Monday, August 20, 2012


I believe that a teacher's classroom defines a lot about the class and teacher.  When students walk in, especially on the first day, they will make a lot of assumptions about the class based on how it looks.  In my department, there are 4 other Spanish teachers, and each of us have a different style of teaching and a different style of decorating our classroom.  Students automatically assume that the teacher with couches instead of desks is more laid-back and fun.  They assume that the teacher with perfect rows of desks, few wall decorations, and a grey color scheme is strict and traditional.  These assumptions stick, and their views of the teacher and the class are linked to how they view the room. 

I don't believe there is a right or wrong way to decorate, because it is a reflection of your teaching.  But I do believe that you should think about the setting you want to create.

I am changing classrooms right now, so I am re-evaluating what worked in my room last year and what did not.  I am able to take a step-back, reflect, and re-design.  There are some things I think work very well for setting the tone of my class, and somethings that I am questioning.

As you can see in these pictures, my class has a lot of color and a lot going on.  I want to keep that feel in my new room.  I want the students to feel like my class is exciting.  I don't want them to feel like every day is the same-old same-old.  I don't just want to use color for the sake of color, though.  The dress in this first picture was hand-stitched by the mother of one of my roommates when I studied abroad in Mexico and given to me as a present.  It is a traditional design from the southern state Chiapas.  I also have two paintings from the Dominican Republic that hang above my whiteboard.  They are replicas of traditional Dominican art which is very colorful and vibrant.  They are perfect for adding a happy touch while also representing a culture that we learn about in class. 

My bulletin board that holds all the required information like Emergency Protocol, Dress Code Regulations, Fire Exit Plan, class schedules, and a school calendar could be a very dull place, but I like to make it fit our classroom by using a Day of the Dead fabric as the background.  This fabric, which a friend of mine bought me at JoAnn's Fabric when she saw it on sale, has a fanciful scene of dancing skeletons at a party.  It is a perfect example of how Mexicans celebrate and embrace death, instead of fearing it and treating it as a sad or depressing part of life. 

I have a few country flags, but I want more!  I would love to have flags from all the Spanish speaking countries of the world to display.  Right now I only have flags from the countries I have visited. 

My posters are what I am currently re-evaluating.  I some that I have found at teaching stores in the US which include grammar lessons and vocabulary and I have others that show pictures and vocabulary that I bought in the education section of a department store in Dominican Republic.  They are designed for small children learning about food (fruit and vegetables), numbers, the alphabet and animals, similar to what would be found in a kindergarten or pre-school classroom here, but they work well for vocabulary for my students.  Though these posters are fabulous teaching tools, I have noticed that my students rely on them too much when they are always on the wall.  Instead of memorizing the words, they just look up to copy them off that wall.  Even my more advanced students would rely too much on the posters in their writing.  I found that especially with the weaker students, instead of coming up with ideas for free-writes, they would often the themes of the posters and the vocabulary on the posters.  I know I will have my posters on-hand to use in lessons throughout the year, but I am going to be more selective about which ones get a permanent home on the wall.

The best part about my new room is that I have a huge wall-length bulletin board that I will be able to use to display student work.  Last year we stuck work on the lower-wall, but it wasn't very organized or accessible.  Now, I will be able to create theme displays of their work and rotate the work on a regular basis, making their additions to the classroom relevant and helpful instead of just tacking it up behind them where it was rarely seen again.  My mind is already spinning with themes we can focus on throughout the year. 

As we start out the new school year, take a minute to look around your room.  Sit at one of the desks and see what the students see.  What kind of tone are you setting?  What does your room say about your teaching and your class? 

~ La profesora

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