Classroom lighting doesn’t have to be like a scene in a horror movie: “The fluorescent lights flickered, casting pale light against the beige concrete walls while the yellowed shades all hung awkwardly at different lengths against the windows that wouldn’t open.”
YES! You know we’ve all been in that room in a school!
If you’re looking for classroom lighting ideas to create a peaceful MOOD and groovy VIBE, keep reading!
IMPORTANT: Rules change from district to district, so it is imperative that you check with your administration about fire safety and the use of “extra” lighting. All of the images from my classroom show lighting that was approved by my district.
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Classroom Lighting Benefits
Numerous studies have demonstrated a clear connection between lighting quality and student performance. Well-designed lighting in educational settings can enhance student focus, comprehension, and overall achievement.
Proper lighting not only reduces visual discomfort but also creates an environment conducive to active participation and cognitive engagement.
And sometimes, lighting can be SO FUN!
It can set a mood from calm to celebratory that takes a lesson to the next level.
Let’s look at how we can do damage control to the bad and ramp up the good!
Fluorescent Light Covers for Damage Control
Fluorescent lighting is a common feature in many classrooms, but it often comes with drawbacks that can hinder student focus and comfort. Light covers provide a creative and effective solution to transform the harsh glare and flicker of standard fluorescent lights into a more inviting and visually appealing environment.
Let’s explore safety features, designs, and placement of these fluorescent light covers.
Safety & Permission
Not all schools allow these covers so you need to make sure you get permission from your administration and/or custodian. Also called light diffusers or panels, these covers are specially designed overlays that fit over standard fluorescent light fixtures.
They attach to the light frame with strong magnets sewn into the edges. These covers are usually made from various flame-retardent materials and come in a range of patterns and designs.
I had the basic blue covers and placed them over the center back light and all across the middle. You can also see a desk lamp (on a broken conga drum) in the back corner and the natural light coming from the windows.
Designs and Placement
The covers come in such fun designs and colors. I was going for calm and cool so I got the blue for my classroom and put them on banks of lights toward the back/middle of the room. I had the ability to turn on/off all of my ceiling lights in several configurations. Some classrooms don’t and it’s either all on or all off for them.
TIP: If you have just all on/all off light switches, ask your principal if the district can send an electrician and give you more options for your ceiling lights. You never know if you don’t ask!
I almost always turned off the bank of lights at the front of the room (where my screen was located) and depending on the class, time, and activity had one or two banks on. I had floor and table lamps so sometimes I had no ceiling lights on at all.
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Floor and Table Lamps
Effective learning is fostered in an environment where students feel comfortable and engaged. Floor and table lamps play a pivotal role in setting the mood by creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.
This was my favorite way of changing the atmosphere in my room! I had 5 or more table lamps and one floor lamp spread all throughout my room. In all my years of teaching, I rarely had good natural light. My classrooms were often in basements or facing north.
What are the benefits of ambient lighting in the classroom?
Use more subdued lighting when
- classes are coming from PE, recess, lunch, and other active times.
- you’ve had high energy parts to your lesson and are ready for students to listen and focus.
- you’ve had a classroom event or conflict and need to restore calm to the class.
- you are setting the mood for something new or mysterious.
The gentle glow they emit can transform an ordinary classroom into a space that encourages collaboration, creativity, and focused learning. The soft, diffused lighting from these lamps can help reduce eye strain and contribute to a sense of well-being among students. It just feels like home with lots of ambient lighting.
I found my lights at Target during their back-to-college sales or at Goodwill.
SAFETY TIP: If you have a cloth shade, many times you will be required to spray it with a flame-retardent material and in some districts are not allowed to have cloth shades at all!
Shelf Floor Lamp
I did not have this shelf lamp in my room but saw it requested in a DonorsChoose project and fell in love with it! A soft glow lamp and SHELVES! If I’d known about these, I’d have had one (or two) in my room!
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Using String Lights in the Classroom
String lights, known for their enchanting glow and versatile design, have found their way beyond holiday decorations and into educational spaces. These whimsical lighting solutions offer a creative and engaging way to enhance the classroom environment, fostering a sense of comfort, creativity, and inspiration.
Supernight LED RGB strips change colors and have a remote control.
Infusing Magic into Learning Spaces
String lights have a unique ability to infuse spaces with a touch of magic and wonder. By draping them along walls, bulletin boards, or bookshelves, you can instantly create a captivating atmosphere that captures students’ attention and imagination.
Perfect for creating zones of focus and learning, the soft, twinkling lights create a cozy ambiance that encourages relaxation and exploration, making the learning environment feel less formal and more inviting.
Safety and Practicality
I had white string lights around a back bulletin board and rarely turned them on. Speaking honestly here, I was afraid that I’d forget to turn them off. I never had the same fear with my lamps for some reason.
Once again, you would need to know your school rules for using this type of lighting.
Black Lights for that Fun Vibe
A very popular choice these days is to pair black lights with songs and activities for a fun effect at concerts. These UV lights also are being used more and more in the classroom to set a mood and to use directly in lessons.
Black Lights for Concerts
There’s an entire blog post dedicated to black lights in concerts with buying ideas and specific songs and activities to use. Check it out!
Inspiring Creative Projects in the Classroom
One of the standout features of black lights is their ability to reveal hidden patterns and colors. In the classroom, this characteristic can be harnessed for creative projects that captivate students’ interest. Students love “Glow Days.”
- Have students use fluorescent markers or glow sticks to write rhythms then turn the lights out to reveal the neon creations!
- Use fluorescent paint and a stencil to spray paint your school mascot on bucket drums and have a bucket drumming Glow Day!
- Use glow tape on rhythm sticks for a Glow Stick Play Along day.
- Have these anytime of year but for sure during Halloween week. (Think Addams Family theme)
- Use white cups for cup routines or white gloves for body percussion routines.
- Write clues around the room using a fluorescent dry erase marker for a Scavenger Hunt. Turn the lights off and let the game begin.
Find Blacklight buying information and more activities in this Oodles blog post.
While black lights can be both educational and entertaining, safety considerations are paramount. Direct exposure to UV radiation should be minimized, and proper precautions should be taken to prevent eye strain. Educators should also ensure that any materials used for projects are safe and non-toxic.
I found so many positive student outcomes from having a lighting plan for my classroom. And the win-win is that I benefitted too.
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