Do you spend a ton of time decorating your classroom walls before the first day of school?

I have seen LOTS of classrooms over my 30 years of teaching filled with colorful pictures, posters, words, and letters. I can tell that the teachers have spent countless hours decorating the door, walls, bulletin boards, and any other open space and at first glance, it can look amazing.

However, too much on on the walls, doors, windows, and bulletin boards can create environmental print overload.

Are You Doing Too Much?

If your classroom is overloaded with environmental print, the children can start to treat all that hard work like white noise. When there is too much environmental print, it becomes less meaningful and the children just tune it all out.

Let Me Save You a Little Time

I started to realize that my children responded more enthusiastically to what was up on the walls when I went with less instead of more. I also realized that it was okay to start simple and then begin to add more, as needed, once the school year got up and running. And by waiting to fill up all the walls with my ideas, I became more intentional about filling the classroom with ideas inspired by or done by the children.

Something a Little Different

A few years ago, I decided to try something a little different and I have been doing this same idea in different ways ever since. What did I do? I put up a blank canvas.

A Blank Canvas

Yes, you heard right. I now start the school year with at least one large blank canvas (sometimes I have a set of small canvases) on my wall. Last year, I hung my blank canvas up in the bathroom and the children talked about that canvas ALL year long.

I guess because the canvas is blank the children are naturally curious. They often ask me, “What are we going to do with that?” I love how they assume it is their canvas.

It is the perfect opportunity for me to build conversation. “What do you think we should do with the canvas?” “It does look a little plain on the wall.” The children make their suggestions, “we can paint it” or “we can draw on it” and together we begin our first adventure as a community. We are focused on giving our canvas some much needed help as a community.

A Better Connection with A Lot Less Work

You may be thinking, “Deborah, but I love my art displays!” and I certainly don’t want to take away from your creative genius or fun but what I do want to do is help you look at your classroom from the child’s perspective.

Will your displays invite the children to ask questions, be a little curious, offer up suggestions, make decisions, get involved, or in some way foster a sense of community or are your displays just white noise?

I know that you have a hundred things to worry about before the first day of school so why don’t you give yourself a little break. When it comes to those walls, be patient and leave some space for the children to jump in and help you out.