Working from home? Add a background!

In 2020, people have worked online more than ever before. Remote working became the ‘new norm’ for many people regardless of their profession and many of us had little time to prepare for it. We’ve had to plonk the laptop down wherever there has been space – working from the kitchen table, amidst a pile of laundry, in the bedroom or even in a shared space because there’s just no where else. I’m envious of those who have a full-time office or dedicated desk space in their home. In only two weeks, it’s the one thing I miss the most about having my own apartment. Hey ho!

My very first concern about working from home was my atrocious internet connection, quickly followed by “What on earth does my room look like?” as I hadn’t fully unpacked from moving to Manchester.

As I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, Keeping up appearances as a teacher, I started off with the clearest, most clutter-free background I could possibly arrange. It was fine, but boring. Classrooms aren’t plain white walls, are they?

I have struggled with my teaching background throughout the year. I wasn’t sure if a more ‘natural’ look was better or if I should have staged it from the beginning. Sometimes I’d have my bookcases, other times I’d be at the dining table with the plants in the background. The majority of my students didn’t mind, but a couple of them frequently made comments about me being in a different room or having something they didn’t like. Of course, I couldn’t comment on their rooms or backgrounds, but, such is the life of a teacher, right?

So, looking for a new background for your online teaching or conference calls? Let me share a few ideas with you! Firstly, I created my own Bitmoji classroom background to match the classroom I use to introduce my daily lessons and plans. Here:

Miss Hillsmith’s Bitmoji classroom

Many of the objects are clickable (my teaching homepage, the motivational quotes, the dictionaries and so on) and I like having this background to match my homepage. However, after day 2 I realised that the Christmas tree, the plants and all of the books felt a little bit cluttered and decided to use a simplified version.

Miss Hillsmith’s simplified Bitmoji background

How? This one’s fairly simple. I make my Bitmoji classrooms in Google Slides so I can easily save, update and share them. It’s also really easy to add and edit links for your students here. If you don’t have a Gmail account, it’s worth it for the Google apps like Docs, Slides and more. Here’s a little step-by-step.

The stages of creating a Bitmoji classroom

I found all of my images from websites that allow you to download and use their images for free. and are my favourites, but there are more if you do a little Google search.

  1. First up, you need to choose a background you like. I find white is a little clinical or dull, so went for pale pink. You should see a download / save button near the picture, so click it and save the file to your desktop or create a folder especially for your classroom background items you’re about to pick.

    To add the background in Google slides you go to the top of the application where you’ll see File, Edit, View and Insert, etc. Click insert – image – upload from computer and then select your downloaded background file. Simples!
  2. Now you have a background, it’s time to decorate your classroom. I started with a whiteboard because I think most classrooms have one. It’s a staple item, no? Again, go back to your chosen website and type in ‘class board’ or ‘whiteboard’, pick one and download it. Then repeat the steps in number one to upload it.
  3. Repeat with whatever items you want until you’re happy with your classrooms.
  4. If you want to add a link to one of your objects (BBC, A Google document or a worksheet, for example) you click on the image, go to the link image in the tool bar and type in the link you want to include (See image below).
How to add a link in Google Slides
How to add a link

I have saved multiple copies of my classrooms in a Google Slides so that I can update then whenever I like. Whether I want to add one new item or delete / add a few depending on the class I’m teaching, it’s easy to do and I’ve included a few examples above.

Now, if you’re far busier than I am, or not a creative person, you may not fancy creating a Bitmoji classroom or background. No worries! There are plenty of websites who have jumped in to help us home-workers with free, pre-made websites for all occasions.

One of my favourites so far has been the Save the Children Christmas jumper day background. My students actually enjoyed it too and I used it to discuss charities and donations in each of their countries. It was a nice starter!

  • Conference Call Bingo has some brilliant backgrounds for adding some fun to your calls or lessons and there are so many topics as well. Link here
  • Pocket Lint has some very amusing ones (Elf, Yorkshire Tea, The Simpsons). Link here
  • Shutterstock has also jumped in with absolutely loads from destinations to cartons. Link here
  • Pixabay and Pexels also have plain backgrounds if you’re looking for something more professional. Plain white walls, classroom backdrops and so on. Links here and here.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and that the links offer you some useful, professional or just funny backgrounds to help hide the clutter or add a little privacy to your calls.

If you’ve found any other great websites that offer free backgrounds, feel free to share them in the comments or connect with me on Twitter and I’ll add the links here.

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