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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: early education

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June 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Too many classroom decorations may distract youngest learners

Education experts sometimes tell parents that the way a teacher decorates his or her classroom may say something about that teacher’s ability. A good teacher, the thinking goes, will cover the walls with high-quality student work, meaningful projects and other resources.

But what if decorations, even those meant to serve an educational purpose, are doing more harm than good?

A new Carnegie Mellon University research paper suggests that, at least for young children, an over-decorated classroom can actually make it harder to learn.

The paper, published in Psychological Science, found 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.

Here’s a short video of the report’s authors discussing their research, which also shows examples of both types of classrooms:

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Comments | More in News | Topics: classroom decorations, early education, K12

May 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Guest: Here’s what quality pre-K looks — and sounds — like

matthew o'connor2

Matthew O’Connor

People in Seattle like to make noise — and the most recent NFL season proved it. The record-setting decibels produced by fans at CenturyLink Field are a point of pride in our city.

When opening the door to my pre-kindergarten classroom, a visitor is met with a similar wall of sound. A group of children in the classroom library is performing readers’ theatre, generating the “next chapter” of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

“Maybe Goldilocks writes a letter to the bears saying ‘I’m sorry for eating your food!’” says Sydnie. A separate group is constructing what the students have decided is a food-stirring machine out of wooden blocks. “Make sure the button says ‘start’ on it!” shouts Emile, calling across the classroom to Mekhi at the writing desk, who furrows his brow and places pencil to a scrap of purple paper, saying the word start to himself slowly to parse the sounds he hears. Mekhi later tapes this scrap to the food-stirring machine, and the group declares it complete and fully functional, although its purpose and product is still up for heated debate.

It is a frenetic scene to witness — some might even call it chaos. But it is a carefully orchestrated chaos, a barely restrained madness that, when all parts are moving just right, can result in powerful change for these students. This change is rooted in something so simple: words.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: early education, early learning, Matthew O'Connor