When setting up your classroom for the school year, you might be wondering what to do with all that wall space. A great way to put your classroom walls to use is by creating a focus wall. Focus walls are often seen in kindergarten and first grade classrooms, but they are a fantastic learning tool for all grade levels.
What is a focus wall in the classroom?
A focus wall is a special space dedicated to displaying key learning targets for your students. It is usually located in a central location in the room that students can easily see and refer to. This can be a bulletin board, whiteboard, or an empty wall. No matter what grade you teach, your focus wall is a space to share what your students are currently learning.
Here is a nice example of a focus wall in a kindergarten classroom:
What are the benefits of a focus wall?
Classroom focus walls aren't just part of classroom decor. They have some important academic benefits.
A focus wall helps students understand what they are supposed to be learning right now by keeping your learning targets front and central.
It is a perfect spot to post your learning goal for each subject. Most administrators who come through your room will be looking for this.
It provides support to students who need visual aids.
It serves as a focal point for your morning meeting, circle time, or whole group instruction.
Classroom Focus Wall Ideas
What goes on a focus wall? What you display on your focus wall will vary depending on the grade and subjects you teach. It's a great spot to hang anchor charts, words to know, and your learning targets.
Here are some other ideas for what to put on a classroom focus wall at each grade level, Pre-K through 5th grade:
Preschool or PreK Classrooms
color of the week
shape of the week
number of the week
letter of the week
letters and initial letter sounds
short and long vowel sounds
numbers up to 20
2-D and 3-D shapes
First and Second Grade
numbers to 100
character traits (for SEL)
days of the week
months of the year
numbers to 1,000
character traits (for SEL)
Fourth and Fifth Grade
prefixes and suffixes
place value to 1,000,000
character traits (for SEL)
As you can see, a focus wall can contain a lot of information! If you departmentalize, it's easy to display just what you need for your subject by creating a math focus wall or reading focus wall, for example.
How to Create a Focus Wall
To get started, find an area of the room that is easily visible to all of your students. You can use blank wall space or a whiteboard, but I prefer an actual bulletin board. You will be changing your focus wall as your learning targets and objectives change. A bulletin board is ideal for this, but make sure it is easily accessible to you. I wouldn't want to get out a ladder or move furniture every time I need to change something on my wall.
If you like, you can give your focus wall a large title at the top, but this is personal preference.
Next, decide what headings you need. These won't change regularly, so feel free to be as fancy or creative as you want. Use bright colors and large fonts that are easy to see. Your focus wall will be up the entire year, so make it look nice. Use a color scheme that makes you feel good and coordinates with your decor!
If you teach all subjects, you will at least need headings for each of those: math, reading, science, and social studies. You might also want a heading for your weekly theme. If you don't want to print headings, sentence strip that comes in different colors will work too.
If you teach in a special education classroom, don't forget to make headings for social-emotional, communication, and independent functioning goals. When I taught self-contained mild VE, all of my students had some type of independent functioning goal. Each week, I chose a different one for the whole class to work on together. Although the goal might only be on a few students' IEPs, having everyone work on it together made it a team effort. The kids who already had that goal mastered were great role models for the ones who really needed to work on it.
Once you have your headings, you can begin to plan the content for your focus wall and how you will display it. You'll probably want a pocket chart or two for things like sight words or vocabulary cards. Other items like posters, anchor charts, and pictures can be hung with pushpins or magnets.
My favorite method is to attach binder clips to the wall with either hot glue or push pins (depending on the surface). This makes it easy to take down the old and put up the new and saves so much work!
An easy way to plan your focus wall content is to sit down with your
pacing guides and highlight key words and concepts that you want to display. Keep them in a binder that you can pull out at the beginning of each unit or week or month. You will be able to quickly scan through the pages to find the highlighted items when it's time to change your wall.
⏰ TIME SAVING TIP: I keep a clear page protector in my binder behind each of my monthly pacing guides. Whenever I change my focus wall, I put the old cards into the pocket for the previous unit. Then the next year, they are already there waiting to be hung back up when it's time. This doesn't work for large anchor charts and other big items, but is perfect for word wall cards, vocabulary cards, and so forth.
How to Use a Focus Wall in the Classroom
If you teach young children in the lower grades, you most likely have some kind of calendar time each day. This is the perfect opportunity to use your focus wall. For older students, your morning meeting is a good time. Or you can break it up throughout the day, referring to your focus wall at the start of each subject.
No matter when you fit it in, the important thing is to review the content and learning goals every day. Students need to know what they are expected to learn.
Another way to use your focus wall is to teach your students to refer to it during independent work. Anchor charts and vocabulary cards with definitions are excellent learning aids. Consider hanging up student work that demonstrates what mastery looks like.
✅ TEACHER TIP: Do you send home a weekly email or use Class Dojo or a similar method to communicate with parents? If so, a great way to help parents support their child's learning is to snap a quick pic of your focus wall to share with them. This lets families see what their child is learning at school and also gives them something to refer to during homework time.
I hope this blog post has given you some new ideas for setting up your own focus wall. Not only will it use up some of that empty wall space in your classroom, it's an easy way to support and boost your little learners' (or big ones') academic performance all year long.
Do you teach kindergarten?
Check out this already made
Just print and hang for an
instant focus wall in your
Includes banner letters, heading
cards, sight words, letters, colors,
shapes, numbers, and more!