Physical Space

How to Grab Your Students’ Attention by Branding Your Classroom

Emoji rubric

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!

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Lee Ten Hoeve

Lee Ten Hoeve, an elementary and middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about making art a core subject and employing curiosity to engage learners.

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