My first three years of teaching were theme free. I was just beginning my teaching career, and wanted to focus on the curriculum and my instruction. After I got a good grasp of teaching, I started thinking about my classroom environment. I knew I wanted to have a classroom theme. Something that distinguished my room from other classrooms. The summer I was moving from 1st to 2nd grade, I started searching for the perfect classroom theme. A lot of this research was done online, visiting education boards, like www.proteacher.net a wonderful website full of ideas for teachers. There is actually a board for bulletin boards and themes on this website. So many teachers offer great ideas, and you can ask questions and teachers from around the country and world will help you. One teachers website that I spent A LOT of time visiting was Beth Newingham. She is a 3rd grade teacher in Michigan, and is truly inspirational. You can visit her website at: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/ it is full of ideas for any elementary teacher!
As I started thinking about themes, I really wanted to have an educationally based theme. Even though ideas such as racing, Hollywood, frogs, or ladybugs are really cute, I don't think they have a lot of educational value. I began by thinking about the units we teach in the classroom, and things that I have a true passion for. After a lot of thought, I decided since travel is my true passion, I wanted to find a way to have a Social Studies theme that involved maps and the world. I continued searching for ideas and eventually found ways to include license plate name tags, continents as table groups, and street names for the different areas of the classroom. I have also expanded my classroom jobs to include "airline jobs" since I chose my tag line for my classroom. LAK Airways: Where Learning Takes Flight! seemed to be a clear and concise way to share my passion for travel and adventure and my feelings about how wonderful learning can be. I call my students "Globetrotters." Instead of a Star Student, we have a First Class Globetrotter in our classroom. Above all, students are interacting with maps and learning about the world around them daily through this interactive theme. As a word of advice, I suggest you find a theme you really enjoy and can keep for a long time. It can be a challenge, can cost some money (although, if you go to tag sales, flea markets, and dollar stores you can be very creative and not spend a lot of money!), and involves some extra work. I have had LAK Airways for four years with no plans of changing it. If you find something you love, that is academically based, where students can feel safe and secure and free to explore their learning, it can be a place where students achieve great success! While I do not believe you have to have a theme to be a great teacher (as there are many great teachers who do not), I think it can be a fun way to enhance your classroom environment! Here are a few examples that specifically show how I have incorporated my theme into my classroom.