Is a “classroom theme” a strategy?

I never really thought much about my classroom.

I work at what is now and intermediate school (5-8) and what used to be a middle school (6-8). We took the “high school” approach to our rooms. Set them up so that they are usable, relatively neat and organized. Make things cheery with a few posters and places for student work, and get on with the business of teaching.

Last year, when it was decided to add on the fifth grade, my administration decided we were going to have a theme. “A what?”, the faculty asked. Fifth and sixth would be “Dive into Learning” and seventh and eighth would be “Discover your treasure.” We were encourage to embrace the beach/ocean theme and that each room would have a reading corner.

Several of us went on a field trip to see a school of older children who had done this. Lots of pictures were taken and passed around. Then the strangest thing happenned . . .

People started to get excited about the idea. Suddenly, we were passing on “finds” to whoever would listen. “Hey, did you see those great chairs at Big Lots?” “The Dollar Tree has the cutest cut-outs, you should go check it out”. The laminator at the end of the school year was working overtime.

I have never worked so hard on what my room looked like in my teaching career. It also made me think through my organization, because after all that I didn’t want my room to get “junky”. You should see the school – it looks amazing. I’m not certain that this is really a “teaching strategy”, but it seems to have slowly spread and created a buzz, an energy if you will among the staff. We recently had open house and the parents and students were pleased and excited about their learning environment.

Will my students notice all the extra effort and thought that went into everything. Probably not – they are 10 and 11 years old. I expect that they’ll think it looks “cool” but other than that won’t give it much thought. However, when I walk into my room, I smile to see it. I can’t help but think that will positively impact my attitude as the year goes on, making me a better teacher for my students.

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