Building the ideal classroom environment will help you and your class in so many aspects of the learning process. Among other benefits, the ideal room allows children to feel more comfortable, relaxed and in a healthier mindset to absorb information.
The importance of classroom Environment
After years spent working in classrooms across the country and studying learning environments, a number of issues have cropped up.
It turns out that many teachers have no idea what the ideal classroom looks like. Which is understandable if you’ve not had the opportunity to travel to different schools and see what works and what doesn’t. So if you are a teacher, then to help you out, here’s a deeper look at the problems that exist in classrooms today, and what you can change in order to improve the learning for everyone present.
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How are classrooms most commonly arranged?
Here’s a question for you… Which individual do you think has the most control over how your classroom looks? The obvious answer would be to think me, the teacher of course! Well, in far too many schools, this isn’t actually the case. In actual fact, it is an individual who actually has no part to play in imparting knowledge on children… the custodian.
This is not meant to be in any way a slander against the amazingly hard work that school custodians put in. Their efficient role in cleaning classrooms and preparing them for the next day is vital in keeping the classroom running. However, what you tend to find is that the classroom is simply arranged in a way that best suits them and not the students.
Think about it – how many times have you arranged a room one way, and then come in the next day to find it completely switched back? The likely answer is quite a lot. This is because the custodian or cleaners have come in and rearranged it the format in which they are most comfortable and which allows them to clean most efficiently. Well, this has to change.
Characteristics of a positive classroom environment
Instead of having other people control how the classroom is laid out, it should come down to the students. Sure, you should be there to guide and come to a suitable arrangement, but the flow and layout should be based around the best interests of the children.
Why should the classroom environment be based on the best interests of the children?
- How a room is laid out can play a key role in affecting morale and learning
- Getting students involved in the process of organizing a room can improve their sense of community, as well as empowering each individual
What makes a good classroom environment?
With this in mind, it seems crazy that students have so little a part to play in how the room is arranged. Instead, there is much more that can be done to get children involved. Best of all, doing so doesn’t even have to break the bank! Many teachers and students get together and create ideas on how they can involve the wider community in redesigning the room.
That’s right! Even if school funds are limited, then plenty of local business owners and parents always prove more than happy to help by donating anything from carpets to furniture and wallpaper. Even an array of paper and colored pens can help children create a learning environment that they designed and can take pride in.
TOP TIP: Nowadays, crowdfunding is an excellent way to raise much-needed funds for classroom redevelopment projects. TeacherFunder has grown to become America’s leading teacher fundraising platform. That’s because teachers get to keep 100% of the funds raised. You can find out more about TeacherFunder here.
Vital lessons about classroom arrangement
Now that you understand who really owns the classroom and know that it’s in your power to alter things, let’s look at some classroom arrangement best practices.
1. Get students to help in the process of rearranging
If you need to switch rooms throughout the day, then a good approach is to have student volunteers who help you in setting up each room to become suitable. This also helps to increase students’ sense of ownership over a room.
2. Lighting has an important role to play
It turns out that a lack of suitable classroom lighting can, in fact, cause students to become less productive and sometimes even depressed. As such, it is best to have suitable natural lighting coming into your classroom at all hours of the day.
3. Warmth is crucial for comfort
As a simple rule, warmer rooms are more comfortable and more conducive to good learning. Of course, if they are too hot then this isn’t good either! But ensure that all throughout the year, your classroom has the ability to be kept warm and cozy.
4. Rows are rarely the best solution
Rows are the classic method of ordering a classroom, but this leads to a number of issues, including that kids at the back see mostly the heads of peers, whilst those at the front don’t see anyone else in the class. It can also create social divides with certain factions sitting together nearer the back or front.
5. Circles bring students closer together
Instead, circles are usually a much more efficient way to arrange a room. Everyone can see each other and discussions are far easier to take place. They create a physical sense of togetherness and unity and inhibit conversation. It also helps to stop some children slacking off or avoiding partaking in the lesson.
6. Moveable chairs are a must
If you want to have total flexibility over your lessons, then you need moveable chairs. As tasks change and students need to either break up into smaller groups or partake in whole class discussions, flexible seating is necessary. Failing this, you’re better off having students all sitting on the floor in a large open space.
Where can you learn more about classroom environment?
You might or might not be surprised to learn that there has been a large amount of research carried out over the years that looks into the role classroom environments play on student learning. As always, we recommend you take the time to further broaden your knowledge so as to create the best environment possible for your students.
Classroom environment checklist:
- Classroom Desk Arrangement
- Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration
- The Third Teacher
Crucial takeaways for you to consider about classroom environment
Hopefully reading this has given you at least a few ideas that you could consider bringing into your own classroom. But to quickly summarize, here are four key messages that all teachers in America should be aware of.
- The environment in which you teach should be ideally suited towards the lessons being taught and the method of your delivery
- How you arrange the seats is one major variable, but there are plenty more to consider as well
- By involving students in the process of designing a classroom, students feel empowered and also have a greater sense of community
- The final look and feel of a room has a large part to play in how students feel and how receptive they are to learning
A good rule to follow is to think about how you perceive your classroom. Do you feel like it is a warm, comfortable place that you enjoy entering each day? Or, does it instead feel like a stale teaching environment that is a world away from the comforts you have in your home?
The message here is that the classroom should follow similar principles to how you design your own home. With comfort, practicality and style all interwoven.
Interesting read: All Teachers Need a Mentor