Child Generated Print in Classroom Displays - Back to School Inspirations and Muses

Child Generated Print in Classroom Displays - Back to School Inspirations and Muses

Imagine your students walking into the classroom.

The bulletin boards are done up with paper, borders, cutouts and a pre printed and cut letters.

There are labels on the tools and toys.

Colorful name badges at table seats.

A tall desk in the corner, with a large chair and adult tools.

Bright, cheery colors all about.

Colorful posters and images plaster the room.

Rules printed out. Tags printed out. Labels printed out.

A masterpiece reigns.

Yes, this does have the illusion of welcoming.

The colors of beautiful, the space is cozy, the furniture and wall décor is in abundance.

Yet, there is something missing.

Something crucial is absolutely missing from the space: the children that live there.

A truly welcoming space is a nearly blank space, with a message.

Let me explain.

When students walk into their classroom, they should see potential.

They should be told: “This is our space and we are going to make this space ours”.

A student created and student-centered classroom is one in which the students have had a say, a hand and part in its creation, from the ground up.

The things we can buy at the dollar shops and in those special isles of special stores is “cute” and “fun” and colorful.

However, these posters, calendar pieces, number signs, color signs and name tags are all made by large companies that may have good intentions, but they are so far from our students.

So far from, that they have never even met our students!

A student-centered classroom and student-centered teacher is one that honors the students right at the forefront: the students that walk through the doorway every day, laugh, smile and collaborate in the space in which they are inhabiting.

The four walls of any classroom should speak. The story they should tell, is that of its students.

Not of Target Corporation or Lakeshore Learning Center.

Now, this does not mean that you have to steer completely clear of these places and products.

However, I am simply saying it is time for us to be more intentional and thoughtful about what we are picking up off the shelf, and in turn, what we are truly valuing as educators.

Student voices should speak, and yes, speak above the teacher. Now, this can scare some.

Control is not easy to give up. As a self-proclaimed control freak, I truly understand.

However, we need to step back as educators and ask ourselves what we value and whose voices we value.

I would hope you would say that you value your students’ voices.

This is no way means that all of a sudden your students will dominate, you will feel small and the classroom will go down in flames.

No. This is not the end result. The ramifications of creating a classroom, with your students, is actually quite the opposite.

When students feel ownership over a space, they are more likely to feel belonging and when students feel belonging they are more like to become.

They are more likely to become the citizen, the peer, the friend, the collaborator and the confidant that the space requires.

In my efforts to create a classroom with my students this year, I am sharing my “back to school inspirations”.

These are educators, bloggers and friends that have been inspiring all summer long.

Creating a student-centered classroom does not mean throw all to the wind and see what happens, planning is certainly involved!

However, the printing, cutting and laminating before the first day of school will be greatly reduced.

Here are some of my favorite teachers online and the great work they have done with children.

I am excited to use this inspiration to have a classroom full of student generated print.

Student-created classroom decor and environment can be intimidating at first.

I've created a resource that can help make the process more approachable and manageable. 

Fostering belonging:

We have a staggered start at our school.

Half of my 26 darlings will arrive one day and the second half the next.

Seeing paint handprints does make my heart skip a beat, thinking “how in the world…”, though I am excited to be brave and try this – maybe even on the first day!

Am I crazy? Maybe.

I am hoping to have most students doing a self-sustaining activity as I pull one student at a time to stamp their hand and then wash off the paint.

Not only does this project feature each student’s face, handwritten name and handprint, but it also adds color to the space, though more importantly, colors chosen by students!


Student Created Calendar

Calendar is not a standard for kindergarten where I teach, however, with how much we reference school happenings, birthdays and simply life, I believe a calendar is a must!

However, a strict “calendar time” and rigid memorization of months and dates is not.

With that being said, especially in grades where calendar is a specific content, calendar time and creation should be authentic.

Those calendars that you can buy in the store are created by companies very distant from our students.

For students to have a genuine interest in the calendar, the first step is inviting them to make it.

This can be done during Interactive Writing, in a small group during Choice Time, or even as a whole group (give each student 1-2 elements to create and add to the piece).

This year I plan to create our calendar monthly, as we will change the cards depending on the month, during Choice Time.

Students will be able to paste student pictures on upcoming birthdays and decorate for holidays.

However, the day labels and month labels can be created as a one time project.

Young students may need support thinking about the months and brainstorming images that will correspond with the months.

I have the idea to draw a house image for Saturday’s and Sundays as those are “home days”, or days we are not in school.

Also, I will cut transparency paper or clear plastic sheets (lamination scraps also work well) into squares and have students draw x’s on them.

We will be able to slip these over dates as time passes.



Family Photo Display

I saw this idea on Instagram and I could not hold back, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops!

Have you ever seen bulletin boards covered with turf?!

Maybe this is old news to you, but I thought this was genius!

Turf can be found cheap at home stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

I would really only need a small amount as well.

Stapling may become tricky, but I bet push pins would be able to push through thin turf.

Anyway, I think this would add a natural element to the room as my is quite industrial.

However, if the turf is simple a dream that cannot be made into reality, I plan to use brick paper or simply the natural cork of the bulletin board (as we will have new bulletin boards this year – eeek!)

Families will be asked to send in a family photo of their choice. I will secure these photos to the bulletin board and have children add name labels to each member of their family with a small piece of white paper.

I also got leaf lights at Target to illuminate the display.


Family Hopes & Dreams

I have tossed back and forth on hopes and dreams and how to display them in our classroom.

We meet with just our Kinder parents the week before the start of school.

I am planning to have parents write their hopes and dreams for their child on a small brown tag and then secure it beside their Kinder’s family photo on the photo display.

Before I secure the notes, I want to read the personal note to each Kinder during the first few days of school.  

Student Hopes & Dreams



This is one of my favorite things to think about, though I feel like I toss and turn about it all summer.

Last year, students and I displayed their hopes & dreams on the windows in our classroom.

Students drew pictures of their hopes and dreams, I dictated below their drawings, on clear overhead transparency paper (lamination scraps and clear paper also works well) with Sharpie.

We then adhered the clear images to the window with clear Glue Dots.

Students’ home and dreams were literally illuminated by the light!

Fairy Dust Teaching has a great blog on creating a Hopes & Dreams Display with your students.

This year I am inspired by Fairy Dust Teaching’s idea to make a chandelier.

My students and I dabbled with Shrinky dinks last year and it was a blast!

Student were able to create large, developmentally appropriate images, though the oven shrunk them down and wow were they crisp, detailed and even more beautiful!

I am planning to create a chandelier of student drawings (of their hopes & dreams) with Shrinky dinks.

I will pre-cut the shrinky dink paper (as it is very thick and bit challenging to cut) into medium sized circles.

My students will create “rough draft” sketches on plain paper.

Students will draw the illustrations that matches their hope and dream after much collaboration and discussion about hopes & dreams (see Responsive Classroom’s approach for more information).

We will then tape the sketch underneath the clear Shrinky Dink paper for students to trace with black Sharpie.

I will follow punch holes in the top and then bake!

I will attach each pennant with string or metal rings, I have not decided yet.

Making It Happen

Templates are a great place to make this happen!

Shared writing and interactive writing are not always attainable within the first few weeks of school, especially in kindergarten.

Tracing can be a great place to start!

If you are wanting to give your students a bigger role in the creation of the classroom environment, check out this Student Made Decor Pack


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