All classroom visuals should complement the curriculum, whether posters, maps, and what can be found on a teacher’s desk; maintaining focus is a year-round effort.
Avoiding extremes when decorating the classroom for the first day of school is a problem faced by many teachers, usually in high schools. Elementary and middle school teachers seem to have a particular gift when preparing the classroom; this is usually not the case in high school.
How Classroom Decoration Complements Curriculum
Everything within the classroom should be “curriculum.” This includes wall decorations, visuals, and even what can be found on a teacher’s desk. Teachers who adopt the maxim that everything is curriculum combine all aspects of the learning process – both directly and indirectly, into one primary focus area.
Before the first day of school, teachers should look over the classroom to determine what doesn’t “fit.” Teachers that also coach may display trophies and other awards that probably should not be in the classroom. Other paraphernalia, though important to the teacher personally, may not complement instructional goals and might even be distracting.
Extremes in Classroom Decorating
Some teachers like to fill every available space with posters, pictures, maps, and graphs. In many cases, the various hangings do not even complement each other let alone curriculum. Frequently, such decorations are haphazardly mounted, creating a collage that has no central theme or even a gestalt.
The other extreme is bare walls interspersed with a few old mini-posters sporting pithy motivational phrases. Teachers who deliberately avoid classroom decorations usually see themselves as the “sage on the stage,” gearing all student focus on the lecture or power-point. Alternately, some teachers simply do not see the value of decorating.
School Year Maintenance of Classroom Visuals
What is the value of displaying posters depicting Colonial life in America when the class is studying World War I or Vietnam? The fact is that many visuals in the classroom, once mounted, are seldom removed before the end of the school year. Some visuals of a general nature may actually fit into the curriculum for an entire year, like the periodic table in a science classroom.
Wall decorations, visuals, and displays should be changed throughout the school year in order to conform to new units under study. The downside to this is financial: professionally created works purchased from one of the many educational support companies can be costly.
Teachers should explore avenues that offer free or low-cost visuals. Travel agencies, tourist bureaus, chambers of commerce, and even businesses are often eager to donate materials. Students themselves can create visuals for display in the classroom.
Getting Help and Following the Ground Rules
Language Arts and Social Studies teachers might team with Art and Music teachers to decorate classrooms. This type of collaboration also weaves together the curriculum in several departments, allowing students to better understand cross-curricular goals and applications.
Preparing the classroom is as important as “prepping” for the lesson plan. Students should be able to relate the entire classroom experience to that lesson plan at any given time. This can only be accomplished when all efforts and goals are focused on a central theme: curriculum.