When thinking about what affects and influences learning, colour probably isn’t the first thing most people think of. However, different colours can have a variety of different effects on mood, temperature, creativity, security and even hunger.
When designing your classrooms it is important to think about what will be taught there and what colours will be most beneficial to the children that will be learning in the room. Here are a few colours and how they can influence people:
Red – Encourages creativity, increases appetite, increases alertness and excitement
Blue – Encourages creativity, lowers temperature, inhibits appetite, creates a sense of comfort
Green – Encourages calmness
Purple – Encourages calmness
Orange – Increases alertness
Yellow – Creates positive feeling, improves attention, encourages creativity
Brown – Reduces fatigue, creates a sense of security
When deciding on colour, it’s not just the walls you have to think about, but furniture and flooring too. Furniture in schools is often chosen based on functionality and durability, which are both important, however colour shouldn’t be an after-thought.
Deciding on colours for different areas
The key to creating an effective learning environment in classrooms is to not over stimulate students. Overstimulation is often caused when large amounts of bright colours are used in large areas, such as walls painted in reds, yellows and oranges. Overstimulation can be combatted by making use of calm and relaxing colours such as green, blue and purple for large areas instead.
Walls and large areas are often best with a calming, neutral colour. Furniture, however can add colour to your classroom with more exciting colours used as an accent. This is because colour is used in much smaller amount on furniture and so does not have the same effect as large areas of colour.
One way you can make use of colours in your classroom is to create different areas for different activities. For example your classroom might have a quiet reading corner which would work best in relaxing and calming colours, such as having blue chairs or mats. In areas where children need to listen and be attentive, making use of the colour yellow will help to hold their attention better, as well as improve their creative thinking.
Libraries are similar to classrooms in that they are learning environments and this means that careful colour choices should still be made. The primary area in libraries is used for reading. This area should be calming, relaxing and quiet and so greens, blues and purples throughout work best. Libraries can often host lounge areas where groups of children can go to socialise. In contrast to the learning area of the library, bright colours should be used here. We suggest neutral walls with bright coloured furniture such as cushions, bean bags, chairs and library shelving.
How colour affects different age groups
It is important to consider the age group of children in the classroom. This is because nursery and early primary school students receive a much greater benefit from bright coloured rooms with reds, yellows and oranges. As young children’s attention can drift easily, the bright colours help to maintain their attention for as long as possible.
It is also important to remember that in the early years, children’s art will often be displayed on the walls of their classroom. Where possible you should use colours that don’t clash with the artwork but instead enhance it.
Late primary school and secondary school students seem to prefer large areas of cool, calming colours with bright coloured furniture used as an accent. Cool colours help during the later years as they can calm and relax students as well focus their attention. This is ideal for areas where exams or testing is involved.
How to use colour in education
Using colour whilst learning is known to improve memory and helps to retain and recall information. When setting work for children think about colour coding important information in different colours, ideally colours that promote attention such as red and yellow. This can also be done when writing on the whiteboard, instead of writing in black for the whole time, why not highlight important pieces of information with a red pen?
Although it is often common practice, using the colour red to mark mistakes can lead to children seeing red as a colour associated with caution and being wrong. It is best to avoid this where possible as it can lead to negative effects when the colour red is used. For example the colour red may be used in an exam question which could lead the child to be subconsciously over cautious.
When setting challenging work that may be new to the children, the colour blue can be helpful as it promotes creativity and creative thinking allowing them to solve problems more effectively. Blue also has the added bonus of creating a sense of calm which is important when difficult work is involved.