You’re busy and the to-do list is only getting longer.
It’s hard to find the time to think about your classroom environment. But just a few simple considerations can help maximise learning and even improve your results.
Here are 5 simple ways you can make your classroom work effectively for everyone:
- Get the basics right
- Make your room flexible
- Sort your displays
- Decide your seating arrangements
- Organise your resources
1: Get the Basics Right
It’s hard to learn if the physical environment isn’t right. Make sure the ‘big four’ fundamentals are perfect for your learners.
On a freezing day, it’s tempting to keep the windows and doors firmly shut. But stuffy rooms can stop your class from performing at their best. To avoid moans from the children when the weather is cold, open the windows at the start of the day and break times.
Often classrooms alternate between stark strip-lighting and semi-darkness. Try to let as much natural light into your room as possible by fully drawing the blinds. Don’t be tempted to stick posters onto your windows as this can reduce light levels.
Indirect sources of light work best for learning. Make sure sunlight doesn’t stream down onto your whiteboard or shine in students’ eyes.
Are you working in a loud echoey room or do you have a noisy neighbouring class? It can make listening hard for your students.
- Using fire-proof fabric instead of backing paper on your display board to absorb noise
- Adding large rugs or sections of carpet on the flooring
- Keeping the internal doors between classrooms shut
- Discussing noise levels in staff meetings and agreeing on procedures to reduce corridor noise
Your class won’t get much work done if they’re feeling too hot or cold. Talk to your caretaker if the heating in your room isn’t working effectively to see if adjustments can be made.
If your classroom gets too hot, keep windows open, even a small amount, to allow fresh air in. Portable fans can circulate air but make sure they are safety checked before use.
Typically, it is in wintertime that heating systems decide to break down! If your classroom is too cold, consider letting students keep their coats on whilst working. Add in physical activities to warm them up before, during and after lessons.
2: Make Your Room Flexible
The best classrooms allow you to make changes to suit the learning that is happening. If you have space, consider creating zones to allow different activities to take place at the same time.
If you have limited space, think about how you could rearrange your equipment to change the layout. Train your class to move furniture into different positions with minimum disruption.
3: Think about Wall Displays
Too many visual distractions on walls can have a negative effect on learning. Often classrooms can become cluttered and overwhelming with the number of resources on display. Make sure you have plenty of empty plain spaces to break up the busy displays.
Avoid using lots of bright colours in the same space. This can make your classroom feel cluttered and overwhelming. Instead, use muted neutral colours on most of the walls. Bright colours aren’t banned but limit them to one bold display or feature wall for a positive impact.
Only display resources that are currently being used so your class notice and use them. Keeping displays current can have a big impact on learning.
Give your children a sense of classroom ownership by presenting their work on display boards. They will love seeing their best work and feel like a valued member of the class.
4: Consider Seating Arrangements
Every teacher has a favourite way of arranging the tables. The jury is out on which layout is best, but there are simple ways to make most work effectively.
- Can all the children see the board?
- Can you see the class?
- Is everyone able to move safely around the classroom?
Think about if you prefer your students to work alone, with a partner, in a small group or as a whole class in most lessons. This will help you decide whether to arrange your tables in rows, a horseshoe shape or clustered into groups.
5: Organise your Space
Classrooms can be busy places. It’s easy for them to become messy with resources piled up in every corner. Your class will show more respect if everything has a place it always gets returned to. Label storage containers and encourage the class to help themselves to any equipment they need.
Think about where you store resources to make them easily accessible for everyone. In smaller classrooms, you may need to use table monitors or helpers to set out and return items.
Organise resources into three separate categories:
- Rarely used topic specific
Keep these in a central location outside of your classroom. Most schools will have a resource area for these types of items.
- Often used
Find a sensible place in your room for storing these items. You will need to access them, but they shouldn’t be in the way of daily teaching.
- Everyday items
Consider keeping these out on display for children to use independently. Labelled drawers, tabletop boxes, and bookcase units are tidy and effective.
Classrooms easily become cluttered with outdated resources that will never be used. Resist the temptation to keep things just in case they come in handy in the future.
The Perfect Classroom Environment
Unless you’ve been given a budget to use, don’t spend your hard-earned wages on items for your classroom. Think creatively and look to repurpose things to meet your needs. Use local selling markets online and ask friends and colleagues for resources. It’s amazing what you can source for free.
The perfect classroom environment will always be a compromise. It is unlikely that your room has the space for lots of zoned areas or perfect light and heating all year round. Instead, make simple changes where possible to make it work for you.