Ideas for Decorating the Secondary English Classroom!


wall post collage

I don’t know about you guys, but I am completely addicted to Pinterest and so jealous of our elementary counterparts with AMAZING room ideas!  If you are not already following Secondary Solutions on Pinterest, check us out soon.   This year, I decided to step it up on the decoration front in a way that is not only pinterest pretty, but also completely functional for teaching secondary English and the Common Core. I teach primarily American Literature so my ideas for this post surround the idea of teaching literature along a chronological, historical path in US History, but you could do something similar with any literature class.   I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and classroom decorating tips in the comment section below! 


On one wall, I created a massive timeline of important quotes and events in US History.  The quotes are on the far left in chronological order and include important moments like “Give me liberty or give me death” (Patrick Henry), “Suffrage is the pivital right” (Susan B Anthony), “Mr. Gorbachev tear down that wall” (Ronald Reagan), “Students must have initiative; they should not be imitators” (Cesar Chavez), and more. I tried to line them up with the units of study and the values of my students. 


With this wall prominently in place, I can refer to it when teaching literature.  For example, when we are reading The Grapes of Wrath we can easily look at how history informs the novel.  The 19th amendment gives women the right to vote in 1920; the stock market crashes in 1929, the new deal begins in 1933. How do these historical events impact the characters and conflicts?  


I created a “You are Here” arrow that has velcro on the back so we can move it along the timeline as the literature progresses for easy reference. I lucked out that my wall has carpet type material so velcro works, but you could also use painter’s tape or putty to keep it up.  IMGP2465

At the top, I made larger poster board markers for each of our units so that students could also see the big picture at a glance. IMGP2469

Under the American timeline, I included a section about the (very limited) history of the rest of the world.  This helps students to understand the interconnectedness of the world’s history.  For example, when we are reading political commentaries by Dr. Seuss, we can look at what is going on in the rest of the world that is inspiring his critique.   


For many of the events on the timeline, I included iconic pictures for visual inspiration and also because I teach the rhetoric of images as part of my AP English language class.  IMGP2439

On the side opposite of the quotes, I have a white board with my three tips of the week.  These are general messages that I like to get out to students but don’t have time for a whole lesson on.  I usually include something practical or school schedule related, some type of idiom or maxim, and a grammar point.  I spend about 5 minutes somewhere in the week talking about them.  IMGP2459

Finally, I got this awesome little organizer from 31 recently.  I use it to keep my calendar, display bulletins, hold emergency lesson plans, and organize papers/scantrons.  I love that it is beautiful and functional at the same time! 

Have any suggestions, comments, or ideas for us?  We’re all ears! 

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  1. Fabulous ideas! My room looks better than ever this year, and I owe it to Pinterest and Secondary Solutions! I use a pocket wall chart similar to yours where I clips sheets letting students know what the evenings at-home study will be, and I put the day’s handouts in folders behind the clipped homework announcement. Seems to be working really well.

    I’m going to try your timeline idea for my Brit Lit and American Lit classes. Looking forward to seeing more ideas!

  2. Thanks for the share! Really love all these ideas :) Since I recently got some new school furniture in my classroom I really wanted to some how incorporate it into my decorating scheme. Any cute ideas?

    • What kind of furniture did you get? I usually say, the simpler the better so that function isn’t lost in clutter. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This timeline looks so cool!
    Any chance you have a word document with the events you put on your timeline that I could use?

    • Emily Guthrie
      June 1, 2014 - 8:15 am

      I just looked through my files at home and I don’t see it. I will check on Monday on my school computer and when/if I find it I will be happy to email it to you at the email address you left here 😉 Have a great day!

      • Hi there,
        As I was reading/looking/already getting excited to decorate my classroom next year I came across your idea and was WOWed. I had the very same question about the list of events that you used. What an awesome way to link English and History together for the kids. Thanks for this idea to make my new room wonderful next year!

  4. Hi from Australia! Love these fabulous ideas for decorating a Secondary classroom. When I started teaching 2 years ago (I started late in life as I am now 41!) I was surprised how boring some of the rooms I was contracted to teach in were. Being given my own room for all my English and Humanities classes this year (our school years starts in January), I have scoured Pinterest and found some brilliant ideas. Thanks for sharing; as I progress I will post my creations.

  5. I’m a dual licensed English/Social Studies teacher! I absolutely love this! Next school year I will be teaching American Literature and would love to use a version of this! If possible could you also email me the Word file?

    Thanks so much,

  6. I absolutely love your timeline and am in the process of creating something similar in my room. Would it be possible for you to email me your events as well? It would sure save me a lot of time if I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel from scratch!

  7. Chelsea and Anita,
    Thanks! I’ll email it to you tonight 😉

  8. I love your timeline! It is such a teachable tool and a wonderful reference for the students and teacher alike! This is my first year teaching 8th grade ELA/History, and I would LOVE to incorporate something like this in my classroom! Is there any chance you have these headings and events listed somewhere. If so, it would be a huge help if you are willing to share! Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Hi! Any chance you could email a copy of the word file used to create the timeline?? It is awesome, wow, so creative! I would love to have something like that in my classroom. Thanks!

