Focus on These Four Areas to Create a Classroom Environment Conducive to Learning
Effective teachers look for every available opportunity to increase student learning. The classroom environment is a teaching resource that should not be ignored. Students and teachers spend the majority of their day in school classrooms, and it’s your responsibility to foster an environment and atmosphere that enhance learning. Developing a classroom environment conducive to learning is a process that entails staging the physical space, getting the students to cooperate, creating a communal environment, and finally maintaining a positive classroom climate and culture.
To create a classroom environment conducive to learning, you must first focus on the physical space. Use every possible area of the room to create an atmosphere that encourages participation and learning. The physical space includes the layout and arrangement of the desks or tables, the placement of computers and equipment, and items on the bulletin boards and walls.
In modern classrooms the tables and desks are usually not fixed, allowing for various seating arrangements. Take time to draw up a seating plan based on how you expect to conduct your lessons. If you’ll give a lot of instruction, it’s ideal to have any students who have difficulties closer to you so that they have greater access to the lesson. If you’ll require your students to take part in collaborative activities, you can arrange the classroom so that you have maximum visibility of all groups, which may then be clustered around the classroom as appropriate. You may be required to make individual seating changes based on disruptive behavior, keeping students who are more likely to be disruptive closer to you and rewarding them by allowing them to move if they learn to conduct themselves more appropriately. You could also allow students to be clustered around focus areas for activities, moving back to a more traditional seating arrangement when they have completed the activity. Always try to accommodate the physical size of students by procuring an adequately sized desk for them.
Next, consider the furniture and equipment you must fit into your classroom. Where are the electrical outlets? Which pieces of equipment may need to be plugged into them? Where is the chalkboard or projector screen? Will students need a clear view of them? Where should you place your desk to allow maximum observation and encourage good behavior? Finally, students with special needs often require extra attention. For instance, a student with visual impairment or behavior problems may need to be placed in the action zone, the area in the front and the middle of the class.
After arranging the room with the optimal furniture placement, you must assume responsibility for the organization of the entire classroom. Where will the students keep their supplies? What resources will you need daily access to? Supplies, bins, shelves, and cabinets should be carefully organized and easily accessible. The wall space and interest centers will suit a well-organized and efficient classroom and will optimize students’ learning potential. Find creative ways for students to explore and learn in their environment, and set up learning centers throughout the class. Learning centers are creatively staged learning areas that allow students to participate in activities related to the curriculum. Teachers will prepare an activity at each center. Activities are typically hands-on and are fun for the students. Learning centers may include a computer center, a science center, a reading corner, or an interactive bulletin board.
Another dimension of the physical classroom is the wall space. Wall space should be pleasing to the eye, with special attention to student morale and learning. One way of accomplishing this is an organized display of student work. Displaying student work not only boosts morale but also fosters ownership of the classroom.
Bulletin boards make the room look neat and attractive and are a source of learning by highlighting key facts or by allowing student interaction. Interactive bulletin boards are bulletin boards that allow students to participate in an activity that reinforces the class’s objectives. Bulletin boards can also be electronic, which can easily be set up for any subject area. These may be used differently from traditional “on-the-wall” bulletin boards, but allow multiple students to access any problems you post on the board and discuss or propose answers among themselves before you intervene with the correct answer. Establish ground rules to ensure the use of bulletin boards is effective.
Getting Students to Cooperate
One of the most challenging aspects of maintaining a neat and organized environment that is conducive to learning is getting the students to cooperate. To begin, you should clearly define the rules and routines for transitions between activities and classes. Practice the transitions with the class, and correct undesirable behaviors. Decrease the amount of unstructured time by having materials prepared and readily available.
After you’ve established the ground rules, you’re responsible for making appropriate demands, giving clear signals, and being consistent. You’ll also learn to anticipate problems and correct them as a means of preventing disorder. You must have a plan for every minute of the day and have a goal of keeping students busy.
Creating a Communal Atmosphere
A communal atmosphere is a feeling established by instilling a sense of community among the students. Another way to express this is creating a learning community. After establishing the rules, routines, and transitions, your next objective will be to transition the classroom into a communal atmosphere, focusing on relationships and taking a personal interest in each contributor to the community.
Your care, as the teacher, extends to every aspect of the learning environment, including curriculum, instruction, assessment, and society. If students are aware that you care, they will be more willing to make an effort to please you. As a teacher, you need to lead your students by example. Displaying a caring attitude toward each student will encourage them to treat each other with the same attitude. Dealing with conflict in a caring and understanding manner will have the same effect. You need to encourage all learners to treat each other with respect and care, because this promotes a positive learning environment and can improve collaboration among students.
Classroom Climate and Culture
After establishing a classroom community, the final step in creating a positive atmosphere conducive to learning is to develop a positive classroom climate and culture. A classroom’s climate and culture are the atmosphere and quality of life in a classroom. Your role as teacher is that of the primary contributor to the climate and culture. Your interaction with the students, disciplinary measures, mannerisms, support, encouragement, cooperation, and focus on individual students all contribute to an atmosphere conducive to learning.
Although they are complex and multifaceted, classrooms with a climate and culture conducive to learning share similar characteristics. The teacher is caring and supportive. The lessons are well organized, progress smoothly, and are free from interruptions. The content is challenging without being frustrating, and activities are relevant and interest students. Open, warm relationships among students are encouraged, and cooperation and respect are expected. Stress and anxiety levels are low, and there is limited conflict.
Have a plan for each area of concern. How can you maximize potential and circumvent obstacles in each? What resources do you need to obtain? Write down a list of ways you will optimize each area of concern in order to boost your classroom’s learning potential.