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Classroom decorating ideas that won't break the bank

Classroom with children at desks

Upon visiting my daughter's classroom, I knew one thing for sure: If Mrs. Smith teaches half as well as she decorates, those fourth graders are destined for Nobel Prizes. Some parents believe classroom de´cor doesn't matter, but atmosphere has a huge impact on all that goes on within classroom walls. Sterile rooms don't create an engaging atmosphere and may make the job of teaching that much harder. Calm and orderly settings equal calm, orderly and engaged students.

But effective decorating on a tight budget can be tough. Try these suggestions from veteran teachers for low-cost, high-impact decorating.

Keep It Simple

Monochromatic color schemes with just a few punches of color create an inviting environment. “I use color blocking to keep the room orderly,” says Erin Burleigh, a 4th grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Lake Stevens, WA. “Right now I'm using greens and browns; it's very soothing.” Remember those giant rolls of colored paper your teachers used to cover their bulletin boards? Burleigh runs the paper sideways around the room to create a flowing, orderly atmosphere. Use this same technique to create different activity areas like a reading zone or a conferencing space. You can even go in with other teachers and split the cost. Add a cute border, and you have perfection.

Incorporate Student Work

Posting student work reinforces what “good” looks like and provides helpful reminders to students who are stuck. “Only put up what is really important,” suggests Burleigh. “Keep it fresh and pertinent to what you are actually studying.”

Susan Wise, an 8th grade teacher at Chapin Middle School in Chapin, SC, adds, “Students love to see their own work. It gives them a sense of ownership, which is very important at the middle school level.”

Make It Instructional

There's no getting around the fact that students are easily distracted. “My philosophy is that when their minds wander, as they look at the walls they will at least be engaged with something that pertains to the lessons being taught,” says Wise. A teacher of state history, she relies on South Carolina maps, newspaper articles and historic brochures to decorate her classroom.

Instructional charts and posters reinforce learning, too. “In fourth grade, we create lots of anchor charts,” says Burleigh. “I post those to the wall in sections grouped by subject. As we advance in the subject, I place the new anchor chart on top of the old one to keep it neat.” An added bonus: if the class needs to review, they just flip back to the previous chart. You can even purchase instructional materials during special promotions and get students to create anchor charts.

Make It Homey

Create the coziness of home in your classroom with rugs, lamps, furniture and other creature comforts. Fashion a picture wall with inexpensive frames and classroom photos. “A home-like feel relaxes the students, and that starts everything off on the right foot,” says Burleigh.

You may feel overwhelmed with everything you need to outfit your classroom, but take a breath. “First year is the toughest,” says Burleigh. “But if you keep adding to your treasure trove of decorating supplies, it gets easier and easier.” Contributing Writer

Carolyn Evans is a freelance writer with a focus on the product and retail industries. She is a graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Carolyn resides in Chapin, SC. Find Carolyn on Google+.

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