-workers, and of course, your students.
In most cases, you’re given a small budget for classroom decorations for the year.
But fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of money to do some of the things we’ll discuss in this article.
You’ll have to go pretty far back in your mind to remember how your classrooms were decorated, but without question, a few things probably stand out.
You probably stared at the decorations constantly during a boring school lesson, and likely you even helped decorate the classroom yourself.
And that’s the beauty of classroom decorating: it’s interactive, inexpensive, and unlimited.
Whether it’s the beginning of your school year, between sessions, or any time of the year at all, it’s never too late to spice up your classroom with some nifty decor. Take a gander at our laundry list of classroom decorating ideas, and pick a few that you like. Have fun with it!
You’ve constantly heard me say that the first step in decorating any room or event is to pick a theme.
The same holds true for classrooms, but what makes decorating for classrooms so great is that you can change the themes all the time.
Your kitchens and bedrooms are far more expensive to decorate, so for your home it makes sense to keep your themes for several years before changing them.
But in the classroom, it’s different.
First of all, kids get bored easily. If they see the same decorations day in and day out, they will zone out and lose interest. Second of all, classrooms thrive on cheap decor that wouldn’t necessarily fit in your home. For example, bulletin boards and poorly done art would look tacky in your kitchen. But in the classroom, the tackier the better. You can pepper the walls with all sorts of silly, wacky nonsense, and then change it the next month if you want.
In other words, your classroom is NOT your bedroom. So go crazy, go cheap, go wild, and then go and do it again next month all over again.
Classroom Decorating Themes
A few rules of thumb when deciding which theme(s) to go with:
1) Know your audience. A Sesame Street theme would not go over well with 10th graders. Make sure your theme is appropriate for the age group you’re teaching.
2) Know your lesson plan. The best themes are those that are related to your lesson plan in some way. If you’re teaching about Native Americans, for example, that’s a theme right there you could do. But don’t decorate with Pocahontas if you’re teaching a Geometry class.
Ask your students which theme they want. And then involve them in soliciting classroom decorating ideas.
4) Don’t obsess over it. Remember, if you’re not crazy about the decorating theme, you can always change it the following month.
You might have up to 10 themes per year, so there are plenty of opportunities to try all the ones you like.
5) You’re a teacher, not a decorator. This is your principal talking. Make sure the time you spend decorating the classroom doesn’t interfere with the job you were hired to do, which is to teach. It’s far more important that your class learns the lesson plans, so always be sure to make that your top priority.
With those points in mind, it’s time to explore the wonderful world of classroom decorating ideas and themes. Here are plenty to get you started:
Holidays. Decorating classrooms for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and St. Patrick’s Day is especially fun for kids and a great idea for a theme.
The types of decorations are unlimited and you can save the decorations year after year without any problem (thus saving your budget for other things).
For Thanksgiving, you could even have students dress up as pilgrims and Native Americans, and you could even serve a Thanksgiving feast. This will give students an appreciation of history and gratitude (which even some adults could use a refresher course on).
Christmas classroom decorating is by far the easiest to get young students interested in. Why? Because they already love Christmas for the presents they get. There’s something appealing about getting free stuff at any age.
Christmas is where you can really go wild, buying your own tree (opt for fake over real; it’s easier to maintain and not as messy) and having kids create arts and crafts as gifts for their fellow students. If space is limited, you can always buy much smaller trees. Spend a day where students decorate the tree with ornaments they make themselves.
Halloween provides an opportunity for the most creative classroom decorating ideas.
Valentine’s Day is also fun, depending on the age of the students.
Surely most of us remember getting valentine’s in grade school, and because it was coordinated by the teachers, none of us left empty-handed and all of us had valentines.
Please visit our Holiday Decor section for more detailed ideas for holiday decorations. We’ve got dozens and dozens of cool ideas in that section for all sorts of holidays.
Seasons. For those of you who plan on decorating less frequently than once a month, seasonal decorating is a great, convenient classroom decorating idea and theme.
