A peek into many kindergarten classrooms across the country will reveal teachers trying to make classrooms feel warm and inviting by plastering the walls with colorful decorations and fun patterns. But could this effort to make school a welcoming place for its youngest students actually be hurting their ability to learn? In a New York Times article Jan Hoffman delves into new research showing how easily distracted kindergarteners are by their surroundings.
“A new study looked at whether such classrooms encourage, or actually distract from, learning. The study, one of the first to examine how the look of these walls affects young students, found that when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted, their gazes more likely to wander off task, and their test scores lower than when they were taught in a room that was comparatively spartan. The researchers, from Carnegie Mellon University, did not conclude that kindergartners, who spend most of the day in one room, should be taught in an austere environment. But they urged educators to establish standards.”
Imagine a kindergarten classroom. Picture the vividly colored scalloped borders on the walls, the dancing letters, maybe some charming cartoon barnyard animals holding up “Welcome to School!” signs. That bright, cheery look has become a familiar sight in classrooms across the country, one that has only grown over the last few decades, fed by the proliferation of educational supply stores.