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Saddle Up for Second Grade: Create a Class Theme

By Nancy Jang on August 26, 2010
  • Grades: 1–2

Inspired by my online colleagues' classroom themes, this year I decided to incorporate a theme into my classroom. A classroom theme makes learning fun for the students, unifies the room decor, and gives students a sense of belonging. This post includes a slideshow video tour of my classroom from Animoto.

Photo courtesy of Scholastic.com.

The decorating and planning stage of Back to School is the perfect time to think about using a theme for the year. Students love to feel like they belong to a group and are doing something interesting and special at school. Changing themes year to year keeps everything fresh and fun.

Best in the West!

In California, second graders learn about Long Ago, Yesterday, and Today in social studies. Later, in third and fourth grade they will learn about the western expansion and California history, respectively. I thought that a western theme would fit beautifully with their current and future studies.



Animoto is the free online program that I used to put together this slide show. You can register for a free educator account that will allow you to embed the video in a website, share it on Facebook or Youtube and even burn professional looking DVDs that include still shots and video clips. It's also extremely easy to use.

As you can see in this video tour of my classroom, I am about 80 percent finished decorating and organizing. I still have a few piles here and there to take care of, but for the most part, I am finished. I ordered most of my decor online at various party sites and at Scholastic's Teacher Store.


Home on the Range

Here are some of the ways that I am integrating the western theme into the day to day happenings of our classroom. The job chart will have western-themed job names like Book Wrangler for the librarian position. Some of the bulletin board titles include Write 'Em Cowboy, Lasso a Good Book, Math Round-Up, Wild West Science, and Art Corral. Music plays throughout the day, so I will be playing some short western TV show theme music, from shows like Rawhide, and Bonanza, in class to signal transitions. We will sing "Home on the Range" or another western song before we begin our Morning Meeting. Read aloud time will feature books like Cowboy Cinderella and some tall tales about people like Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan.

I have a kid's size cowboy hat and bandanna that I will use for the students' first day of school portraits. Then using iPhoto, I plan to print the photos in a sepia tone and create a slide show for Back to School Night. The pictures will be attached to individual wanted posters that I purchased from Oriental Trading.

I'm calling our room Ranch 21 and am planning to use a cowbell as my quiet signal. I will probably dress in a  denim skirt, leather vest, cowboy hat, and boots for our first day of school and on other special occasions. The newsletter will be called The Tumbleweed Times and my Star of the Week will be the Bronc Buster of the Week. At the end of the school year, Ranch 21 will host a hoedown and my students will perform several folk songs and square dances.

Teacher's Clubhouse, which has a ton of great printable themed items, is a great source for newsletter templates and other items. There are 38 different themes and it costs about $0.99 a page.

Brent Vasicek, the Scholastic advisor for grades 35, is a pro when it comes to themes. Read his blog post about how to pick a great theme and make decorating easy. He has chosen Hollywood Entertainment as this year's theme. In previous years, the Olympics and Ocean Voyagers have been themes in his classroom.

Beth Newingham also has fabulous photos of her class themes over the years that include Space, Racing, Sports, American Idol, and the Beach. She wrote a great article about themes in her classroom.

Clutterfreeclassroom.com also has great pictures of Western, Beach and Camping themes. My Birthday Buckaroos bulletin board was inspired by her classroom.

Join me next week when I will write about some great Web 2.0 tools and educational Web sites that are easy to use and can be easily integrated into your curriculum.


Comments (18)

Trying to work on my jobs board, what other titles did you us for other jobs?

Hi Nancy-

I can across your blog when searching for ideas for a western theme. Yours is too cute and I love the video. Do mind me asking where you found or what you made that background from on the "Wild West" bulletin board. I've got to have it!!!

Thanks for sharing your great ideas

Solange, Thank you for your comment. I hope that you find a theme that fits your curriculum and your class.

Happy Teaching, Nancy

congrulations Nancy this is a great idea thank you for sharing with the others!!,maybe I will use this in the future becouse this method is very interesting for used in my country but this could be very difficult becouse the education here not let spaces for news methods for the education of childrens and this is reflected in the differents test for measure the quality of education, this idea could be change this becouse a some theme in particular maybe can keep the childrens focus and ineresting in class. Again thank you very much Nancy I expected use your idea with a special theme in my country like for example “the naval battle of Iquique” a date very popular in my country chile.

Julie, Thank you so much for visiting my blog! I'm glad you are using a theme too. Feel free to steal any ideas. I bought most of my stuff online at Scholastic and at party store sites.

Happy Trails, Nancy Jang

Love the Western Theme! I just might have to copy the idea, since I am teaching 3rd grade this year. It is the perfect theme for our entire curriculum. Thank you for sharing! Also thank you for reminding me about Animoto. It's a wonderful tool to use with students and parents. Check out Wordle.com (endless possibilities). Truly appreciate the inspiring blog posts!

Thanks for the great idea Brent! I will probably use the "Ranch 21- Yeehaw" idea~! I'm also naming table groups things like, "Dodge City" and "Tombstone".

Happy Teaching, Nancy

Allie, The slide show is super easy. Animoto really does the work for you and it looks great. I burn a copy of my end of the year DVD for the kids that has pics and video. If you have any questions about it, let me know!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

Nancy - what a great blog. I love your slide show and I am going to try to put one together too. Your classroom looks like so much fun. Yeehaw!!

Nice job thinking of western names for items in the classroom including Ranch 21. Don't forget to make a call back to get their attention. For example, when you say "Ranch 21" they say "Yee Haw" or "Roudin' em up." If you use this call back sparingly, it is a great management tool.

Maggie, Thank you for your comment. I am really looking forward to the big reveal on the first day of school!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

Stephanie, What themes have you done in the past? I'm really enjoying decorating and planning my first week around fun get to know you activities with Western in mind. Thank you so much for visiting the blog!

Happy Teaching! Nancy

Martha, Thanks for visiting! I'm really excited this year to have a theme to carry through the year. I hope you keep visiting the blog. Thanks for your comment!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

I love the sports theme! It was one of the ones that I was thinking about over the summer. There are so many awesome ways to bring teamwork in to teaching and make learning even more fun. Thanks for your comment!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

Love the theme, I have the sports theme this year focusing on teamwork. It does make the room come together and adds fun to the everyday task.

Great ideas Nancy! I love the way you're incorporating the theme all across your classroom and in so many ways!

sooo cute.... maybe I'll try a theme this year.... haven't done that in years, but love the idea! Kudos to you! :)

I love the theme. It really does help the students make a connection to the classroom.

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