What exactly IS a schoolwide theme? How does it work? Who decides what the theme is? Why do schools even do this?
I know, I know! Soooo many questions! I'll answer them all for you. Promise. But first…
A schoolwide theme is a brilliant way to unite students, staff, and families each year. Themes can create a sense of excitement, as well as belonging, that extends beyond the classroom walls. Challenges in schools are MANY. Because of this, it is crucial to foster a supportive and united environment that encourages collaboration and creativity.
There are plenty of benefits when implementing a schoolwide theme, but if you ask kids, they'll say, “IT'S FUN!!” I'd say that's a pretty good reason too.
How Do you choose a schoolwide theme?
Gather Ideas & Brainstorm
At our school, we start dreaming up what the new schoolwide theme will be at the END of the current school year. We ask our kids to help us come up with ideas, then we narrow them down to our favorites and send them off to the office.
At the last faculty meeting of the year, there is a compiled list of themes we can choose from. We each circle one, the votes are tallied, and then the new theme is announced via email to STAFF ONLY!
We keep it a secret from our kids all summer long, giving them something to look forward to during that back-to-school season. Right before our school year starts, our principal calls all of the families, inviting them to our version of “Meet Your Teacher,” and announces what the upcoming theme will be. When the kids and families come in to see what classroom they are in, meet teachers, etc., they will see the school decked out in its new theme via bulletin boards, classroom door decor, and MORE!
Are There Guidelines For Schoolwide Theme Ideas?
There aren't exactly guidelines to follow, but we do expect our students to be respectful when suggesting ideas. Teaching kindergarten, a lot of times, the suggestions are VERY specific but also a bit too vague. I.e., “stuffed animal pajama party” or “CANDY!” 😉
I'll start the ‘theme bidding' by sharing a few that we've done in recent years, and that seems to help guide them a bit better. Here are a few examples of recent schoolwide themes we've used:
- Circus: LDC – The Greatest School On Earth!
- Space: Lockeland is Out Of This World!
- Under The Sea: Livin' The LD-Sea Life
Some years the schoolwide themes are geared more toward what we are going through as a community. For example, right before the pandemic hit the entire world in 2020, my community in East Nashville, Tennessee, was hit HARD by a tornado.
Encouraging and spirit-lifting murals popped up all over, saying, “Nashville Strong.” So, it only seemed fitting that our schoolwide theme for 2020-21 was Lockeland Strong. That year didn't have much of a ‘light-hearted' feel to it. We were all needing to find strength and grit – and the theme fit.
Don't be afraid to get creative when brainstorming ideas for your theme. Sometimes it's easier if you come up with a subject that would be fun to create school and classroom decor with – and then come up with a phrase that matches.
In my first year teaching kindergarten at LDC, the theme was “Lockeland Dreamin'.” I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but quickly learned it was open for interpretation – which was really fun!
SO, You Have Your schoolwide theme – NOW What?
Keep Your Events The Same – Just Change The Theme
It may feel a bit overwhelming to consider how you will be able to integrate your chosen schoolwide theme into everything for the whole year! It would be amazing if we were able to dive deeper into our classrooms with the theme, too – but our curriculum stays the same.
All of our schoolwide events involve the theme in some shape or fashion. Our related arts team is BRILLIANT at this, as is our PTO. The things they come up with are always so creative!
For example, there are certain events we have every year at school:
- Related arts night
- Storyteller night
- Fun run
- Music program
- Variety Show
Here are some examples of how themes are incorporated into these annual events. The EVENTS don't change – but the THEME does.
The art created and displayed around the school reflects the theme in some way – which we LOVE! It's a really cool thing to see all the different interpretations of the theme come to life. From kindergarten to 5th grade, we are all united with the theme.
Classroom Door Decor
One thing I LOVE is seeing all of the different interpretations of the theme on the classroom doors! Instead of having to come up with your own classroom decoration ideas and theme year after year – the hard part is already done for you: Deciding on your THEME!
One regret I have is not taking pictures of every classroom door each year. The range of ideas is so fun – as well as the way the theme adapts from grade level to grade level.
BONUS: Once I put it up – it STAYS THAT WAY ALL YEAR LONG!! No more scrambling for classroom door ideas from season to season.
My kids fell in love with my MTV…er…I mean LDC moon man up during our space theme. I didn't want to get rid of him the next year! So the scuba diver and lion…are actually my astronaut in disguise!
Similar to keeping the events the same – but just changing the theme – I do this in my own classroom! I have my classroom floor plan set up the same way from year to year. There may be a few minor changes – but for the most part, it stays the same.
But here's what I DO change every year:
- Take-home folder inserts
- Book box numbers
- Class List
- Class Schedule
- Math journal inserts
- Table Signs
You may be thinking, “Well, you HAVE to change most of those every year because you get a new roster.”
EXACTLY. I already have to change these things – so I just put the theme to work! I really enjoy creating things on Canva, and having something that is totally original is pretty fun. Now I create them for the kindergarten team – and we really love having that connection from classroom to classroom.
Here's a sampling of table signs throughout different themes:
It's been fun over the years to see the different grade-level teams get together and come up with group costumes or connect their rooms in some way. The kindergarten team is all about a fun-themed get-up – and we are all about spending time the week before the kids come to show our theme off between rooms.
Do You think Your School would love a schoolwide theme?
If you think your school would love to incorporate a schoolwide theme for the year, bring it up at a grade-level team meeting. Ask your administration or your leadership team what they think. If you want a starting place – feel free to share this blog with them to get some ideas.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite themes – The Greatest School On Earth. You can probably guess which movie was hot-hot-hot at the time.
And…how much you wanna bet me that next year may be Barbie? 😉
Oh! Before you go – do you know what else is super fun when you have a schoolwide theme? Ornaments for Christmas gifts! Take a look at these!