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Classroom Displays and Children’s Ability to Focus

classroom displays and focusIs the picture above hard to read?  Of course it is – text on a busy background is difficult to see.  One thing that really bothers me in a classroom is excessively decorated walls.  I frequently walk into a classroom and am shocked at the visual overstimulation.  There are patterns, pictures and words hanging all over the place.  Sometimes not just on the walls but from the ceiling and “clothes line” rope across the room.  Now imagine you are a young student and need to focus on the teachers, it can be quite difficult with all the visual stimulation in the room.  Another pet peeve I have is when assignments are hanging on patterned paper – it makes it so much harder to focus on the information that a student needs to read or copy down.  Many times I may make a gentle recommendation to decrease the display for a particular student.  But, I am always careful not to step on any toes – at the end of the day it is the teachers room to set up not mine.  But, now there is some simple research to back up what us therapists may recommend in the school setting.   

Psychological Science published research indicating that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, spent more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when the decorations were removed.  The 24 kindergarteners were placed in laboratory classrooms that were heavily decorated or sparsely decorated and taught lessons.  The following results were seen: 

  • children learned in both classroom types but they learned more when the room was not heavily decorated.  Children’s accuracy on the test questions was higher in the sparse classroom(55 percent correct) than in the decorated classroom(42 percent correct).
  • the rate of off-task behavior was higher in the decorated classroom (38.6 percent time spent off-task) than in the sparse classroom (28.4 percent time spent off-task).

Even though it is a small study and more research needs to be done, it is a start.

Reference:  Medical Express. Heavily decorated classrooms disrupt attention and learning in young children.  Retrieved from the web at http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-05-heavily-classrooms-disrupt-attention-young.html#nwlt on 5/28/14.

Modifications and Interventions for School

Modifications and Interventions for School – Reporting Forms provides pediatric
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