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Alycia

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I live in Illinois

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The Big 10: Extreme Classroom Makeover, Part 1

By Lindsey Petlak on August 28, 2013
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

In my 10 years as an educator, I’ve taught in four different school districts and four schools. The classrooms have been both mammoth and miniscule, new and old, and well maintained and dilapidated. Even when I stayed in the same school for four years, I had to change classrooms three times. Needless to say, I know how you feel as you prep your room for the new school year. And I’ve learned a lot about how to set up a stellar room without losing my mind. So, follow these steps to "Keep Calm and Carry On!"


1. Imagine the Possibilities

For the past three years, I’ve worked in an amazing school that was built during the mid-20th century. As with any older building (especially a school filled with hundreds of children), it has its fair share of “weathering.” When my husband walked into my “new” room, I thought he was going to be sick! Summer camp had just ended, all of the bulletin boards were covered with tarps, and what was underneath needed to be removed. The room was coated in kid grime, old tape, and adhesive residue, and the walls desperately needed a coat of paint. It was over 85 degrees in the room, and the previous teacher had not moved out her items yet because she was still on vacation. This was going to be a much bigger and more difficult job than we anticipated!

Despite the gloom and doom, I was thrilled. This room was huge compared to the smaller rooms in the previous, more newly-built schools I have taught in. Due to its age, the design had unique features. I saw endless possibilities within this space and can honestly say that it is my favorite classroom to date for many reasons.

Whether you are changing schools, classrooms, or just revamping your current room, open your eyes and imagine the possibilities. Pretend you’re on an HGTV show where they transform frighteningly awful spaces into somewhere you would love to live. If you can do that, your space can become terrific.


2. Start With a Clean Slate

Take it from someone who spent NINE non-air conditioned HOURS (yes, I kept track) scraping old tape off shelving in my current room...it’s worth the time and elbow grease to start the year with a spotless space. Prior to putting up bulletin boards, setting up your furniture layout, and certainly before children come storming through your doors, I recommend this list of tasks to start the year spic and span:

  • Remove all tape and any other adhesive residue. I use a paint scraper and Goo Gone.

  • Declutter old papers and broken or unused items.

  • Clean grime from walls, desks, tables, chairs, cabinets and shelves, counter tops, and handles. I recommend Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.

  • Ask a custodian to repair and paint walls, or do it yourself (with permission, of course).

   


3. Lay On a Base Coat

In order to make your classroom displays and student work pop, you need a simple “base coat” to work with. Through my study of the philosophies of Susan Kovalik and The Center for Effective Learning, I have realized that keeping the background color and border paper of every bulletin board consistent has a major impact on your room.  

Everything you put on those boards throughout the year will stand out and be easier to see if the background and borders of your display are not distracting. The boards in your room will have a unified appearance, and students will not be over-stimulated by flashy colors or busy patterns. Currently, I have sky blue fabric (I HIGHLY recommend investing in fabric for multi-year use) and plain black border paper on all of my bulletin boards. Sounds boring? Not at all. Try it and you’ll see!


4. Keep Function Foremost

My favorite part of room setup is the decorating. However, I realize function is of foremost importance. I like to have my cake and eat it, too, so I strive to weave function and style together seamlessly.

  • Designate sections of your room for specific subject areas or functions, such as the reading nook, writing station, or math center.

  • Make your bulletin boards purposeful and interactive, if possible.

  • De-clutter: if it’s not integral for student or teacher use, get rid of it.

  • Whether you believe in feng shui or not, the flow of your room is vital. Students should be able to move freely, so set up your furniture in a way to facilitate flow.


5. Start Styling

Whether you’re decorating your room based on colors, patterns, or a theme, weave that style throughout. I used to have cute, but mismatched décor throughout my classroom. I would also slave over changing my décor numerous times throughout the year. C-R-A-Z-Y. Establishing a year-long theme in my classroom and weaving those design elements throughout my entire space, has rocked my world in the best ways possible!

  • Let’s face it, we often spend more time in our classrooms than our own homes and so do our students! Create a place that’s warm, inviting, and reflects YOU.

  • Minimize student over-stimulation from mismatched décor.

  • Setting up foundational décor one time rather than numerous times throughout the year allowed me to focus more attention on curriculum and student management.

  • Since I use a theme in my room (Retro Road Trip), leaving the same base décor up all year provides a more immersive student experience.

  • Incorporate student artwork to provide a sense of ownership.


SNEAK PEEK: Check out my in-progress classroom makeover slideshow, and stay tuned for Part 2 (Tips 6-10), showcasing the full reveal and VIDEO TOUR of my completed classroom makeover!

*2013-2014 Extreme Classroom Makeover "Sneak Peek" Slideshow

Want to see what my finished classroom makeover looked like last year? Check out my 2012-2013 extreme classroom makeover slideshow for more ideas.

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