Heavily decorated classrooms can bombard students with too much visual information, interfering with their memory and ability to focus, according to an educational study from European researchers.
This study is one of many that have examined the relationship between classroom environment and students’ executive functions, which include skills like memory, attention, and self-regulation. While teachers have good intentions when decorating, many classrooms end up being “sensory-rich” in a way that “could hamper children’s learning gains rather than help,” according to psychologists Pedro Rodrigues and Josefa Pandeirada, who coauthored the study.
What does that mean for you? If you will be taking on the role of teacher in your own home this semester – which so many parents will be – you are no doubt interested in the idea of decorating the space you have chosen for remote learning in a way that mimics a classroom. But this study, and many like it, demonstrate that you should do so with care.
More things to think about, as if remote learning weren’t stressful enough for parents! However, to help you with decor issues here I offer some tips and ‘tricks’ that should help you decorate your kids’ new remote learning space that will engage, rather than overload, their senses, and at the same time create the division between work space and play space that experts also say is very important. Oh, and they are backed by science too!
Top Tips for Remote Learning Classroom Decor
- Display student work. Students not only feel a greater sense of responsibility for their learning but are also more likely to remember the material (Barrett et al., 2015).
- Feature inspiring role models. Putting up images—and short stories or quotes—featuring heroes and leaders can help students gain a greater sense of belonging and aspiration, especially when their backgrounds and interests are represented. Strive for inclusion, but avoid token or stereotypical representations—they can be damaging to students’ self-esteem (Cheryan et al., 2014).
- Avoid clutter. Keep at least 20 percent of your wall space clear, and leave ample space between displays, so they don’t look disorganized. Resist the temptation to keep adding decorations—it’s better to swap them out than to keep adding more (Barrett et al., 2015).
- Visual aids—like charts, maps, and diagrams—are OK. Posters that reinforce a lesson, rather than distract from it, can boost student learning. But don’t forget to take down ones that are no longer helpful (Bui & McDaniel, 2015).
- Avoid displays of student scores or grades. Many teachers use data walls to motivate students, and while they can work for high performers, they can backfire for struggling students, leading to feelings of shame and demoralization (Marsh et al., 2014).
- Let in natural light. Don’t cover up your windows with decorations unless you have a problem with glare or outside distractions. Students who are exposed to more natural light in their classrooms outperform peers who get less natural light in math and reading (Cheryan et al., 2014). If you don’t have windows in the space, making sure the room is well lit can boost achievement (Barrett et al., 2015).
- Balance wall colors. You don’t have to stick with four white walls—try having a single feature wall painted a bright color, with the rest being muted (Barrett et al., 2015).
Need help organizing your home to get it ready for remote learning? Or in creating a ‘home classroom’ in general? We offer in person or virtual sessions to help harried parents feel better organized and prepared to tackle their new role. Contact us today to learn more!
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