When considering all the elements that play into an effective classroom, we sometimes overlook classroom décor. Did you know it actually plays a significant role in student achievement?
Designing and setting up my classroom has always been one of my favorite parts of teaching. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of research into what makes classroom décor effective, and I’m sharing the results of my work here! You can optimize your teaching, learning, and growing space with thoughtful classroom design.
Let’s jump in and look at the elements that lead to an effectively designed classroom. ⤵️
How Classroom Design Impacts Learning
Research (and years of personal experimentation) show that well-designed classrooms have noticeable student benefits and educational rewards! How educators use the district-provided resources and materials and what teachers decide to add to the classroom matter.
In short, well-designed classrooms can improve student behavior, focus, attention, and achievement.
Plus, considering the best methods for arranging your classroom will only make your job as a teacher easier in the long run.
If you’ve read research by Guardino & Fullerton, 2010, or Fisher & Godwin, 2004, you’re familiar with the goals of classroom design. Your classroom decor choices are essential for all ages of students but significantly impact students in younger grades.
Ideal classrooms have three main characteristics. They’re functional, purposeful, and organized! If you can keep these three elements at the forefront of your decision-making when designing your classroom, you’ll be on track for a thriving classroom atmosphere.
Functional Classroom Decor
Let’s look at do’s and don’ts of functional classroom decor!
✅ Do choose a layout that allows students to meet as a whole group and have independent space.
Research shows that students learn best when they have areas for collaborative learning and areas to themselves. Traditional and flexible seating can both work in a functional classroom. You can check out some more flexible seating ideas here! This functional layout also creates space for easy transitions.
🚫 Don’t choose classroom style over function.
If your whole group area is too small, students will feel uncomfortable and distracted instead of engaged and focused. And you’ll spend more time redirecting than you will spend teaching.
Try to keep your whole group area away from doors, vents, and other noisy places in the classroom.
Some children may feel overwhelmed and overstimulated if you don’t provide any independent space. All kids need a sense of autonomy to develop independence and continue learning.
Purposeful Classroom Decor
When considering your classroom decor, here are a few tips to help you along the way.
✅ Do select decor that enhances student learning and meets student needs.
Research tells us that the best classroom decor serves several purposes for both students and teachers.
- Great classroom decor makes a space feel inviting and safe. Ask yourself, “Is this a place where children would want to learn?”
- Functional decor provides learning references that are utilized throughout the day. If hanging something in your classroom, think “Is this purposeful, and how will I intentionally teach children how to use this resource?”
- Motivational decor feels inspiring and inclusive. Do a quick check: Is your display aspirational? Does it include images or photographs that make it easy for students to make connections?
🚫 Don’t let your personal style take over your decision-making.
Don’t get me wrong: I love a beautiful space, but it must be purposeful! Please don’t spend time hanging up an alphabet or sound wall only to ignore it during instruction. If you do, you’re missing out on a key resource and focal point during the day!
Do you display your favorite quotes? Connect them to themes in your instruction or tie them into your read-aloud lessons to maximize their impact.
Finally, don’t feel pressured to change themes or hop on trends. Less is more when it comes to your classroom decor.
Organized Classroom Decor
Are you running out of space in your classroom? Do you waste time searching for what you need? I’ve got some tips for that!
✅ Do make organization a priority.
Teachers’ plates are full, and we’re constantly in clean-up or reorganization mode. Whether it’s finding space for supplies, groups, centers, or decor, our cabinets and secret hiding spaces are busting!
One great tip that I have is to label EVERYTHING! You can even go the extra mile and add pictures to your labels. This means that everyone, even your students, can help keep things organized!
A second important tip is to give everything a home. Make sure that students know how to get things they need and how to return items. Make sure they can safely reach everything that they need!
🚫 Don’t get overwhelmed!
I know classrooms are bursting with stuff. To combat that feeling of overwhelm, I choose one shelf or drawer per day to organize. I toss or donate anything I no longer need and label things I want to keep. Kids love to help, so let them organize with you! Take it one step at a time and get things just how you want them. You can do it!
I specifically designed my classroom decor to tick all the boxes.
✅ It makes a space feel inviting, but not overwhelming.
✅ Every piece has kid-friendly fonts that serve as environmental prints and learning tools.
✅ The real-life photographs help ELS and students with special needs to make connections.
✅ Everything you need to organize is included in this set.
Click here to see a kindergarten classroom designed with this resource!
I hope this gave you some great ideas about HOW and WHY to functionally design your own classroom. It’s obvious that you understand how classroom environment impacts learning. Your students are lucky to have a teacher that pays attention to details from top to bottom!