Back to school is around the corner and it is time to set up your classroom. You may have already started! Your classroom learning space reflects your teaching style and sets the expectations you have of your new students. A well organized, inviting environment affects morale and student learning. Here are a few tips to start your classroom off right.
1. Arrange spaces for collaboration and engagement
Different types of instruction require different seating arrangements. Placing desks in rows may help focus student attention on you, the teacher, but it does not create a collaborative environment. When students sit in small groups of four they will share ideas more easily. Arranging desks in a semicircle is great for student discussion while also letting students face the front of the classroom when you provide instruction.
Don’t be tied to the arrangement, however. If something isn’t working, change it. As you get to know your students better you’ll be able to judge the best placement for maximum learning and minimal distractions.
Utilize other spaces in your room as well. Students need a comfortable space to think and to record their ideas. Set out a comfortable chair or two, or pillows for students to use for reading or thinking. Then place white boards or large pieces of paper up for students to brainstorm and record their thoughts in small groups. Remember the process of learning is just as important as the outcomes.
2. Involve students to create a classroom community
Students will enjoy learning in a space that they feel a part of. Ask students for their input in decorating and setting up the room. Of course, you’ll have the final say, but involving students will empower them and provide a sense of community.
3. Set the mood with lighting
If you are lucky to have a classroom with lots of natural light, let it in. The sun does wonders for a person’s mood. Experiment with only turning a few lights on, using lamps, or using colored light bulbs to see how it effects the behavior of your students. Dim lighting often creates a calm, more relaxed environment.
4. Less is more
Though you may want to cover every inch of those ugly, bland walls, make sure you are deliberate about what goes up in your classroom. Too many words and images can be distracting or overwhelming to students. Anything that goes on your walls should reinforce learning and not just be decoration.
5. Consider adding music
Music can inspire, entertain, and motivate. Specific types of music can also change the mood of a classroom. Try classical music when students are doing independent work and upbeat music when larger groups need some motivation. Music can help students focus on the task at hand.
A teacher’s classroom often becomes his or her second home. Make it an inviting, comfortable place to be and you will enjoy teaching as much as your students will enjoy learning and exploring in your classroom.