One of the most important goals for me as a teacher is to build community in my classroom. Making my diverse students feel like a united group of individuals who care for each other and work together is what I strive for as each new school year begins. I also work hard to make my classroom a place where learning is fun and where students feel excited to be each day. Implementing a class theme each year is the perfect way for me to combine these two important goals.
My year-long themes create a sense of unity as soon as students enter the door. Depending on the theme, students are immediately part of a team (sports theme or racing theme), a crew (space theme or nautical theme), or even a band (rock 'n' roll theme). Whatever the theme may be, all students are an important part of the classroom community, and the theme itself determines our class identity for the school year.
The theme also determines how I decorate my classroom and hallway, and the names I designate for certain activities in the classroom, as well as the title of my weekly newsletter, the money in our classroom economy, and group names for word study centers.
The theme does not determine what I teach academically. I still follow the same units of study in each subject every year regardless of the theme. My themes are simply a creative way to make my classroom come alive and make my students feel excited to be part of a shared experience during the school year.
During this theme, my class was called “Team Newingham.” Students were sports stars who graced the covers of Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine and displayed their student numbers on jerseys they made for an open house. Students also created sports trading cards to reveal information about themselves, and many books were read aloud that promoted teamwork. Our class newsletter was called the "Team Newingham Tribune."
During this theme, our class was transformed into Planet 13. The students were part of a crew who posed as astronauts for NASA posters that were created at the beginning of the year for a display in the hallway. Our class newsletter was titled the “Planet 13 Press,” and our class money was called “Cosmic Cash.” Student groups who rotated through word study centers were given planet names, and our daily math review before math workshop was known as "Martian Math." The student who led the lesson each day was known as the “Martian Mathematician.”
During this theme, my class was also referred to as “Team Newingham,” but this time we were a racing team. Students were all part of the pit crew when it came to classroom jobs, and the “Star of the Week” became known as the “Driver of the Week.” Students wore race car driver outfits for their first day picture so that race car driver posters could be made for a display in our hallway. I even turned the front of my desk into the front of a race car. Our end of the year video celebration was known as the “Team Newingham Grand Prix.”
Rock 'n' Roll Theme
During this theme, our classroom was known as “Rockin’ Room 13." The students were rock stars who were featured as “Newingham Idols” on posters that were displayed outside our classroom. Class jobs were referred to as “Rockin’ Responsibilities,” and our video celebration at the end of the year was called “Our Greatest Hits.”