Every teacher can probably relate. You get hired in your district, go through the onboarding process, and the first question that crosses your mind is, “When can I get into my classroom?”
Setting up a classroom for the new school year is one of the fun and exciting parts of being a teacher. It’s a fresh start year after year, and you get to make your classroom your own. Personally, I don’t even start school for another three weeks, and I’ve been in about three times already to organize and set up a few things.
I’ve always known that the environment and feel of a classroom plays an important role in not only my day, but my students’ day. However, what I didn’t know was the science behind classroom environment… until now. Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, and Kobbacy state that “classroom design could be attributed to a 25% impact, positive or negative, on a student’s progress over the course of an academic year” (2013). Classroom design is something that should not be taken lightly, because it really does make an impact on our students.
One of our tasks this week was to redesign our ideal classroom environment based off of what we’ve read from The Third Teacher+. If you have never heard of The Third Teacher+ (which I hadn’t before this week), I would highly recommend checking it out before you head in to set up your classroom for this new school year because I can’t even begin to explain how inspired I am!
As I was doing some reading on classroom designs this week, I learned so much about the WHY behind your environmental design. Your classroom shouldn’t be just a classroom, but a learning experience. There are a few factors to keep in mind when creating your learning environment. “Six of the design parameters–color, choice, complexity, flexibility, connection, and light–had a significant effect on learning” (Barrett et al., 2013).
As I designed my ideal space, my main goal was to create a place that was student-centered. I thought a lot about the set up of the tables and chairs in order to create a space that encourages collaboration, discussion, and community. I wanted to be sure that students were able to sit together, but that the set up could be moved quickly and easily when needed. It is important that “the teacher can easily change the space configuration” (Barrett et al., 2013). With this thought in mind, I decided to use round tables on wheels, and office chairs that are on wheels for students to easily move and swivel in.
In my actual classroom, I am fortunate enough to have two large windows that let in a lot of natural light. I personally love having the blinds open and letting the sun shine in. As an adult, it makes my mood better and I feel that the natural light makes the space feel better.
For students, there are some definite effects on their learning when the natural light is shining in. Barrett, Zhang, Moffat and Kobbacy found in their study the importance that the “classroom receives natural light from more than one orientation. And (or) natural light can penetrate into the south windows” (2013). Knowing this, I created large windows in my ideal space that would allow for a lot of natural light to come in. I also added some pillows and cushions to the window ledges to allow for some flexible seating that students can use to read and complete classwork.
As a primary teacher, it can be easy to get a bit carried away at times with creating things that are cute and colorful. I love fun colors, and I quickly realized how much of a role color can play in a learning environment. “Complexity and color both have to do with providing an ample amount of visual stimulation for students in the classroom” (Barrett et al., 2013).
Too many colors can easily overstimulate a child, so the experts state that “warm colour is welcomed in senior grade’s classrooms while cool colour in junior grades, as long as it is bright” (Barrett et al., 2013). I took this idea and ran with it. In my ideal classroom, I decided to use a bright blue color on two of the walls. I thought that the blue would be a nice, cool color, but that the brightness of the blue would be good for my 2nd grade minds.
When creating this ideal space, I wanted it to feel less like a typical classroom, and more like a cozy learning space. I am a firm believer that students spend more time in their week at school than they do at their homes, so I want to make a space that they can productively learn and feel comfortable in. Although dreaming up my ideal space was fun, the excitement is spilling out of me as I think about all of the ideas I’m going to actually do. The mindfulness is real.
Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016