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August 26, 2010 Saddle Up for Second Grade: Create a Class Theme By Nancy Jang
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

    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. 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.



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Susan Cheyney