Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Classroom Decor: The 'CUTE' Conversation

Classroom Decor: The "CUTE" Conversation (RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

CLASSROOM DECOR: Cute? Functional? 

Since I've returned from VEGAS and the national/international conference for 
"I Teach K" there has been quite a discussion in the blogging-cyber world about the role of 'cute' in the classroom. With the widespread rise and use of Pinterest, there is yet more "pin-pressure" to create a picture perfect classroom setting. Where do you fall on the cute spectrum? 

How important is your classroom's decor? (RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

I asked this question on my FB fanpage recently. I was so thrilled to have dozens of thoughtful comments on the topic. As everyone heads back to school, it seems appropriate to gather up some delightful photos of classrooms that I have visited, making my rounds as "Author-Illustrator Music Lady" to schools around the country. I am going to mix the FB comments in with the images to support your thinking and consideration. 

{{{The quotes transported here from FB are NOT in response to these photos.}}} 

I mingle the teacher-thoughts with the classroom views to serve as a springboard to articulate this inquiry. There are all sorts of pendulums that swing back and forth in the educational arena. This 'conversation' on the merits of cute regarding decor are intended for your reflection. By all means leave your thoughts in the comment section way down below! 

Preschool Classroom Set-UP (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"My classroom has to look nice (cute)! 
I am in it way more than I am at home.... awake! 
I like my students and parents to feel like I cared enough to make the learning environment inviting." 

Classroom mailbox (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I want to feel happy when I come in my room, 
but I also want the room to be student-friendly. 
If it's not being used with and by students, 
I don't need it cluttering up the room. 
It's small enough to begin with! ~~ 
I'm a four." 
- Wendy

Preschool Reality TV!  (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I think it's a personal preference. 
I think I'm a 5..... but I love to decorate and make crafts. 
I think every classroom should feel inviting. 
Kids should feel comfortable and have some part in the actual decor of the classroom. 
I don't think teachers should be 'forced' to cuteify 
(I'm making that a word) their rooms. 
I'm a little confused as to why this is such an uproar lately...." 
The Tutu Teacher

Preschool Classroom SetUP (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)


Preschool Bulletin Board (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"It is a 'home-away-from-home' for me, 
as well as for my students, 
so it is quite important to me." 
-- Susan

Classroom Bench (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I spend a lot of time in my classroom
so I like it to look inviting. 
I also love crafts. 

Kindergarten Focus Wall (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"As a support teacher, 
I think the 'debate' has come about because in kindergarten, 
sometimes teachers spend a lot of time on "cute" and less on "curriculum."
My room is always organized and neat, 
with some cute here and there. 
I'd say I'm a 3, 
but I now am exclusively a push-in, co-teacher, 
so I have no classroom to decorate this year."

Classroom Details (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)


Kindergarten Classroom Overview (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I want my classroom to be appealing to my kiddos and parents.
I think its about having a sense of pride 
and positive outlook on our daily work. 
If its warm and inviting then the kiddos want to be there
and put forth their best effort. 
I integrate a lot of crafts and student work in the environment, 
especially in kindergarten. 
I'm definitely a 5."
-Mary Kay 

Classroom Details (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I'd be between 3 and 4. 
I have a color scheme, but not everything adheres to it, 
because it's costly! 
But the way the room is set up 
is very important in terms of flow,
where the important things are that the students will need 
and usefulness to the curriculum. 
You can be CUTE with Curriculum!"

Kindergarten Classroom Set-up Overview  (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I try to make my room as cute and as functional as possible for my Kinders.
I am definitely all about flow. 
I want it appealing to students and parents, 
but also myself
(after all we are there for 8 to 10 hours a day sometimes). 
I like to decorate with Student made items -- 
to make the room feel like it belongs to them. 
But I am definitely no Martha Stewart-- 
I wish I was that crafty!" 

