For a long time, the significance of the visual environment in the cognitive process has been overlooked. However, recent studies have illuminated how the way you decorate classroom walls can significantly influence the learning outcomes of your pupils. Depending on the country, children can spend between 6,000 (over 8 years in Hungary) to 11,000 hours (over 11 years in Australia) in a classroom setting during their primary and lower secondary education. In OECD countries, this averages around 800 hours a year. Understanding how to effectively decorate classroom walls is thus not just an aesthetic concern, but a vital component in fostering an optimal learning environment.
One thing is sure: with all the time spent between the four walls of their classroom, pupils know what is on its walls by heart. That is why educators need to take special care as to what should be displayed and how. Indeed, visual aid and visual stimulation can become visual distraction. A study led by Pedro Rodrigues and Josefa Pandeirada proved that what you put on your classroom walls affects your students’ capacity to learn.
The most important finding of this study is that the cognitive performance of pupils was reduced in a high-load visual environment. Students placed in a low-load visual environment performed better at visuospatial attention and memory tasks. It means that children have difficulty in ignoring the visual distractors that are present in their surroundings. In conclusion, classroom walls should not be overcrowded. Of course, it doesn’t imply that your walls should be bare and sad! The right decorations in the right quantity, design and layout will definitely have a positive impact on children.
Some alternative teaching approaches, such as the Reggio Emilia one, have focused on the physical environment, even naming it the Third Teacher, the first two being the parent and the teacher. The design of the classroom therefore plays a major role in children’s education. It includes of course the room’s layout and also what shows on the walls.
So what is the right amount of information that should appear? What kind of information should be shown? How long should it stay on the walls? How important are colors and lighting? How can you involve your students in the classroom’s decoration? Through ten important pieces of advice, we will try to answer all these questions. Thanks to these tips, teachers will be able to offer an environment that helps the learning process of their pupils. Let the Third Teacher help you!
10 Tips to Decorate Your Classroom Walls
1. Show Student Work
It is essential to display work done by students on your classroom walls for several reasons. First of all, it gives them a sense of belonging and responsibility. It can also boost their self-confidence, knowing they can produce something worth sharing with everybody. Be careful though not to use the walls as a display for rewards and medals. If the teacher regularly hangs works done by the same students, it can be frustrating for the others, who will feel undermined and ignored. Finally, it has been shown that if the document displayed was made by students themselves, they will have a better memorization of its content.
2. Display Visual Aids
We have seen that students can create their own visual aids, but you can also share important material with them, especially while they are learning a new concept or skill. Having a map, a chart, a table or a definition with examples in front of their eyes at the right moment will reinforce the lesson. Such posters work particularly well when it is a difficult concept or an important feature that needs memorization. It will also make kids feel safe since they can refer to it at any time. Don’t forget to take them down when they are not useful any more.
3. Share Inspiring Material
Inspiration can emerge from many places, so why not your classroom walls? Inspirational material can take many shapes. You can display pictures of inspiring people and introduce them to the class. You can inspire your pupils with fantastic images or photos that can trigger emotions or even debates. You can also share quotes by famous people. Finally, you can try hanging simple posters that will boost their self-confidence, with messages such as: “Always believe in yourself”, “You are talented, “You matter”, etc.
4. Showcase Classroom Rules
Rules and regulations in the classroom are also important. Kids need to learn the right actions and proper behavior for everyone to feel safe and happy in the classroom. These instructions can go beyond the basic yet essential “We keep our classroom clean”, “Wash your hands” or “We play safely”. Some rules, when displayed on a wall, can have a deeper impact in the building of values. “You are not a bully”, “Show respect for everyone” or “Treat others the way you want to be treated” are a few examples of such essential rules in the classroom and society.
5. Don’t Overcrowd Your Walls
Children need visual stimulation, not visual saturation. Studies have shown the negative impact of bare walls as well as high-loaded ones. The general recommendation in terms of wall space is to leave 20 to 50 percent bare.
6. Balance Colors
The colors of your walls are also extremely important: think about the property of each one to reach your goals. Blue and green are calming colors, which can make students feel relaxed and safe. A little bit of warm colors, such as red and orange, can make them more active. Finally, neutral colors such as white, will help them focus. Think about all this before painting and decorating your classroom.
7. Pay Attention to Lighting
The ideal lighting is obviously the natural light of the sun. Light plays a great role in students’ concentration. Bear in mind that the illumination needs to be uniform and flexible too. Everyone in the classroom needs to have a clear view of everything.
8. Listen to Your Students
Try to involve your students in the decoration of their classroom. Remember that they usually know what they need. Decorating the classroom can be an activity in itself that can have many positive effects. They will work in teams and share decisions; they will also feel involved and responsible.
9. Surprise Them
Teachers can also test the observation skills of their pupils by adding something new on the walls every day or every week. It can be a great way to pique their curiosity. What you hang on the walls can be the starting point of a new lesson.
10. Use the Hallway
If you don’t want to overcrowd your classroom walls, think about all the space you can use in the hallway. It can be a great place to call your students’ attention or to create an interactive and collaborative display with them.