Is it a myth or a must believe that a classroom environment will enhance student calmness and sense of peace? alleviate some classroom behavior problems? create a sense of community? The answer to all of these questions is yes! BELIEVE!!! Your efforts to create a classroom environment that works for students and for you is time well spent and will enhance all of the above conditions. What does a student remember from your classroom? You!!! Part of the road to being remembered as a special teacher is your unique classroom design. You may ask yourself: is my classroom functional, student friendly, pleasing to the eye/ stylish, teeming with good vibes and excites students to learn? Some of you are ready for a complete classroom makeover, maybe you want only a few tweaks, or you just like change and would welcome some new ideas. Consider some of the following suggestions that match your style. Creating a learning environment that works for you and your students is FUN!
Classroom function is a critical consideration. Function is about student friendly systems, easy access to materials, flow of movement, to name a few. An example of a system is putting each student’s name on a strip of paper that has a magnetic tape strip on the back. A metal cabinet next to the door is all you need. When the student enters in the morning the student puts the name plate under a heading that gives you information, such as “buying lunch”. Students may also have a magnet with his/her number on it to be used to keep track of homework turned in on time. If a student’s magnet is not removed from the class set of magnets because the student turns in homework consistently, the student remains in the coveted homework club. Two systems on one metal cabinet that makes your life easier. When students enter the classroom, they may be asked to pick up a text book or two. Is your shelf of text books easy to access, close to the door and away from desks? Which brings us to desk arrangements. Straight rows can present problems when you want student proximity. Desks arranged in pods of four or six give more aisle room and easy access to students and builds community. Consider a chevron desk arrangement so chairs have plenty of room for chair movement. Also, a supply system is a design must! Supplies placed strategically will save student time and energy. Students even as young as Kindergarten will feel more empowered if he/she can access materials on their own. A closet filled with supplies that are labeled will give a student a sense of ownership to the classroom and easy access. Supplies in bins that have wheels ensures even a heavy bin of supplies/toys may be moved by a couple of Kinder students. Supplies in a tote bin (erasers, stapler, pencils, highlighters, post-it notes, red pens, 3- hole punch), shared by four students in a grouping, will cut down on student questions, unnecessary movement and will provide more work productivity. Function in a classroom means less frustration and more learning fun. And a by-product is more student self-confidence and fewer behavior problems.
Now you have an functional classroom, but what about your classroom colors? So your favorite color may be hot pink! Be careful with color in a classroom. Sociologists have done studies on the impact of color on human behavior. Having every inch of the classroom in a red, white and blue theme to promote a patriotic flavor might be too over whelming for students who are hypersensitive to color stimulation. Rather consider the mint color that is so popular now, which is soothing and calming, or a pastel blue, which receive the research approval. Another color connection is the classroom ambient light. Students may be sensitive to florescent lights, so consider turning off the over head florescent lighting and instead get some inexpensive lamps from Target with soft white light bulbs. Leave plenty of white space on your white board to give the eye a rest. Popular, small mirrored cut outs can be used as accents to words that you have on a white board. You can find these cut out mirrors at Target, maybe an owl, maybe a flower, add the fun factor. The mirror glistens and catches the student’s attention. Spend a little extra for bulletin board paper that will not fade and consider fabric panels at Target to drape over a boring wood cabinet door. Color done well shows students you care and respect the space. So many classrooms are old and run down, so let color give the room some pizzaz!
A kitchen has spices to bring the flavor forward; classroom supplies, furniture and possibly pets are the spice that flavor your classroom and ensure creativity! Always keep a supply of magnet tape, velcro tape, painter’s blue tape in your closet. Maybe you will want to hang some framed pictures, consider velcro strips. Magnet tape can make any metal cabinet more functional. Consider an ergonomic, comfortable chair that gives your back the best lumbar support. Place your computer lap top or monitor high enough so your posture is not compromised. Scrounge for some round tables that are best for small group conversations or parent conferences. A visit to the district warehouse provides some unexpected treasures. Maybe you need some window curtains behind your desk to ensure some privacy. Book shelves behind your desk are perfect for items that cheer you up, add a professional touch, and increase organization. Consider a few no flame candles, picture of your family, and some colorful containers or baskets. Two $27 bookshelves at Walmart can be assembled in an hour and a half. Also, your curriculum binders will then be on a shelf at your finger tips. Now, every classroom needs more oxygen! Buy a few no-fail plants to adorn your shelving unit or maybe a plant for each group of four/six desks. More life in a classroom could mean a small or large fish tank with some inexpensive fish to add interest and spark conversation, or get a turtle or a bunny. What fun!!! When you give special thought to your classroom design, students will benefit from your happiness and organization and will eagerly enter the safe, cheery, student-friendly classroom.
Change it up and make the most of the space that you are given. Have fun, and you will definitely reap the benefits of making your environment the best it can be.
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