Friday, March 17, 2017

Down With Rainbow Vomit!

Recently, I read an article online about how much decoration on classroom walls is useful. It has been a long-standing observation that the majority of learners, while they do notice things occasionally on the walls, don't really care too much whether or not they are decorated in what can colourfully be described as rainbow vomit (a term which was not coined by me, but by a former colleague of mine - also, that pun was completely intended).

I wouldn't say that I've been one for a classroom full of white, bare walls. No, I think every learning area does have to feel inviting and warm. But often, I feel like there is a lot of pressure to make things look good, just for the sake of them looking good and bright and shiny. Style over substance, in other words.

As someone who can easily get distracted, the main points in the article are very relevant to me. Too much visual stimulation (or auditory stimulation for that matter) can actually make it difficult for learners (or in my case, adults) to stay focused on the task at hand. The researches actually tested this theory and had two sets of children in two classrooms - one bare and one decorated. Their initial findings were that the children in the bare walls room retained more of the information given during the lesson. Obviously this needs to be replicated on a bigger scale, but it makes sense.

For what it's worth, I've taken a multitude of approaches when it comes to what's on the walls in my classroom (sadly, though, I don't have many pictures of these to share and those that I do have are hidden away in the maze that is my file structures on Google Drive and my external hard drive). I've had the big displays to get children interested. I've tried individual spaces on the wall for learners to display what they've wanted to display (which turned out to be a lot of work for me as many of those spaces were in inaccessible spots or too high). I've put up work in progress.

My personal opinion, based on my patented logical thinking and looking at the situation from many angles is that anything put on the walls has to have a purpose - and that purpose begins and ends with the learners who are in the environment. Everything put up has to be for them. Not for leadership, not for the parents, not for ERO.

I think walls should be always changing, with the learners taking ownership of the majority of things on them. Obviously there needs to be organizational things on them, but that shouldn't take up too much space. The environment should be clean and welcoming. One thing I'd like to add is plants, or other calming things. Leaner made art should be put up (though I would argue that if you have 25 or so copies of almost the exact same thing, it's not really art).

This has come at an interesting time when we're trying to decide collectively as a team what to put up in our Habitat. This has certainly given us something to think about.

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