Imagine for a moment that you are a new second-grade student entering your classroom for the first time. You are excited and nervous as you walk through the doorway. That excitement and nervousness disappears in an instant as you are suddenly overwhelmed with a half-dozen different themes vying for your attention in the classroom. You do not know where to look! The monkeys hanging from the ceiling distract you from the sea animals swimming across the wall, but the giant soccer players weaving in an out of the bulletin board displays stop you in your tracks. You have just walked in the most chaotic classroom you have ever seen.
If you are the teacher in that classroom you may be patting yourself on the back for the multitude of themes you have been able to cram into your closet-size classroom. Before you start mapping out any other themes, you may want to look at the room from a child’s perspective. Not only do multiple themes provide visual “noise”, but they also make it hard to concentrate on the tasks at hand.
Classroom Themes or Visual Noise?
For students with learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD, this cluttered and chaotic atmosphere makes learning twice as difficult. The visual stimulation draws attention away from where you want your students to be focusing and places it on the room’s decor instead. By using a variety of themes and a multitude of colors, you are setting your students up for learning distractions.
That is not to say that having a classroom theme is not a possibility, however, having more than one classroom theme should be discouraged. The simplicity of your room’s “extra” decor will leave you more room to display student work, color coordinate your classroom management systems, and provide a visually clutter-free space where learning can take place. If you have never tried having a classroom decorating theme, you might want to consider having one in the fall. It will simplify your back-to-school classroom preparations and give you a starting point for consistency throughout the year.
While you can choose any theme, there are some that are more popular than others. For preschool and early elementary classrooms, themes revolving farm life, zoo animals, and primary colors are popular. For older elementary, it is important to keep everyone involved with team sports related decor. Middle school students may appreciate a theme geared toward older grades, such as hot air balloons or rain forests.
Whatever theme you choose, try to stick with it throughout the room by color coordinating your bins and tubs and naming your small groups after theme related words/animals. If possible limit the color scheme to three colors. There should be two solid colors and a print to provide consistency. Use those colors throughout the room and keep other visual distractions to a minimum. Your students will appreciate the lack of clutter and may surprise you with their newfound ability to concentrate for longer periods of time.
As you start thinking about next year, what themes are you considering for your classroom? Do you stick with one theme every year or do you change themes every fall? Share with us!