Is it Classroom Creativity or Classroom Clutter?
Is it Classroom Creativity or Classroom Clutter?
When too much of a good thing is a distraction
By Jamie Lober
As Emma’s teacher goes over the lesson for the day, Emma sits quietly at her desk and seems to be listening intently. But, Emma’s eyes are wandering. From the bulletin boards to the glass windows and every available space on the wall, Emma is seeing bright colors, animals counting and teaching the alphabet, and her drawing she did last week that her teacher proudly displayed next to her other classmates’ drawings.
The decorations on the wall are designed to do good things: celebrate student work, create a fun environment for learning, and keep the senses stimulated. But when has it gone from an enriching environment to one that is so distracting, Emma can’t focus on the teacher who’s trying to talk to her? Can classroom creativity become classroom clutter?
Classroom environments are more important than one may think. While one third grade classroom may resemble a tropical rainforest, another may be organized into themed-learning stations. When it comes to classroom décor, more may not necessarily be better, and can actually be a hindrance to the learning process.
As parents try to help their children improve their performance at school, it is worthwhile to take the time to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a highly-decorated classroom as we enter another school year.
Parents whose children may be struggling to pay attention in the classroom should observe the learning environment as well as talk with the teacher. Teachers strive to create an environment conducive to learning, but having a cluttered classroom may be one contributing factor to preventing one. “Many students struggle to stay focused on the task or lesson at hand and some research supports the idea that overly-decorated classrooms can distract from student learning,” says Lori Heroman, a licensed professional counselor with Family Focus & Associates in Baton Rouge.
This does not suggest that kids should stare at blank walls though. “The goal is to aim for a balance of inviting, informative displays that can foster educational growth and provide a positive and motivating environment to learn,” adds Heroman.
Teachers strive to create
classroom environments where students are excited to learn and come to class. To maximize learning, it is important to consider the tone that the displays in
the classroom set.
“There are three ways to decorate your classroom to maximize learning: (1) Include posters which provide an opportunity for more passive absorption of material; (2) Provide an area where student work is displayed; (3) Include
a section which develops a class sense of community such as an area where goals or objectives are posted,” says Heroman.
Be sure to take into account that there are various learning styles, too. “One of the best setups for classrooms is to offer visual, tactile and kinesthetic opportunities to learn,” says Caroline Maguire, family coach and member
of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
Heroman adds, “Students learn differently and some struggle with attention and processing difficulties so it may be helpful for teachers
to avoid too much clutter on the walls as it may be distracting.” The key is for decorations to be positive, easy to read and simple.
A well-managed classroom
should have behavioral expectations which can be narrowed down to five rules posted on the wall. Charts can also be useful. “Use reinforcement for things they are learning which can help visual learners. For instance, if they are learning phonics and the teacher refers to it repeatedly,” says Maguire. Being organized and having structure can make a big difference.
Have a quiet area.
“Some teachers give opportunities for kids to display their writing or work on the wall which makes them proud,” says Maguire. If a child is overwhelmed by the environment, be prepared. “Teachers can create a place where kids can sit somewhere quietly to deal with an emotional upheaval or reset themselves. This is nice because it is a peaceful place where they can regroup and then come back to the circle or activity,” says Maguire.
Create learning stations. Sometimes kids may have good
ideas on how to decrease clutter.
“The students can create great
visuals of what they are learning,
and you can divide the room into stations for different opportunities
like a reading place, a place for live animals, and a place to get ready to learn,” says Maguire.
Organization is key.
Teachers may choose to provide
labeled storage spaces whether
they are shelves, cubbies, milk
crates or plastic bins to promote organizational skills.
“Children work better with a quiet, distraction-free area that is equipped with all the tools he might need to aide in the learning process,” says Heroman.■