MAKING YOUR WALLS TALK
When a student walks into a classroom that is attractively decorated and well equipped, if they will stop and listen, they will hear it say, “Welcome, I am expecting you. I am prepared to help you learn.” It will tell the story of hours of dedicated work and planning. On the other hand, if the room is unkept, with ragged furnishings and poor equipment, it speaks of unconcerned teachers and a lack of leadership. Rooms need not have the best of equipment to be attractive. Space may be limited, the room arrangement less than ideal, but to a teacher with a burden, this is not an impossible situation. They will face the challenge and make the best of the facilities and equipment while working toward the ideal. Rooms speak volumes about the teachers.
Creating the Environment
The classroom environment you create can be either an asset or a liability. It is important that we understand the influence of the room on the learning and the teaching. Learning is best achieved in a pleasant atmosphere. The atmosphere should motivate students to learn. We can create an atmosphere conducive to learning by the way we decorate.
An important prerequisite to the wall decorations is the invisible atmosphere of the sweet presence of Jesus, not seen but definitely felt. When spirit-filled teachers work together for a common cause of teaching the Word of God effectively, this atmosphere is created.
The environment of the classroom should be one that invites students to get involved. The students learn by doing. For this reason, I believe the Center of Interest method of teaching is the best method of instructing children in Bible knowledge. By the same token, Team Teaching in the junior high to adult classes surpasses the conventional method of one teacher lecturing. Center of Interest teaching is also team teaching, but is geared for children. Our Word-A-flame literature makes suggestions to assist in this method of teaching. In either method, the students are involved in using all their senses of learning. Teachers can create a stimulating learning environment by decorating the walls of the classroom.
A room should be visually attractive, colorful, coordinated, balanced and have focal points. Learning centers should be created and wall areas decorated to identify the centers and to direct students to each of them. Later in this article, we will learn how to decorate learning centers. Classes for junior high to adult may also have decorated areas within the room. These areas are not only attractive, they are helpful and improve the environment of the learner. The decor is geared for the age and learning level. The student learns by association, thus learning is fun. The room and method is familiar and this makes learning easier.
The Effects of Color
Educators have studied the effects of color upon the emotion and given us the results. Soft neutral or pastel
colors tend to cause quietness and promote calmness.
When painting walls, blue may be a depressing color in rooms that are inadequately lighted. Rooms that seem hot or have much sunlight may need a “hint” of green or bluegreen in the paint. (Approximately one tablespoon of green to a gallon of white paint). This will cause the room to seem cooler. Walls that are in dark rooms or on the basement level should be painted with a hint of yellow to add a sunlight effect. Never use a true yellow or any other color for this often hinders the use of certain colored letters. The walls should be painted with semi-gloss of flat paint. The wood trim should be semi-gloss or gloss. All paint needs to be washable. Too much gloss will cause a glare and hinder the appearance. The fewer colors you use, the larger your room will appear. Multi-colored tables, will cause the room to seem smaller and cluttered. All classroom walls should be the same color. Chair rails or bi-level color on walls hinders the arrangement of posters and letters. Use the basic color white with no more than a hint of color. Suggested wall colors would be oyster or mushroom. Never paint a room a true blue, green, yellow or so on.
When painting the furniture, choose two companion colors light in shade. Paint all the activity tables in one room where the children sit to do their activities all alike, the same color. The wall pieces of the learning center furniture should be painted another pastel shade to compliment the activity table. Any storage area of shelves should be the same color as the walls. Suggested colors for the wall pieces and the tables are as follows:
light green with pale yellow
light apricot with pale rust
light olive green with lighter olive green
Bright colors on furniture and walls should be avoided.
Soft colors on the wall is good decor for the background of cut-out letters and painted characters used in bulletin board areas. Bulletin boards of backgrounds are not necessary when applying your letters and characters directly to the wall.
Keep in mind current seasons. We change our backgrounds at the beginning of each quarter and use colors appropriate to the season:
a. Fall colors: orange, brown, yellow, and tan
b. Winter colors: red, green, dark blue, and white
c. Spring colors: pastels such as light blue, pink, green, yellow, orchid
d. Summer colors: pastels and darker shades of the same ones you used for spring
Also, consider these colors when you cut your letters for your decorations. The colors that are used for the winter season are good for the Christmas season. They can still be used for winter scenes.
Keep in mind your class interest as you decorate. Are you decorating for boys, girls, or both? What age do you teach? If you have a class made up of junior boys, you wouldn’t decorate with things that only appeal to girls. It is also very important that enough space is provided. Many books are written with exact square footage per pupil.