  10. WOW! best timeline idea ever! I’m going to borrow some of this for my 4th grade social studies an science classroom this year. I think it is so important for students to see this as a wise teacher once told me that the world is not divided into subjects. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I abesolutly love your interactive timeline! It us such a great teaching tool. I am starting my first year teaching US History and would love to create something like this in my classroom. I was wondering if you have the events you used for your timeline saved anywhere. If so would you be willing to share them? It would be a huge help. Thank you for the inspiration!!

  12. Emily Guthrie
    July 3, 2014 - 3:00 pm

    Kristen and Tiffany,
    Thanks! I will email it to you today. 😉

  13. So cool! I love your timeline and creativity! I’m so inspired. If at all possible, would you be able to share your document with me, please?

    Thank you!

  14. I was browsing Pinterest for some classroom ideas as I am a first year teacher this upcoming year! Of all the ideas I came across, I definitely love your interactive timeline best! What a great way to incorporate both history and English and get the students to make connections! I’d love to also incorporate this in my classroom, any chance you could send me the word document also? Best of luck this year! :)

  15. Love this. Please could you email me the documents? How do I follow you on pintrest?

  16. Hi Emily! This will be my first year teaching American Literature, and I see several others have requested your file for your timeline. Would you be willing to share it one more time, please???! You are truly inspirational!

  17. Great job on creating a point of interest, both visually and using relevancy. I not only teach American Lit, but also British Lit. I have a new room this year and would love to have a wall for each of these timelines; it is a fabulous idea.
    May I also get a copy of your timeline? It is just perfect for what we all need in our classrooms. Thanks!

    • I teach British lit too and I’m trying to get a British timeline going also, but I have to free up some more wall space! I will email what I have you soon!

  18. Heather McGregor
    July 18, 2014 - 10:55 am

    Whoa! I love your timeline. I had started putting one together a few years back but never finished. I would really love to have your list of events if you don’t mind sharing it again. I am always jealous of the elementary teachers’ cool rooms, too. I teach AP Language and plan to go fully decorated in my room this year- school colors in polka dots!

    • I love polka dots! I’m in the process of cleaning up the timeline docs, but I will email you soon!

  19. I would love to try this time line in my classroom this year! I have been searching for ideas and this is by far the best I’ve seen! Do you mind sharing this with me, please? This is my first year teaching 8th grade English! I’m super excited about this year! Thank you!!

  20. Elisabeth Hardy
    July 25, 2014 - 7:16 pm

    I love your timeline and want to incorporate something similar in my AP Lit classroom. Could you email me the file, as well? Thank you so much!

  21. Hi, I absolutely love the timeline you created! I teach English at a small Visual Performimg Arts School . I am planning on creating a timeline of American Literature , US History, and artists. I would love your list of events, it would be extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing your ideas!!!!

  22. I am teaching my first year of U.S. History and would love a copy of the events you used- both for English and History. This is fantastic, thank you!

  23. Hi Emily! Your room looks amazing! I am a first year English teacher and would like to “borrow” your timeline. Would you be willing to send it to me? The timeline would be perfect in my rather boring classroom, and it is something that I can put my personal spin on without breaking the bank.

  24. Hi–I love your timeline idea and would like to use it for this year. Would you please share your document with me? I would be so grateful! :-)

  25. I LOVE the timeline you created! Would you be willing/able to email the word document? Thank you so much!!

  26. WOW! Great resource- don’t suppose I could get an email as well???? I love the visual connection to History
    Thank you so much

  27. I would love and very much appreciate any electronic copies or pictures you would share of your timeline. Thank you!

  28. Your timeline idea is so creative and purposeful – I especially love the literary genres/themes you’ve incorporated. Would you be able to send me your timeline in a doc so I have a starting point? I would so appreciate it. Great idea!

  29. I absolutely love these ideas! Thank you for sharing! I will be teaching American and British lit and would love to set up timelines. Would you mind sending me the timeline docs?

  30. I am teaching American and British Literature and I have been looking for a timeline. Would you be willing to share your document of events? I am struggling to figure out how to fit it all in! Thank you so much for helping the secondary!

  31. I love your timeline idea! I’ll be teaching Brit/European Lit in addition to American Lit. Would you mind sharing your timeline file??

  32. Emily, I love this idea and just made a big timeline area in my classroom. If you’re willing to share with me too, I’d love all of the dates/events you have on there. It’s difficult finding a concise resource to make my own without it taking hours!

  33. Thank you for all the love! I’ve posted a link to the document at the top of this post!

  34. This is such a great visual of the time periods I teach! Would you mind sharing the electronic file?

    Thanks for a great resource!

  35. I love this. Please could you also email me the documents? I teach social studies,American history, and would love this in my classroom!

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