-- Cheryl

Kindergarten Classroom Set-up Overview  (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"In my opinion, your classroom is the first thing 
parents and students see when they walk in.
Before they even come up to meet you, they see the classroom. 
I want my families to see a fun, well put together classroom. 
It's part of who I am as a person and I like to show a little of myself
with how I set-up my classroom. 
I'm clean and organized and I like things to match. 
I want my classroom to reflect that too. 
It not only makes me feel better, but it helps my students too. 
They know where things go. 
Everything has a home. 
If they find something out of place they know immediately where I put it without me telling them. 
The organization might be considered over the top by some, 
but it helps things run smoother in our world. 
I love what you said at the opening of this post! 
{Your classroom is your kingdom, your home, 
your village, your masterpiece, your playground, your laboratory.}" 

Classroom Details (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I want my class to be inviting to my students. 
They will be there for the greater part of their day
and for nine months of their year. 
How a teacher decorates their room is a reflection of their personality. 
As I was not at the conference, 
I am not exactly sure what the debate is about. 
Therefore, I am unable to comment on that aspect. 
I think it's great to decorate your classroom as much or as little as you want. 
It's your classroom. 
However, our main goal is to see that we educate our students 
and that they are prepared for the next level 
when they leave our classrooms."

Kindergarten Focus Wall (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"Room is extremely important, though I am not a 5.... 
My room is a 4ish,
though I have a very difficult time keeping up with the piles that inevitably end up! 
I agree with the comments here: 
the environment is part of the learning process;
it is used for learning as well as displaying the learning taking place. 
Cutesy just makes it all that much better! 
I have some cutesy, 
but not too much...... 
takes too d**n long! LOL!" 

Classroom Detail (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"Organization is first for me. But why can't it be cute too? 
The more organized my room is,
the less time wasted in finding things, cleaning up, getting supplies, and transition. 
When I spend the time on making my room nice/cute and comfortable
for me and my kids, 
they seem to appreciate it and show that by taking better care of everything. 
Things last longer and there is a sense of pride in our room. 
As long as cute isn't the only thing you have going on
then it shouldn't be a problem." 

Classroom SetUP Overview (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I'm probably a 3. I like everything to have a place. 
I've had a pirate theme for the past 5 years 
and am switching to a rock star theme this year for a change. 
My decor is more subtle I'd say. 
In my very large school (850+), 
it helps the littles to have something to identify a teacher with. 
I've been the pirate teacher..... guess I'll be the Rock Star teacher now. 
I think it also adds to the "team" or "family" aspect as well, to have a theme. 
I don't do LOTS of worksheets but the reality is that you have to have some of that, too. 
I think any good teacher is going to take what works for their teaching style/philosophy
and the particular group of kids each year. 
Does that mean make a new kid created alphabet chart every year???
For me...... no. 
Pre-planning has already been reduced to 3 days and 1 of those is consumed by meetings
and the final day is Meet The Teacher, 
where parents/students come in. 
In my opinion, this is like dressing for an interview. 
Cute is not evil, 
but cute should have value to learning......
not just cute for the sake of cute." 

Classroom SetUP for Reading Area (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"This is such an interesting topic.  
I like to make my room "cute" because the color and organization just makes me happy. 
I think it also helps to create that secure, safe feeling for my students in the classroom. 
I make sure to balance MY decor with student work
because in the end that is my favorite decoration of all. 
(Debbie Diller's book about classroom set up is FABULOUS). 
Also we need to remember when we are decorating 
(and planning activities in general) 
that our worlds are a lot bigger than our children's. 
I've seen a lot of twitter and instagram themed bulletin boards
and even activities that (in my opinion) have no relevance to small children. 
I realize I've gone on a little bit of a tangent here, but I think it all relates back to the idea of whether we are doing things like our cute classrooms for us or for our kids. 
ANYWAY as far as my rating I'd say between 3 and 4. 
I usually want my classroom to be more "designed"
but as I get closer to the start of the year
it's importance starts to fall behind all of the other tasks. haha."

--Kroger's Kindergarten 

Kindergarten Classroom Organization of Centers (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)


Kindergarten Classroom Organization of Centers (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"4. I'm less concerned with my classroom being cute 
and more concerned with it being a calming environment. 
Some classrooms are so colorful and have so much stuff that it can be over stimulating. 
I'm working hard to stick to a strict color scheme
and keep things very organized in order to limit distractions." 

Classroom Decor Details (RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I like what Mrs. Kroger posted. 
What I try to keep in mind is that my room should be for the boys in my class too. 
I see a lot of classroom photos that are over the top "girly." 
Where does a boy fit into that scheme? 
I don't want to look at my classroom as 
"mine" but "ours" -- the girls AND the boys." 

Classroom Organization and Layout (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I am moving towards more of a Reggio-Inspired Environment; 
natural colours and more elements of nature in my classroom. 
I will begin the year with more of a blank slate 
so the children and I can create our classroom together. 
Early childhood educators have always placed a high importance on the environment 
and created spaces to include messy and loud play. 
Here is my link to my Pinterest board on Reggio-inspired learning." 

