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Over decorated classroom environment detrimental to learning

Discussion in 'Primary' started by 71andrea, Jul 26, 2015.

  1. I was looking at advice regarding Autism friendly classrooms and came across several articles which suggested research showing overly decorated classrooms with many different displays actually detract from children's learning. The Articles suggest that only materials related to the current lesson be displayed. Has anyone any further information regarding this? I totally understand the idea of only showing current learning and keeping displays upto date but how does one manage to achieve this in a Primary classroom where we are asked to have Literacy and Numeracy working walls, Science and Topic work? Not to mention targets, group lists, phonic posters, keywords and of course children's work on display to give them 'ownership, of the space? How can displays of current Science work be prevented from distracting children from current Maths learning and so on? Would really appreciate any advice from those working in mainstream Primary classrooms who have explored this issue or put the latest research into practice.
  2. squirrel9367

    squirrel9367 New commenter

    We have had this message this year as we are going for a dyslexia friendly award/ mark. I have working walls for maths and english, displays for topic science and art as well as a punctuation ladder, words for said and walked, connectives and sentence openers. I also have word cards related to vowel sounds e.g. ee, ea etc hung from a washing line. When I heard about the new directive I was a bit worried but my room was praised as being dyslexia friendly. I know the post originally related to autism but there are other children in the class too. I try to cater for all children but unless I had a significant number of autistic children I would not change it all. We do create clutter free work areas for children that need it and can use a surround to give them separation if needed.

    I am going to aim to keep it a bit simpler this year but will still have most of this on display.
  3. summlard

    summlard New commenter

    And I'm sure there are lots of research showing the opposite. I think it's best not to bog yourself down with small details like this.
    lardylegs likes this.
  4. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    When i went on a course many years ago we were told only to have essential, 'boring' information at the front of the class where children focus and to have anything' potentially distracting' at the back of the classroom. Might provide a sort of compromise solution?
  5. Grandsire

    Grandsire Star commenter

    I became interested in this topic after visiting a school in France where displays didn't really exist, and everything seemed very austere and drab compared to my school.

    However, I know exactly what you mean about overload - my colleague's classroom last year was completely exhausting to look at - there wasn't a surface that didn't have something stuck on it - vocabulary, reminders, behaviour charts, postcards, etc. everywhere, and not just on the display boards, but on every bit of spare wall, around the clock, under the board, and almost every bit of furniture. I found it too much myself, and hated working in there, so I'm not sure how the kids who sat in there day after day would have felt. This year, I've managed to persuade my colleague to stick to my strategy to reduce the visual overload, and only put stuff up on the boards, not all over the walls and doors - and the room's felt much calmer.

    Tick-boxing visitors on Learning Walks were to blame for some of the overload e.g. "Have you thought about putting some vocabulary up to help your weaker writers?", as well as the fact that there's so much stuff ready made and available online that seems like a great way to make the classroom look good. Some of my colleagues (the "Twinkle-Droids") cover every inch of their rooms in downloaded-printed-and-laminated things from websites with the result that every room looks identically soulless: the walls are cluttered with stuff that stays up all year whether or not it's relevant, and after about four days the kids stop seeing it. What's worse is that some of the stuff they've so carefully downloaded, printed and then laminated is spelled incorrectly!

    Less is more, in my opinion. I usually hand-write the little I put up, and keep unnecessary clutter off the walls. It's maybe old-fashioned, but most people who visit my classroom comment on how pleasant the room feels.
    bevdex likes this.
  6. onmyknees

    onmyknees Established commenter

    It's difficult to meet all the needs all the time in a mainstream classroom. Personally, I hate clutter of any sort, and I am convinced that most of what is displayed on walls is not used as often as we imagine it should be. In terms of a child with autism in a mainstream classroom, an individual workstation is one way of providing a place with low level stimulus for the child to work and a safe space where they know they can go to if they want some 'down' time. Individual visual timetables / now and next boards / task boards or prompt lists can be used as and when the child needs them.
  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter


    have you seen the Communication Friendly Spaces site? We've been working this way for about ten years
  8. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    I couldn't agree more. I don't teach any more and as a secondary specialist, I never saw classrooms anywhere near as cluttered as they can be in many primary schools.

    Recently, I attended a meeting which took place in a primary classroom (Y2). As I sat at one of the tables, I couldn't believe how much stuff was all over the walls, hanging from strings across the room and stuck on any and every surface.

