There’s just something special about setting up a classroom for the new school year. A clean, organized, and welcoming space gives us warm feelings of optimism for what the new year will bring. I love this feeling so much that I volunteer to set up one local classroom each July. This year I went with a Light Academia classroom theme for a middle school ELA classroom in my area.
After decorating this classroom, I’m convinced this is the perfect theme for English teachers! Here’s why: Light Academia is characterized by its romanticization of academic life, the pursuit of knowledge, and a love for arts, literature, and history. This aesthetic draws inspiration from traditional academia and the atmosphere of old libraries, vintage books, classical music, and art. It often embraces a nostalgic and whimsical approach to education and self-improvement.
Any classroom theme that promotes reading and gives old library vibes is a win in my book! So, let’s jump right into the cost breakdown and before and after pictures!
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- Shower curtain art: $18
- Gold frame border (3 rolls): $31
- Storage cubes (12): $36
- Faux fireplace: $60
- Flickering battery candles: $22
- Color changing battery light: $10
- Plugin fairy lights: $20
- Gold clips $12
- Gold buckets: $5
- Large printed posters: $28
- Figurative language posters: $5
- Thrift Finds (old books, faux tree, lamp, misc.): $40
- Using what the teacher already had: FREE!
- Using stuff I found in my shed: FREE!
Middle School ELA Classroom Decor
The before picture shows a typical middle school classroom. The building dates back to the 60s, and I think some of the furniture is that old too, ha! I try to keep my classroom makeovers realistic and attainable on a small budget. So, while the after isn’t as drastic as some of the epic makeovers you see online, this middle school ELA classroom is much, much better!
At this point, shower curtain art is my signature. I’ve used them in all my classroom makeovers because they are cheap, come in a variety of themes, and are easy to hang with command strip hooks. Simply put the shower curtain rivets through the hooks and voila! This time I got a little wild and had my husband add a “gold frame” around it with this gold border. I think it turned out great!
Old Classroom Before and After
Since most of the instruction comes from this wall and the board wall, I tried to keep the visual clutter to a minimum. The whiteboard wall has calming fairy lights while the Smartboard wall now has two 20X30 posters framed with a border rather than a hodgepodge of smaller stuff. If you would like a free set of these bookish posters, grab them here!
To me, the Light Academia theme calls for a fireplace, so I was determined to have one in this classroom! All my long-term readers know that I love using ambient media in creative ways, so while you can easily play a digital fire on the board, I wanted a second option. Too much cozy isn’t in my vocabulary! 🥰 While I do love how this classroom fireplace turned out, I have to admit I’m not sure it was worth $60. I totally thought this cardboard fireplace was 3D (as in the cardboard pops out to make a mantel and such), but no. It’s literally just a big piece of cardboard with a fireplace image on it LOL. I didn’t have time to come up with a different solution, so I just went with it by wrapping two printer paper boxes with brick paper so that I could add my flickering candles on there which was the point of this entire idea, ha!
The teacher’s desk area was made a lot better simply by removing an old whiteboard that had lost its luster many moons ago. I added some thrifted frames and created a gallery wall so that she could fill it with things that spark joy. I thought her student work display was clever, so I kept that and just changed out the colorful clothes pins with gold clips.
I was on a time crunch with this project, so I ran out of time to finish her storage area, but as you can see, it’s looking a lot more organized! These cheap cubes work wonders in hiding visual clutter, and I had so much fun using my old school label maker to help make sure everything stays in place! The top shelf is full of old books and student examples of a book deconstruction project she does. I thought it went well with the Light Academia theme and goes far in sparking curiosity for this project since it’s the first thing students see when they walk in the door. After this teacher declutters a little more, this area will end up being the most transformed spot in the entire classroom!
Light aCADEMIA Classroom dECOR ideas
I love incorporating creative table numbers in my classroom designs. Last year’s was thrifted mini records and this year’s is thrifted blue books! While table numbers can help with seating charts, the main reason I like to have them is for first day stations. Once I started using stations on the first day, I never looked back. For me, it helps calm my first day jitters and sets the tone for the entire year. After the table numbers are used on the first day, they can easily be stored or displayed then brought back out for other secondary ELA stations throughout the entire year!
Book pages make for a fantastic and free way to cover an ugly bulletin board! Simply find an old book that’s too far gone, rip out the pages, then staple them to the board! If you are looking for more bookish decorating ideas, you’ll love this get-to-know-you craft idea using book pages! Download my book themed figurative language posters here: Light Academia Bookish Posters
I think this little corner turned out so cute! I thrifted this faux tree for $10 then added a Poe portrait and some of his poems to make a….POE TREE (poetry, get it? 😜).
On the other side of the fireplace, my husband mounted a brass light fixture left over from a renovation we did. It’s not wired in; the light inside is a battery powered puck light that changes colors! I think it will be fun to change out color based on different texts. 🤩
So there you have it! I hope this middle school ELA classroom tour has given you some inspiration and confidence that no matter the age of your building or your budget size, you can add warm, welcoming touches to any classroom.