Is a highly decorated classroom TOO distracting?


The Question:

A study at Carnegie Mellon wonders: Are kindergartners taught in a highly decorated classroom more distracted? Are their gazes more likely to wander off task? Are their test scores lower than when they are taught in a room that is comparatively spartan?

The Answers:


I think you can definitely “overdo” it. I have been in classrooms where I was overwhelmed with things to look at as a teacher!  But I also think no color is boring. This year I hung eight, sphere shaped, lantern lights from my classroom ceiling, and the kids never once messed with them or seemed distracted by them. They completely “made” my room. I’m all about making it comfortable and cozy for the kiddos and myself! Plus, they get used to the decor pretty quickly. If you’re worried about it, just wait until everyone settles in to introduce decor.


I think it can be colorful and interesting without being overwhelming. I’ve been in some classrooms that were so busy I couldn’t think.


When I started taking down things my students noticed how plain it looked and they remarked how it didn’t look as fun. I think it needs to be inviting and warm but not overwhelming. Plus I LOVE decorating my room and having a theme. It adds to the excitement for the year.


I am old school, lots of visuals. This last few years, we were encouraged not to put things up, pending the advent of ipads. The ipads never came in and the room was bare. Scores not so good anyway. So now, what do I do with my $$$$ of poster, charts, and bulletin boards???


I think balance is the key. I have seen classes that looked too distracting to me but I want to be in an inviting room all day, not a warehouse!


I think it’s very important to not overdo it!! I love covering all of my bulletin boards with black fabric. When I place student’s work or other things on the fabric the visual really “pops” without being too colorful or distracting.


I think that the study may not have as much value as it states. In order for this study to really work, you would have to set it up properly. The same teacher for the same set of students at the same time, with parents that support the same way all the way through the study and it would have to last for a month or so. Kids tune out things on the wall and focus if it is kept interesting.


Don’t you love it when someone who has never taught thinks they know what’s best?


They have to want to be there in order to learn anything…if it looked like that room, I’d leave too. I’m sure in the beginning it’s distracting, but they sure notice if you take down or move something as the year progresses.


I think the main purpose of kindergarten is to get children to love school. That first impression has value and sticks with them. A classroom should be an interesting, comfortable, stimulating space, with at least one calm space to retreat to. Beginning the year with too much would seem overwhelming and it’s probably a good idea to add things as the year goes on. But I find that most of my kids start to tune things out quickly enough when they need to. Let’s be real – we all spend a lot of time in that classroom. If I have to sacrifice a few more redirections a day in order to make it a joyous space to be in, so be it.


Unless you are comparing students and teachers to an identical group of students and teachers, the study doesn’t seem to have value. I have worked with teachers with very little in the classroom and their scores and behavior weren’t any better than in my class. Too many variables to test I would think!


The classroom needs to be inviting and interesting……there should be things to catch their attention


I teach Montessori and love the simplicity of a Montessori classroom


I’m all about warm and inviting. This is a first school experience for most kids and the classroom climate can make it or break it for some kiddos. You can have a theme and decorate or display work without overdoing it. I love putting my kids’ work up and they take so much pride in that! Some of the best discussions between kids happen as a result of this.


This study is flawed as the students were in the classrooms for a limited time and not their normal ones. A new environment is always distracting!

Mary Beth

Like most things in life, there needs to be some balance.


I think it is all about the teacher. The most beautiful classroom with a mediocre teacher will produce students with mediocre growth. A beautiful classroom with a master teacher will produce students exhibiting tremendous growth.


Granted I’m preschool but I can’t imagine having my school look so plain. Where’s the fun and inspiration?


The last bit about the Monets was fantastic!

For a recent lesson about the artist Monet, she stood in front of a white board, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat and smock and speaking in a French accent. Afterward, she filled the board with key words that her 27 young students remembered from her talk. Then the children went to the room’s paint center, where they went to work with cotton swabs.

Finally, it was time to adorn a blank wall. Mrs. Boydston filled it with artwork: the children’s Monets, not Claude’s.


A ridiculous theory


I wouldn’t want my room bare but I absolutely decorate less now than I used to. Also, my students still get distracted by almost anything. Tiny pieces of paper on the carpet is my enemy. It wins almost every time


Keeping the base natural and adding in the children’s work is significant.


Give them strategies & coping skills- is the world they will work in as adults sterile like that one? I am all for changing & managing their environmental scene with their work! Start the year out simple and add & take down as children initiate the change-It becomes their room!


Ummmm, my goal is not higher test scores.


I think they have already taken away or mandated everything else that makes kindergarten fun and special  to improve test score. so They should just back off the way we do or don’t decorate our classrooms. We aren’t robots in a factory producing clones of perfect little adults, we are creative and individual specialists that are encouraging the future generations to be wonderful! And we are competing with tv and video games that overstimulate the senses in a matter of seconds. If they want to improve test scores, mandate that parents turn off the electronics and read to their child!


Balance… Neither of the classrooms above appeal to me. The kindergarten classroom needs to be warm and inviting, not cold and austere or cluttered with too many things on the walls.


I cover all storage and visual clutter with dark colored curtains but most of the items hanging on the walls are anchor charts, posters and such that the children help make as we learn a new skill for them to refer back to. It can look busy or cluttered to an outsider walking in at the end of the year but for our class it has grown through the year and has a purpose.


Brain research would also lean toward a more calming environment with focus pieces in the room, but not boldly colorful.


We are required to post almost everything on our walls, safety info, math strategies, behavior guidelines, thinking/reading strategies, writing ideas and traits, standards, there is hardly room for any of their own work.


Right on. Obviously Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, etc. have this as a standard. Natural materials and kid made/centered stuffs.


Clutter and chaos are distracting but color, warmth, and order are soothing and welcoming.


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