What many teachers don’t realize is that you needn’t necessarily decorate for the season that you’re currently in. If we all did that, then we could never decorate for summer (except in summer school, I suppose). On the contrary, students depressed by the dreary winter weather may very well love decorating the classroom with suns, beaches, picnics, watermelons, and other summer related themes.
Each season lends itself to plenty of cool decorative accessories, so decide how you want to do it (or again, ask the students how they want to do it), and indulge.
Lessons. If you really want your students to learn, nothing beats basing your classroom decorating ideas and themes around the lessons you are currently teaching in class.
Since your lessons almost certainly include elements of audio and visual, then decorating the lesson will make everything sink in that much more.
We won’t get into every subject here, but common sense should dictate the kinds of things you could do. Reading a particular book? Decorate using the characters and storylines. Learning the alphabet? Decorate with the letters. Teaching basic geography? Decorate a map. Use your imagination.
Classroom decorating ideas based around lessons is a tremendous idea, but does require more maintenance. When the lesson is over, you need to take down the decorations and make room for the next ones. Nobody wants to see decorations about basic addition and subtraction when they’ve already moved on to fractions and decimals. So be prepared to be very active if you go this route. But if you’re up for it, this kind of theme is extremely effective.
Western. One interesting classroom decorating idea is to do a Western theme. At some point in our grade school teachings, we learn about the Wild West. When that time comes, play it up with all kinds of Western decor that the kids can really get into. Remember, decorating the classroom is not just for fun. It really is a learning experience. Make them live it and they will learn it.
Jungle. A jungle classroom decorating theme allows for all sorts of fun ideas. The jungle brings to mind wild animals and scenes of nature; both of which are essential learning for young students. Enable them to learn all about wildlife and the beauty of nature by asking them to decorate based on a jungle theme.
Kids are no strangers to jungles, as several movie and television characters and shows are related to the jungle. Use those characters, and you can increase their interest even further. For some ideas to get you started, check out some African safari decor.
Outer space. Times have changed since you and I were in school and it was just the Milky Way with nine planets. Outer space makes for a classroom decorating idea that’s out of this world.
The theme almost decorates itself. Plaster a wall with stars, black space, and have fun with each of the planets. Create a large sun and label each planet, the moon, the rings of Saturn, the Big Dipper, rocket ships, you get the idea. Students won’t be able to take their eyes off these decorations.
For creative thinking, ask students to come up with characters like aliens, astronauts, UFOs, comets, and such. An outer space theme is so much fun and effective that it should probably stay up for quite a few months.
Even if they aren’t, the objects associated with barns and farms reach so far and wide that it provides ample opportunity to decorate in an area that relates well to young students.
With the barn as your theme, it’s open season on animals. You can include pictures and art featuring cows, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, and even exotic animals like emus and buffalo. Don’t forget other barn standbys like milk, hay, rakes, straw, eggs, and so on.
What a wonderful way to learn about life, animals, the food chain, responsibility, and hard work.
TV/Movie Characters. In academia, television and movies are seen as the enemy. I’ve never quite figured out why, but it’s probably because kids have fun with those things, and to academic types, having fun means that you’re not learning.
Nonsense. It’s all about how you teach the kids. While your principal may frown on using TV and movie characters as a classroom decorating idea or theme, your students will surely feel differently. In fact, using characters they know and love will increase their interest and participation dramatically. That’s the problem with school: kids see school as trying to keep them away from what they enjoy. By embracing it, they instead see school as cool, and this makes them more receptive to learning.
There’s something useful and valuable to learn from almost anything. Ask your nieces and nephews who the modern television and movie characters are, familiarize yourself with them, determine something about them that relates to your lesson plan, and then incorporate them into your teachings and classroom decorations. It’s almost guaranteed to work.
This theme grabs the kids’ attention. Instead of daydreaming about their favorite show when they get home from school, they will be living it in the place they’re supposed to hate: school. As a result, they won’t hate school, they will embrace it. And by doing that, they learn. Try it and see how it works!
