How to Grab Your Students’ Attention by Branding Your Classroom

Branding. Every major company uses it to compete for our sustained attention. I suggest we get on board and use the power of branding to compete for our students’ attention!

Emoji rubric

Each summer I brainstorm a Back-to-School theme for my art room and the school at large. I create welcome back banners and signs aligned with the theme and basically take over the school. It is a great way to start the year off positively and with enthusiasm.

Here are 6 Simple Steps for Branding Your Classroom

1. Gather information.

Be an observer. When you go to a store, look for things that catch your eye. I always find tons of inspiration in Target’s back to school items, Paper Source (a card and stationery store), great illustrated books, and even hang tags for clothing. Ideas are everywhere!

2. Select a theme.

Make sure you select something with multiple possibilities that can extend beyond the art room. For example, last year I choose an emoji theme. Kids love emojis and associate them with their phones, a prized possession. The best part was since emojis are a visual language, I could use them to say whatever I wanted! As a fun aside, I found and created some amazing masterpieces reworked with emojis, which spurred an awesome connected lesson about visual communication and appropriation.

emoji gallery

3. Come up with a slogan for your welcome back banner.

Think of a catchy slogan for your main welcome back banner. Next year, I plan to do a sweets/ice cream theme and will use, “Sweet, We Are Back!” or “School is Cool!” Accompanying visuals might be ice cream cones wearing sunglasses and a Candy Land-style font. Think fun! Your mission to is to make being back at school exciting.

4. Create smaller, supplemental posters.

Plan smaller posters to reinforce the theme. Using Postermaker or similar design apps make printing multiples quick and easy. Print and display them throughout the school.

5. Make a few props.

im I found an awesome DIY emoji balloon tutorial online and made them for my door the first week of school. I wound up auctioning them off to a student because they were in such high demand! This could be a great incentive. See a tutorial here.

DIY Emoji Balloons
image courtesy of Studio DIY!

6. Bring the theme into your art room decor and classroom management plan.

Use a consistent color scheme and font to label things in your room, connecting what they’ve seen around the school to your particular classroom.

In addition, consider how you might incorporate your theme into your rewards systems, classroom decoration, behavior modification systems, passes and/or assessment activities. One great thing I found was an Emoji Exit Ticket online and it reinvigorated my students to participate.

emoji rubric

We are in the business of inspiration and visual communication. If we don’t market what we do as interesting, current, and fun we are missing a brilliant opportunity to demonstrate the power of images to our students.

What has been your most popular class theme?

Does your theme extend beyond your classroom into a school or district-wide theme? If so, please share your experience!

Lee Ten Hoeve


Lee is an energetic PreK - 8th-grade art educator in an urban district. She’s passionate about making art a core subject and employing curiosity to engage learners. 


  • I like the emoji idea for teens–but I don’t like them personally! I wonder, could the theme of a game show or similar be a good teen theme? I plan to show an unidentified art work a month and kids submit the title and artist and fun fact (think I got this from someone at AOE?). I will give away a small art supply prize to the correct drawn answer. I would love to expand that to keep the students entering guesses. Is it teen oriented enough, or anyone have a better idea?

  • Lee Ten Hoeve

    Hi Kathleen,

    The idea of a game show is awesome! Like a American “Art” Idol or instead of the “Voice” (which is another popular game show, I think) how about the “The Brush.” You could even rework the logo for the show in a graphics app to have a brush instead of a mic in the hand. Props will help get them into it. Also, you could feature photos of the winers displayed with their standings. They’d love that. Another idea, why not let them write their guesses on a board like text entries? You could make a board that looks like an scrolling screen.
    As for not liking the emoji theme, I totally get it. However, I often find I have to embrace things I’m not crazy about to keep the kids attention and direct it towards what is important and what I am passionate about them knowing. Whatever hook works!
    Thanks so much for sharing Kathleen and I hope you have an excellent year.

    • Thank you! You’ve given me much to think about! I love the American Art Idol and wonder if we could tie that into class critiques–rotate in 3 student “judges” each time? That could be a lot more productive than a whole class critique where many kids let a few regulars speak. Maybe I could tie in some cooking shows…..Iron Artist…..Hell’s Art Room (ha, ha). End of units could be a challenge of that sort. Thinking! Thank you!

      • Lee Ten Hoeve

        My pleasure. I love the end of unit challenge idea!

  • Kris S.

    I’m a 1st year art teacher and I am so lost with getting my art room ready to go. Art was moved into a room that is not the best shape and all the classroom stuff is in boxes. I don’t have an ID or school/room key until the end of the week so I haven’t been able to see what supplies are available. I teach middle school and will have huge classes so I have been more focused on dealing with that. I want the room to look nice but I have so little time before school starts and no idea of my available resources. And there is some talk we nay be moved at some point during the semester. Any suggestions?

    • Lee Ten Hoeve

      How about letting your classes vote on what to do? That will allow you a little more time to get situated and give your students a voice.