Monday, June 25, 2018

High School Classroom Decor: Semi Flexible Seating in a Secondary ELA Classroom

I'm a strong believer that your environment, whether that be your home or your classroom, can influence your daily energy, imagination, and joy. Because of this, I set out to design my high school classroom decor to reflect the overall goal I want to achieve in my classroom. Since I'm a high school English teacher, I want my classroom to promote reading, writing, and discussing. Let me walk you through the classroom design choices I made, why I made them, and how much they cost me.

A Tour of My High School English Classroom: 

For my focal wall, I wanted to create a gathering place for classroom discussions, a designated area for a specific learning station (such as always have one station with a discussion component), and a line of vision to the whiteboard/ projector. Since the overall theme for my classroom is "Hogwarts Library," I created a common room feel with a wall of books and a faux fireplace that says, "Lumos: Be the Light" (more on how I created all of this below).

As for the flexible seating part, here is my plan so far: I want each student to have a designated desk to begin the day. I think this will set the tone that we always mean business when we come to class. After we do our daily routines and have our mini-lesson, students can then choose to move to a different location where they work best. I realize this is probably the complete opposite of what true flexible seating should be, but from my research, this is how I want to approach flexible seating for the first time. I will try to do an update by December on how it's going, or you can follow me on Instagram @BuildingBookLove for more frequent classroom musings.

If you are wondering how I will make the "choose where you want to work" part fair, the answer is that I'm going to let students take ownership of those rules on our first day. I will let them brainstorm and agree to a fair plan on who gets to sit in these seats when it's work time. I will give an update on what they come up with.

As for other flexible seating areas, I have this little nook behind my desk. I need to find two more chairs for this area, but you get the idea. Even before I decided to give flexible seating a try, I would have students who chose to move over to this area to work. If you are an introvert like myself, then you can understand why this space is appealing to certain students. If you aren't an introvert, then you really need to read Quiet Power: The Hidden Strengths of Introverted Kids or the adult version Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Quit Talking (<affiliate links). Introverts have many talents, so providing safe little nooks like this for them to work will help these students thrive.

Side note: I debated long and hard about ditching my desk, but in the end, I just couldn't do it. My desk is HUGE and takes up too much space, but the thought of getting rid of it just to replace it with something smaller seemed like too much effort (It would take probably 4 strong people to move this thing). If it comes down to my needing more room for students, I will do it, but for right now, it's going to stay.

Which brings me to a question that always comes up: How big is your room and how many students do you need to fit in it?

So it's kind of hard to get a good angle of my desk configuration, but right now my classroom has 26 desks in it. I will probably need to add more to get it closer to 30. If I need to get to a number around 35, I will definitely need to downsize my own desk to make that happen. Again, I designed my classroom so that the seating in the center will not be someone's designated work area. If semi-flexible seating goes well, I might change my mind on this in the future. We shall see. My room is approximately 600 sq ft which based on your own classroom measurements could be considered either extremely large or average. I don't have any windows in my classroom, so to me, it feels average. Others have been commenting that it's gigantic, so I guess it's all about perspective. Either way, I feel very appreciative of the generous size of my room.

Here are some other angles: 

Other Classroom Design Choices: 

Lamps- Since my classroom doesn't have windows or natural lighting, I think that it's really important to have other calming light sources. I have always used lamps in my classroom, but now I have even more after reading this interview from The Cult of Pedagogy. The teacher made it a point to never use the fluorescent lighting in her room because it really irritated an autistic student. Because of this student, she became aware of her own sensitivity to fluorescent lighting and figured that fluorescent lighting would be subconsciously bothering pretty much everyone else in the room too. I have my fluorescent lights on for the pictures, but I will probably leave them turned off most of the time. Here's the calming environment that lamps help to create:

Lamp Sources: 

Most of my lamps are from yard sales or thrift stores. You can find secondhand lamps everywhere! I never spend over $3 for one...with the exception of my chandelier. I thought that was worth a $5 splurge, ha! ;)

 This was so cheap because the wiring wasn't included, but that doesn't matter because it's not wired in! I just hung it up there by attaching the chandelier chain to a track ceiling hook (see below for a picture and link). The candles that you see are battery powered remote controlled candles that can easily be turned on and off with the press of a button! If you want the specific ones I bought, here they are:

I had some left over, so I also stuck these in the wall sconces around the room. 

I did have to buy two brand new lamps because I needed to save floor space and these are the type that can hang from the ceiling.

 You can see in the background of this photo that the cord goes behind the paper roll, down the wall, and plugs in like a regular lamp. I purchased two of these at Lowes for $18 each.

