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Improve Your Classroom Decorations With These 6 Tips That Are Backed by Research

Improve Your Classroom Decorations

Classroom decorations are often a matter of teacher preference. Some teachers love to decorate every square inch of space, while others don't like decorating at all. Aside from a motivational poster or two, their walls are bare.

But the fact is, the decorations around us can greatly impact our mood and focus. Different colors can make us feel different emotions, while clutter can negatively affect our mental health.

It's important to pay close attention to the decorations you have in your classroom. The question is, exactly how can you improve your décor to boost student success?

Here are six science-backed decorating tips that will help you create a classroom that welcomes students, is comfortable, and supports learning.

If Your Walls Are Completely Covered, Take Some Stuff Down

More isn't better when it comes to classroom decorations. How much stuff you have on the walls can actually affect your students' cognitive performance.

In one study of 8-12-year-olds, students who completed tasks in a high-load visual environment performed worse in the tasks compared to children in a low-load visual environment.

If you think about it, this isn't so strange. Think back to what the classroom looked like when you took your SATs or ACTs. If you teach a grade that takes a statewide student assessment, you might have rules to follow about removing extraneous décor from your walls.

This doesn't mean your walls have to be completely blank! Hang items on the walls, but strive to keep some wall space clear. A less cluttered wall is easier for students to process quickly, which makes it a lot less distracting.

Rotate Visual Aids That Are Actually Helpful

One easy way to reduce the amount of stuff on your walls is to focus on visual aids. If a poster doesn't include information that's helpful to your students, then it shouldn't be hung on the wall.

Pictorial illustrations that highlight text are especially helpful. They aren't just for lower-elementary kids either. Pictures that illustrate more complex topics are helpful for older children and even young adults.

The trick is to think about what is actually helpful for your students. For example, hanging the alphabet on the wall is great if you teach kindergarten, but it serves no learning purpose in a fifth-grade classroom.

You will also want to rotate the visual aids you hang on the wall. Multiplication concepts can be hung on the wall when you're studying multiplication, but they should be replaced when you move on to a division unit.

Not only does rotating visual aids provide children with relevant information, but it also ensures that your decorations don't just melt into the background. Students aren't going to notice things that have been hanging on the wall for months on end, but as soon as you put up something new, you can bet they'll notice!

Posters for Teacher's Classroom Bulletin Boards

These monthly Posters for Teacher's Classroom Bulletin Boards can be used to make your classroom environment more engaging and interactive.

Rotate Quotes and Inspiring Role Models

Not everything on your wall has to be tied so closely to a current unit or lesson plan. It turns out that having inspiring quotes and role models hung on the wall can be a huge help, too.

Visual aids have the power to directly help student performance, but having role models displayed in the classroom has the ability to indirectly help student performance. For example, in one study, female students performed just as well while giving a speech when a photograph of Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel was displayed. If no picture was displayed, the boys gave speeches that were rated better.

Décor in the classroom can also influence students' interests and choices. It can increase interest in new topics, but it has the potential to alienate students who don't identify with what's being displayed. That's why it's so important to rotate displays often. That way, all of your students have the opportunity to connect with people and concepts that resonate with them.

Give Students Ownership Over the Work That They Display

Displaying student work comes with many benefits. It's a great way to foster a sense of community, it can help students feel a sense of value and accomplishment, and it can provide inspiration to other students in the classroom.

But that's the case only if students feel a sense of pride in what's being displayed. If they don't want others to see their work, displaying it can actually have the opposite effect.

Instead of deciding what to display for your students, let them decide. Ask them if they would like to hang up a report, a picture, or a worksheet before you put it up on the bulletin board. If you work with older students, ask them to keep a folder of work that they're proud of. Then, when the time comes, ask them to choose one thing to hang up on the wall.

Don't force a student to hang something on the wall if they don't want to. As the school year progresses, they get to know their classmates, and their confidence increases, they will want to hang something on the wall when they're ready.

Choose Color Wisely

Most classrooms are very bland and neutral, with white walls and gray carpet. If you want to liven things up with a little color, just make sure you choose the right color.

Stronger colors elicit stronger reactions. In one study, red demonstrated the ability to put those in the room into an excited state, but it can also exacerbate existing states. So, for example, students who are already in a bad mood may experience an even more pronounced bad mood if they're learning in a red classroom.

That doesn't mean you have to avoid strong colors altogether! If you love the color red and you want to use it to energize your students, use it sparingly. You might cover a bulletin board or the closet doors in red paper rather than covering an entire wall in a vibrant shade of crimson.

You might also color different areas of your classroom differently. A reading nook might be blue, as it elicits feelings of wisdom and peace, while a cooperative small group corner might be decorated with yellow, which elicits feelings of joy.

Consider Lighting Part of Your Decorations

It's not just the décor itself that can impact student learning. Lighting can as well.

Classrooms are full of harsh lighting. It's true that this type of lighting does a great job of illuminating every corner of a large room, but it can actually be detrimental to learning. Students in classrooms with natural light had higher math and reading test scores compared to those who were exposed to less natural light.

Shut off the harsh fluorescent lighting and open the windows whenever you can. If you don't have any windows in a small classroom, if you have to keep the windows shut, or if your room simply doesn't get a lot of natural light, place lamps in your room.

Harsh fluorescent lighting is stimulating, which can be great if you're taking a test or you need your students to focus, but it can be mentally tiring to work under harsh lighting all day.

When it's time for students to do some independent reading, fill out a worksheet, or complete an activity with a partner, consider turning on some lamps in your room instead. Yellow lamplight can evoke feelings of calm and relaxation, giving your students a much-needed break from the harsh glare of fluorescent lights.

Decorating your classroom isn't just about making it look nice. When it can profoundly affect your students' mood, focus, and learning, it's important to decorate with intention. When you follow the tips on this list, you can create a truly educational space where students can learn and grow each and every day.