Rooms should be attractive, but this alone is not enough. The room must not be uncomfortable because of lack of heat, poor lighting or poor ventilation. Colors can help camouflage undesirable situations; they can make cold rooms seem warm and warm rooms seem cool. Colors can make small areas seem larger, also. In the cold months, teachers may use vivid colors; red, brown, and orange construction paper to make decorating letters. Using these colors make a room seem warmer. Avoid using these colors in the warm months if you wish to make your room seem cooler. Choosing the right color is important. Colors do change the atmosphere of a classroom.
The Effects of Decor
Compare your room with other classrooms and see what improvements you can make. The ceilings should be a lighter shade of paint than the walls. How is the lighting in your classroom? Is it natural sunlight or artificial lighting? Is there too much glare? Proper lighting is essential for good decor. Curtains hung on tension rods, hung in the window casings, should allow light to filter through. All room curtains should he alike to the observer on the outside. They should be made the same and hung alike. When making or using bought curtains, select ones that have a slot for a rod top and bottom. Use approximately three widths of the window and stretch the length tight. Hanging curtains this way helps keep out the cold or hot weather. The material should not be figured or patterned. Curtains close out distracting traffic, undesirable scenes, sunlight and glare. They are not absolutely necessary, but have many advantages in decorating.
Floor covering should not be a busy or bold pattern. Carpet or washable rugs will be an advantage in absorbing noise, and can also contribute to the decor.
How To Decorate
The first step in decorating is planning. The room diagram was drawn by a class superintendent in preparation for a quarterly planning session. This planning session is conducted the last week of a current quarter. One of the purposes of this planning session is to make assignments of persons who will decorate each learning center and have it completed by the first Sunday of the upcoming quarter, Usually the teacher assigned to a center, for the first month for a new quarter is the one to do the decorating. When decorating rooms, carry out the quarterly theme. Create “focal points” to attract attention. The superintendent chooses the colors for all the letters and characters. The same colored letters are used in every center. It is good for the superintendent to have a selection of characters to be enlarged and painted for the focal point for each center. These should be discussed at the quarterly planning session and given to the teacher who is to complete them. The teachers might have suggestions to make or another character they would prefer painting. Regardless, everything should be discussed at the planning session and the class superintendent making the final decision.
The decorating assignments are put on a room diagram by the classroom superintendent. Colors should be written in the upper left hand corner of the diagram. Characters to be drawn and painted are circled.
The color and size of letters are written out in parenthesis. The teacher’s name is written under the
assigned center. Use carnival letters to distinguish what center it is and the remainder of the captions should be hi-lo letters.
carnival letters – green
hi-lo letters – orange
borders – yellow
Raggedy Ann and Andy
character – Andy
“Giving” in green carnival
“Worship” in orange hi-lo
character – Ann with arms up caption-“Welcome” in green carnival
“To God’s House” in orange hi-lo
character – Andy directing music
caption – “Come To Sunday School”
(orange hi-lo and five
black music notes)
quarterly topic: (orange carnival)
lesson topic – multi hi-lo
change each week
do as teacher’s quarterly suggests for entire month
the first Sunday and add your own ideas
this center is changed each month
character – Andy with fishing pole
caption – “Nature Center” in green carnival
BOOKS AND PUZZLES;
character – Ann with book
caption – “Books” in green carnival
“and” in orange hi-lo
“Puzzles” in green carnival
character – Ann painting
caption – “God Made Beautiful” (hi-lo green)
COLORS in multi-colored carnival
The arrangement of your room should be considered. Avoid having the students face the entrance during Worship and Story Time. If the room is noisy, it is possible to quieten it by adding softness such as rugs and curtains. When using the Center of Interest method of teaching the teachers are responsible for arranging several learning centers. Each learning center should have a new wall decoration the first of every quarter. Some redecorate once a month, others once a quarter. It requires planning ahead, making assignments and follow-up to have a class completely ready for the first student to walk in the first Sunday of a new quarter. It is discouraging and definitely uninspiring when students arrive and the room says, “Oops, I’m not ready for you!”
It is important to make wall decorations uniform and neat. If you are not a good artist, you may want to use a Projector-scope, overhead projector, or an opaque projector to enlarge the characters.
Follow these steps:
1. Enlarge the character (black and white, simple sketches are best)
Pro-jector-scope..picture must be small to fit under machine.
Oyerhead…picture must be transferred to transparency, then enlarged.
Opaque…picture that will fit under area to be reflected.