Lastly for the lighting, let's not forget about my faux classroom fireplace that I made using Dollar Store string lights 😍 (more on how I made this below).

Seating- I've already talked about how I plan to go about dipping my toe into flexible seating, so now I will share where I picked up the flexible seating options.

*One vintage sofa that I got for a great deal at a local antique shop ($100 delivery and everything!)
*Two pink wing-back chairs from a different antique store ($50) 
*Pillows for floor sitting (free)
*Rug for floor sitting. This rug is one of the only things I purchased new. It's HUGE and only cost $50 because it's actually made of plastic and is meant to be an outdoor rug. I think this will make it easier to keep clean plus it's so light that I can take it home and wash it out with a water hose every summer. You can look at the one I bought plus other colors here: RV rugs on Amazon  (<affiliate link)
*Chairs that go over in the quiet nook ($10 so far, but I need to find two more)

 Decor- One of the things I knew I was going to splurge on for my classroom makeover was the book focal wall. In fact, it drove my entire design!

 ***By the way, if you want to learn more about how to design your own classroom, be sure to start by fun and FREE classroom design challenge!

But you see, I didn't spend upwards of $500+ for wallpaper to go on this wall. Nope. This is actually WRAPPING PAPER. It's from Spoonflower, and it's the best. Spoonflower has about a million designs, so no matter your classroom theme, you can definitely find something that will add interest to your classroom decor. A designer named Magenta Rose Designs created this pattern out of books that belonged to her English grandma. How sweet is that!? 

Unless you catch them on sale, each roll of wrapping paper is $15 and covers almost 13 sq. ft. I needed 5 or 6 rolls for my project so that's around $100 for this focal wall.

After seeing my wrapping paper wall on Instagram, Spoonflower asked me to write a guest blog post for them on how I attached the wrapping paper to the wall. You can read that here: Liven Up Your Classroom with this Budget-Friendly DIY 

For the rest of the decor, I didn't splurge at all. In fact, all of it was either free or really cheap. For example, I found two of these matching wooden thingys (I have no clue what they are) at Habitat for Humanity for 2.50 each.

I then had my husband attach a piece of wood on top to create a fireplace. Next, I measured the inside of the fireplace and created a banner in Microsoft Publisher. After that, I printed off the banner on 16 individual pages, taped them together, and used a marker to color in places where the printer cut the edges off (this is easier than trimming the edges in my opinion).

 This might sound complicated, but I promise that it's easy to do once you learn a few tricks. If you would like to learn how to create your own classroom posters and banners, you can take my class here: Poster Design Class: How to Make Posters for Your Classroom 

 This next decor item is one of my biggest teacher hacks. Not only does it look like a cool scroll, but it is also functional and takes up zero floor space! If you go to your local newspaper and ask for end rolls, you can get large rolls of paper for cheap or free!! Next, you will need to attach clamps to your ceiling track with these ceiling track clamps (<affiliate link). Lastly, you will buy two S hooks that fit around a curtain rod and hang the S hooks from the clamps. Now obviously you will need to use your own judgment about keeping these rolls within reach of students. I'm personally not going to allow students to unwind their own pieces of paper when we need to use them. I've had one of these rolls in my room for about 5 years now and it has never fallen, but I don't want to take any chances.

You can see that I also added a little whimsy with an old curtain tie.

Since I'm loosely doing a Harry Potter themed classroom, I decided to add cute brooms above my cabinets. They were .25 each from The Goodwill, and I love how they turned out!

Lastly, I will leave you with one of my favorite spots in my classroom:

The posters at the top are part of a Harry Potter Language Novel Study I designed.

The posters above the student work turn-in-area and display area are part of a Growth Mindset Novel Study approach to Harry Potter

I just love all of my little magical items in this nook including the books, salt lamp (a Christmas gift), diffuser (had for years), and lots of vintage looking frames including a .25 cent frame that has one of my all-time favorite quotes: 

 All in all, my classroom decorations and flexible seating cost me around $425 (I didn't count the items that I've collected over the years--only the items I bought this summer). I've been hesitant to post this number because as a new teacher, I would not have been able to afford even $50 for my classroom decor. While I believe that spending money to make your work-space a happy place to be is worthwhile, I want to stress that what goes ON inside your classroom is far more important than what goes IN it. If you can get a grant or can afford to make your classroom decor special, then GO FOR IT. If you can't, use your other talents to make your classroom magical. Because like the quote above, magic is free if you know where to look for it. 

For those who want to learn how to plan out your classroom theme and design, be sure to start my fun and FREE Classroom Design Challenge! 

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