One year, I taught in a classroom the student body liked to call “the dungeon.”
I’ll leave the details to your imagination, but the fact is, we all suffered for it.
The students most of all.
I’ve heard the ideal classroom described as a place students don’t want to leave, and this environment was pretty far from that.
The spaces in which we live and spend time in are important. And learning spaces are no different.
Classrooms can benefit from some careful planning. Common sense leads most teachers to understand that cleanliness and organization are important to a well-managed classroom.
But what about considerations like creativity, color and emotional warmth? Experts claim that prioritizing creativity over productivity helps students, which is why decorations created by students themselves are a great idea.
Here are some tips that can get you started thinking about how to involve your students in the creation of their own learning environments. Assigning the students tasks that get them decorating the classrooms with their own work is a great way to do just that; read on for more specific suggestions for classrooms for students of all ages.
Get Crafty: Teaching with Spanish Classroom Decorations
All sorts of classroom decor are available for purchase, so why devote valuable learning time to something like interior decorating?
Try out any of the creative decorating activities we suggest, or an original one of your own design, and you will see for yourself how students will gain benefit from a more creative learning experience.
Here are some advantages of decorating the classroom with your students’ handiwork.
Students Are More Invested
Student-friendly decor made by your learners shows that their work is worthy of display and gives them a sense of investment in their own learning experience. While the look of store-bought decorations might be tidy and polished, these products do not adequately reflect the goals of learning you discuss with your students every day. When you put up student-generated decorations, the students see firsthand that their hard work, their effort and their creativity are noticed and rewarded.
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It Makes Spanish Relevant
One of the most frequently mentioned bits of advice for Spanish teachers is to make Spanish relevant to their students, but that is often easier said than done. Using Spanish realia and other Spanish-class-related decorations show how the language impacts students’ lives in an immediate way. Labels on furniture and other classroom accessories, for example, allow you to talk with students in Spanish about their environment. Other decorative projects completed by your class mean more than just a handout or a grade; learners are creating things that they and their fellow classmates can learn from.
Learners Develop Pride in Their Spanish Skills
No matter the subject area, when students see their own work on display, they feel pride in their work. This emotional connection to learning can help increase motivation.
What’s more, if students know their work will be on display, they work extra hard to create a spectacular finished product. Compare that to messy handwriting and misspelled words that appear on homework that’s simply turned in for a grade.
Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s look at how you can get started.
What All Will I Need?
Below are five creative and educational ideas for decorating your classroom with your students.
You can use them as a place to begin designing an entire unit of study, or as one-off creative projects that reward a term’s hard work. Culture projects and vocabulary units are particularly adaptable to classroom decoration assignments, in a general sense, so use these suggestions as inspiration if that works best for you!
But first, let’s check out some basic equipment to help you get started.
Have a clear rubric or set of guidelines for your students
Once you’ve decided on which decorations for students to create, make sure you put the time into developing a clear rubric or set of guidelines so they know exactly what to expect grade wise.
You can use a rubric from one of your creative projects or other assignments if that saves you time, or try looking at these examples online.
Gather basic art supplies
Before starting a decoration task, check to see that your art supplies are where they need to be.
- Are all of your markers working and do you have enough glue to go around?
- If incorporating collages into your assignments, start asking around for magazines that your students can cut up without worry.
For a homework assignment, send learners home with a checklist of art supplies you would like them to have on hand; if they can’t get what they need, consider opening your classroom up one or two afternoons a week as a studio space.
That was a lot to take in! But now that the legwork is out of the way, let’s look at how you can put your decorations to work.
5 Dazzling Spanish Classroom Decorations for Your Students, by Your Students!
While you simmer on your own ideas for student-generated classroom decorations, here are five easy ways to inspire you and your class.
In one semester, you could even try all five; consider asking students at the end of the semester for feedback. Which of the activities were the most enjoyable and which reinforced important Spanish concepts the best? Their responses can inform your next round of creative exercises.
Realia are objects from real life like menus and advertisements. These items, in particular, emphasize relevance because they can be used when your students practice spoken communication in Spanish. Use realia as a basis for conversational practice once the items are posted as decorations. This Spanish teaching blog contains some examples of these objects and how to use them in the classroom.
How to use in your classroom: Assign students a long-term homework or project assignment, and ask them to save items of realia from their own excursions with their friends and families.
After a month or two, ask students to bring in their items and to present them to the rest of the class, or write up an essay talking about their findings.
Add to the learning experience by bringing FluentU into your lessons.
With FluentU’s diverse catalog of clips, students can gain deeper insight into Spanish-speaking cultures around the world. Interactive games can also be played to make for livelier studies!
2. Jokes, Idioms and Proverbs
Everyone loves a good joke. And idioms and proverbs are some of the most colorful elements of any language, including Spanish.
Depending on how advanced your students are, it might be a good idea for you to distribute a list of jokes, idioms and proverbs that you feel most comfortable with them learning.
How to use in your classroom: In small groups or pairs, ask students to read their jokes, idioms and proverbs out loud.
If any phrases are particularly obscure or confusing, discuss them as a class. For a homework or project grade, depending on how involved you would like their work to be, task students with colorful and creative illustrations of these sayings accompanied by their own words.
3. Fashion Show Write-ups
This assignment is ideal for a vocabulary unit on clothing items or colors in Spanish. Weather terms could even be incorporated so students can decide on what outfits are most suitable for what seasons or outdoor conditions.
How to use in your classroom: Provide students with a master list of options from which they must decide; for example, they could select footwear, pants, a top, and outerwear for a particular look, and they must choose the environment and place for which the outfit is most suitable. For a less formal project experience, you might allow students to work in pairs or small groups as they decide what should be worn in what situation. Collages or drawings of clothing items must accompany the relevant vocabulary words.
4. Spanish Culture Projects
Culture projects are an essential part of any Spanish curriculum, so incorporating a cool and colorful decorative element will be no problem for you. Maps, flags, flora and fauna, festive traditions, foods…the list of possible decorations for your classroom is truly endless. Check out these artsy project ideas for inspiration.
How to use in your classroom: Review your guidelines and rubrics for standing culture projects. If this is your first time assigning a culture project, that makes things even easier. Assign student-generated visual aids and art as a part of the broader project so that students have something to share with their classmates on the walls and bulletin boards.
5. Dynamic Bulletin Boards
Dynamic bulletin boards are such a great idea to encourage students to take charge of their own learning. Once a month, have your learners work individually or in small groups on creating a decorative board for the entire classroom to enjoy.
How to use in your classroom: At the start of a marking period, let students know that this task is something they will complete as the period unfolds. Place emphasis on vocabulary groups like weather, colors, seasons, months or any other unit of study that can be adapted to a visual project. Give students complete freedom to design and decorate, and with your final approval, the dynamic bulletin board of their dreams can be unveiled to the rest of the class.
So, there you have it! Five great ideas for fun and fabulous classroom decorations created by your students for your students. These suggestions are a great way to blend creative effort with Spanish learning. As such, your students will see and enjoy the fruits of their labor every day they come to class.
Lynn Ramsson is an educator who enjoys working with students of all ages. She has taught in Virginia and California, and now, she writes from the south coast of England where she lives with her family. She travels to Spain as often as she can, in search of the perfect gambas al ajillo.
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