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.
- 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.
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.
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.