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August 11, 2009

The Teacher as an Interior Designer

By Victoria Jasztal

    Your classroom is a masterpiece- an expression of who you are. I feel when I decorate my classroom, I am an interior designer trying to bring a vision to life right before my eyes. Every year in addition to thinking about how I will organize items and arrange furniture, I think of how I can transform my classroom into an enriching haven that fosters creativity and individuality.

    Since it is August (the typical month for pre-planning), I want to cover all the bases with you before we delve into instruction. Here is some advice regarding the design aspect of your classroom.

    The Classroom Library-

    You may be thinking that I just mentioned the importance of planning out the library in “The Nuts and Bolts of Classroom Organization”, and that is true. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a classroom library that even draws in your most reluctant readers to an extent. When I thought of how I wanted to decorate my classroom library this year, a bookstore setup like Barnes and Noble came to mind. Even if it may not be possible to purchase a plush, comfortable chair or couch like you would see in a bookstore, you can certainly purchase throw pillows in unique designs or an ottoman at a discount store. Camp chairs are also a popular choice. Also if you ever have the opportunity, spinning racks and other display racks are spectacular, whether smaller or larger. Two years ago, I purchased two plastic magazine racks for $10.00 each from a store that was having a fixtures sale. Last year, I acquired a spinning card rack that holds chapter books perfectly for free from a friend who was closing her scrapbooking store. 

    Do-It-Yourself Furniture-

    You can incorporate do-it-yourself furniture in your classroom library and in other places around your classroom. Milk crate seating is an example of do-it-yourself furniture. You can either use the milk crate for a seat and storage or just use it as a seat. To use the milk crate for a seat and storage, you can place or hinge a piece of wood over the open crate. Students will then be able to sit on the crate, though items will be stored within the crate. Or you can turn the milk crate around and simply use it as a seat- you may place the piece of wood over the seat to make it sturdier if you would like. From there, you can take seat cushions or pillows and put them on the crates for more comfortable seating. For my current classroom library, I happened to take a beige throw and cover two crates to make a “couch” with pillows.

    In the past, I have also created a “Florida kiosk” out of a refrigerator box. I covered the sides of the box with pictures and historical facts from around our state. It was an interesting idea to bring a museum-like feel to my classroom.

    Restoring Furniture-

    You can also restore all kinds of furniture so it can brighten your classroom environment. Dedicate a few hours so you can visit thrift stores and see if you can get any reasonable deals. Most recently, I found a well-worn, yet well-made table at a thrift store for only $5.00. Additionally, I found two hinge-back chairs for $5.00 each a few years ago. Before the school year starts, I will stain the well-worn table on the bottom and decoupage the top with photos from places across the United States so it can incorporate with my yearly travel theme. The two chairs will be spray-painted with cobalt blue paint. The chairs and table will account for a spectacular little meeting area for partnerships in my room.

    Bulletin Boards-

    I place fabric on my bulletin boards. Other options include wrapping paper, butcher block paper, and burlap. All my bulletin board fabric is solid or with a simple pattern besides a board that has students place pushpins on a United States map for stories they have read in different places. Before the school year starts, I designate what the different boards will be used for- some are interactive, some are used for displaying charts from reader’s and writer’s workshop, and others are used for displaying student pictures or work. One thing that I do to bring more bulletin boards to my classroom is cover the whiteboard in the back of my classroom with fabric and make a few magnetic bulletin boards. Here is a short list of ideas for bulletin boards-

    • Travel Across America bulletin board- This board includes push pins in a different color for each student so he or she can pinpoint the location of a book he or she recently read.
    • Book Recommendations- Students can make recommendations for fiction and non-fiction books. Each student has a place on one of my magnetic bulletin boards and has a magnet so he or she can place an index card on the board with a recommendation on it. 
    • Magnetic Word Wall- This year, my “Word Highway” is going to include dry-erase boards (cut shower boards from Lowes/Home Depot) for science, math, history-related, and reading-related vocabulary. 
    • Student of the Week board
    • Board for current events, upcoming dates, due dates, and organizational purposes
    • Board for data question of the week- Students each have a magnetic photo of themselves that they can move around on a magnetic bulletin board to “vote” on a question every week. (Examples of questions- What is your favorite season? What is your favorite book that we have read this year? What is your favorite sport?) We then take the class data and make different kinds of graphs throughout the week like bar graphs, line plots, and pie graphs.

    I intentionally leave a few of the bulletin boards completely blank at the beginning of school year, also, so students feel an even greater sense of ownership.

    Themes-

    Last, I am focusing on themes. As I mentioned before, a theme can be a small component of your classroom or it can be incorporated throughout everything in your classroom. Here are some ideas for themes for grades 3-5-

    • Travel- You can display postcards around your classroom (either you can get teachers or friends in other states to send you postcards, or you can post those from places you have visited), include patriotic decor, and even incorporate license plates or model items from antique stores. Each student is going to have a license plate name tag this year I am creating with an online generator.
    • Technology- Last year, my welcoming bulletin board said "Welcome to the jPod", and each student's name was on an iPod I designed. 
    • Astronomy
    • Sports/Team theme
    • Pirates
    • Movies/Hollywood
    • Survivor
    • Board games and game shows
    • Safari animals
    • Oceanography 

    If you have any other ideas for classroom decor, please do not hesitate to share.

