Oh, well, if it’s for the children. . .

By Mir
June 25, 2009

Lovely Sheri writes:

So Mir, as I happen to read your blog everyday, I realized that you, of all people, might know of some fun places that have goodies with which to decorate a classroom. I’ll be new teacher at a sweet little school teaching 6th graders the joys of science and English…he he he…

Anyways, as college students aren’t too eager to spend their money on laminators and cardboard thingys, I have zero-zip-zilch-nada decorations or anything for my classroom…and I’m still not too eager to spend THAT much, and I have little to no idea of where to look.

A little help here? After all…it’s for the children…

Gotta love that little bit o’ guilt at the end there. Nice touch, Sheri!

Two stores immediately spring to mind for me, if you want to shop online:
1) Oriental Trading Company, where you can currently use coupon code JUNSAV25 to save $10 off your $50-$99 order or $25 off your $100+ order, or
2) Discount School Supply, where shipping is free on $79+ and code STOCKUP will get you an additional 10% off.

If youre shopping real stores, I’m kind of a sucker for Big Lots for this sort of thing.

But I’m not a teacher, and I know we have lots of teachers reading. Anyone want to chime in and help Sheri out?


  1. I’m sure you’ll get lots of ideas. Here are mine: Dollar Stores and clearance sections at Michael’s, Walmart, party stores, etc. Oh, and garage sales.

  2. I ditto Linda with suggesting the Dollar Tree, they are wonderful!! Our neighborhood store actually has items made for classrooms near the other office/school supplies.

  3. Don’t forget the free slave labor you have available for decorations–your students! Assign a poster project about them right off the bat, and you’ve got an entire wall covered! Or mobiles or whatever…. Give extra points for attractiveness and you’ll find that 6th graders can produce some amazing stuff.

  4. Call a nearby college with an elementary ed program, and offer your classroom as a showcase. The teaching students have to design bulletin boards as part of their coursework; they might as well come to you when they’ve been graded.

  5. Sherri has a great idea…kids love to see their work displayed. And I second the vote for Dollar Tree…ours has some great teacher-y stuff.

    Beware of school supply stores…I haven’t looked at the one Mir references above, but they are often overpriced and will convince you you need things that aren’t necessary or particularly helpful.

    Do you know any veteran teachers who teach English or science? They are likely to have a glut of posters and old projects they don’t use any more and will probably let you use/have some.

    My first year of teaching English, I typed up a bunch of quotes that had to do with dreaming, working, writing, and thinking. I did each in a different font–one quote per page–and mounted each quote onto construction paper. I got them laminated (your school should have a laminator…check for rules for its use) and posted them all over the room.

    Most of all? Thanks for making the commitment to teach. Our kids need more good ones. Also? Remember it gets lots better after the first year.

  6. Sometime in July/August Target’s Dollar Spot often has an aisle or two full of teacher thingees. Check there.

  7. Just repeating what the others have said… Dollar Tree and Target’s dollar spot are where I find the most things. I love window shopping at the school supply stores, but rarely buy anything there due to the price. There is one place here locally that I know is a chain, but it’s also got locations in other states – Mardel. It’s a Christian book/gift store, but has a HUGE education area, and things are put on clearance there often. Plus on July 20, I think is the date, everything education-related is 20% off in the store here. They have many locations in TX, OK, CO, AR, MO, and KS.

  8. All of the above suggestions are right on — I’m a big fan of Target, Odd Lots, Christmas Tree Shop, whatever your real discounty store is. And Sherri is exactly right — have some pretty empty space for the kids to fill — or take photos of them working together and meeting each other the first day, print them and — Voila — a bulletin board they will love. Here’s my big tip though: go to a fabric store and by yards of fabric with a nice color and a tiny (not distracting)print for cheap (quilting fabric is often great for this). Then get complimentary ribbon. Staple the fabric to your bulletin board (pull it taught) and use the ribbon as trim. While this is a tad bit of an investment, it looks great and you now have a bulletin board background that will last for years without changing it — much better and nicer than paper that fades. I have had the same fabric (blue with tiny white stars) on my boards for 5 years and intend to get 5 more out of it. I just change what goes on top every now and then, but the base is there and looks terrific.
    Good luck!!

  9. 1. Oriental Trading Company
    2. Rummage sales! Talk to other teachers and find out who’s retiring. I’ve scavenged so much classroom decor I no longer remember how much or how little I’ve purchased!
    3. Take it slow. Buy only a little. If your students take part in decorating the classroom, they’ll feel more ownership of the room, which leads to better behavior.

