Okay. You got me. I’m a sucker for scrolling Instagram and Pinterest, looking at those BEAUTIFUL classrooms teachers have put together. You know, the ones that look like Hogwarts, or a cozy coffee shop, or are bright and airy? THOSE. But, as much as I love to look at them, that’s just not me. I don’t have the energy or, frankly, the decorating style to pull something like that off! However, I am a huge believer that your classroom environment is super important to support student learning. I just don’t think it has to be a magical transformation to make it work! In fact, as a traveling teacher, I really don’t have that option. Sometimes I’m lucky to get wall space at all! Today I wanted to share with you my bare minimums to have up on the wall to support my students, no matter what classroom I’m in.
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My number one thing to have up on my wall are my question word posters. Whether is during my start of classroom routine, telling a story, or movie talking, question words are vital for student understanding. I’ve essentially stopped teaching question words as part of any unit because I am constantly asking my students questions as we circle topics in a discussion. About 90% of my steps on my FitBit come from me walking over to the question words, pointing to them, asking, and using them for support.
High Frequency Verbs
The other set of posters that I consider a must are high frequency verbs. Whether you include Terry Waltz’s Super Seven, Mike Peto’s expanded Sweet Sixteen, or a list you’ve tweaked for your own classroom, there are almost certainly verbs that you will use more than any other in the language you teach.
Again, I find myself walking over to my high frequency verbs display just as much as my question words! I see my students look at them when they’re working with a reading individually and hear them point them out to each other when they’re working in pairs or groups with a reading.
If you have the space to include multiple tenses, I think that’s awesome! However, if your space is limited, I usually choose the present tense to display. I teach novices and students who complete level 1 in my district are expected to have a solid grasp of the present tense, so that’s what I display and use most often.
Should I Include English in my Visuals?
In short, if the purpose of your signs is to support your learners, I think you should include the English. Saying the word in Spanish and pointing to the word in Spanish doesn’t do a whole lot to support students if they don’t know what it means! I want my students to connect the word they are hearing and seeing with its meaning.
Eventually, the students stop relying on the signs as they naturally learn the words over time. It’s so amazing to watch the process as they go from needing me to point out the word I’m using, to being able to look at the wall and find it on their own based on what they’re hearing, to not even needing the wall for support!
Claim a Corner
It seems to happen quite often to language teachers that we are asked to be traveling between classrooms. I know many people who have at least two rooms, who are in multiple buildings, or who live life on a cart. If that’s the case for you, I highly recommend talking to your “roommate” and working out at least a corner of the room that you can use for these posters. They don’t have to be huge! I usually just print them on a regular size of computer paper. You could use the back of the door, or further up on the wall.
I do think it’s important to have these visual for your students’ learning. If your roommate isn’t super cooperative, talk with them again. If you need to find a mediator in your school to help you, do so! Our subject is just as important as any other in the school, and your students deserve support to help them be successful. I could write an entire blog post on traveling teacher tips, and I may in the future, but for now, just keep in mind that you are an educator who is deserving of respect and equal treatment. Advocate for yourself and your students as best as you can!
Even if you are limited in the space you have on your classroom walls, you can still use fun themes to decorate the area you have! Check out these sets and choose your favorites!