    There were also errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar in many of the displays, including on the "words of the week" which were written on a wipe-clean whiteboard...
    sparkleghirl likes this.
  9. Thanks squirrel19267. I though exactly the same with regard to he needs of others in the class.However the research indicates the benefits of simplified display bennefit all. I do think I will go along the same lines of keeping my displays but simplifying them until I can find out more! Thanks again.
  10. Good suggestion. I kind of already do this but may need to reposition some displays.Thanks.
  11. Thanks. I have been guilty of Twinkle overload myself! It seems so fun and lively. However I do see that it can be over the top and distracting. I would be more than happy to stick to display boards but feel compelled to cover other parts of the wall because they are grubby and littered with old staples! I've mentioned it to the head but the classrooms aren't due to be decorated any time soon!
  12. Thanks. I've already got my workstation sorted. It was tricky to find a no through zone in the classroom but I've managed it so fingers crossed in September it will be effective.
  13. Thanks so much for this.
  14. I have working walls for Maths and English, and display areas for Art and occasionally Science and HSIE, depending on what I am covering. I also have a punctuation ladder, and an area showing connectives and sentence openers. I have word cards related to vowel sounds e.g. ee, ea etc hung from a washing line. My room was praised as being autism and dyslexia friendly. I try to cater for all the children in the class, but unless I had a significant number of autistic children I would not change it much, apart from having a chart or board on the wall close to the autistic student which has on it a structured plan for the whole day, as research suggests that this is usually beneficial.
  15. missmunchie

    missmunchie Occasional commenter

    I read somewhere on the internet that using the same colour backing paper for displays reduces some of the visual overload. I found a stack of green paper and border to decorate my classroom and I am very happy with how it turned out. I am guilty of using the banners from Twinkle to identify my display boards as they are cute and colourful. I think you are right that everything becomes a bit samey, if not used in moderation. I think the main thing is to avoid clutter in the classroom in terms of resources. I think as teachers we are too afraid to throw anything away as it may come in handy for something. I inherited a classroom that had practically been ransacked and had very little in the way of furniture and resources. I find it quite nice to know where everything is and have a clear layout of resources so that the children will be able to find things for themselves with ease. I also have a real aversion to desk clutter and find all these word mats annoying. When I taught in secondary the kids just used to flap them about and it really got on my nerves!
  16. EcoLady

    EcoLady New commenter

    I'm trying to de-clutter and simplify my primary classroom by keeping it to what's genuinely useful. I've consolidated reference information and 'mats' into treasury tagged bundles (2 English & 2 maths for each group table). That frees up display space to become working walls and current topic-focus. For example, my maths display might be my giant fractions wall one week, the huge clock the next or the big Th H T U headings.

    The downside is that it's more work to keep changing the wall stuff!
  17. gnomie_p

    gnomie_p New commenter

    I love making displays and, in the past, have been guilty of overloading my room. I used to stick up loads of creative stuff I saw on Pinterest for SPaG but realised that the children never really looked at them.

    However, whenever I've taken down/covered up my displays for SATs, I'm always reminded of how much better my room looks without too much stuff (and I could easily see which displays had been useful because the children would be turning around to the right place to look for the answer!).

    Last month, I took down everything in my room and will only have the basics when I go back: English and Maths working walls; topic work; birthdays/team points and a few other small bits.
  18. vellaedwina1

    vellaedwina1 New commenter

    Articles on visual displays I am doing my professional inquiry " do visual display help the learning? " and struggling to find articles - everyone i ask speaks about John Hattie but he is talking about something completely different ( am I right ? or have i lost the plot?? )

  19. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    Most things up in a classroom displays often don't do the purpose they were put up for because no one actually checks to see how they're being used. In which case it's often just wallpapering
  20. ABCCBA123321

    ABCCBA123321 Occasional commenter

    I have a daughter with sensory processing problems - academically very bright, but struggles with certain skills and the classroom environment this year has been a total nightmare for her... trying to focus on a whiteboard which is surrounded with two different patterned sets of wallpaper offcuts and a million different print outs from that well known resource site just makes things a million times harder for the poor kid (and she's not the only one). If I'm in the room my focus is bouncing all over the place as an adult who knows how to pay attention much more - how on earth must it be for even a neurotypical child!?

    The dangling lines set across the room at a height just set so the regular staff aren't ducking all the time are a wonderful potential garrote for any tall supply staff, parents coming for parents evening and lanky Ofsted inspectors as well.

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