The Benefits of a Classroom Theme

Photo Credit: Classroom Clicks

Just like with everything else in education, classroom décor is cyclical. Right now the trend is to go with bright colors or neutrals.  Everyone wants their classrooms to be a replica of their homes - warm, inviting, cozy, and beautiful - truly Pinterest worthy.  But, I just can't let go of my fun classroom themes and I'm here to tell you why.

I get it.  I really do.  Teachers want to make their classrooms a place they love.  As teachers, we spend more time at school many days than we do at home.  It should be a place we love!  But, first and foremost, it should be a place our kids love!  I promise you can find a way to have a balance.  For example, I'm changing my classroom theme to superheroes this year and I'm not a big fan of the cheesy store-bought items - those bright blues, reds, and yellows.  To make it a place I will love, I've chosen to use red, navy, and gold as the base colors - colors that are a little more classic.  But, my main goal is to make sure my students love the space.  I remember the first year I had a monster theme and I had a little girl come to Meet the Teacher.  With wide eyes and huge grin on her face, she turned to her mother and asked, "Can we make my bedroom like this?"  Y'all!  She loved our classroom so much (the instant she walked in it) that she wanted her bedroom like it!!!  THAT is priceless.

Themes help to give the class an identify and bring everyone together as a team - right from the start!  I often hear students talking on the playground and one student will say, "What class are you in?"  My student will answer, "Mrs. Madden's."  The child will respond, "Oh, are you the monsters?"  Children may not know all of the teachers' names, but let me tell you, they know the class themes!  At my school each class has a class t-shirt with their mascots on them and students wear them proudly!  My students will draw me pictures of monsters, bring me little monster gifts, and even tell me all about a cool monster they saw somewhere.  Now, while I don't always want a shelf full of monsters, the theme is an instant connection and that is priceless.

I've been teaching the same grade for 19 years now.  I know some teachers change grade levels to "switch things up."  I LOVE second grade and couldn't imagine teaching another grade.  However, I do get that little "itch" every few years to make a change.  My theme is where I can do that.  I don't change it every year - that would be way too pricey!  Instead, I keep one theme for 4-5 years.  This allows me to build on the theme...add a little to it as the years pass.  But, changing it up every few years allows my creativity to shine through.  I enjoy digging through Pinterest, party stores, and dollar stores collecting ideas.  Not just for decorating ideas, but for student centered learning ideas that integrate our theme.  The transformation that happens in my room isn't all for my students, it's also for me.  It gives me that extra little spark and excitement for a new adventure and that is priceless, too.

I can't reveal too much about my new theme yet because it's still a work in progress, but here are a few of my superhero transformation pics so far.

These felt masks will unit my students on the first day of school.  We'll take a superhero class pic as we students write about what qualities make them SUPER!

Easy and cheap bunting across windows brings our theme colors to the forefront.  This is just fabric cut into shapes and attached to the top of my window with red duct tape - no sewing at all!

Bulletin board are in progress to match the bunting and tie our room together.

Extra fabric is used to make a scrap valance to hang on our classroom door.

Accessories are found throughout the room to tie it altogether.

Our class T-shirt that will be worn proudly!  Yes, that's the Wonder Woman logo flipped upside down for Madden's Marvels! ;)

Our Super Studio headquarters is just a black foam science trifold that I transformed into a cityscape.  We will use it as our "recording studio" for iPad recordings.  It will block out distractions and when the light is "on," the rest of the class will know to use whisper voices because a recording is in progress.

Check back in a few weeks to see the full classroom reveal and to watch the magic begin! 

Fun, child-centered classroom themes may not be for everyone, but if you've been on the fence, I encourage you to jump in and give it a try!  Often, teachers don't jump in because of the cost factor.  But, go ahead and decide to keep the same theme for several years, at least, knowing that you can build on it.

If you already have a theme in your classroom, think about what it is and if it is for you or for your students.  If your theme is your favorite college team or your favorite color, it may not really be inclusive to all of your students.  Make your classroom a place you love, but also a place your students are excited to come to each and every day - even before they know you!

