Creating a Stimulating Learning Environment

We all have our favourite places in the home where we like to read or chat and they’re usually different depending on what we’re doing. It’s the same for students in the classroom, they might benefit from reading in one area of the classroom but doing written work in another. As the classroom environment has a huge impact on the learning experience of the students ~ careful decisions have to be made about the colours used, the furniture layout, the type of lighting used and even the display work used, so start with colours……
Classroom Colours Make a Difference by Linda Smith

The Psychology of Colour ~ Numerous studies have been conducted over the years on the effects of colour on a person’s psychology and physiology, and researchers agree that colour definitely has both a mental and physical impact on a person. Certain colours tend to be more soothing, while others are considered stimulating. When applying this knowledge to the classroom, one can see how critical it is to ensure that the classroom is designed to achieve maximum results when trying to encourage children to learn.

In general, colours on the warm side of the scale (reds, oranges, and yellows) tend to be more stimulating. The use of these colours in the classroom has the effect of exciting children and increasing their brain activity. This is okay if the goal is to teach children a new concept or draw their attention to specific pieces of information; however, it may not be appropriate in the reading area.

Colours on the cool side of the colour scale (blues, violets, greens) are great for relaxation. They’re soothing and can even slow heart rate down. Shades of blue are great for the reading area, where students need to focus on the book in their hands, and not on what’s going on around them. The color green stimulates creative thinking and is a good choice for the art room or creative writing area.

Colour in the Classroom ~ Other guidelines for the use of colour in an educational environment include the following from the book, “Colour, Environment, and Human Response” by Frank H. Mahnke:

Warm, bright colors are recommended for preschool and elementary school classrooms because they complement the students’ extroverted nature.

Cool colors are recommended for middle school and high school classrooms because of their ability to relax and focus concentration.

Pale or light green is a good choice for libraries because these colors enhance quietness and concentration.

Apart from colours … lighting, sound and the layout of the classroom is just as important as the colours you choose to use. When thinking about the design layout of the furniture, it’s important to ensure that students are able to see the board and won’t be sat awkwardly when you want them to look at something at the front. Weigh this carefully against the need for students to be able to communicate effectively and engage with other students, layouts which include grouping tables together in small clusters is one way to do this, horse-shoe shaped layouts also work much better than rows! Think about the school day ~ when should you change the lighting in the room to facilitate learning? Making sure that the changing position of the sun during the day doesn’t impact on students’ ability to see the board by being prepared to reposition seats in the afternoon or simply close the blinds….

Use the Classroom Architect software to plan your classroom before shifting the desks.

SEN Students – what works for them? ~ The classroom should have a minimum of distracting sensory stimulation, which can cause sensory overload and meltdowns in some special needs children. Use soft lighting, and make sure the room is free of clutter or visual distractions such as crowded or bright posters. Create open paths in the classroom so that children can follow them to their desks and storage areas. If there are outside distractions such as noise in the playground, then make sure the blinds are drawn or the windows are closed, by removing the issues, you can direction the focus of the students to the learning tasks prepared.

What about display work?

Students of all ages love to see their work on display, it can bring a classroom to life, as well as being a great opportunity to demonstrate what ‘best practice’ looks like for other students. Good display work can be informative for students and inspirational, giving students a platform for their ideas to start and develop. My top tips would be:

  1. Make sure display work is of good quality, think carefully about the layout of the work before you start to attach it to the walls ~ be creative in the materials you use and how you display the work; it could be hung from the ceiling, what about using the windows if they are ‘dead space’ or even attach the displays to roller blinds so that in the afternoon when you close the blinds different displays appear
  2. Make it relevant; ensure that the work either displays ‘best practice’, is current and up-to-date ~ students can feel cheated if they find out that the work belongs to students who you no longer teach, no matter how good it is
  3. Supplement student work with relevant posters, exam criteria information, etc ~ a good way of doing this is to section off areas around the room for specific displays (e.g. Key Stage 3, Revision Tips, etc) this way students will always know where to look
  4. Remember that displays can be 3-D, I’ve seen models of animal & plant cells made by students and displayed on shelves in a classroom and with the right labelling and positioning they can look fabulous
  5. Be prepared to think outside of the box too ~ if you have taken photos of some classwork, why not display them on a wall using a projector, or use them as a screen saver on your pc?

Setting the scene…..

Imagine your classroom as a film set. Everything is set up for maximum impact and everything has a purpose. You can even go and sit down as a student and consider your class from a different perspective.
How orderly is it?
Does everything have a place?
Are books in line or dishevelled?
Can you make the room more tidy, balanced and purposeful to help focus minds?
Creating order on the outside helps create order on the inside. It’s like coming home to a tidy rather than a messy home.                                                                                 Want to inject some freshness into the learning space? by Richard Churches and Rogert Terry For the full article ~ Click Here

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