When it comes to consider ELA classroom decor, many teachers draw a blank at what to do. Strive for that Pinterest-worthy classroom that coordinates a theme throughout the room and into the hallway? (Guilty) Or, hang up some posters that were left in the teachers’ lounge by those who’ve retired or moved on and call it good? (Also guilty).
Building a learning space that is inviting, meaningful, and professional is easier to do than you might think. Whether you err on the side of minimalism or have a heavy hand when decorating, this article will help you keep it balanced when planning out your ELA classroom decor.
Guideline #1: Plan For Purpose
Designate a few spaces in your classroom to feature visual aids that complement your current unit of study. Maps, diagrams, anchor charts, and vocabulary cards can function as great learning tools for students to absorb new content.
For the language arts teacher, consider featuring the elements of literature for each unit of study:
- Elements of Fiction (Characters, Setting, Plot, Conflict, Theme)
- Elements of Nonfiction (Author’s Purpose, Central Idea, Text Features, Text Structure)
- Elements of Argument (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning, Counterclaim, Rebuttal)
- Elements of Poetry (Form & Structure, Poetic Devices, Theme)
- Elements of Drama (Acts & Scenes, Dialogue, Stage Directions, Props)
Additionally, you might have a space for techniques and literary devices your students learn throughout each unit, such as:
- Foreshadowing & Flashbacks
- Ethos, Pathos, & Logos
- Metaphors, Hyperbole, Puns
To make changing your decor manageable, I recommend stapling sheet protectors to the bulletin board. Then just switch out posters for each unit quickly and easily!
Another option that I tried and LOVED this year was covering my bulletin boards with the new “Better Than Paper” rolls from Teacher Created Resources. It’s got a thick vinyl feel to it, and you can staple and tape things on and off without tearing the paper. It also doubles as a whiteboard because you can also write on/wipe off with an expo marker!
Place a universal heading on your bulletin board like “Now Featuring” or “What We’re Learning,” and your bulletin is usable all year long.
When your unit of study is over, you can make a small “review board” with QR codes or other interactive ways to showcase the learning virtually.
Guideline #2: Sprinkle Inspiration (Don’t Spray It)
There’s a local teacher store down the street from my house, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t love going there. Quite honestly, it’s close to teacher heaven (it just needs a coffee bar). The owner is a former teacher and is so good at setting up bulletin boards throughout the store to feature her new decor.
It’s enough to make a teacher want to do a complete overhaul every summer!
But here’s the thing: most decor consists of cute inspirational posters in different themes like farmhouse, camping, eucalyptus, and confetti. It’s too easy to buy several themed inspirational posters to hang around the room and call it good.
However, if inspirational content is all that occupies your wall space, your decor may lack substance and serve little purpose.
That’s not to say there isn’t a time and place for positive affirmations and reminders about having a growth mindset! A good rule of thumb is to keep “inspiration & invitation” to 20% of your wall content or less. Every 1 in 5 posters can serve a non-instructional purpose.
Guideline #3: Less is More
Even with the best intentions in decorating, a classroom that is too heavily decorated can overwhelm students and have the opposite effect on learning: it can block students’ ability to focus on the content at hand.
While anchor charts may help students recall essential information, too many charts are more discouraging to students than helpful. Students do not know where to look around the room, which becomes information overload.
Overstimulating classrooms make classroom management much harder than it should be. When it comes to decorating your classroom, studies have shown a direct correlation between student behavior and the classroom setup. Students are more comfortable and are more likely to speak up when they feel like their classroom is well organized and prepared.
This includes not just the posters on the wall and the choice of color but also includes clutter and lighting.
To cut down on clutter, intentionally leave plenty of white space between charts, posters, and bulletin boards. I recommend leaving at least forty percent of your wall space blank. It will help students rest their eyes between posters and help your room look less cluttered.
If possible, using natural light from windows in your classroom is more calming for students. I strongly recommend keeping the windows exposed & uncovered unless there is a glare issue that impacts the students seeing around the room.
If your classroom has little to no windows, bring in a few soft-white lamps to use instead of the fluorescent lights.
Balancing your anchor charts, inspirational posters, and white space takes practice. Just remember that a little goes a long way, and less is more.
Guideline #4: Feature Students’ Work
Don’t forget to leave a designated space in your classroom to display student work. Students feel a sense of pride and accomplishment seeing themselves on your classroom walls, and their work may serve as a mentor to other students.
Keep it simple and easy to manage by featuring student book recommendations each month. Or, raise the bar for all students by displaying work like one-pagers or hexagonal thinking that exceeds expectations.
If students have completed a big project that involves a presentation, speech, or other product, consider having students create QR codes that can be scanned and interacted with.
Displaying student work is a great way to share what students are learning and producing, and it reinforces the information taught in class!
Purposefully Put Together
Your classroom design is the first visual experience your visitors take in as soon as they walk into your classroom. It represents you, and it’s where you spend the bulk of your day. Making it feel inviting, look professional, and serve a purpose is well worth your time.
Get the most bang for your buck by using ELA classroom decor that students can utilize and is pleasing to the eye. Pinterest pretty classrooms are beautiful, but classroom decor should be so much more than pretty.