It’s imperative that students pay attention to the news and current events, and what makes that challenging is that kids simply aren’t interested in the news.
It’s easy to see why; they’re not affected by it in the way that adults are. For the most part, they don’t pay income taxes, they don’t have to manage a budget, they don’t pay the house bills, and they don’t worry about getting a full-time job yet.
Plus, thanks to hormones, they are far more interested in dating and trying to be cool. It’s a phase and a battle you can’t win, so don’t try.
Where teachers fail in this regard is that they don’t acknowledge or understand why kids don’t care about current events. If you openly acknowledge this instead of obsessing over the latest current event, then you’ve earned their trust and credibility. Then your only job is to explain to them in teenage terms how the current events affect them directly. They still won’t care, but by doing that, you stand a fighting chance.
And don’t get political. In this day and age, all a student has to do is film you venting against any political party, post it on Youtube, and you lose your job. Present the news in a fair and balanced manner, and don’t teach with a hidden agenda.
Miscellaneous Classroom Decorating Ideas
The bulletin board. Many experts advise using the class bulletin board as the focal point of the room. That is good advice, just as every room in your home should have a focal point as well.
If it’s constantly changing with something new, kids (and parents) will check it every day to see what is new. If it grows stale, then their interest wanes. Don’t let it become stale.
However, do not limit yourself to the bulletin board. The board is good for news on the school and class, but limited in decorating potential.
Classroom decorating ideas should emanate from all corners of the room. The ceiling, the floor, the walls, the windows, the doors, the desks, the shelves… use it all. But don’t overwhelm, either. A room with every inch bursting with loud decorations will disrupt the students’ learning. Remember that “less is more,” and that you have all year to use your decorating ideas. Change them frequently and you’ll be able to tap into all that creativity in your head.
Change the layout. Wanna shake things up and throw your students for a loop? Change the layout of the room every few months or so. Move the desks, move the teachers’ desks, move the bulletin boards, and make the room almost unrecognizable from the way it was before.
Why do this? Because it keeps them guessing and piques their interest. Yes, there is something to be said for familiarity. If this all sounds like too much or if this idea doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t feel like you need to do it. There are plenty of ways to shake things up using other classroom decorating ideas, and none of them include moving your furniture.
But if you’re the kind of person who likes change, then this is a great option. You can even involve the students in designing the new layout.
Nothing makes people (students or not) appreciate the world, its cultures, and diversity like seeing just how big it is, right in front of their eyes on a daily basis.
Blow up a large map of the world and pin it against the wall. If you really want to involve the students, try this idea: Make a list of all the students in the class and take note of each of their backgrounds.
We live in a diverse world, and your students will likely have backgrounds from all over the world. You can put the students’ names (and pictures) on the map next to the country their families are from. For students who have a mixed background, their names and/or photos can appear in as many countries as they’re from.
This involves all the students and gives them an appreciation for people of all backgrounds.
Class mascot. For fun, choose a class mascot, or if there is one, use the school mascot. Make that mascot a centerpiece for your classroom decorating ideas, themes, and decorations.
For example, if your school’s mascot is a grizzly bear, then have a section of the wall that lists bear facts. Use the bear as a character in your lessons and decorations. This builds school pride, encourages team solidarity, and is a fun way to learn about the mascot. If students like the mascot, they will like what the mascot has to say. Use that to your advantage when teaching them the lessons of the day.
Storage. Make your classroom decorating ideas functional, too. You’ll of course need places to store all your supplies, decorations, and other tangible items. Who says you have to use plain old boxes?
Try clear plastic bins, and decorate them with what belongs in the bin (to help identify them). Decorate the bins with Christmas decorations if that’s what they contain. No bins? Then use shoe boxes, cereal boxes, crates, or cardboard storage.
