Teachers put thought into everything we put into our classrooms, from the furniture to the supplies. We plan out our classroom arrangements, scour Pinterest and the web for new ideas, and order wall borders and incorporate new themes. We put so much time and energy into our classrooms because we know the importance of a warm, welcoming, and stimulating learning environment for our students. Also, we spend a lot of time there ourselves and we want it to be a pleasant place. So what is the most effective decor for your classroom?
My first year teaching, in a Kindergarten classroom, I had no idea what I was doing in pretty much every way, including what to put up on my walls. My two coteachers went all out. One had a 3D tree and the other changed her class theme yearly. They both had decorations hanging from the ceiling, and their doors and even the hallway by their doors were decorated. Their walls were covered from top to bottom with adorable, kid-friendly, decor. Being a first year teacher I didn’t want to disappoint, or appear to be putting in less work than the others, so I spent several evenings after new teacher meetings setting up an ocean themed room. It was adorable, but in the back of my mind I wondered if all my time was really worth it.
Sure, the kids were excited when they came to back to school night, and parents were impressed, but what where they really learning from it?
It turns out that I was right to question this way of doing things.
Less is More: Research shows that having too much on the walls is overstimulating and distracting for kids.
In fact, kids perform better on many different types of tasks when they are in a completely blank environment than they do when they are in one that is beautifully decorated.
Warm and Inviting: So, what should teachers do? Though bare walls may be best for student performance, there are other considerations. Students need to feel that our classrooms are inviting and warm. It’s important to make our classrooms welcoming places.
Keep It Simple: Avoid too many different patterns and colors. It is recommended to keep at least 20 percent of the wall space clear. Avoid clutter as much as possible.
Inspirational Decor: Some decor is OK. It’s important that students feel at home in our classrooms, and having some decor is a vital piece of this. When choosing decor stick with inspirational quotes or pictures.
Be Intentional About Color: The colors you choose can really set the tone for your classroom. According to Smith System: “The key to creating an environment conducive to learning in a classroom is to not over-stimulate learners. Overstimulation is often caused by large amounts of bright colors, especially reds and oranges. Calmness, relaxation, happiness and comfort are feelings elicited by colors such as green and blue.”
Learning on the Walls: Beyond a few decorative pieces, much of what you put up should be for student reference. The walls of your classroom can be a great resource for your students. Class created charts are useful for students to refer back to. Class rules and procedures are helpful as well. A word wall with sight words or easily misspelled words, or a bulletin board with objectives can help students when they are stuck. This also a good spot to showcase students’ social skills or have pictures for reminders.
Display Student Work: Displaying student work is also important. Students feel proud when they see their work hanging up for everyone to see. They can reflect back on what they have learned in the past. Hanging up student work also gives kids a sense of ownership that the classroom space is theirs.
Make the most of your classroom environment by keeping it simple, displaying student work, and choosing colors that help make your classroom an inviting place.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.