As a TEFL teacher, it’s important to be able to call your classroom your second home. For me, its crucial to my teaching abilities. If I don’t like the space I’m in, there’s no doubt that I’ll be a worse teacher than if I truly love my space.
Also as TEFL teachers, we know and understand that in different regions of the world, the word ‘classroom’ can take on many different forms. I’ve taught in state-of-the-art facilities and I’ve taught in an un-air-conditioned room the size of a small bathroom. Some things aren’t unchangeable, like the framework of a room, but we are able to improve what the classroom looks like through our use of decorations.
Now, let’s talk about some of the benefits of having a decorated classroom.
Why Should I Decorate my Classroom?
Well, there are a few reasons why you should do this. First of all, studies have shown that certain types of decorations can allow students to be more receptive and engaged within the classroom. Think about it: ideally, students should be paying attention to you while in the classroom, however, all of us teachers know that this is not always the case. When students drift off into their world of daydreams, they’re still subconsciously listening to the messages created for them throughout the room, AKA, your posters and other objects hanging around the room. So, you’re decorative choices truly matter.
You want your room to have an atmosphere that conveys that learning is fun, that your students are smart and that you’re there for them along this academic journey. Since we’re English teachers, we should aim to contribute to our students’ learning of the English language. How do you do this? Choose posters that will make them more curious about the field. For example: Put up posters of cities in the US and UK, such as New York City or London. By doing so, you’re inspiring students to want to learn English, so that maybe one day they can go to NYC and be able to speak the language with the locals.
Students learn best when they feel comfortable, so creating a space that conveys this feeling is important. Allow your students to help you while decorating. I always have my students help me with this by cutting new letters for me or letting them tape up the new additions to the wall space. This also allows students to become more comfortable with you, which will add to their academic success. Building relationships in the TEFL classroom should always be a goal of the teacher and this is a great way to do just that.
Lastly, you should decorate your classroom because it is FUN! It’s not only good for your students, but it’s also good for you. Sometimes, being a TEFL teacher is difficult, and in my experience, getting creative can take me out of a bad headspace and reminds me that my job is actually, really fun and really cool. If you’re feeling stuck, think about what you can do to feel unstuck. Many times this means just changing the atmosphere of your classroom!
There’s a quote from Virginia Woolf that I thought of while writing this post. She writes: “Decorate the dungeon with flowers” Now, of course, the TEFL classroom isn’t a ‘dungeon’, but what the quote is saying is that if you’re not happy about a certain situation, change it for the better. We always have the power to do this!
How To Decorate the Room
As I mentioned before, its a good idea to choose decorations that inspire your students to keep learning English. The three criteria I ask myself when thinking of new decoration ideas are:
- Does this add to my students learning process?
- How can I incorporate some of my students’ work into the classroom?
- Will this give my students the opportunity to think outside of the box?
Let’s dig into each of these.
- “Does this add to my students learning process”? Are the decorations your choosing adding value to your students lives? Are you putting up old, ratty posters of the alphabet or are you hanging bright, new, posters of commonly used English idioms? Your students are going to be interested, and probably giggle a little, if they read the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs”. They’ll come running to you asking you to explain it to them. This is the exact reaction you want! If this is what’s happening in your classroom, you’re on the right track. Keep it up!
- “How can I incorporate some of my students’ work into the classroom”? Feature some of your students work on the walls of your room! In my class, I like to assign each student a different English speaking country or city and they have to prepare a presentation on their specific place. Along with the presentation, I ask them to draw or creatively portray one of the main attractions of their assigned place with a brief description of what it is. I, then, hang this portion of the project up around the room. Students love reading about other students places. By doing this, it shows that I honor their hard work and it gives them a sense of pride in the classroom.
- “Will this give my students the opportunity to think outside the box”? One of my main goals in the classroom (other than my students learning the English language) is to inspire them; to challenge them to get outside their comfort zone. In order to do this, you’ve got to get creative and your decorations are one way to do this. I love the use of maps in the classroom. When I was a student, I loved looking at maps. It’s probably one of the things that led me to be a TEFL teacher. It gives students a sense that they can go places far and wide. It gives them a sense of hope and adventure that one day they can go to these far away places. In addition to the maps, I have so many posters of attractions around the world: The Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, the Tower of London, and many more. I intermittently switch these up throughout the year. It’s so interesting to me when a student becomes totally enthralled with a specific one of these. I get a feeling of pure joy when this happens because I know I had something to do with the inspiration a student has gained.
So, yes, a lot of thought goes into my decoration choices. We have a huge opportunity with this and so often, I think this opportunity is lost amongst teachers. It definitely requires a little extra time and work, but its worth it. Imagine yourself as a student: do you want to walk into a classroom everyday and see the same old, same old, meaningless posters up? Or would you rather walk into a bright, colorful and inspiring room? For me, the answer is the latter…
I really hope this has inspired you to spruce up your room! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.