The point is, make it different and exciting. You can even bring in a local storage expert to give a speech on how to conserve and save space for maximum storage.
You tell me: isn’t that a lesson we could ALL learn? Even those of us in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond??
Art. This is a no-brainer and something you probably already have in your classroom decorating arsenal. Kids in school are always painting, drawing, coloring, or what have you. Take their creations and post them on the wall.
Be sure to include all the kids’ art, even if it’s not good. Students will take pride in pointing out which piece is theirs. This grabs their attention, and anything that grabs the attention of students is a good thing.
If space permits, each student can have a section of the wall catered to him/her, with decorations of things the student is interested in.
It becomes a mini shrine to their personality, emphasizing individuality and character. And birthdays help with that, because it makes them feel special.
Just be sure to celebrate birthdays that might be in the summer, even if school will closed during the summer. No one should feel excluded.
Pen pals. In a world not too long ago, people communicated with a pen, paper, envelope, and postage stamp. Today, tap a few keys on a keyboard and you can be in real-time communication with someone thousands of miles from you.
As such, the idea of pen pals is a little outdated for today’s kids. But what isn’t outdated is you contacting a class in a foreign country, or even inside your home country, and having your students communicate with their students. Students can pair up with another student, and then rotate. Doing this, they can meet 20 to 40 other students in a place far away from home.
That’s great, you say, but what does that have to do with decorating the classroom? Lots, actually. You can post the names and pictures of those students, just as you did your own. You can make whatever city/state/country that class is from as your theme, at least for awhile. Make them learn the culture, history, and background of the students they’re communicating with so far away.
Rules. One way to get kids to follow and obey the rules is to allow them to set them themselves. Work with them to come up with they think is a fair set of rules (make sure they conform to the school’s policies), within reason. And then post those rules all over the walls.
Get creative and post decorative accessories that are related to each rule (for example, if no gum chewing is allowed, decorate with empty gum boxes). This will build their respect for authority, without making them feel like prisoners. It also allows them to stare at the rules every day, reinforcing them in their heads, and this helps them learn right from wrong.
Making rules interactive is a great way to build mutual respect with students, and will go a long way in making it a much easier school year for you.
The “green” room: A very modern and progressive classroom decorating idea is the green room. No, not a room where talk show guests huddle before they come on the air. By “green,” we mean environmentally friendly. Few topics are as timely and newsworthy as green living.
Sustainability and green living are here to stay, and are only going to become more and more a part of our lives as the world expands. Why not start ‘em young by teaching them about recycling, conserving, and protecting the resources of our environment?
You can design classroom exercises that allow students to create art made from recycled materials. You can make a long list of “green” ideas and put them on a large piece of paper (better make that recycled paper) posted on the wall. Challenge each student, or a group of students, to come up with one or two green ideas. Set aside an area of the room where you have small pieces of materials that are recyclable, and include pictures of how each item actually gets recycled.
Depending on your budget and prowess with taking care of other life forms, you could have pet rabbits, spiders, frogs, fish, rodents, or other furry friends that kids will like.
Granted, this isn’t for everyone, but if it is, then go for it. I recall watching a caterpillar morph into a butterfly before my very eyes in kindergarten, and it helped me love and appreciate nature. Do the same and you might have the same effect on some of your students.
You could then decorate using your pet as the theme, posting fun facts about him/her, and challenging students to come up with arts and crafts related to their new “classmate.”
We’ve just scratched the surface on the possibilities of classroom decorating ideas that you can incorporate into your own class.
There are an infinite number of things you can do, and we hope we’ve sparked a good idea or two inside you.
If there’s one last thing we’d like to say, it is this: ARCHIVE YOUR CREATIONS! Take pictures of your themes and classroom decorating ideas before you take them down.
Keep a scrapbook that contains photos of all your creations, and show them to students in future classes for years to come.
Better yet, film them. Film your students, film them making the decorations, and film the final result. Keep an archive of all your media and save them for posterity. You’ll be glad you did, trust me.