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Classroom Set-Up Using a Theme

One Major Theme for the Year

Found in: classroom management, classroom setup

Many teachers use seasonal themes in their classroom, but fourth grade teacher Carrie Zook (LaSalle Elementary in Mishawaka, Indiana) sets up her classroom using one major theme for the entire year. In fact, longer.

Theme materials can be expensive, so she economizes by using a theme for two or three years.

Finding a Theme

Over the past six years, Zook has used the typical themes - Oceans, Space - but this year she wanted something different. She looked online and at the card and party store outlets for ideas. She selected the theme of Hollywood because it's fun and...

They love movies in the fourth grade. And I talked with my fourth grade niece and asked her: If you walked into your classroom, what would you want it to be like? What would make you think "This is cool"? And make you excited to be there?

So Hollywood it was.

Using the Theme to Showcase Classroom Activities

Zook purchased ready-made items for her bulletin boards and walls that shouted Hollywood - reels of film, small and large yellow stars, clapboards, silhouettes of cameraman behind a camera, and oversize movie tickets, celluloid film, and a popcorn container filled with candies. She incorporated the Hollywood theme in many ways throughout the year.

Yellow Stars

Zook makes a yellow laminated star (magnet on back) with each student's name. She uses them for grouping students. One example: when they arrive in the morning, students put their star on the blackboard under the Bag Lunch or Hot Lunch sign, making lunch count and attendance check easy. She uses larger stars to label things around the room.

Clapboard, Popcorn Box, Movie Ticket

Zook displays "props" like a clapboard (as in "Scene 1, Take 2") and a gigantic popcorn box full of candy. The candies are rewards students can win for completed work – she puts their name on a movie ticket for a chance in a weekly drawing.

Silhouette of Cameraman and Camera

She also uses black and white paper clapboards with a silhouette of a cameraman and camera to "publicize" the classroom duty assignments. She writes the duty above the clapboard and the student's name on the cameraman.

Celluloid and Reel of Film

Zook uses celluloid strips as edging and a reel of film to decorate this bulletin board displaying the rules for the mini-economy she runs in her classroom and the expectations for classroom procedures, such as lining up.

Zook uses themes to add interest, humor, and fun to her classroom. Like the "gold" academy award that stands atop the mailboxes she set up for students to receive their graded work or information they need. But the themes are more than decoration. They're a way to keep connecting with many aspects of daily school activities.

Learn more about how Zook arranges her classroom in Classroom Set-Up by Function or Activity.


Carrie Zook teaches fourth grade at LaSalle Elementary in Mishawaka, Indiana



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