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What's Wrong with Colour in the Classroom?

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

It has been the trend over the last few years to have a beige classroom. That's meant hessian-backed displays, natural resources and taupe-painted walls. A calming, peaceful and tranquil environment is definitely something that we teachers aim for but is there really anything wrong with a pop of colour? Research has shown that a monotone environment can cause anxiety, restlessness and irritation. As the new school year approaches and your thoughts turn to setting up your classroom, what if you didn't have to go beige?

back to school classroom set up

The Psychology of Colour in the Classroom

Did you know that how you use colour in the classroom can positively (or negatively) impact on the learning and behaviour of your pupils? Colours can grab children's attention and even help with memory. In his 2016 paper, Abdolreza Gilavand investigates the impact of colour on learning. It's certainly something to keep in mind when setting up your dream classroom! Here we discover how different colours can affect children's mood and academic success:

colourful colours for the classroom

  • Red - attention-grabbing, energising, creates excitement and alertness

  • Yellow - encourages creativity and positive feelings and improves attention

  • Orange - lifts mood and encourages communication

  • Blue - relaxing, calming and improves concentration

  • Brown - reduces fatigue and makes children feel safe

  • Green - calming, can improve memory, peaceful and induces learning

  • Off-white - improves attention and positive feelings

How to Inject Colour into Your Classroom

Clearly, too much colour in your classroom could overstimulate and overwhelm your pupils (and you). Nobody wants a play centre for a classroom. You definitely want to achieve a balance between neutral and bold colours. In addition, your school budget will probably not stretch to a full room refurb right now! Here are some easy and affordable ways for you to instantly inject some colour into your classroom:

  • Soft furnishings - add colourful cushions, throws, drapes and rugs to your reading area, home corner and carpet area

  • Hang prisms to reflect rainbows all over your walls

  • Brighten up your room with plants and flowers

  • Paint a cupboard, alcove or chair in a strong colour

  • Have colourful baskets, trays and stationary organisers dotted around the room

  • Back your display boards in hessian but use an attention-grabbing colour as a border

  • Go for bold-coloured exercise books or folders

  • Print on pastel-coloured paper to decrease eye strain, or use coloured overlays instead

Prism reflecting rainbow onto wall

Using Colour in Your Continuous Provision

With all that we have learnt in mind, here are some suggestions for you to try in the different areas of your continuous provision:

  • Use splashes of red in your writing, role play and music areas to energise pupils and to help keep them motivated and alert

  • Welcome children into your reading area with blue tones, to aid concentration and to ensure that they feel relaxed

  • Inspire pupils and spark their creativity with yellow hues in your art, construction and investigation areas

  • Make children feel safe and secure when they explore the home corner, with soft browns, natural materials and neutral colours

  • Consider using off-white and greens to induce learning in your maths area

  • How about adding warm orange accents to underused areas of provision - orange can attract attention and lift mood. Be careful if you have a particularly lively class though, as orange can overstimulate!

What Shall I Do Next in My Classroom?

As time goes on, you may notice that different colours evoke different responses from your pupils. Don't be afraid to change things or scrap ideas which aren't working. As you get to know your class, you might find yourself introducing more red, orange and yellow to inject a bit more energy! On the other hand, you might be heading down a more blue, green and brown route if you have a 'spirited' class! Let us know what works for you in the comments below.

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