2. Trace with a pencil
3. Paint with tempera paint
4. Outline with black felt marker
5. Cut out
Taking these five steps will give your picture a more professional look. Making them the size of a sheet of poster paper will keep them uniform in size. Don’t overcrowd so that the decorations run together. Do decorate according to the age group you are teaching. Do plan the color scheme
of your letters carefully, also. Take time when you cut
out your material, so that the edges will not be ragged.
In planning your letters, it is best not to use more than two colors. Small letters one color and larger letters
another color. Use the same size letter to emphasize the type of center. (NATURE for example). It is not good to use multicolored letters in one word except in special instances such as the lesson topic. Place letters and characters at the eye level of the students you are teaching. Don’t crowd too many decorated areas into a small room. It is better to have three or four good areas than too many. Time and space will not allow me to elaborate on this, but there is one good rule to follow. The best advice is to make one area versatile if your space is limited. It is important to take time to see that all lettering and decorations are hung straight, well spaced, centered and secure. Here are some hints to having good looking letters:
1. Arrange the cut-out letters to spell the words you wish to put on the wall
2. Count the number of letters and spaces, determine the center and count back to know where to start sticking them.
3. Turn the letters over, attach plenty “bits” of tape (1″ to 1.5″ of masking tape rolled backwards) to the back of letters so they will stay flat to the wall.
4. With the use of a string or a strip of tape make a
straight line on the wall. This can be used over and over,
5. Place letters so they are almost touching within a word and allow approximately 3 fingers width between words. Allow 3 or 4 fingers width between one line down and the next.
6. Avoid using too many words. Use short captions.
7. When cutting letters, draw one and cut three of the same by placing two more sheets under the one drawn clipping them together with a gem clip.
8. When cutting letters, it is best to use a pair of small scissors to cut out centers. If you do not have these, cut through the letter at one place and tape the back side, it will never be noticed. (Example: O’s, P’s, R’s, A’s, D’s, anything with an inside area to be cut out).
When taking letters down from the wall, each letter should be removed carefully and the tape removed. They should be filed by size and style, alphabetically to be used again. Letters may be used over and over, but when they become worn and faded, they need to be discarded.
Good sources of information and ideas for decorating your centers or walls are coloring books, state school supply houses, religious book stores, discount stores, libraries, bulletin board books, or old Sunday School literature. Supplies that you will need for decorating may be found at several places: book stores, school supply headquarters, and discount stores. The most practical place with the best selection is a school supply. Assorted colors of construction paper may be bought with fifty pieces of the same color in each pack. Multi-colored packages cause waste. The prices are much better when buying at a school supply. Most states have a good one in their large cities and the school supply will mail you a catalog upon request. In addition to supplies, there are many packages of coordinated material suitable for wall decoration, ready to be hung. One caution about using bought things is, do not use bought pieces with things you have made.
Class Involvement/Learner Center Interaction
Classrooms should be decorated so that the very decorations will invite students to get involved. Here is an illustration:
A young boy or girl arrives, pauses at the door of the room and looks around. He has been conditioned to learning centers in public school so it is easy for him to identify with the same method in the Sunday School classroom. Looking around, he observes the following scenes and activity. At the NATURE CENTER he sees attractive letters that have been drawn on colorful construction paper, cut out and taped
to the wall to spell the words “Nature Center”. A picture of a young girl holding an umbrella with a few raindrops falling has been drawn on a sheet of poster paper and painted with poster paint, cut out, and taped to the wall next to the cut out letters. Capital and lower case letters from the words “God Sends The Rain”. These letters and the little girl form the focal point to attract attention to this center.
Every center must be in harmony with the lesson. The teacher working at this center has arranged lesson related visual aid pictures on the top of the nature shelves. The other shelves are used to display nature items. A sample
of the handcraft to be made this day is either taped to
the wall by the shelves or is accessible to be shown at
handcraft time. Today’s memory verse has been printed and standing in the middle of the activity table adjacent to the nature shelves. These open shelves are used to display things that God has made. Both children and teachers bring new objects often to be arranged in these shelves. Things such as small pets or birds from home. They may bring butterflies, grasshoppers, fish, crawfish, tadpoles, baby rabbits or a hamster.
The activity tables should be well constructed. Table tops should be 10″ higher than the chairs. The chairs should allow the child’s feet to touch the floor when he is seated. Table legs should be no larger than 2″ X 2″ and built close enough to the table edge so that they will not tilt over.