If you're on the hunt for classroom décor for your theme or are looking for a new theme, check out the themes in my shop. I've updated almost every single theme this summer!  Each theme contains over 40 resources, including editable newsletters and Open House slideshows.

Whatever your theme, or non-theme, I hope you have the most magical year yet!


2016 Long Range Plans {Template}

The purpose of this post is just to provide those of you who use my long range plan or planning calendar templates with the updated templates for the 2016-2017 school year.  If you want to read more about how I lesson plan and use these, you can read my Lesson Planning blog post series.

This was my view all day long, but my goal was accomplished.  And, now that they're done, I know it will be worth it - these two documents keep me SANE and on track during the school year. 

Here's a peek at my long range plans:
Ah!  The one-page per quarter layout is just DREAMY to me!  Haha!  You can download mine or the template that I start with below.  Please use these for your own use, but do not repost or share.  You can feel free to direct others to this post to download for their own use.  Thanks!

My planning calendar shows the timeline for my units in a calendar format, but also lets me add important dates and events.  This stays at the front of my lesson plan binder and I write meetings and notes on it daily.

I hope by sharing my work it saves you some time and helps you get organized for the new school year!


Back-To-School Teammate Gifts

I'm blogging over at Owlways Be Inspired today and gave a couple of different gift ideas for your team.  Hop over there to check them out and grab the freebie tags.  Here's a sneak peek of one idea!


Student Birthdays Made Easy!

I don't know about you, but if I'm not organized ahead of time with student birthdays I will undoubtedly forget one until the student casually mentions that it's his/her special day.  In which case, I plaster that great big smile on my face while my heart begins to race and my brain is spinning trying to think of how I can make the day special now.

That all changed a couple of years ago when I realized that planning for student birthdays was something I could do during the summer and be checked off of my to-do list for the school year!

So, while I want the day to be a special one for my students, I want it to be one less thing for me to organize during the daily grind of the school year. 

The Gift:

{This post contains affiliate links.} 

To make sure the day is special, I do like to give my students a little gift.  I create these birthday sundae cups during the summer and store them so they are ready to place on students' desks on their big days.  If I've forgotten a birthday - no problem, I have these on hand and ready to go!

I buy the cups from Amazon for convenience (hello, Prime love!) but I've also went to my local Starbucks for donations in the past.

I fill the cups with a few little treats (think bookmarks, candy, erasers, etc.) along with a No Homework Pass and then add white crinkle paper on top to look like whipped cream. 

I punch a hole in the cup lid and then stick a pre-sharpened Happy Birthday pencil into the hole to look like a straw.

Finally, I top it off with a "cherry" sucker sticking out of the hole in the top and add a label to the cup.

It really is a simple little treat, but it looks so special sitting on the birthday kid's desk!  They eat them up. :)

The Card:
I also place a Happy Birthday Certificate on the counter so that classmates can sign it throughout the day.  Everyone likes to receive birthday wishes from all of their friends and what a precious keepsake it makes.

If you have a special classroom theme, you can find themed birthday certificates in all of my theme décor packs.  I'll be using the Superhero ones this year and know that my little marvels will love them!

The Song:
Finally, we have a special cheer that we sing to the birthday child.  I change it up from the traditional birthday song, as my students were getting WAY too silly with that.  This cheer is more of a bootcamp style chant and they love that it's different!

If they birthday kid is a girl, the girls will lead off with the boys echoing and if the birthday kid is a boy, the boys will lead off with the girls echoing.  Everyone joins in on the last line to make the birthday kid feel extra special.

Throughout the day, I let the birthday student be the line leader so that they're feeling a little birthday love all day long.  That's it!  Birthdays are a breeze with pre-prepped gifts and students feel extra special with a little birthday love from the teacher and wishes from classmates. 

If you would like to use these ideas, you can grab them all in this birthday FREEBIE from my shop!  Enjoy!

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