The space a student is learning in can determine the fate of a lesson. Even the best curriculum can fall short if a student is unable to focus in their classroom. There is new research every day about changes that can make or break a student’s focus.
The following tips for effective classroom design are just some of the practices many teachers are starting to implement to help their students focus.
- Options, options, options
Different zones help students think differently. While you may not have the budget to buy tons of furniture, you can still change up the tables and chairs. Many teachers have started implementing a whole class meeting area, clear so that everyone will fit. This allows you to come together as a community for announcements or presentations. Different sections can help to inspire different types of thought in students as well. It helps with classroom management too, when students have options instead of forced conformity.
- Give students what they want
Ask for student feedback, frequently, and then follow it. Different teachers have different methods for this, but often they will ask students two questions: “What in this room helps you learn?” and “What in this room distracts you from learning?” Take time to understand what your students tell you, and then act on it. Giving your students power over their learning environment is a powerful tool to help them become self-sufficient learners. When implemented well, this method can make a classroom sing with harmonious learning!
- Consider your teacher footprint
Where are you in your classroom? How much space does your desk occupy? Can your students enter that space? Do you leave that space? These are all good questions to ask yourself when arranging a classroom for effective student learning. Many teachers are forgoing having a desk at all, and instead circulate around their room. If you can’t quite let go of that space, or need it for your lessons, consider how you can make it more approachable and student-friendly. This can be as simple as placing a 'submit work' bin on the desk, or some other interactive station. This invites students into the space, and makes a less closed-off environment.
- Colors and the mind
Studies have shown that orange and yellow are colors that excite and energize us, while blues and greens tend to calm us down. If you have a quiet reading corner, consider adding some blue or green pillows or rugs to the space. Similarly, you can use bright oranges, yellows, and reds in spaces like a meeting area or imagination station. These can help stimulate your students to create and explore.
- Ownership of knowledge
Encourage students to learn from their classroom – both their peers' work, and informational posters. Putting up students' work will showcase achievement and show them that you care about their success and value the effort they put in. Informational posters can be displayed alongside students' work to provide effective visual stimuli that can facilitate incidental learning. After all, it’s a good life skill to be able to find context clues in your environment. If possible, extend this past the classroom walls, and put posters and students' work up throughout the school!
All the beautiful decorations, and clever desk placement won’t mean anything if your students can’t access it. Make sure to consider who is in your classroom, and address any accommodations they may need. Have the space work for the students. Adjust the desk height, cabinets, hooks, and other things students use. Take note of students who have trouble seeing or hearing certain areas, and make sure to find a solution for them. While it can be difficult to remember, it can make a world of difference to your students.
- Cleanliness is key
Students can get sick, or get you sick. Clean the desks and chairs regularly, or have students help you. If it is in your budget, get air purifying machines. This can really help if your school is old and the vents aren’t great. Alternatively, you could buy plants that clean the air. Students can’t learn if they’re at home sick, so help them stay well. Having students help you in this effort can create a great learning environment, while helping students feel ownership for the room.
Make your students feel at home, valued, and in control of their learning space.
This will lead to a happy and effective classroom!