At the nature center, the teacher has the opportunity to teach about God’s creation, His love and His care. For instance, as she strokes the back of the baby rabbit, she talks about how good God is to provide the little rabbit with nice fur to keep it warm. Then she reminds them how good God is to provide us with our clothes. After talking about other things, they have brought to share, they pause for a word of prayer to thank God for His wonderful creation. This may be repeated several times as students come and go at the center during pre-session time. This time is for drawing close to the students, to listen and express love. A spirit of anticipation is created because they do not know what to expect from Sunday to Sunday.
To help you understand how the teacher working at the
nature center can use these nature items let me share a story with you. While teaching a group of six and seven year old children, I became aware of one shy boy that very seldom
wanted to get involved. Wanting to draw him into the group,
I asked him would he please bring a bug or maybe a lizard in
a small jar, to share at our center next week. I got the
famous answer…a shrug of his shoulder. In contacting my assigned students on Saturday, I asked him again and got the
same answer. Sunday morning came and Tim came walking down
the hall with one hand on his leg about pocket-height. He
was walking so carefully and strange that I thought his leg
was hurt, As he approached me, he stopped. Carefully he
moved his hand and slipped it into his pocket. Pulling his closed hand out of the pocket, he held it out to me as he carefully moved one finger, I could see one little tiny eye.
He had brought a tree frog. No, I was not repulsed. I was working with a child’s world and they love small creatures. In the class storage area, we kept containers for times like this. Tim put the tiny frog in the jar that I provided. Other students gathered to see it. It was exciting to inspect the tree frog. It had hopped onto the side of the jar. The spiritual application that I made from drawing their attention to the little suction cups on its feet was by saying, “Look at the way God made the frog able to hang on to the side of the jar. When God comes Into our hearts it makes us able to live for Him “This illustration related to our lesson since it was about the out pouring of the Holy Ghost.
A leaf is an excellent illustration to children of how God created us. Holding up a leaf to the light, you may
talk of all the tiny veins in the leaf and compare it with
how God put veins in our body for our blood to flow through and that gives us life just like the leaf. God makes all things right.
Centers are planned by the teachers to be lesson related. They are used to condition the students to understand and accept the Word of God when the Bible story is told at group time. We adults are conditioned before every sermon with choruses and praise. Children need this conditioning time also.
While the student lingers at the nature center, their attention is drawn by the teacher to the wall decorations,
the lesson related visual aid pictures, and the completed handcraft pattern, which they will later be making. Together they repeat the memory verse that has been printed and
visible on the activity table. The memory verse should be said by the teacher many times and repeated by the children. Handcraft time follows pre-session. During this time of making something again the memory verse can be practiced
and games made of learning the verse.
At the BOOK CENTER, suppose the lesson subject is
“Jesus, The Rock”. The teachers bring books from home, borrowed books or books from the library about rocks and minerals. Pictures of different rocks may be taped along
side the wall decorations. You may cut them out, back
them with stiff paper, tape around the edges and place a
stack of these in the book rack to be shared and discussed
as the children gather around the center. Teaching beings
the moment the first child arrives. Children enjoy books
and are naturally drawn to them. Open books, with beautiful pictures of colorful rocks, and place them on the activity table to go along with the lesson. The children are fascinated. The teacher talks with them about the strength of the rock, the strong foundation that rocks provide for building, the security of hiding in the rock and parallels this to how much trust we can put in Jesus.
The BOOK CENTER can be used in similar situations on
any subject and is a favorite with children. Always have
a picture Bible and rotate or add new books to keep this center interesting. The teacher’s enthusiasm as he or she reads from these books can be the motivating factor to
cause children to become avid readers.
Should you have the opportunity to observe a teacher guilding children below the age of six in a BLOCK CENTER,
you would be able to see the benefit of having them act out
a story using blocks. These young children have great imaginations. The large red blocks become whatever they want them to be. If the lesson is about the disciples catching fish from a boat, these blocks become a boat when they are laid in an oblong arrangement. From inside the boat, they act out the story. They are fishermen casting their nets over the side of the boat. They will hear the lesson, see the related visual pictures in the center and act out the story. All this will increase their retention up to 90%.
The story may be “Jesus and the Sheepfold”. It will be easier to remember the story after they have built the sheepfold and gone in and out of it. They will understand how the shepherd becomes the door when he lies down at the door so no one can go in or out without him knowing it. This involvement at the centers is done during pre-session.
At each center, the teacher is prepared to introduce the lesson. The teacher plans something to involve every
child, to challenge their imaginations and stimulate them
to think. All this is done to condition their minds to hear and understand the Bible story at group time.
