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August 13, 2013 Going Places with a Journey-Themed Classroom By Shari Edwards
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    When I decided to give my classroom a "Journey" theme last year, it didn’t take me long to realize how rich and adaptable it would be. I began developing my theme a few months before school started and had time to ask friends for help in gathering some of what I needed while they were doing their summer traveling.  They brought me maps and travel brochures and several beautiful, old suitcases that were being discarded.



    Journey Décor

    • Old Suitcases — Use these in place of small tables. I find they also make great for extra storage, too!
    • Globes — You will want a large and current globe for geographical studies, but also look for small, individual globes to place around the room.
    • Maps and Travel Brochures — Laminate these and they will last for several years.
    • Map Carpets — I have one large, colorful map of the United States, and a smaller one from a toy store that is meant to be used with toy cars.
    • Luggage Tags — I place these tags on lanyards for hall and restroom passes.
    • Directional Tools — Use compasses, direction signs, and other travel motif items throughout the classroom.
    • Student List — Outside the door, above a little bench where another suitcase sits, my students names are listed on a poster titled “Passenger List.”
    • Bulletin Boards — These are reserved for maps and displays about places and travels.

    stuffed bear in New York garb sitting in front of books about New York

    Learning Through the Journey Theme

    • Journey Bear — This is a stuffed bear that has traveled thousands of miles with me. I use him to engage my students in learning to read maps and also in counting lessons.
    • Postcards  — Each month my students write a short entry in a notebook about their trip through 2nd grade. At the end of the year, we turn these notebooks into a travel book.
    • Concierge — Each day, one student assumes the role of our daily classroom helper, or concierge. This student is responsible for all jobs during that day and for keeping our travel log
    • Packing Our Skills for the Year — At the first of the year, we use this unit to jump start our skills for the year.
    • Music with a travel or location theme — I brought New York State of Mind, a book by Billy Joel that includes a CD of the song by the same name he wrote and recorded. My students love to practice their handwriting with this song in the background and they now have a copy of the lyrics in their notebooks so they can follow along. Look for a future post on using different genres of music in the classroom.
    • Souvenirs — I use a representative object from each unit that I display in the classroom as a reminder of where we have been during the year.




    Incorporating Journey Vocabulary Every Day

    After reviewing the dictionary definitions of various travel-related words, we then use them as part of our classroom nomenclature. Below is a sampling of how we incorporate them.

    • Expedition — field trip
    • Itinerary — schedule
    • Routes — paths we take to get around the building
    • Check-in — morning
    • Take-off  — go home
    • Excursion — reward time
    • Travel Guide — textbook
    • Plotting our Course — goal setting
    • Bon Voyage — farewell to moving student
    • Time Travel — studying and reading about historical events

    Additinally, there are many travel words on my list that I intersperse in conversations and lessons as I teach.

    stacked suitcases with miniature trunk holding maps and travel information

    It should be evident by now why I enjoy this theme so much. This is my second year of using it and I find new ways to incorporate it in my classroom every week.

    Do you have a theme that motivates you and your students? Please comment and share your favorite classroom theme with us.


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Susan Cheyney