Each year, we plan a theme for our school. We use this theme throughout the year for many things around the building: bulletin boards, locker tags, the newsletter, and individual student displays in the classroom. Some teachers are “all in” with the theme and their classrooms are completely decked out, while other teachers don’t decorate as much.
The reason for the theme is pretty simple: It gives the building unity and something for us to feel connected about. The students also seem to really love it. In some of the examples listed below, there is a broad theme that teachers can have a lot of creativity with. For example, if the theme is something broad like, “Welcome to the Jungle,” each teacher can do something different with it. They could pick an animal that lives in the jungle and have a “monkey” room or a “lizard” room, or they could do something more geographic and have a room decorated like a rainforest. Keeping it broad allows all teachers to be creative and plug into the theme in their own way.
Finding Your Theme
Here are some ideas for what you could use as a theme for your building. Some of these could be used as classroom themes if there isn’t a school-wide theme. It is good to be more universal in the concept—the wider, the better. Listed here are some broad themes with a few examples to help get you and your school started.
Animals: Kids love animals of all kinds, so this is a great place to start if your school hasn’t had a school-wide theme in the past.
- Zoo: Each classroom can be a different zoo animal, and as a school you could be the “______ Zoo” for the year (insert school name). The teachers could dress up as zookeepers for open house, which would be fun!
- Pets: My wife always had a “Dog-gone Great Classroom” every year. Most kids love dogs, and there are about a million variations that could be used with this one. As a school, each classroom could be a different breed of dog or different type of pet. This one is lots of fun.
Music: Again, most kids love music, so this can be a fun way to engage them at the start of the year.
- Rock and Roll: There are a lot of great decorations and props for schools to have a “Rockin’ Great Year.” Guitars, drums, and even the music itself can all help set the tone.
- The Band: It doesn’t have to be rock music necessarily, but having everyone in the school as “Part of the Band” is a lot of fun, too. “We Rock” or “Banded Together” are themes that can create unity as a school.
Sports: This one can be a little harder for all kids to relate to, but it can still be fun and will maybe expose the students to something new they didn’t know much about before.
- Teams: Being a “team” is a great use of the building-wide theme. You could work in the character education angle by “Playing by the Rules” or have all classrooms have different “Goals” for the year.
- College: This one doesn’t necessarily have to be sports themed, but I saw a school once that had a local college theme for each classroom. I believe the colleges sent them stuff for free to promote their organization. This also has the benefit of allowing students to see the different options they have as they get older while emphasizing the importance of education.
Geography: Geography is a good school-wide theme because there are so many options for how to connect the classrooms together.
- Going Global: “Creating a Better World” is one way to incorporate different continents or countries into the students’ experience. This can also allow for some multicultural exposure or even a global collaborative experience if the teacher is able to.
- USA! USA!: Any theme focused on America is going to be a hit with students. Classrooms could be regions, states, or even landmarks (national parks, landforms, etc.). An “America, the Beautiful” theme would also be popular with students and parents.
Here are a few more ideas:
- Olympics: If it is an Olympic year, this can be a really fun theme. Teachers can focus on the events or on the countries participating. Since the Summer Olympics often happen when students aren’t in school, the Winter Olympics are usually better to focus on. If you are thinking about this, 2018 is the year for the Winter Olympics—here is a site to help you get started.
- Character Education: Doing a character ed theme is a little more practical than some of the other themes that are just “fun” in general. If the school will be using a character education curriculum, the theme or slogan for the year could be the same as the curriculum. This is good when it is the first year of something new so everyone can remember the theme.
Something to consider about changing themes each year is that there is a cost to purchasing some of the items. Many teachers don’t have the funds or budget to repurchase consumable items each year, while others just aren’t interested in using their budget money this way. Because of this, we have tried to create a rotation so that every three or four years we are circling back to a theme we have already used. Have fun and plan as a team for a great school year!
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