What's the best thing about being a teacher?
Classroom decorations! We know future teachers choose education majors because they genuinely enjoy working with students and making a difference in their lives, but we also know future teachers get pretty excited about the idea of organizing and decorating their future classrooms! Decorating a classroom is actually more complex than people think--there are many things to consider when creating learning environments for students. There are many questions to consider: What do I need for my classroom? How many bulletin boards do I need? Should I have a theme? Do I need to have a reading nook? Should I arrange the desks in rows, a circle, or clusters?
As a prospective teacher, you will be faced with the task of organizing and decorating your very own classroom. This is both an exciting and daunting job, and shouldn't be taken lightly! The environment of a child is critical to their learning. The way that a classroom is organized can either allow students to feel safe or unsafe and can promote or hinder learning. Because of the significance of one's learning space, there are many theories about how rooms should be designed. Using the following ideas, you can begin to answer some of your pressing concerns!
Leading education researchers suggest classrooms need to be designed in a way that promotes and encourages the following four components:
1) A Sense of Order
2) Social Interaction
3) Making Choices
4) Active Learning
So how can we organize a room to promote these learning goals?
A Sense of Order
Creating a sense of order involves organizing rooms to be well arranged, tidy, and orderly. This helps children feel comfortable and safe in their learning environment. This can be done by giving materials and objects a specific home in the classroom. Doing so creates a sense of structure and helps students to function effectively by knowing exactly where everything should go and where they can access the tools and resources they need.
Classrooms should be set up in a manner where students can interact with each other and with the teacher. This might include a learning center in a corner of the classroom, clusters of desks, or a carpet space for students to work together and communicate ideas with each other. Areas that foster social interaction promote the development of social skills and language skills as students practice collaborating and discussing with other people.
The classroom should be designed in a way that allows children to make choices and have autonomy in their work. This might look like a wide variety of available resources for children to use in centers: pencils, whiteboards, crayons, markers, or computers. Depending on the amount of space in your classroom, it could also include a variety of work spaces for children to work in, such as a reading nook, couch, or corner.
Classrooms promote active learning through a variety of ways. Providing students with real life materials that will assist their learning is most critical. For younger grades this might be art supplies and blocks, while in older grades it might be physical manipulatives for modeling or technologies.
The great thing about these components is that they can be fulfilled in any manner that you want. You have the freedom and flexibility to design your room to meet these learning goals in any way you desire!
Developmentally Appropriate Rooms
In addition to the four components of room design, classrooms also need to be organized and designed in a way that is developmentally appropriate for the age of the children. Kindergartners should not be in a room with high shelves where they can't reach anything and alternatively, high school students should not be in a classroom full of mini sized chairs. Appropriate materials need to be considered for the functionality of the class.
What About Decorations?
Once the room has been designed in a way that will promote learning and engagement, you can focus on classroom decorations! This is often the fun part that many teachers enjoy being creative with. Classrooms should be engaging, but not distracting. Visually high loaded environments can actually detract from cognitive functioning and can lead to poorer executive performance (Rodrigues & Pandeirada, 2018). In 2015, a team of researchers analyzed over a 100 UK classrooms and discovered that students work best when classrooms have some decorations, but not too many that can distract or overwhelm. Researchers suggest that 20-50% of the wall should be left empty to prevent the room from feeling chaotic or overstimulating (Terada, 2018).
With that said, here are a few tips and ideas that researchers suggest to do in your classroom:
Display student work
Feature inspirational models
Use visual aids (charts, diagrams, maps)
Include motivational sayings
Additionally, here are some links for even more good ideas!
Just remember that your classroom has the potential to reinforce important concepts and help promote learning! Embrace your inner designer and be creative!
Marion, M. (2019). Guidance of Young Children. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Rodrigues, P. F. S. and Pandeirada, J. N. S (2018). When visual stimulation of the surrounding environment affects children's cognitive performance. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Terada, Y. (2018). Dos and don'ts of classroom decorations. Edutopia.