The care and planning that has gone into the “focal point” decorations at the ART CENTER teaches a lesson of love and concern. Children feel the enthusiasm of the teachers and will follow their example. A child learns
more about the way to live for God by the things the teacher does than what the teachers says. Christian education is teaching about God and fruits of the Spirit. Art can relate to these. Beauty is a gift from God. The skill to produce a thing of beauty also comes from Him. Teachers assigned to the art center are able to teach children that art is an expression of praising and glorifying God. It is an expression of His beauty, peace, goodness and truth.
It is not so important that children produce a neat take-home project that says something about the lesson as
it is for them to be aware of God. At the art easel or
the art activity table, they color, trace, paint, mold
clay, paste, cut and glue and do other things. The object
is not what they do but more what is happening emotionally and spiritually. The atmosphere should be a relaxed one.
Many students come to Sunday School with problems that would be taxing for an adult to handle. They come from homes
where the environment is anything but wholesome. For this reason, they need to have a relaxed “doodling” atmosphere where materials are provided and learning experiences
shared before time for the Bible story. Their minds need
to be distracted from problems and directed to God’s goodness. They need to feel the closeness of their teacher and feel the teacher’s love expressed. So, what they make at the art center is not as important as the conditioning that is done during pre-session. This helps them give attention to the word of God later in the class session.
The precession time often sets the pace for success or failure for the entire class session. So much depends on the preparation of the teachers for making the learning centers interesting, using variety and being ready to involve the students as soon as they arrive. Time at any center should not be squandered.
There are many centers that can be used in a classroom: Science, Puzzles, Bible Games, and others. You may develop others as attendance and staff requires. A word of caution:
Some teachers tend to be collectors or hoarders of useable material. Avoid clutter, for this can easily ruin the
appearance of the class. Another common mistake is becoming
so familiar with surroundings that you fail to see the need
for repainting and repairing equipment. Once each quarter,
take inventory of needed improvements. Rooms should be
neat and ready for visitors to see them at anytime. Be sure
the room is left neat when the class is dismissed each
Sunday. Everything should be attractively arranged, just
as it was when the students arrived.
In the upper grade classes, decorations contribute much toward creating a learning environment. In these classes,
we would not decorate for learning centers in particular. However, there can be several decorated areas in a youth
class. When making plans to decorate, a color scheme should
be decided upon. Cut-out lettering used in forming these areas can be color coordinated; large letters one color and smaller letters another. The quarterly topic can be of all of one color and attached to the wall behind the place where the teacher speaks. The lesson topic could be taped to the wall each week. This is the only time I would recommend the use of multi-colored letters in these classrooms. The advantage of having them cut ahead of time and available in the class- room makes it easy for quickly changing the lesson topic. This can be done before or after a mid-week service. Suggestions for other decorated areas in youth classes are as follows:
Secretary’s desk = suggest giving
Missions emphasis place = focus on missions
Review area = posters and other lesson visuals are
arranged in a collage rather than
randomly placed around the room
Teachers are rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment
when they work as a team to decorate their room. They are
aware of the environmental improvement, decorating accomplishes. The environment of the classroom makes teaching easier and more effective, since the surroundings are improved. The personal touch they give the room, shows their love and dedication. In creating a better environment for learning, the atmosphere becomes charged with a spirit of excitement and expectancy. The student’s interest is heightened. They enjoy their Sunday School class more and anxiously anticipate returning Sunday after Sunday. The Word-Aflame teacher’s manuals are especially beneficial in giving suggestions for creating attractive bulletin boards and decorated wall areas. These ideas are explained and are practical. They may be used as they are or become a
launching pad for your own ideas. Team effort is needed
in decorating classrooms. This working together promotes
good relationships between teachers. People want to be
involved. It gives them a feeling of belonging and contributing to the cause. Sometimes, it is good to involve
young people and new converts in classroom decorating.
Using these can take a strain off a limited staff and provide training at the same time. “Use them or lose them”, is a good adage.
Pastors have less problems when their saints are involved in activity that gives self-gratification. Enthusiasm permeates the entire congregation because of the improvement. Attendance increases and a spirit of revival prevails.
Upon entering a classroom that is properly decorated, one is favorably impressed. It has been decorated with purpose. Observing the bulletin boards and decorated wall areas, a person who is not familiar with our teaching methods becomes informed of learning centers, color coordination, and balanced furniture arrangement. They realize the amount of preparation that has been required to do this in order to benefit the learners. Parents are pleased when they visit classrooms that speak of so much thought and effort. The room that speaks of love and concern is heartfelt, more than spoken words can say.