Using Names to Decorate the Classroom

Need some ideas for DIY classroom decor for an elementary classroom?  I love using student names as part of the decor!  Great way to start off the back to school season with your students.

So I was that kid who could rarely find things with my name on it when I was little.  You could find Sarah til the cows came home but rarely Sara. I still get excited to see it spelled “my way” even if I have no plans to buy a key chain, pencils, or zipper pull, it is still fun to see. 

I know how exciting it is to see your name in print and I tried to remember this in the classroom and use my students’ names around the room as much as possible.  At the beginning of the year we would often do activities with our names as a way of getting to know one another.   I would also have students create art with their name to decorate the classroom. 

One of my favorites was wet chalk on black paper.  I must have been a trendsetter because this was before the huge chalk movement became popular.  Ha! We would soak the sidewalk chalk in water for at least 10-15 minutes.  You can skip this step but it made the colors more vibrant and less chalky on their hands and on the paper.  We cut black construction paper in half horizontally.  Make extras.  Just trust me on that one.  I’m an adult who is spatially challenged so I could totally relate to my Michaelas who ran out of paper before they finished their name.  Or the Avas  who wrote it so small that it didn’t fill up the page.  I showed them examples and tried to get them to use all of the space.  Once they got a feel for the spacing, this activity didn’t take very long and had bright colorful results.

I usually laminated these and then stuck them on the cupboards behind my desk.  And there they stayed all year.  I think there were a few times when I didn’t laminate and they still held up but even though they started as wet chalk, they dry and can be smeared a bit so laminate if possible. 

Another idea that I have always loved only happened in my classroom once.  I had seen this idea when I was doing pre-student teaching {aka  a long time ago} and loved it.  It was colorful and so easy to call students by their name because it was hanging vertically above their heads.  That year before I even had a classroom, I bought tracers in a big, bold, rounded font to be prepared.  When I first moved to lower ele I was hesitant to try this because that is a lot to trace and cut.  But the other reason was we had started the multiage so it was now 50 kids that would have to share the tracers, half of which were first graders.  So I finally tried it one year when I was teaching my second graders alone.  And I loved it!!!

I made an example with my name to show them what they were going to do.  I had out lots of rainbow colored construction paper.  I set the tracers out and let them have at it.  Some did it in the order of the rainbow.  Others did their own pattern.  They were all brightly colored so it didn’t matter.  When they glued, I had to help them a bit.  I needed them to overlap each letter a little bit but not too much so that the letters were covered or that it looked like a staircase.  Once they were all glued I laminated and cut them out.  Then some of them had to stay under books for a bit because they wanted to curl.

Then I bought these clips from Really Good Stuff and hung them above each seat around the room.  We had tables with six students at each table usually.  Then I hung up the name above each child’s head.  For some of the longer names, I had to wind the string at the top so the clip didn’t hang as low.

It was so easy to learn names because they were hanging right above their heads.  Plus when I had a guest teacher, it was better than a seating chart.  When we moved seats I went around unclipping each name and letting them hold it.  Then they switched to their new seats and I went around and they handed me their name to be clipped.  Easy peasy.

I loved how they looked.  Yeah it took some time but everything does those first few weeks anyway.  I was super excited to use these the following year.  I moved buildings and walked into my classroom and to my horror had vaulted ceilings.  My clips weren’t long enough plus I couldn’t even reach to clip them up (even with the handy pole that I had to clip them up) so we didn’t do the rainbow names that year.  Total bummer.

I’m including some freebies that are name activities that can be used at the beginning of the school year.  We would often do this after they did chalk names so they had their name written out in front of them. To grab your freebie, just click the link below.

Free name activities!  Perfect for the beginning of the school year!  Love that it reviews vowels and consonants.