Effective teachers take responsibility for creating a classroom environment where learning will take place. An environment includes class rules, procedures and myriad other subtle and less subtle components. The physical space itself cannot be neglected. My environments have been wacky at times, covered in science fiction and fantasy posters, along with the stand-up R2D2 who hid my cord clutter. I always worked to make classrooms fun. I threw in character-development posters, some of my own making.
A bit of warning for new teachers: Your school may or may not give you some materials allowance for the year. I work in a poor district and I’ve seldom gotten materials money to spend. I received plenty of math manipulatives last year that someone purchased for me (although one large, $400 box that I never knew about never arrived in my room, sigh) but nothing I had chosen.
Be prepared to go to The Learning Store or Walmart or Amazon — you will have many choices — and hand over your charge card number. Teachers get a $250 tax deduction because the government knows we are all spending our own money. I have known teachers to spend over $1,000 for a year. I have never come close to that money, but I spend hundreds if you include candy incentives and rewards. I spent more my first few years.
1) Laminate posters! You should be able to do this in school or in your district. If not, you can ask your local library for mercy. But you want those posters to last a few years.
2) Ask older teachers for castoffs or extras.
3) Buy popsicle sticks and bingo cards. If you’re really broke, though, you can get bingo card printouts online. Also be prepared to buy markers, colored pencils and construction paper, but ask around first at the start of the school year. Schools sometimes have stashes of construction paper and other supplies, saving you money. So check before you buy. Then go discount shopping for anything you still need.
4) Avoid extreme discount outlets for markers, pencils and other writing materials. If it costs a dollar, but only lasts two periods, you got no bargain.
5) Use glue guns if the school allows, but keep in mind that these can strip paint. It’s best to let the glue cool a bit before sticking up the poster. Tape and tacking materials can also be used, but then be prepared to keep putting your posters back up.
6) Find inspiring internet pictures, print and laminate these. You can personalize your room cheaply this way.
7) Remember to save space for student work. The best classrooms are covered in student projects that demonstrate learning and give kids a chance to show off. Also, kids will do better work if they know that their project just might end up on the wall.