    Your classroom is a masterpiece- an expression of who you are. I feel when I decorate my classroom, I am an interior designer trying to bring a vision to life right before my eyes. Every year in addition to thinking about how I will organize items and arrange furniture, I think of how I can transform my classroom into an enriching haven that fosters creativity and individuality.

    Since it is August (the typical month for pre-planning), I want to cover all the bases with you before we delve into instruction. Here is some advice regarding the design aspect of your classroom.

    The Classroom Library-

    You may be thinking that I just mentioned the importance of planning out the library in “The Nuts and Bolts of Classroom Organization”, and that is true. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a classroom library that even draws in your most reluctant readers to an extent. When I thought of how I wanted to decorate my classroom library this year, a bookstore setup like Barnes and Noble came to mind. Even if it may not be possible to purchase a plush, comfortable chair or couch like you would see in a bookstore, you can certainly purchase throw pillows in unique designs or an ottoman at a discount store. Camp chairs are also a popular choice. Also if you ever have the opportunity, spinning racks and other display racks are spectacular, whether smaller or larger. Two years ago, I purchased two plastic magazine racks for $10.00 each from a store that was having a fixtures sale. Last year, I acquired a spinning card rack that holds chapter books perfectly for free from a friend who was closing her scrapbooking store. 

    Do-It-Yourself Furniture-

    You can incorporate do-it-yourself furniture in your classroom library and in other places around your classroom. Milk crate seating is an example of do-it-yourself furniture. You can either use the milk crate for a seat and storage or just use it as a seat. To use the milk crate for a seat and storage, you can place or hinge a piece of wood over the open crate. Students will then be able to sit on the crate, though items will be stored within the crate. Or you can turn the milk crate around and simply use it as a seat- you may place the piece of wood over the seat to make it sturdier if you would like. From there, you can take seat cushions or pillows and put them on the crates for more comfortable seating. For my current classroom library, I happened to take a beige throw and cover two crates to make a “couch” with pillows.

    In the past, I have also created a “Florida kiosk” out of a refrigerator box. I covered the sides of the box with pictures and historical facts from around our state. It was an interesting idea to bring a museum-like feel to my classroom.

    Restoring Furniture-

    You can also restore all kinds of furniture so it can brighten your classroom environment. Dedicate a few hours so you can visit thrift stores and see if you can get any reasonable deals. Most recently, I found a well-worn, yet well-made table at a thrift store for only $5.00. Additionally, I found two hinge-back chairs for $5.00 each a few years ago. Before the school year starts, I will stain the well-worn table on the bottom and decoupage the top with photos from places across the United States so it can incorporate with my yearly travel theme. The two chairs will be spray-painted with cobalt blue paint. The chairs and table will account for a spectacular little meeting area for partnerships in my room.

    Bulletin Boards-

    I place fabric on my bulletin boards. Other options include wrapping paper, butcher block paper, and burlap. All my bulletin board fabric is solid or with a simple pattern besides a board that has students place pushpins on a United States map for stories they have read in different places. Before the school year starts, I designate what the different boards will be used for- some are interactive, some are used for displaying charts from reader’s and writer’s workshop, and others are used for displaying student pictures or work. One thing that I do to bring more bulletin boards to my classroom is cover the whiteboard in the back of my classroom with fabric and make a few magnetic bulletin boards. Here is a short list of ideas for bulletin boards-

    • Travel Across America bulletin board- This board includes push pins in a different color for each student so he or she can pinpoint the location of a book he or she recently read.
    • Book Recommendations- Students can make recommendations for fiction and non-fiction books. Each student has a place on one of my magnetic bulletin boards and has a magnet so he or she can place an index card on the board with a recommendation on it. 
    • Magnetic Word Wall- This year, my “Word Highway” is going to include dry-erase boards (cut shower boards from Lowes/Home Depot) for science, math, history-related, and reading-related vocabulary. 
    • Student of the Week board
    • Board for current events, upcoming dates, due dates, and organizational purposes
    • Board for data question of the week- Students each have a magnetic photo of themselves that they can move around on a magnetic bulletin board to “vote” on a question every week. (Examples of questions- What is your favorite season? What is your favorite book that we have read this year? What is your favorite sport?) We then take the class data and make different kinds of graphs throughout the week like bar graphs, line plots, and pie graphs.

    I intentionally leave a few of the bulletin boards completely blank at the beginning of school year, also, so students feel an even greater sense of ownership.

    Themes-

    Last, I am focusing on themes. As I mentioned before, a theme can be a small component of your classroom or it can be incorporated throughout everything in your classroom. Here are some ideas for themes for grades 3-5-

    • Travel- You can display postcards around your classroom (either you can get teachers or friends in other states to send you postcards, or you can post those from places you have visited), include patriotic decor, and even incorporate license plates or model items from antique stores. Each student is going to have a license plate name tag this year I am creating with an online generator.
    • Technology- Last year, my welcoming bulletin board said "Welcome to the jPod", and each student's name was on an iPod I designed. 
    • Astronomy
    • Sports/Team theme
    • Pirates
    • Movies/Hollywood
    • Survivor
    • Board games and game shows
    • Safari animals
    • Oceanography 

    If you have any other ideas for classroom decor, please do not hesitate to share.

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Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
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