Rethinking Classroom Decorations
Have you ever walked into a classroom and been overwhelmed by the amount of projects and decorations on the walls and supplies on the shelves? You look to the left and see maps, shapes, paintings of the children’s favorite stories, letters, calendars, and schedules. Then you turn right and see blocks, dress up containers, pretend kitchen supplies, and stuffed animals galore neatly stacked in their designated play area but still visually distracting and on the verge of making you run out of the room. If you, as an adult are visually overstimulated and distracted, how do you think it may be impacting those you work with or your very own son, daughter, niece, nephew, or grandchild? How long could you stay in that room? How long could you focus on your work? How might it affect your ability to listen and learn?
A recent study looked at, “whether classroom displays affected children’s ability to maintain focus during instruction and to learn the lesson content”. The results published in Psychology Science, conducted by researchers Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin and Howard Seltman of Carnegie Mellon University,”found that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, spent more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when the decorations were removed.”
What does this mean for teachers and setting up their classrooms? Do they proudly display all of their students fabulous work, keep the walls barren, or only display some of their masterpieces and necessary maps and charts for when they are learning about a particular topic? Researchers suggest that, “instead of removing all decorations, teachers should consider whether some of their visual displays may be distracting to young children.”
Some options to help minimize visual clutter in a classroom is the use of plain or lightly patterned sheets to cover the shelves when play areas or toys are not in use, putting specific toys for specific lessons in a storage closet allowing for other more frequently used supplies to take up that space on your shelf, displaying only certain projects and charts related to the learning topic, and strategic placement of displays on walls that children don’t face during learning activities or copy work.
If you have any other suggestions that have worked in your classroom or school please share! We’d love to hear about it!
Written by: Cassandra Andrade, MS, OTR/L
Photo Credit: blog.parents-choice.org