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classroom decor dos and don’ts


While it can be tempting to make your classroom look pretty, colorful, or “cute”, it isn’t always in the best interest of students. Read on for tips to make your classroom an effective learning environment and learn what to avoid.

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why classroom decor choices matter in special ed

Decor may seem meaningless, but they can significantly impact classroom management. Your choices will make it easier or more difficult to self-regulate. Classroom decor impacts all students, but more so in special education programs. Here’s why:

  • Students tend to struggle more with self-regulation and impulsiveness
  • Destructive behaviors are more frequent in special education programs
  • We have many students with sensory dysregulation that can be bothered by visual busyness
  • Our choices can help students organize and be more independent

trends to avoid to improve classroom management

Here is a list of trends you should avoid or at least put some thought into before using them.

  • Covering walls and bulletin boards with neon colors
  • Having decor with patterns
  • Open storage spaces that allow students to “explore” materials
  • Covering most of the wall space with posters, decor, or anchor charts

The classroom decor list above all adds to visual busyness and challenge classroom management techniques. Limiting visual distractions will improve behaviors. Think about how you feel in busy or crowded places versus calm organized spaces.

We want to create a foundation to put students in the right position to be successful in school.

Classroom decor to pause before trying

While these decor ideas can create good spaces for our students, you need to stop and think about how to make it work well with your students. Before using these ideas in your classroom, make a plan for how you are going to train your students to use these areas well.

  • Lamps: can be great for students who are bothered by fluorescent lighting. Click here to read about different lighting ideas for classrooms.
  • Netting: can be a good way to create boundaries or spaces while still allowing you to see all of the students
  • Tents: can be great for students who need privacy, a place for a break, etc.

When creating a plan to train the students, think about how and when students can use the space, whether it will it always be available, and what happens if it gets knocked over or ripped down. Make sure you cover all of these points with your students if you move ahead with any of these classroom decor ideas.

decor that does work in special education

Here is a list of classroom decor ideas that work well in special education programs and don’t interfere with classroom management.

  • Using solid colors when you choose bulletin board backgrounds, storage coverings, rugs, etc.
  • Laminated and durable materials that won’t get ruined during destructive behaviors
  • Solid color storage containers instead of clear bins
picture of clear bins with colorful items inside and those same bins printed solid green
  • Visual supports that help students be more independent
  • Limiting or containing clutter
  • Color-coded areas to build independence
  • Open space on walls to give an airy feel

Want to see items we use in the classroom? Check out our Amazon Shop.

personal space areas

If you want more personal items or decor, arrange it in a way that only you can see. Try to contain it to a small area rather than spreading it around the classroom.

Our classroom decor choices as teachers and therapists can have a huge impact on students and their ability to self-regulate and remain engaged in learning.

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