Tips on Classroom Decor for a Special Education Classroom

Décor is not something most teachers consider when setting up a classroom for students with disabilities. The decorations, posters, banners, student work, and other items that go on a wall seem harmless and of no real circumstances.

The teacher who believes this cannot be more wrong. Décor does matter. This is particularly true for students with visual processing disorders, attention deficit disorders (ADD), and any other condition that can affect a student’s concentration and memory.

Too many posters or clutter on the wall can create distractions. One or two posters may not be much of a distraction. However, most teachers tend to fill every inch of a classroom’s interior with posters, pictures, illustrations, and other things. While much of what goes on the wall may have something to do with the curriculum being taught in the classroom, the information overload may be too much for students with learning disorders.

A student with visual processing disorders will have trouble focusing in lesson written on the board, if their too many visual stimuli near it. Too many decorations – especially during holidays – may distract this particular student. Worst yet, the teacher may have to compete with these distractions in order to get his lesson to these students.

Academic posters, despite their good intentions, are big culprits in this matter. Many are multi-colored, have tons of information, and can capture the attention of any student. Again, the posters may have pertinent information; however, if it’s next to an inkboard -where many teachers project their notes or write assignments or examples (such as math problem) –  the imagery or text of the posters may grab these student’s attention. If that happens, the lesson of the day will be at jeopardy.

The solution for the posters and other items placed on the wall is simple: minimize its space on the wall. It is better to put these posters to the side or away from the inkboard or away from the area where the teacher is going to lecture or demonstrate a lesson.

Still, this doesn’t mean that a teacher should remove all posters. In many cases, the posters are essential in reinforcing lessons being taught in the classroom. If a poster is pertinent to the lesson, then placing it near the teacher or the board can help.

Often, teachers like to establish a section for student work. Like posters, they can be visual distractions. It’s best if they are kept to the side or out of view of the students during a lesson.

Banners or borders can be a distraction, as well. In this case, it’s better to have solid colored one near the board rather than a multicolored banner or ones with illustrations. Usually, this is not a major factor in the classroom, and for the most part it will have a minor effect on students with learning disabilities. In fact, most will ignore it. However, learning disabilities, especially, those with ADD, will have different responses to almost anything.  It’s best to consider the choice of banner.

 In many respects, décor is a judgment call. Students with learning disabilities react in different ways. Still, if a teacher wants to ensure that the students are learning and are on task, minimizing the décor can help.