The classroom environment can both support and enrich the learning of all children so I thought I would share my thoughts on an area that I am incredibly passionate about.
It is so important that classrooms are vibrant and welcoming, but it is equally important to remember that they are a learning resource. In a sense, they can be considered ‘the second teacher’. If they are used well they can:
build the class community;
create a sense of ownership;
support and promote learning;
celebrate children’s work.
With careful thought and planning, an effective classroom environment can be used as an interactive resource to support teaching, learning and assessment. A well-organised and stimulating environment can have a direct impact on the quality of teaching and learning and enable children to develop independence as learners.
Is your environment inclusive and independent?
Ideally, classrooms need to be set up to ensure that children can access the equipment they need independently. This is what happens in Early Years, but can drop off as they move through the year groups. Classrooms should also support the children’s current learning and make the day run smoothly, even when the class teacher is not there.
Has your classroom got?
Labels on resources using colours and picture cues, written in a dyslexic friendly font and ideally on buff paper as this is easier to read from than white paper?
A visual timetable that is updated daily and discussed with children?
Clean surfaces and is it clutter free?
A reading corner that truly celebrates reading?
Interactive displays with key questions?
Important information clearly displayed such as school values, classroom helpers, talk partners etc.?
The better your classroom is set up, the easier it is for the children and other adults to navigate. To create independent learners, children must be able to find resources quickly and easily. A well sign-posted room helps children to feel confident and safe in their new classroom. Children who have dyslexia, are EAL or who find it difficult to read are helped by visual clues so keep using these even in Upper Key Stage 2.
Are you aware of ‘Sensory overload’?
Some children (and adults) suffer from sensory processing difficulties, this can mean that busy and cluttered classrooms are distracting. When the classroom is orderly and not cluttered, pupils can make sense of their environment. That being the case, try and keep displays on display boards and where possible walls, windows and doors should be free from display.
Hanging things from the ceiling can cause sensory overload for some children and adults so try to avoid this if you possibly can. Creating designated areas, allows children with sensory processing difficulties to know where things are and develop their independence.
Are you updating your displays?
Keeping your classroom fresh and updated, linked to the current themes means that the classroom will act as a second teacher as children will be paying attention to it. In my first classroom, I had so much on the wall that:
It was impossible to quickly change,
It became wallpaper to the children.
I have even done this in my ‘bubble’ (without backing paper)! I have ensured that the ‘BubblEEs’ work has been displayed and this has helped them to settle into their new learning space – they are so proud of the work they are doing and as they know it will be displayed they are putting such effort into it.
So, to conclude – don’t underestimate the power of the learning environment and if you fancy hearing me talk for just over a minute about learning environments then click on this link:
Addendum – After I published this, lots of people began to share their ideas so I have created a padlet. Please feel free to add yours to it by clicking on the + in the bottom right-hand corner, make sure that you add your Twitter-handle or name as the title for your post.