How to spice up your classroom on a budget

By | 2017-08-22T20:28:57+00:00 January 13th, 2016|For teachers|0 Comments

In this today’s blog former teacher and lifelong educator, Susan Lee from Outside Scholarships, shares her tips on how to revamp classrooms and lessons on a budget.


If you’re feeling like your classroom could use a little spice as the second semester gets underway, your students probably are feeling the same way. Whether you want to invigorate the classroom environment, your lessons, or both, we’ve got some suggestions that won’t hurt your wallet.

Classroom Graffiti

Especially suited for intermediate and secondary students, Classroom Graffiti is a teaching strategy that spices up your physical classroom and your lessons. The first thing teachers need to decide is the location of the graffiti; if you really want to save money, use an existing whiteboard or chalkboard as the graffiti wall, or you can purchase butcher paper or craft paper and cover a wall with it. Students may use their own pencils, pens, or markers to engage in a written discussion about a particular topic, concept, theme, etc.

Image via Pixabay by geralt

Classroom Graffiti is an activity that results in 100% class participation, as students comment, question, reflect, react, and respond in short bursts of writing, quotations, and illustrations. You’ll have a running record of students’ thoughts and understanding, and they’ll have an outlet for their thoughts about what they are learning that is less structured and formidable than a typical writing or reflection assignment. With Classroom Graffiti, your classroom will get a new look and feel, and your budget will remain intact.

Classroom Reading Nook

All teachers understand the value of reading, but providing a separate reading space within the classroom is not always in a teacher’s budget. The good news is, there are some creative, budget-friendly ways to create inviting reading spaces within your classroom.

  • Paint a space on the floor (better check with your principal or supervisor first, and if the answer is no, use painter’s tape) in vibrant colors, instead of purchasing a pricey area rug
  • Opt for inner tubes covered in discount fabric, rather than plush pillows or bean bags
  • Enlist the high school family consumer science teacher to have students create reading pillows or lounging pads
  • Enlist the high school construction teacher to have students build bookcases, reading benches, etc.
  • Go yard-saling for gently used beanbags, pillows, and other nook supplies
  • Purchase lawn furniture or beach chairs when they go on clearance at the end of the season

Once you’ve created your Book Nook, incorporate it into your lessons when using independent reading, Silent Sustained Reading, or Literature Circles. Students will enjoy their reading time much more when they are comfortable and not stuck in their seats at their tables or desks.

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Use Foldables

Intermediate, middle, and high school students will benefit from using foldables in your classroom. Foldables are study organizers that are 3D and interactive. The purpose of foldables is to help students organize, remember, review, and learn nearly any type of information, and they do so by allowing students to use their creativity in a hands-on way while reinforcing their thinking and communication skills. There are a myriad of foldables types, so you can choose those that best fit your objectives and content, and you can incorporate them into nearly any unit of study.

*Tip – It’s best if you have a foldable example completed ahead of time to show students the end product, plus demonstrate the process of making a new one while instructing students to make their own. Students who struggle with spatial relations may have difficulty understanding what the foldable should look like when it’s done, if you don’t share the finished product before showing students the steps for completing their own.

Because foldables involve a piece of paper, they are a great way for you to spice up your classroom on a budget. And, you can easily hang them in your classroom during and after your unit of study for student reference, so they can spice up your physical classroom at the same time that they spice up your instruction.

Mix DIY with Readymade

Sure, it’s fun to make your own decorations for your classroom. And from painting stools to spicing up picture frames with crayons to using scrap paper for decorations, there are a certainly a lot of ways to do it. But let’s be honest—most teachers have enough on their plates already. And coming up with creative ways to decorate the classroom has a tendency to slide down your To Do list in lieu of other more important tasks.

Sometimes a few readymade decorations are just the ticket and will get the job done just fine. Party supply stores are great place to get colorful crepe paper and will often have themed-decorations for birthday parties that are appropriate for the classroom, such as Sesame Street or Dr. Seuss decorations. You might even ask parents to donate leftover decorations from their kids’ birthday parties. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to make your classroom as engaging as possible. Come up with a couple creative pieces if you have the time and then use readymade decorations to bring in some color.

It is possible to spice up your classroom environment and your lessons at the same time on a budget. Consider activities that will enhance the physical space and your instruction, and don’t be afraid to ask colleagues and community members for supplies and materials as needed.

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Susan Lee may be a former teacher, but she is a lifetime educator. As a mother to three college-age children, she knows how difficult paying for college can be. And that’s why she finds her work with OutsideScholarships.org so rewarding. As a writer and researcher, she loves being able to connect students in need with the scholarships that help make achieving their dreams possible. In her spare time, she loves camping with her husband and volunteering at a local animal shelter.