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August 19, 2015 Classroom Themes to Inspire Your School Year By Beth Newingham
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    When I’m gearing up for a new school year, I always ask myself, "What can I do to make this year most memorable for my students?"

    We all have favorite teachers and school years that quickly come to mind when we think about our own elementary school experience. When my former students come back to visit me years after they have been in my classroom, one of the main things they recall is our class theme. Whether it was The Room 13 Rock Stars, Planet 13, Team Newingham, or Studio 13, it was our theme that made the students in my class feel like a family and made my classroom feel like their home away from home.

    When choosing a class theme, I try to pick something that I can weave throughout every aspect of my school year. Read on for my ideas!


    Announce the Theme Before Students Even Arrive!

    I send my students a letter before school starts to welcome them to my classroom and introduce our theme for the school year. I create a tri-fold brochure/letter with thematic clipart, or I use a bordered paper related to my theme. My letter provides students with information about myself and describes the exciting things that will happen in our classroom during the year. I created this project in Print Shop, but you could also use Microsoft Publisher to produce a similar creation.


    Make the First Day Very Thematic!

    Welcome students to your room in a way that reflects the theme! For a Hollywood theme, roll out a red carpet. For a sports theme, wear a baseball cap and announce each “player” as if the new school year is a big game! For a space theme, have a countdown as you launch into a new school year!

    I roll out this red carpet runner to make my students feel like stars on the first day of school. You could also use red roll paper, but I liked that I could reuse this for different events throughout the school year.

    For my team theme, I purchased a set of multi-colored baseball caps and adhesive felt numbers from a fabric store. Popcorn treat boxes held sports-themed pencils, erasers, and bookmarks. Students completed a Player Profile as their first task so that I could learn more about them.

    My teaching partner and I wore caps and held director’s megaphones as we called action on a new school year. This poster was created in Print Shop and hung outside our classroom along with the students’ Hollywood photo posters.

    To add some first day flair to my classroom and make the students’ arrival more exciting, I purchased sports-themed balloons and tied them to the caddies in the middle of each table.


    Transform Your Classroom!

    Once I choose a theme, I decorate my classroom in a way that transforms our learning space in a dramatic and exciting way. I want the theme to be visible to all who enter.

    I created a mock football field using turf carpet and colored duct tape for the lines and lettering. Die-cut numbers and self-adhesive foam letters were used to personalize each student’s jersey that hangs from the ceiling.

    I created this Studio 13 Hollywood banner online. The decorative star border covered an entire wall of my classroom, and the hanging clapboards and film reels added some extra flair to the fancy scene.


    I created an "under the sea" scene in an otherwise empty area above my cupboards. I used decorative fish netting, porthole stickers, and inflatable sea creatures.

    My teacher partner’s mother took our five primary color pillows we already had in our classroom and created zippered covers for them using sports-themed fabrics. They can be easily removed when I chose another theme for a different school year.


    Create Bulletin Boards to Match Your Theme!

    I try to make some of my more permanent bulletin boards match our class theme. Personalized student photos related to the theme hang outside our classroom with thematic scene setters that help to create a dramatic backdrop.

    Whatever theme I chose for the school year, I always use dramatic scene setters to cover the walls of the hallway outside my classroom. This nautical scene setter helped me create a cruise ship display, but you can also find Hollywood scene setters, sports stadium scene setters, and rock star scene setters.

    On the first day of school, students chose from different accessories and props to dress like a rock star for a photo that will be used for this poster that hangs outside our classroom. I took the photos, cropped them in Print Shop, inserted a concert stage stock image behind the student, and personalized it with text and clip art. An easier option would be to just take students’ photos in front of a concert stage backdrop.

    This bulletin board with a red curtain and lights backdrop is located outside our classroom as a way for other students and visitors in the school to see the exciting things taking place in our classroom. I try to change the photos as often as possible to reflect our most current happenings.

    With whatever theme I choose, I also coordinate the names of my word study center rotation groups to match the theme. For my team theme, each group was named after a different sport. Signs were created in Print Shop.

    My star of the week is always named based on my theme. Rock Star of the Week (rock star theme), All-Star of the Week (sports theme), Sailor of the Week (nautical theme), and Driver of the Week (racing theme) have all been used in past years. Click HERE to learn more about how I honor my star of the week!


    Include Parents in Your Theme!

    If you send home a newsletter or maintain a class blog, rename it to match your theme for the year!

    I maintain a class blog using Blogger. While I add new posts each week to reflect what students are doing in the classroom, the overall look of the blog remains the same and reflects our class theme.  Last year we were the Room 13 All-Stars.


    I have changed my weekly parent communication from a newsletter format to a blog in past years, but I used to always give my class newsletter a title that matched our theme. Titles included Planet 13 Press (space theme), Team Newingham Tribune (sports/racing theme), and Rockin’ Room 13 Recorder (rock star theme).


    For more photos and detailed information about themes I’ve done in the past, click on the links below!

    Hollywood theme

    Rock star theme

    Nautical theme

    Team/sports theme

    Space theme

    Racing theme

    Click HERE to watch my “Extreme Classroom Makeover” video and take a virtual tour of my classroom!

    I’d love to hear from you about class themes you’ve done in the past or a new theme you are planning for the upcoming school year. Please share!


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Susan Cheyney