One of the most exciting parts of a new school year (and each new season!) is decorating your classroom. But I’ve noticed over the years that many classrooms feel overloaded with colors and posters and decorations. I for one can’t focus in that kind of environment! However, creating a cozy, calm classroom environment is important not only for maintaining the sanity of teachers but also for our students.
What the research says about a calm classroom
There has been a decent amount of research on the impact of the classroom environment on educational outcomes over the past decade, and the results have been interesting! In fact, some research even looks at the classroom as the “third teacher” in addition to the teacher and parents.
Let’s start by taking a look at the key takeaway from some recent studies.
“Children were more distracted by the visual environment, spent more time off task, and demonstrated smaller learning gains when the walls were highly decorated than when the decorations were removed.”
“The room layout, ceiling and display can catch the pupils’ attention but in balance with a degree of order without cluttered and noisy feelings. White walls with a feature wall (highlighting with vivid and or light colour) produces a good level of stimulation. Bright colour on furniture and display are introduced as accents to the overall environment.”
What we can really learn from the research is that it’s all about striking a balance between too little and too much!
The Elements of a calm classroom
You’ll find many articles talking about classroom decorations, especially as it relates to displaying anchor charts, educational materials, and student artwork.
But I want to step away from that today and talk about creating a calm and cozy classroom from an interior design perspective.
There is a lot of information out there about how to create a calm environment at home using design techniques. So, let’s look at some of those suggestions and how we can transfer those to the classroom.
Use a neutral color palette
Neutral colors promote a calm vibe! While you probably don’t have a lot of choice in what color walls you have (and they’re probably neutral anyway!), you can make choices about the rest of your surroundings.
Take stock of the things in your room that you can’t control—think wall color and desk/chair color—before you start decorating. Then, start incorporating neutral elements to create a calm classroom.
Embrace natural elements
Humans are calmed by nature, so incorporating natural elements into a room seems an obvious choice for increasing the calm vibes. Every classroom is different, so access to nature may or may not be available based on window availability!
If you have a window or windows, you’re off to a good start!
Cluster your color
While we’re starting with neutrals, color is still important in a room. Congregating vibrant colors in only certain areas of a room creates an engaging focal point.
Having a colorful focal point can incorporate color while reducing distractions. Again, start by thinking about what colors you can’t change and go from there.
Soften the space
Bringing in textiles increases the relaxing feel of a room. Blankets, rugs, and pillows are just a few textile options that are available for softening up a space.
Adding textiles is an especially helpful strategy given that nearly all of the surfaces and furniture in a classroom—a teacher desk, student desks, student chairs, group tables, shelves—are hard. That’s inescapable! So we’ll need to add things in to create a cozy classroom.
how to create a cozy, calm classroom
Now that we’ve looked at some of the most common interior design tips for creating a calm environment, let’s look at how we can incorporate them into a classroom setting.
- Use woven baskets and organizers
- Bring in a plant (or plants!)
- Designate one space for student artwork
- Choose neutral-colored textiles
- Use wooden furniture when possible
Rethinking the classroom
To wrap everything up, let’s talk about the classroom teacher’s responsibility for creating a cozy, calm classroom environment.
In my professional experience, a lot of the classroom decorations come out of the teacher’s personal funds. and some of the decorations are dictated by the school itself. There’s truly only so much we can do!
Rather than put a lot of pressure on yourself to create the perfect environment, spend some time thinking about what is necessary for creating an environment where you feel like you can flourish. It can be just as much about taking things away as adding things in!
Particularly given the research we have on students being distracted by too much visual stimuli, give yourself some grace and let visions of the perfect classroom fade away.
Take good stock of what is available to you and make strategic choices when adding things in. And remember you don’t have to do too much!