When you peek inside the classrooms around you, chances are you find a lot of the same, especially in elementary schools—bright colors, number lines, and those same “motivational” banners that lose their appeal by day three. It can be hard to make your classroom stand out and to avoid having your space become completely mundane year to year. One way to spruce things up is to choose a class theme and to change it with either each semester or each new school year.
Adding a theme to a class can really help get students involved in their environment—it gets their imaginations turning and inspires them to create a whole world within the classroom. A theme also gives a sense of belonging and creates the mentality that the class is a team—“We’re all Tigers and Tigers are the best!”.
Of course, try not to get stuck in the rut of animals & fantasy creatures. Get creative and try out different professions (astronauts, sailors), environments (allow the class to create their own city or country), or even authors (Shel Silverstein & Dr. Seuss are always great choices!).
When cleverly executed, a class mascot can also be used to encourage positive behavior: “Ninjas are very quiet!” “Let’s go! Trains are super-speedy!”
You can also use that theme as a jumping-off point for arts & crafts, stories, and activities throughout the year. You can have class projects that revolve around creating a giant image of whatever your theme is (a class train or snake that gets longer with each completed unit; a giraffe or cheetah with increasing spots; a pirate with a growing crew or ninja with increasing shuriken, depending on the age group) as you complete different units or learn new facts.
Lastly, having a changing theme is a great mental break for you as a teacher—it inspires you to get more creative and motivates you to have a fresh outlook for a new class. It can help make the passage of time more visible too, and you realize how many subjects you’ve gone through or how far back a certain class was. When a new topic is one that really excites or motivates you it is bound to have a positive effect on your students as well.