Classroom Decor Details (RoundUP of Class Decor at RainbowsWithinReach)

"My classroom belongs to my kids..... like our Christmas tree." 
They do most of the decorating so it's mostly at their eye level. 
We do our best and it changes with the season, 
the holidays and the interest of the class." 

"I'm somewhere in the middle. 
I don't do a "theme" but I do have a general color scheme-light green, soft blue and black. 
I think it helps give the whole room a cohesive feel. 
But more important to me than cute is functional. 
Students being able to find the things that they need
and not being overwhelmed by stuff.....
now my desk is a whole 'nother matter, 
but I'm working on it." 

Welcome Lobby in Preschool (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"Definitely a 5! 
Our Preschool room has a soft green theme with brown and earthy accents. 
It has a great calm feel to it. 
I think it is very important that the environment 
reflect the needs and interests of the child..... 
who cares what we adults think! 
It has to work for them."

Focus Wall in Early Elementary (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"The school I work in was built in the 70's.... 
lots of dirty gray bricks and bright orange counter tops. 
A lot of teachers this summer have gone in and painted. 
You should see the difference! 
It's amazing how much better it looks. 
Taking pride in our school/classrooms will make a difference 
with our students and parents. 
We spend so much time there, it should be an inviting place to be. 
I would say I'm at a 4. 
I just hope I can stay this "cute" and organized all year. 
I tend to get messier as the year goes on."

Reading Center with BOLD Graphics (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowWithinReach)

"I think I hang out at 3. 
I love to decorate and do it seasonally
and at my school we have to change bulletin boards monthly...
but I am sensitive to the ADD etc child, 
who can be so overstimulated by all the color, dots, stripes
that they can't work well. 
So, I love, love, love it all, but in moderation."

Kindergarten Organization: Tables (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I am about a 3.
I love creating a fun, bright and engaging environment. 
I want parents to come in and know that it is a happy place. 
I want students to want to be there. 
But my bottom line is teaching. 
I don't change any decorations seasonally, 
only change out work that my students have done. 
I just stribe to be more organized in the classroom 
and get my own routine fine tuned."  

Classroom Decor Detail (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I would say that my classroom is a 3. 
There is not much decorating that we are allowed to do. 
We cannot bring in furniture, lamps or rugs. 
We cannot paint 
and we can only have a certain percentage of our walls covered with paper. 
I have tried to make my room organized and functional more than cute. 
I would love to add the extra details but we are not allowed." 

Reading Center in Early Elementary (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I think I'm a 3. 
Most of the time I spend on the classroom is to organize centers, 
traffic flow and efficiency. 
I have bought rugs, chairs, pillows, shelving units, 
but honestly they usually don't last for long.... 
I've been moved around alot in my career and what suits one room, one grade
and the programs of the moment
is not the same from one year to the next. 
Storage, especially for books is a big issue.
This year my teacher area 
(which is fixed by bolted down desk/wardrobe cabinet) 
is going to be pink. 
I always eschewed pink because I thought boys wouldn't relate --
but last year my boys were completely ok with me liking girly stuff
as long as I had stuff that was masculine around the room too."  

Classroom with "WILD" Theme (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I am a 3ish. 
I like the cutesy stuff but if it is not functional 
it is just a distraction to my kids with ADHD 
or other sensory issues, 
which is my whole class being that I teach special Ed. 
Also I have way more boys than girls 
so i try to stay neutral in the colors and decorations. 
I think, like others have said, 
if it works for your class great, 
but if one kid can't get past 'fixating' on the shabby chic 
ribbon curtains.... take them down!" 

Classroom Decor Details (Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"I am a creative person by nature. 
I come from a very crafty family and love my classroom to be bright and fun. 
I have had parents come into my room and say
wow, there is a lot of learning going on in this room.
I have a lot of student work up and it is bright and colorful. 
I am a very visual person so I need my room to be fun. 
I am a '5' and happy to be one." 

Classroom Focus Wall and SetUP (Classroom Decor RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach)

Wow! That was fun!! 
The rooms featured above are in Texas, Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio to name a few locations. 
I hope that it helped get you in the mood. 

Speaking of fun? 
Did you see our little moment of delight from my 
keynote in VEGAS? 

While you're here you may also want to spend some time in some of these earlier RoundUPs. (Click the pic.) 