  10. This is probably a bit obvious, but look over your curriculum for the first semester. Are there any bits of information that the kids will need to memorize? If so, a poster/visual aid of that info, placed up at the beginning of the year, will both be helpful for their memories and will serve to pique their interest when the info finally does come up in class (“so THAT’s what that poster’s about! etc.) Taking a bit of time to create something you’ll use later might just pay off. The opaque projector (your school probably still has one…?) can help you project any image onto a posterboard for tracing. Good luck!

    My favorite bulletin board when I was teaching was “Metaphors of Yours.” It was blank at the beginning of the year, but when we covered metaphors, the kids wrote some, and I retyped my favorites and put them up (anonymously) on the board. Kids loved seeing it fill in and trying to figure out who wrote which ones.

    We also had a fun bulletin board with pictures of grammatical errors out in public– billboards, newspaper clippings, etc. I offered bonus points for bringing in items (with a written explanation of the problem and how it should be corrected), and the kids loved seeing how “dumb” grownups look when they can’t spell or use grammar properly. (Each sign could only be brought in once, unless two kids inadvertently brought them on the same day– otherwise folks will rush out to take photos of their friends’ finds to get points too.)

    College campuses often have displays selling posters cheap at the beginning of the semester– lots of fine art, some literary figures, fractal and Hubble images, etc. You might find some things there if you live near a campus.

    A framed picture of yourself as a 6th grader would be hugely popular, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with them. (warning: a tiny minority of kids can be cruel.) I had mine centered on a small bulletin board where I tacked up kids’ school pictures when they gave them to me, which conveniently encourages them to do so.

    Best of luck! The first year is often rough. Hang in there, and count your blessings wherever you can. It gets better and better!

  11. I have a degree in education, but am staying home to home school my little ones. I have discovered a great home school consignment shop near me. Because home schooling parents often buy from those bigger school stores, this consignment shop had many posters, visuals, and learning tools that are used in classrooms.

    Also, if you live near any museums, they often have teacher packets for lesson plans and classroom supplies/ decorations.

  12. As a high school science teacher, one of my favorite projects to assign is to have students pick a safety topic or rule and make a poster about it. Free wall decorations!

    Also, come up with some sort of model for them to build that you can dangle from the ceiling (my chemistry students made models of atoms).

    For borders around bulletin boards, have students trace their hands (or even their feet) onto colored paper and cut them out — use those for the borders!

    I did the same thing Amelia did with quotes — just Google “science quotes” and you’ll get a million ideas.

    I hope you love teaching as much as I do! 🙂

  13. Our state (NJ) has its own special stores that you can get discounted supplies and access to a laminator, die punch etc.. The sites are listed at the state education website. Teacher ID necessary to get in.

  14. I am a student teacher, so you are farther along than I am, but I have a few suggestions professors gave us before student teaching:

    Ask your professors if they have anything available. Most of mine were classroom teachers before they came to the university so they have a ton of things stored at home and in their office. See if they have a poster or materials on a specific subject you will be teaching. Even if they don’t want to give it up, you can use this for an idea to make your own (safety rules, poetry, etc.).

    Our library on campus has a room full of teaching materials. I don’t know how normal this is – my university is regarded as having the best teacher preparation program in the south. There are a ton of things for students and alumni to use to prepare the classroom, inlcuding a laminator and dicut machines.

    Also, try craigslist in your area. I picked up a ton of manipulatives for math for less than $20 from a retired teacher. A lot of times teachers literally throw out posters from previous years, so make it known you are looking for things. You may end up with more than you can handle.

  15. site called my savings.com look under teachers only for free stuff

  16. I have a subscription to National geographic. Each issue comes with a map or chart insert. These are usually social studies related, but if I find a science related one I always give it to the science teacher on my team.

  17. Right before the school year begins a lot of office supply and craft stores have teacher appreciation days where teachers get great freebies for the classroom and sometimes get a discount for the shopping you do when you visit that day. Office Basics, Staples, AC Moore are all ones I know have days for sure. Last year Staples gave away free flash drives. AC Moore gave away several goodies, and they contests for prizes. I won a laminator there two years ago. Most also have refreshments as an added bonus.

  18. We have a local RAFT (resource area for teachers) which is very low-cost and uses recycled and company-discarded stuff. They have tons of die-cuts, too. DO you have such a thing in your part of the world?

  19. I also wanted to suggest looking on craigslist. Over the summer a lot of newly retired teachers (or teachers changing grades/subjects) will post sales of their supplies. I got a ton of nice stuff last summer for very little money!

  20. Thanks for the ideas! I have exactly the same issue since I am going back to teaching after being home for 6 years. (WHY didn’t I save at least some of my posters?) Anyway, I’ll be checking out the suggestions.

  21. Wow! Thanks everyone! What an outpouring of info! I’ll have to copy down all of these and save them on the computer, since there’s no way I’ll remember them all now. Nothing like the incredibly overwhelming task of being a first year teacher…
    Thanks again for the support everyone!

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