Food for Thought Friday: Should Your Classroom Be Colorful?

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On Food for Thought Fridays, we bring you articles and ideas to spark conversations about education (not just technology related). 

by Kristie Burk

When I visit my youngest son’s kindergarten classroom, it is adorned with colorful posters, letters of the alphabet, and children’s paintings.  Most elementary classrooms are similar. That is why I read with interest an article in the New York Times called “Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom.” Based on a study done by Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that a well-decorated classroom could actually harm rather than help the students.

[The study] found that when kindergarteners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted, their gazes more likely to wander off task, and their test scores lower than when they were taught in a room that was comparatively spartan. – Jan Hoffman

In the study, kindergarteners were taught in a well-decorated classroom or an unadorned one. Researchers recorded the children to monitor their gazes; they found that in a decorated classroom “the visuals competed with the teacher for their attention. The children spent far more time off-task in the decorated classroom than in the plain one, and their test scores were also lower.”

The researchers did add that as students get older, they may be less distracted from visual stimulation on the walls.

What do you think? Are our classrooms over-decorated? Write your comments below or tweet using #foodforthoughtfri @kristielburk.

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