Secondary Classroom Decorating Ideas

Decorating a secondary classroom can be fun! Look at creative ways of gathering decor and posters and include students along the way.

Middle and high school classrooms must acknowledge the desires and attitudes of older students. While considering secondary classroom decorating ideas, think away from prepackaged posters and banners. (I’ve never seen prepackaged themes aimed high school classrooms – only posters. Am I alone?)

I’m not crafty but I love every classroom I’ve ever crafted. Why? It must be a combination of my desire to have an authentic learning space that both my students and I like – that we participated in the creation of. Where do I find decor for a high school classroom? These are my four places to gather materials.

Decorating a secondary classroom? Create an authentic learning environment inexpensively.


1. Use student work.

After a project, I ask if students will throw their projects away. Sooooo many times they say “yes.” I ask if they mind if I keep them and they almost always hand it over. (Many times students are elated that I wanted to keep a product they made). For instance, this interpretation of the Seven Commandments for Animal Farm is made of wood and the student said she would put it in the burn pile at her house! I love it, and pull it out anytime I teach Orwell’s novel:

Animal Farm student work.
The student used Wite-Out and shoe polish for the desired effect with this.

Student work not only provides decoration but also adds to units. Previously created goodies can explain difficult reading material. For instance, cartoon strips from “Julius Caesar” help current students understand the difficult plot.

Julius Caesar cartoon strips.

2. Shop (a little) at the dollar store, but seek out secondhand goods.

My first year teaching, I bought quite a few products from the dollar store. Aside from my personal coasters, everything broke. Even the small pencil sharpeners for group work fell apart. You can get some classroom decor at a dollar store, but don’t spend tons of money there.

I have better luck shopping at secondhand stores or garage sales. My best purchases include:

  • Picture frames. Use these to showcase student work. I’ve even purchased (high quality!) large frames and put posters in them.
  • Old suitcases.
  • A bookshelf.
  • Clear glass containers for storage. I think these were used as canisters in a kitchen, but they now hold glue sticks and scissors.
  • Vases, tins, and other pretties.
  • Art material. My best haul came from a lady who was quitting scrapbooking and was selling high quality materials.
  • Specifics for units. Once I came across old Sears catalogues. These are perfect for showing students what characters dressed like during a specific time period.

3. Visit home stores.

I’m not referring to top-notch stores, but rather discount ones. My local ones include Big Lots and Home Goods.

A previous classroom of mine had worn carpet. I put rugs in particularly bare spots. Another one had rusty cabinets. I covered those with a clearance tablecloth. Speaking of which…

The clearance section at discount stores? Perfect for teachers, especially if your classroom has an eclectic feel. Lamps and posters are other purchases I use to brighten a secondary classroom.

4. Don’t forget craft stores.

Michaels is my craft store and I always stock up on coupons before shopping. What do I buy? Baskets, seasonal items, and clearance art supplies such as poster boards and glue. This goes a bit back to #1 because I rely on my students to create materials. Instead of reviewing types of pronouns or vocabulary on small pages, ask students to create an informative poster. Assign students to make character profiles for a social media site and create a bulletin board of them. Secondary classroom decorating ideas needn’t be all teacher purchased or created. With older students, they have design and organizational abilities – use them, but provide the materials.

Create your dream classroom over time. Add to a Pinterest board with your magical secondary classroom decorating ideas. Be creative where you shop and open to unique decor ideas.

You can inexpensively add a splash to your classroom with different colors. I printed these posters on yellow and blue – the colors of my classroom. You can, however, use any color you’d like because they quotes posters come in black and white. 

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