Give your classroom a fresh look for the new year

When students return for the new year, a re-energized classroom can send a message about the exciting opportunities awaiting them.

“As human beings, we’re always looking for something new and different,” says Kathy Balogh of the Education Market Association, an educational products trade group. “Any change you can make to the classroom environment that piques that interest and invites your students to explore helps them refocus and pay closer attention.”

Try these simple and inexpensive ideas to bring new life to the learning environment.

1. Rearrange the classroom

One of the easiest ways to give your classroom a new feel is to rearrange the students’ desks into a new seating pattern and find new spots for the teacher’s desk and classroom learning centers. Create new desk nameplates for each student and brighten up your own desk with new desktop accessories. “The change-around will make it feel like a whole new room,” says Sylvia Lustburg, a veteran fourth-grade teacher at the Elizabeth Morrow School in Englewood, NJ.

2. Display new posters and charts

Buy or create new incentive charts and purchase a new selection of stickers for students to record progress in good behavior and study habits. Change out inspirational wall posters and add a pocket chart that gives students an opportunity to get out of their seats and explore.

3. Switch out bulletin boards

Add new background colors and borders, and refresh the content to reflect subject matter students will tackle in the new year, suggests Shana Broders, a fifth-grade teacher at Wake Forest Elementary School in Wake Forest, NC. “I change the color and borders on my door decorations as well,” she says.

4. Refresh basic supplies and storage bins

Nothing signals a fresh start like new supplies, including pencils, erasers, whiteboard markers and filler paper for the classroom. Colorful new classroom storage bins for supplies and other items also brighten up the space.

5. Break out new learning aids

Students returning from vacation need some time to readjust to the school-day routine. “Kids will return with ants in their pants the first week, so introduce some new games and manipulatives that engage their attention,” advises Balogh. Lustburg also suggests switching out classroom books on display in the reading area with offerings students haven’t seen before.

6. Add a new piece of furniture or rug

If budgets allow, add a new area rug in the reading area or new furniture, like a colorful bean bag chair or two, to make a dramatic statement that signals a new chapter. A new floor lamp or other lighting fixture also adds new light and a fresh look to the classroom.