Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Co-Creating Your Classroom Decor With Your Students

When I first started teaching, I spent a great deal of time preparing and decorating my classroom in the weeks leading up to the start of school, in the hopes that my classroom would be completely set up and ready for the arrival of my new students in September. This suited my A-type personality and always gave me great pleasure, as I love decor and feel strongly that how a learning environment looks and feels is incredibly important determining factor of academic success. The concept of the classroom as the third teacher (you can read more about that in this section of the Ontario Kindergarten Curriculum or in this Edugains Resource). 

While I have loved this approach to classroom set up and decor and still do some of this work in advance of my students arriving, in recent years, I have fought against my A-type tendencies and allowed for much of my decor to be created only after my students have joined our class. Having students co-create the classroom decor allows educators to instill agency in their students from the start of the year and teaches students that their voice and their choices matter. Students love to see their own work on the walls and are more likely to attend to word walls, number lines and alphabet posters if they have created them. 

I am a firm believer that classroom decor should be beautiful, natural and functional. We spend time finding wood elements, selecting plants, and creating word walls and posters that are natural and visually appealing. Everything that is put up on our walls has a purpose and we are careful not to add visual clutter to our space. The posters we put up serve a purpose and enhance our learning, such as a number line to reference during math play, or colour posters that are bilingual and help us remember the names of colours in French.

Here are a few helpful tips for co-creating classroom decor:

Have students co-create alphabet posters with natural items and words that they can write. Be sure to include the names of students and educators in your class.

Use found objects to create number posters. Be sure to have the number, the number word, and a ten frame for reference. Creating a number line with wooden numbers, string and a pompoms from the Dollar Store is an easy and inexpensive way to create functional decor for your room.

Create colour posters to add a spark of colour to your room. We have the students find objects outdoors and in our craft supplies to glue onto the posters. This can also be an excellent colour sorting activity!

Almost all decor items can be created alongside your students. They will enjoy this play and will feel pride whenever they see their work posted on the walls around them. You can created banners, a door sign, a classroom birthdays sign, labels for centers or table spots, and even a classroom calendar or weather station. The possibilities are endless!

To make things even easier, (and to appease the A-type people out there that, like me, struggle a bit with the completely student-created decor items), I have created a few Co-Created, neutral and natural classroom decor resources that are print and go. Simly print the templates and let your students' creativity take it from there!

Looking for a place to start? Try this FREE Co-Created Colour Posters resource. Click on the link below!

Monday, July 25, 2022

How to Celebrate Classroom Birthdays

One thing that I love to do over the summer to set our team up for success for the school year is to prepare for how we will celebrate classroom birthdays. I have a terrible memory for these things and a tendency to forget student birthdays and be caught completely off-guard when they bounce into the classroom screaming ''It's my birffffffday!!!!''

So last year I got wise and put a couple of systems in place so that me and my team were well prepared for celebrating birthdays in our classroom.

First, I prepare a birthday bin with all of the items we will need in order to celebrate with our kiddos. When a birthday rolls around, I can simply pull out the birthday bin and everything is ready to go. 

In the birthday bin, we include items that will be put in a small treat bag, such as fun pencils, pencil toppers, small bookmarks, birthday cards or certificates, and small prizes (typically purchased at the dollar store), like bouncy balls, slap bracelets, and stickers.

An inexpensive way to do this is to collect trinkets (think McDonald's toys, prizes you get from crackers during the holidays, and other small items and add them to your birthday bin as you go.

*Hot tip*: Get a list of your students' birthdays at the start of the year and write out their birthday certificates and make up birthday treats bags for all of them before the year begins. This way, you are prepared to start celebrating birthdays right away, even if you have a student whose birthday is on the first day of school!

Lastly, in our birthday bin, I add birthday badges and birthday crowns that the students can wear on the day of so that everyone else knows that it is their big day and can make them feel special!

Another thing I do to ensure that I don't miss students birthdays is post a display of students birthdays on the wall. This is a visual reminder for me and the students love being able to see when their birthday is and check when their friends will be celebrating their special days. 

I also post a smaller version of all of the birthdays (and include my colleagues birthdays as well) somewhere where I can see it frequently, for fear of missing a birthday. Adding student birthdays to my planner is another thing that helps keep me organized.

At my school, the students are no longer allowed to bring in treats to share with their friends on their birthdays due to allergy concerns. Instead, we encourage our students to bring in a favourite book that we then read to the class. If they are able to read, often they will help read the story or share their favourite parts with their classmates. 

We also allow the birthday boy or girl to choose the music we listen to, songs we sing and the DPA activities we do for the day. They get to be the line leader and do any special jobs we have throughout the day, Anything to make them feel loved and special on their birthday!

However, you choose to celebrate with your students, be sure to communicate this with the parents and guardians. We do this by sending home a letter at the beginning of the year and with reminders in our weekly email updates.

The only thing left to do is enjoy the celebrations with your students! I love being able to be present and share in their joy. Birthdays are such a big deal when you are turning 4 or 5 and I love soaking up the excitement and happiness with my kiddos. 

If you want some of the resources mentioned in this post that will help you prepare a birthday bin for your classroom, click on the image below:

Just looking for free birthday certificates?  I've got you! Click on the 'Download Freebie' button below!

Happy teaching and happy celebrating!

xo Jess