How to set up your classroom environment to positively impact student learning.
If you are a classroom teacher you are probably already drawing up blueprints for how you’ll be setting up your classroom this fall. The classroom environment is an important part of instruction and can have a meaningful impact on student behavior and academic performance.
Earlier this year, Rethink’s Jennifer Wilkens hosted a webinar on how to set up your classroom environment for success. Below are some pointers from the webinar for how to arrange and structure your classroom in a way that is optimal for student learning and for engaging students in positive behavior.
Arrange space, furniture, and materials that create the context for learning and helps set behavioral expectations.
When laying out out your classroom, the layout should represent the behavioral expectations associated with each section of the room and what kind of instruction is happening in that section. For instance, you want to clearly delineate play & leisure areas from instructional or transitional areas, not only through physical markers but through furniture and visuals. Ensure that each section of your classroom is easy to move around in, promotes engagement, and assists with classroom control.
Here are some tips for structuring your classroom:
- Situate independent learning stations far from play & leisure areas and group instruction areas to cut down on distraction
- Clearly delineate space using classroom furniture like bookcases and desks, using colored tape, or using area rugs.
- Try situating your 1:1 teaching stations next to your independent station so you can easily monitor students during independent work while you are teaching
- In independent work stations, provide students schedules and instructions and ensure that materials are organized in clearly labeled boxes so that students know exactly what is expected of them when working independently
- Make all spaces age appropriate. If you are working with older students, for instance, you may want to have bean bags instead of pillows in your leisure area
- Repurpose spaces. If you have limited space, have your leisure area double as a social skills space
- Be sure to have a transition area clearly delineated. You can do things like use yellow tape where you want students to line up, or place footsteps in front of student schedules so they know exactly where to go and where to stand when it is time to transition
Use Visual Supports to build independence and increase understanding of learning and behavioral expectations.
When setting up the individual sections of your classroom, consider how visual supports can help students build independence and communicate clearly to students what the expectations are for each section of the room. Some types of visual supports you may consider are daily schedules, visual instructions, and reinforcement schedules.
- Daily Schedules: Daily schedules can come in many different shapes and sizes and can be used classroom wide and for individual students. You can create schedules using objects, like color-coded boxes or velcro strips, picture schedules with a picture representing each portion of the day or activity, or written schedules with visual cues that indicate current activities. Remember to place schedules where students can easily see and access them, be sure to be diligent in reviewing schedules frequently–several times of day if needed, and always give students a visual way of understanding where they are in the particular schedule.
- Visual Instructions: Visual instructions can be a powerful way of building student independence. When creating visual instructions consider precisely what you want the student to accomplish and how much of it needs to be accomplished. Also ensure that students have a clear way of understanding the progress they are making and what to do after the activity is accomplished. You can create visual instructions for academic tasks, but also for things like how to blow your nose (place picture instructions on the tissue box), how to water plants (with visual indicators next to plants of how much water to put in each), or how to put together a Mr. Potato Head with step by step instructions with pictures of each step. You can place visual instructions throughout the classroom, attach them to a student’s backpack, place them in a folder for the student to bring home, or place them on boxes of materials designated to certain activities.
- Reinforcement Schedules: As students complete activities and tasks in the classroom, you can create individualized reinforcement schedules that help them track their progress on activities throughout the day. Consider creating individualized reinforcement schedules based upon student interests. Does your student like Super Mario or dogs? Create reinforcement schedules that will engage them and keep them motivated. Always consider ways of using visual supports, like pictures of dogs or Super Mario, to make these schedules more engaging.
Watch the Webinar On-Demand
Click here to watch the entire webinar and enhance learning in your classroom.