When you’re teaching English to teenagers, creating the right environment is crucial.
The pictures on the walls, the color scheme of the room and the way the desks are arranged can all change the way your students learn.
That’s why you should get creative with your classroom and put up some decorations.
You might be wondering: Aren’t high schoolers too old for classroom decor? Not at all! As well as making your classroom beautiful, decorations can improve your students’ memory, reading, vocabulary and even their behavior.
You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference the right decorations can make.
Why You Should Decorate Your High School Classroom
Teachers have tons of responsibilities, from planning lessons to counseling students. With all of that to deal with, decorating your classroom might not be at the top of your list of priorities. However, it should be, and here’s why:
- Decorating your room allows you to customize your space, constructing the perfect learning environment for your class.
- Your displays can reinforce what you teach, reminding your students of subjects, vocabulary and grammar points that they’ve learned.
- They can also provide inspiration and inject energy into your classroom.
If you leave the walls blank, you’ll be missing out on these valuable benefits.
Tips for Decorating Your Classroom
There’s more to decorating your classroom than just making it look pretty. Your decorations have to be informative and functional, too. Here are some things you should think about when designing your classroom displays.
Give Students Creative Control
It doesn’t all have to be up to you.
If you get your students involved in the decorating process, you can make it a fun activity for the class and get a helping hand. Making and putting up decorations as a class can give your students a sense of satisfaction and pride. Knowing that their work will be displayed for everyone to see will encourage students to put more effort in the activity.
If you don’t have time to set aside for decoration classes, all is not lost. You can simply choose some of their best work from other classes to display on the walls.
Use Topics Your Students Can Relate to
What inspires you might not work for your students. While your first thought might be to use pictures of your literary idols or quotes from your favorite movies, those displays may leave your students scratching their heads.
Remember to think about what your students are interested in, too. Put yourself in their shoes and consider which topics, sources or people they’ll be able to relate to. That way, your classroom decorations will be more effective.
Draw Inspiration from Different Places
While some of your decorations will undoubtedly be based on the topics you’re teaching, don’t limit yourself to those topics alone. You can draw your inspiration from just about anything. Whether it’s pop culture, nature, social media, news or your students themselves, you can base your decorations on any topic you like.
Teaching methods should be interactive and decorations should be, too. The more interactive your classroom decorations are, the more effective they’ll be. Think of ways that students can use the displays instead of simply reading them. Try to use decorations that allow students to rearrange pictures and words, write messages or solve problems.
Update Your Displays Regularly
If you leave your decorations up for too long, they’ll eventually start to lose their impact. Keep things fresh and exciting by updating them periodically. You could change them at the end of every term, when you start a new course or just whenever you have a chance.
It’s a good idea to use the displays to reinforce what students are learning in class. By making the classroom engaging and fun to be in, students will learn better!
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It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch regularly. There are tons of great choices there when you’re looking for songs for in-class activities.
You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students.
Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
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5 High School Classroom Decoration Ideas to Keep Your ESL Students Engaged and Inspired
You don’t need to have a creative flair to make wonderful classroom decorations. Here are some effective ways you can brighten up your classroom.
1. Inspirational Quotes
Inspirational quotes are the perfect place to start. If you don’t have any favorites in mind, browse the most famous inspirational quotes in history and you’ll surely find some you can put on the walls. These can be a great source of motivation for your students. They might even elicit some new vocabulary, too.
But don’t just let them sit on the walls: Any time you add a new quote, introduce your students to it and use the quote as an opportunity to have a discussion about meaning, vocabulary and maybe even grammatical structure.
2. Vocabulary Posters
ESL students often struggle to find new ways to expand their vocabulary, reverting to the same old words over and over again. This is especially the case with adjectives. The English language has hundreds of them, but how can you get your students to remember anything past the basic, overused ones?
Vocabulary posters can help, and an adjectives wheel is a great addition to any classroom. At the center, an adjective wheel contains some very basic words. However, as you work further and further to the edge of the circle, there are lots of variations on those root words.
This is a valuable tool for creative writing, too. It encourages students to use words like “optimistic” instead of “happy” and “remorseful” instead of “sad.”
Don’t worry if some of the vocabulary is a little difficult for your students. They can always ask you to help explain the meanings of words they’re not sure about. The thematic progression of the words also helps to give some context to the more difficult words. This is a great chance to discuss the nuances and subtle differences between certain words that mean basically the same thing.
3. Social Media Bulletin Board
It’s likely that most (if not all) of your students are using some form of social media. Why not use it in your classroom? You can do this by creating bulletin boards.
A Facebook- or Twitter-inspired display will give you and your students a way to share messages and interact with each other. You can provide stickers for students to put on posts they like and spaces for them to write comments. As the teacher, you can use this space to congratulate students on their achievements, too.
Just remember to keep it a positive space. You may have to monitor posts and comments to make sure they’re appropriate for the classroom.
4. Creative Classroom Rules
Do you have rules for your classroom? Use decorations to gently remind your students of what they are.
Posters telling students to tidy up after each class, to finish their workbooks or to only speak English, can help you keep things in check. Instead of having to constantly repeat yourself, you can let your decorations explain the rules for you. If you like, you can even have your students make the posters.
This is also the perfect opportunity to teach modal verbs. Your students will learn how to use words like “must,” “should,” “won’t” and “can’t” while learning the rules of your classroom at the same time.
5. Functional Phrasal Verbs
Phrasal verbs are a frequent source of confusion for ESL students. There are so many of them to remember, and when English is your second language, it can be hard to tell the difference between words like “get up,” “get in,” “get away with,” “get out of” and “get around.”
To help students remember them, you can put them in functional places around your classroom. Think about phrasal verbs you might need to use during class, and strategically place them around the room to remind students of how they’re used.
For example, phrases like “turn on” and “turn off” can be placed near light switches, computers and other devices. Eventually, using these phrasal verbs will become second nature to students.
Looks may be important, but they aren’t everything. Personality is what makes a good teacher. Use yours to come up with your own unique ways to customize your classroom. The things that work for others might not work for you, so keep the individual needs of you and your class in mind. Happy decorating!
Emma Thomas is an ESL teacher in Bangkok with more than five years of experience in teaching students of all ages. You can read more about her experiences as a teacher in Thailand at Under the Ropes.
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