How to Decorate your Classroom with Cute AND Functional Decor that Your Students Will Love

Too Much Decor is Distracting

Are your walls and shelves plastered with cute items that look great but hardly get looked at?  It's a proven fact that over decorating can clutter up your classroom and overstimulate your students.

Sometimes, your best intentions to make your classroom pinterest worthy, can actually backfire and end up distracting your students from learning.

Research shows that too many posters and decorations hanging in classrooms can compete with a student's attention and ability to focus.

See what I mean!

What Should Stay and What Can Go?

Honest reflection time.   While your decor may have been cute in September, is it working now or is it all over the place? You spend so much time and money decorating your classroom and deciding what should stay and what should go can be heart wrenching.  I get it!  

Here's a simple question I ask myself.

Is it simply cute (for decor purposes only) or does it have a purpose?

If you have a smaller sized classroom like I do, clutter can build up quickly.  Asking this question will  help determine what is worthy of display (useful, functional items) and what we can let go (the cute stuff that doesn't serve an educational purpose).

For example,  I have a small window area where I used to display fun teacher quotes, apple figurines and other trinkets and gifts given to me by students. The area became quite cluttered over the years and it wasn't helpful to the students at all, so it became wasted space.

This year, I made the decision to display something functional - our hallway behavior incentive poster/sticks.  The poster matches our classroom color scheme, it's cute, but it also serves a purpose. 

The students and I now use this area every single day.  It's right next to where we line up so it's convenient on our way out the door to grab a few mystery sticks to watch and reward for acceptable hallway choices.

If you like any of the posters referred to in this blog post, they are a part of my Classroom Poster resource and are available in three different styles. Click on each image to be directed to its location in my store. All of your classroom poster needs can be met with this functional set of 65 posters with a purpose.

Mystery Walker Hallway Management Poster

Another functional decor item can be your classroom supplies.  In the same window area as above, but on the bottom shelf, I simply display our sharp and dull pencil cans.  Again, cute and they fit in with our color scheme, but useful to both the students and myself. 

Here they are below before I gave them a quick makeover. 

Classroom Posters for Dull and Sharp Pencil Cans

The outside of this window space is also prime real estate for functional decor.   Instead of hanging random posters without a purpose, I created these to bring focus to our school wide growth mindset initiative.  Again, two birds with one stone baby!

Growth Mindset Posters for Classroom Display Editable

Classroom Rules

When students break a rule in our classroom I simple walk over to them and quietly say, "You've earned a warning for breaking rule #2," record it on my clipboard, and then continue on with the lesson.  I need these rules displayed prominently in the classroom where the students and I can refer to them daily.  These are the backbone of my classroom management plan.  For us, these posters are functional!

Whole Brain Teaching classroom rules posters

Daily Schedule

The second item we refer to every day is our classroom schedule.  Using up prime wall area to house our daily subjects isn't wasted space.  I go through the schedule each morning and students refer to it periodically and enjoy knowing what to expect throughout the day!   Again - functional!

Classroom Daily Schedule Cards Editable

Academic Vocabulary

Additionally, we focus heavily on ELA and Math academic vocabulary in our district so posting these domain specific terms as we learn them is space well used.  Students refer to these constantly as they write and reflect about their learning.  

When I previously hung up posters I purchased from local teacher stores on this bulletin board, no one ever read them at all! :( 

These word wall cards are so important in our classroom that I created them for ELA and Math, grades 3rd through 6th in six different styles!  Click HERE to to view the ELA sets and HERE to view the math sets.  

Academic Vocabulary word wall cards

Book Challenge

Your classroom door is another place where you can hang functional decor to avoid over cluttering your walls and bulletin boards. 

We love to talk about the books we're reading in our classroom and I challenge my students every year to read more books than they read the previous year.  I also participate in the challenge so it makes complete sense to hang my book challenge sign and color copies of the book covers I've read for everyone to see. 

I can't tell you how many hallway conversations about books have been sparked by this simple and functional doorway display!

Download a free book challenge poster HERE.

Teacher Book Challenge Display Poster

Classroom Management

Further, classroom management needs can be met with functional decor.  Here's an example of how I motivate teams to follow directions quickly and quietly.  When each team reaches 20 points we take an extra recess.  I'm using up board space for this decor but they're not just cute posters, they have a purpose that we utilize every day!

Classroom Management Team Point Posters

This display is also integral to our classroom management plan.  It helps us manage our flexible seating options and classroom jobs and again is utilized daily.

Both of these displays are FREE in my TPT store:
Read Around the Room Flexible Seating Set
Classroom Jobs Chart

classroom jobs chart FREE

Anchor Charts 

When it comes to bulletin boards, anchor charts are way more powerful than pre-made posters. Simply cover your boards with a plain color fabric, a few cute borders that match your color scheme, a subject banner and that's it.  Don't over do it with a million decor pieces.  Just hang your anchor charts.  Students need to see these anyway and it keeps them easily accessible for review.

Multiplication Strategies Anchor Chart

Building Classroom Community Anchor Chart

Partner Talk Accountability Anchor Chart


You'll also notice that on top of the bookshelves in our classroom, instead of showcasing knick knacks or other cute items that can lead to clutter, we just display books that students recommend. (And a simple lamp for some mood lighting is functional as well).

You can also think of your classroom library as part of your classroom decor.  Display your books in a way that is functional for your students.  Label baskets for easy browsing by author, series, topic, etc.  Arrange some books spine out so students are also able to use a library Dewey Decimal System successfully.

book bin library basket labels

Classroom book bin library labels

For information on the book labels I use read this blog post HERE.

library labels for classroom book baskets


Labeling important areas of the classroom is also a good use of decor.  My students always mix up the garbage and recycling bins.  I created these cute, color schemed, labels to serve as functional decor and they're much better about getting empty milk cartons in the right place now. 

Knick Knacks

If you can't resist the Target Dollar Spot and you just have to purchase some cute knick knack type items for your classroom (I'm guilty as well), just remember simple and functional.

I picked up these book ends for our classroom library and these word plaques to display on my desk.  The minute our library or my desk becomes over cluttered though, they will be the first things to go.  Pretty shouldn't be the priority.

This saying is our classroom motto so I display it on our back counter as a reminder but again, if something needs to go - this would be an obvious item.

Decluttering Feels Good

Give it a try!  Even if you just eliminate a few items a week that are taking up space but serve little purpose, your classroom will be clutter free in no time! 

Plus, in a clutter free classroom students are able to focus better and aren't over stimulated when everything has a purpose.

Happy organizing!

If you like any of the posters referred to in this blog post, they are a part of my Classroom Poster resource and are available in three different styles. Click on each image to be directed to its location in my store. All of your classroom poster needs can be met with this functional set of 65 posters with a purpose.

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