Photo of: Bulletin Board Round-UP via RainbowsWithinReach (All Seasons!!)

photo of: Back-to-School Bulletin Boards (RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach)

photo of: Classroom Door Decoration Ideas + Bulletin Board Ideas as well! (series of articles from school visits)

photo of: Classroom Organization of Materials brought to you by RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Classroom Organization Vignettes (RoundUP via RainbowsWIthinReach)

photo of: Word Walls in Elementary School: Sight Word Presentation on Bulletin Boards Round-up via RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Anchor Charts on Hangers! Organization and Collection of Anchor Charts: RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Apple Projects for Back to School (Preschool thru Kindergarten)

photo of: Trees in the Classroom (RoundUP via RainbowsWIthinReach)

photo of: Reading Corner RoundUP: Inviting Centers for Inspiring Reading via RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Behavior Charts in the Classroom (Behavior Chart RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach)

photo of: 50 Editions of Fine Motor Meets Fine Arts at RainbowsWithinReach

Making Math Meaningful: Building a Math Foundation

photo of: Fall Arts + Crafts Projects for Children (Fall RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach)

photo of: Kindness Inspiration, Filling Buckets + Emotional Intelligence RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Buckets and Character Development RoundUP at RAinbowsWithinReach

photo of: Murals in Schools and Libraries (RoundUP via RainbowsWIthinReach)

photo of: Quilts in the Classroom: Art Meets Geometry RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach

Here's to a great year ahead! 

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  1. I think a classroom needs to be inviting and functional. I have seen some that were overstimulating. It was hard to focus in them for me.

  2. What an amazing and inspirational post. When a teacher puts that much effort into her environment I would think it is a place she values and wants to be in. As long as student work is evident and the teacher is flexible about changing it to me the needs of her class, I think it all works! I want to
    hang out in some of these places. They look kid friendly and the teachers that designed them clearly value young children to go to this level of effort! Thanks Debbie!

  3. As a special educator, I know that sometimes I am providing the distractions that I work so hard to avoid. Cutesy decor can be too stimulating for many of our children and too busy for some on the autism spectrum. Personally I love color but have limited my decorating so I can not waste time redirecting attention because of the great decorations.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post! So many thoughtful comments from your readers! I have found it an interesting discussion since I stopped teaching RIGHT before Pinterest and TPT existed and/or gained popularity. I think my view has always been that the room should reflect the teacher, not be too busy that it's distracting and be child-centered. My personal preference was always soothing/calming colors~ blues and greens!

  5. None of these are as over-the-top as many I've seen. As long as everything is functional, I'm all for it. It's the awnings over bulletin boards, chandeliers, every-single-thing-matching classrooms that make me wonder what the focus really is. Child-centered, yes. Decorator showroom, no.

    For sure I want my classroom to be inviting, stimulating, cheerful... I want parents to know that their children have a healthy place to learn and grow and thrive. I'm in there to teach, after all.

  6. I'm all for creating an inviting classroom, but I'd love it if teachers would trade in some of the cuteness for things that are more interactive. Inspirational posters, to me, are more annoying than helpful, and honestly remind me of those corporate "Attitude... Teamwork... Excellence..." posters that make me instantly loathe a company. I'd much rather see a poster that asks "What's missing from this picture? " or "Where is the elephant?" to stimulate some critical thinking. Sure have areas that acknowledge students' accomplishments and places that inspire wonder while reading and playing. No one's going to argue with that, but when decorating, do it with a purpose. Like any good design, it's all about editing. If it doesn't need to be there, leave it at home.

  7. What a fantastic post!!! I loved looking at the room and I think most teachers want to find the right balance for them :) Again...great post!!

  8. Thanks for illustrating and sharing the range of classroom comfort, efficiency and appeal! So glad you linked this post to mine so others could find it!



    1. Michaele! I'm the one who appreciates the opportunity to connect to a wider audience. Your room is da bomb diggity! The kiddos under your care are so fortunate. Thanks for popping over.


  9. I had this conversation with a friend who was going to come in this fall and teach with me at my preschool. She kept sending me these over the top pins of "cute" classrooms and I finally had to tell her that while I think decorating the classroom to make it inviting and warm is great it can become a distraction after a while. Plus the cost involved just isn't worth it to me. Especially since I like to change everything (layout, etc) every quarter! I think that being kid friendly and accessible is far more important than "cute" and don't want to have to bat things (like giant tissue paper pom poms) that are hanging from the ceiling out of my way to walk through the room.


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Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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