Other than their homes, your students probably spend more time in your classroom than anywhere else, so you want to make sure that your classroom also feels like their classroom. Cute decorations are great, but to make students feel at home in their classroom, you may need to add a few more special touches. Don’t worry: It isn’t hard, and the benefits are huge. Both you and your students will feel more relaxed, more at home, and probably more productive, too. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Take lots of pictures. Not just at the start of the year but all year long. Then display them in your classroom. One idea is to make a special bulletin board (or do something easy like put clothes pins on a string or piece of fishing net) just for student photos. Swap them out as often as you can. Send the old ones home with the students who are in the photos and put up new ones. This is a great job for a parent volunteer! I think this is especially important if you teach in a school where your kids might not have the best home life. It could be that no one takes pictures of them at home. Show that child that you care enough to take and post his picture. For older students, consider having a Photographer of the Week whose job is to take pictures. You, of course, get to decide which ones get printed!
Cozy spaces and alternative seating are a great way to help kids feel at home. Consider lowering tables so kids can sit on the floor. Allow your wiggly kids to sit on fitness balls. Let them read in odd places, like under desks or in your super cozy Book Nook. Check out this Pinterest board for some cozy classroom library ideas.
Pillows and Plushies
Beanie Babies and other small, plush toys can be a great addition to your classroom. You can have table group mascots (or use a larger plushie for a class mascot) or let each student have his or her own small toy. These are great for classroom libraries and indoor recess! Pillows are another terrific idea, and they don’t have to stay in the library. Kids can use them to make cozy corners anywhere. And don’t forget about rugs. Big and small, fluffy rugs can make a room cozy.
Plants and Pets
Something living is a great way to add warmth to your classroom. Consider adding a few houseplants to your room. One idea is to give each table group a small plant to care for. They can even name it! Class pets are another great way to make a classroom feel like home. Try for something furry like a hamster, gerbil, or guinea pig, but other pets work well, too. Hermit crabs are surprisingly interesting and easy to care for (also, if you are a horrible person and accidentally forget to give them enough water over a long weekend and they die, you can find ones with the same shells to replace them with and the kids will never know…not that any of you would ever do that…)
Lamps and Lanterns
Fluorescent lights can be harsh all day long. Some teachers find small table lamps to use at certain parts of the day. You can put one at each table group or just set them strategically around the room. There are so many fun lamps. Target and Ikea have great ones, and, of course, there are always your neighborhood garage sales. Rice paper lanterns are another fun idea. Pick them up at Ikea or possibly the dollar store. Also consider strings of lights and those battery-powered fake candles.
Scents and Sounds
Consider all the senses when making your classroom feel warm and homey. Something that gives off a fresh scent (just make sure no student is allergic) like this essential oil diffuser can be a nice touch. For relaxing sounds, I have a friend who has quiet wind chimes in her room, and I had a table top fountain on the counter by the sink. You might also consider playing soft music from time to time.
Special thanks to my friends on Periscope for passing along some of these fabulous ideas! Find me on Periscope @RachelLynette.