10 Ideas for Transforming the Doorways to Learning

Doorways are thresholds to learning. Utilize them.

As students walk through the literal doorway to learning, having said doorway contribute to a positive mindset centered on learning is a huge bonus. The recent viral buzz surrounding Mundelein High School in Chicago is contributed to the visual appeal and literary spin that transformed their cinder block doorways into iconic book covers. While this transformation got quite a bit of attention on social media, it has likely gotten an equal amount of attention from its intended student audience.

Taking the time, and as in the Mundelein example the expense, of adding some zest to school spaces can be an impactful way to add some buzz to any learning community. Not every school, department, or classroom budget has over $2,000 to spend on the professional mural application of book covers, but there are certainly more affordable means for transforming the entrances to learning. These 10 options can offer a visually appealing and mindfully motivating threshold through which students can enter.

  1. Time Portal– The entrance to a social studies classroom could be adorned to reflect a particular time period of study. Catch phrases from the era, images or renderings of key inventions, pictures of historical figures, examples of technology, etc. could all be included in visually representing the time. If put in place prior to beginning the unit, students could make informed guesses to narrow down the dates or time period of study.
  2. Habitat Entrance– Science classes could adorn doorways with elements found in a specific habitat. From the vegetation to the species present, there are lots of options for having students enter the doorway via a rainforest, bog, dessert, jungle, tundra, etc. Habitat facts could adorn the actual door or be interspersed within the display.
  3. Book Reviews– Students looking for that next great read could likely find it as they pass through the doorway to an English class. Student-created review and suggestions with images of the corresponding book cover or a personal drawing could line the entry. Either side of the doorway could be labeled as What’s hot? and What’s not? to allows students to get a truer reflection of their peers’ takes on certain reads.
  4. Number Sense– Choose a number, any number large or small, to be the class number. This could be the number of students, the room number, the graduation year, etc. Write said number over the doorway and then challenge students to show the infinite possibilities for representing that number. The door could be artistic renderings of the digits, one sidewall could be equations that all have the chosen number as their solution, and another side could be visual representations of the number (i.e., tally marks, cheerios, polka dots, start stickers).
  5. Class Accomplishments– The entryway to learning can be a great place to celebrate all of the accomplishments that occur inside a learning space. It can also be a great way to help students motivate one another to achieve success. Donning the doorway with All Students in Room 126 Have… allows any and all successes to be celebrated. The class may have collectively mastered their times tables, read X books this year, launched rockets, run X laps on the track, etc. It doesn’t mean that every student has to reach said milestone at the same time, but it’s a way to motivate all to do so.
  6. Book Covers– The English Department at Mundelein did have a great idea. For teachers who do class novels, changing out a door covering to reflect the current novel of choice is a great way to get students thinking about the book as they enter. As the class reads the novel, the rest of the doorway can be adorned with key quotes, events, themes, etc.
  7. Dress the Door for Donations– A great reminder for students during a donation drive for food, clothing, change, books, etc. is to place the information front and center as they enter the classroom each day. Facts about local needs and statistics can be placed around the doorframe. A donation box can be set just inside or outside of the door with a chart to tally collections as they are placed in it.
  8. Awareness/Observances– Regardless of how diverse the student population may or may not be, all enter through the same doorway. Let that doorway highlight a timely observance or a movement of study. A Baltimore teacher’s Black History Month décor went viral with its powerful image and inclusive message. A doorway can offer a perfect starting point for encouraging acceptance and open-mindedness.
  9. Motivators– Much like Notre Dame’s famed Play Like a Champion Today locker-room mantra, building students’ resolve as they enter an athletic zone or a traditional classroom zone can do wonders for motivation and camaraderie. Whether it’s motivational quotes or images, offering students a positive mantra to repeat or reference as they dive into physical or mental activities can do much to alleviate any self-defeatist thoughts that may dare to enter.
  10. Artistic Reflection– As students enter an art class where a particular period or artist is being studied and possibly replicated, adorn the doorway with samples and/or student created likenesses of the work. Whether Monet’s watercolors, Warhol’s pop art, or Pollock’s abstract expressions are the pieces of study, surrounding the entrance with a collage of the artist’s works will set the scene for what students will be exploring upon entering.

These 10 ideas for creating an inviting threshold to learning allow teachers and students to get creative and explore different ways to enhance the learning environment. Top dollar options likely aren’t in every budget, but creativity and a few supplies can do the trick. Setting a positive tone for learning can be achieved by setting aside some time to transform the doorways students enter through daily.