Decorating the Classroom-Something to Think About

As many of you know I am now an Instructional Coach and recently have been attending Professional Development with my new district.  I will not have a classroom to decorate this new school year, but recently attended an administrative Professional Development that got me thinking about how I used to decorate my classroom.

At a recent Professional Development the topic of Word Walls came up.  The presenter didn't focus on how to use Word Walls, but rather how to ensure they are user friendly and "clean".  When looking at his examples it was easy to see how distracting some boards were and how others were simple and cute.

As elementary teachers we often focus on the "cutesty" or "Pinteresty" look for our classrooms, but forget that the room is supposed to focus around learning.  We often get carried away with everything looking perfect for us, but fail to look at our bulletin boards and anchor charts through the eyes of our students.  Some students may become overwhelmed with all of the information or over stimulated by all of the colors and designs.

To show you what the presenter was showing us I have pulled some images from a google search, if any of these images are yours I am not putting anyone down, but using them as a tool for us to think about how we decorate our rooms.

The background is cute, but it is too busy for little ones.  The images are what catches the eyes, rather than the words that the students are supposed to reference.  I asked my little guy going into Kindergarten (the board is from the beginning of the year K class) where the letters or words were, and he pointed to the title.

This one is for upper grades, but is very busy!  Words overlap, and there is no organization of the words.  From the PD I was reminded that our minds, and especially those of our students, work better when items are grouped or organized in to categories.  (This is why we teach with graphic organizers and make list. )

Again, this word wall is VERY busy and there isn't any organization.  Imagine you were a student looking at this board, would you know where to look for a word you needed to reference?  

This board is very cute and creative, but not very effective as a Word Wall.  The words are small and going in different directions.  As a student would you be able to know what the words were for, other than music?  Creating a large grid or tree map would be more effective for students to reference.
Personally, when I look at this through the eyes of a coach I see a teacher who is complying to the request of word walls in classrooms, not utilizing the word wall.  (Through the eyes of a teacher, very cute and took a long time to create.)

The background on this WW is simple and the words easily stand out.  I ask my little guy to find the words on this board and he found them as soon as he looked at the board.  This board is still cute and functional for students.

This board I believe is for an upper grade Science class, possibly middle school too. The board is colorful, but still organized, neat, and easy to use for students.

This word wall is great because it shows the relationship of the words in a graphic organizer.  As a student you would not only reference this for how to spell a word or to use in your writing, but as a reference for what the words mean.  ( I think I would even have my students copy this into their notebook.)

This is an example our presenter showed us.  The board is simple, clean, and organized. One of the great attributes of this WW is that there is a key at the top of the board letting students know that the words in red are for Reading, Green for Math, Blue for Science, and Purple for Science.

This ins't a WW, but an example of a focus wall that is also neat, clean, and functional for students.

As you begin to redecorate your classrooms in the coming weeks sit down in one of your student's desk and view your room through their eyes.  Just something to think about :)


  1. Great suggestions! I recently helped my daughter get her word wall up. It has some cute parts (ribbons to hang words on and the ABC letters) but the background is gray. I still need to do a science word wall of my own and will certainly take your advice! Thanks!
    Teachers Are Terrific!

  2. Ms.FinesAtCrocusJuly 5, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    No mention of fonts? As I understand it, for beginners (whether K-1, or EAL, or kids with reading troubles), a plain font is best. It's so tempting to use fancy & fun fonts, but it can be confusing for learners. The kids who have no trouble with it will be the kids who aren't leaning on the scaffolding anyways, whereas the kids who really need the word wall might have trouble deciphering the funky fonts. Just a thought.

  3. Great point and definitely something to think about! Thanks for sharing!

    Mind Sparks

  4. I love a cute word wall, but I agree with everything you said. It can be cute, but it has to be functional. I have struggled a little with this because I have such limited wall space. I make due with cabinets though, using each one as a different category. Thank you!

    Fit to be Fourth

  5. I totally agree with everything you said. While the first several boards are super cute, but even I had a hard time focusing on the words instead of the colors or Pac Man. Thanks for this reminder that our rooms are for promoting a learning environment for our students. Thank you :)

  6. I really like the idea of incorporating math, science, and social studies vocabulary into the main word wall using different colors. I would wonder if anyone has an opinion about keeping them separate or including them all together- I see benefits of both. Thanks so much for sharing! It definitely reminds you to keep things simple since the purpose of everything in your room should be geared towards the students.



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