Is Your Classroom a Masterpiece or a Blank Canvas?

Inspire INSPIRE 6 Comments

Each year, your classroom starts off as a blank canvas and you work tirelessly to make it a place where your students will thrive.  Think about how you can create a classroom masterpiece that will INSPIRE your students.  When they open the door, what unit of study will take their breath away? What masterpiece will greet them when they enter your classroom?

When artists approach their next masterpiece, they think about how to create a painting that fully represents their interpretation of a subject and also projects the emotion or statement they are trying to deliver.  Before any paint even touches the surface of a painting, decisions are made to guide the creative process. All seasoned artists know the creative process will be smoother, if the desired outcomes are planned in advance.  Your classroom can also be a masterpiece, if careful planning and decision making are part of your unit planning process.  Your room can show an interpretation of a unit of study and also project an emotion or statement that you want everyone who enters your room to feel and understand.

These decisions can parallel a teacher’s plan for their classroom space.


When people enter your room, can they tell what unit of study your students are engaged in?  Will they be in outer space with planets hanging from the ceiling, rocket parts just waiting to be assembled, myths peppering a starry background bulletin board, famous astronauts of each race and gender begging for research with books and posters?  Or will they be entering congress with Socratic seminar seating, pillars dividing the branches of government, robes and wigs for students to use for role playing and historical documents displayed in glass cases? Or is a life science unit springing growth into your room like the one shown below?


Your classroom should tell a story according to Stacey Goodman, artist and educator from Oakland.  Take some time as you plan your next integrated unit, to make your room the masterpiece that has everyone talking as they go through the gallery of your school.

Create Masterpieces Free Printable:


Social Studies:  History, CultureTimelines


English Language Arts: genres, reading strategies, writing process


Bulletin Boards

Comments 6

  1. As one of the eldest members of the Imagine family, I can go far back to my elementary years where I still remember the teachers and their rooms that were inspiring and inviting. They peeked my curiosity. They made me feel safe as a shy child. They reassured me that all was “okay.” I don’t remember the rooms that were void of color, student work, and designated spaces. And, I don’t remember those teachers. Teaching and learning are always about relationships. A teacher who cares and understands the importance of relationships and inspiration, creates a learning environment that supports growth, exploration, questioning, and curiosity. Love the ideas shared in the Optimal Learning blogs.

    1. Nancy,
      I, too remember some very inspiring teachers that I was fortunate to have in my early years of schooling. In particular, I recall a fifth grade teacher that “painted part of the canvas” by placing inviting visuals on walls and tables, and then involved students in the additions and continuance of those visuals. Planning out a creative bulletin board as a student, and then reviewing ideas with my teacher prior to putting it up was very impressionable to me and I still remember the topics and content shown. It truly is about relationships and the interactions occurring to create those.

  2. I love this post. My favorite rooms to visit provide the atmosphere for students to completely engages students in the unit of study. Providing background experiences and tactile supports to support their learning. I think of this as creating the stage for learning, actors need props to bring the play to life just like teachers use the environment to bring learning to life. I loved changing my room as a hook to get students excited about what we were about to learn, but also let them take ownership by adding their own flare!

  3. I’ve always looked at my room in this way at the beginning of the year when considering how I want the flow of traffic to work, and I usually will change things up every six weeks. I had never thought of specifically tying the room setup to individual units of study. Because I teach Science and Social Studies, I have opportunities to do this frequently, and will look to incorporate this. Thank you for the ideas!

  4. I agree with the author, a classroom is a blank canvas. I have watched students observing the walls and decorations on the first day of school. They literally walk around the entire class observing everything. As part of the room planning, I always leave blank spaces to display student work. Students get so excited when they arrive to school and see their assignments hung up. You can hear them share with their friends, “That’ my paper.” They are not only proud of their assignments, but they get to be part of the masterpiece.

  5. As an artist this article popped at me. I think it’s great to design your classroom parallel to what unit you’re going to teach. However, what about the other units of study during the day that do not pertain to that classroom design? I feel like it’d be a big distraction. I also think it is very time consuming, and I’d rather spend time working on a lesson they are engaged in then decorating the classroom. The students also did not spend time designing the classroom so I feel like it would be less meaningful to them than to have something up in the classroom that they worked on together. Again I do think props are great, but I don’t really like the whole classroom decorations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *