Wall Decor That Does More Than Decorate

I have a HUGE classroom, which is absolutely wonderful. But it takes a lot to fill the space. I like the walls to be filled - but filled with purpose! I ponder everything that goes on the wall and ask myself, 

  • "Will this be helpful? Or just a colorful distraction? 
  • "Will the students actually use this? Or will it quickly become below their notice?"
They're valid questions every teacher should ask when setting up/decorating his/her classroom. Many times teachers will just stick store-bought posters on the wall to fill a big empty space. But that is often a waste of money and time - if the kids aren't going to use it or find encouragement from it or be challenged by it - then what's the point? Once you've differentiated between the two, have a ball setting up your room! It's your home-away-from-home (quite literally most of the time!) and it should be a place where you and your students feel welcomed, at home, and comfortable to learn and take risks.

Now I won't be posting a comprehension tour of my classroom until next week, but I did want to give you a sneak preview of some of the things hanging on my walls. I pray you'll be able to see the purpose behind the decor and it will make you pause and think about what you've used to "fill your wall space."

1. Before You Speak - THINK!
Here is a Pintrest Original :) I loved the message, so I trekked on over to my ever-faithful Learning Resource Center to die cut the letters and laminate this beauty. 5th grade is a challenging year for the students, both academically and socially. One way that I promote cooperative learning and kindness is by having them become mindful of what they say to one another (and to me!). I teach at a Christian school, so we discuss what the Bible says about the tongue (it is a powerful - and sometimes destructive - weapon) and edification (building one another up with the words that we say). 

This poster is directly about our "Bucket Fillers" display (I'll be doing an in-depth post about that in the coming weeks - stay tuned!) It's a much-needed reminder and fits perfectly with the idea of filling one another's "buckets" each day.

2. YET
The next one is three simple letters with profound meaning and application. Y E T. Yet. Whenever the students say, "I don't know!" or "I can't do this!" (usually in a whiny, defeated, exasperated voice - you know the one I mean) I just smile and silently point to these letters. You don't know YET. You can't do it YET. But if the students work diligently, try their hardest, and accept help from me, they can be confident that they will know it or will be able to do it.

3. Voice Level Stoplight
In keeping with my Travel Theme (you know I had to bring it up sometime in this post) I've created a stoplight system for not only their behavior, but for their voice levels during various activities. The circles are: 

  • Red = No Talking. Used for silent assignments (tests or quizzes) or if the student group work got out of hand, I'll move it to Red for a minute for the students to re-assess their noise level and conversation topics. The students LOVE to work together and talk about what we're learning, so the minute feels very long and once I move it away from Red, they're much more controlled with their voice levels.
  • Yellow = Whisper voices. Used for partner work, centers, and morning work.
  • Green = Inside voice. Used for group work, Fun Friday, special activities.

4. Mystery Soldiers
This was an idea I stole from my dear Student Teaching teacher (Love you, Mrs. Jones!) and though she used it in 2nd grade, I was amazed at how well it worked with my 5th graders! 

Here's how it works: When students are lining up to leave the classroom, I draw a pospicle stick with one of their names on it, but I don't tell them who it is. As we're walking in the hallway, I watch that student to see if he/she is behaving properly. If so, I make a big deal of announcing it when we reach our destination and then the name gets posted on this board. I put the popsicle stick right back in the can, so they cannot say, "Whew! That was my turn, now I can just goof off until everyone else has had a turn!" If the same name gets chosen again and the “soldier” is successful, then I put a tally mark next to the name. At the end of each month, the “soldier” with the most tally marks wins a prize.
*I've laminated the poster so the first day of each month I erase the names (with nail polish remover) and we start fresh.
*I've also done this with my table groups - I'll choose a whole group to watch and if they are all successful, their names go on the board AND they get 4 points for their team. It's very motivating.

I'll end with this thought once more: re-evaluate what you have covering your walls. If the kids aren't going to use it for information or find encouragement from it or be challenged by it - then what's the point?
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