As you take the time to enjoy these last few days of summer – many of us (myself included) have been feverishly planning ahead for the upcoming school year. Collecting and preparing resources, weaving curriculum expectations with engaging unit plans and brainstorming ‘back-to-school’ activities for the new “brood” of learners, can certainly consume most of your time during the summer break! However, there is another important piece of the back-to-school routine not to be underestimated! And what is that you might be asking? Creating a warm and welcoming classroom environment. Studies show the way in which the physical environment of the classroom is designed, arranged and decorated really does impact how students feel about their classroom.

Get Students Involved!

According to Edutopia, if you want the biggest bang for your buck (in terms of creating a welcoming environment) – take some time during the beginning of the year and encourage your students to participate in co-creating their classrooms together. Students might help with deciding how the desks will be arranged or they might participate in creating wall hangings, anchor charts or other meaningful artwork displays for the walls. Many studies have shown that the more involved students are in the design and layout of the classroom, the more they see themselves as valued classroom members – often leading to increased academic achievement and a sense of pride and belonging in the classroom.

Here are a few ways in which you can encourage greater student participation in classroom design:

      Classroom Labels: Encourage your students to participate in decorating the classroom by creating labels for various items in the room (i.e. classroom supply labels or important zones in the room such as ‘library nook’ or ‘marvellous math centre’)
      Choose your Classroom Colors: As a class, you could encourage students to vote for their favorite classroom colors scheme. Select colors which represent your beliefs, values or interests as a classroom community. Once you have decided on your ‘team’ colors, go ahead and dive in – don’t be afraid to use the colors throughout the classroom (on bulletin board backdrops, anchor charts, or banners, etc…)
      Back-to-school Activity: This might include collaborating on classroom rules or expectations. Involve students in brainstorming a list of agreeable rules to adhere to and encourage students to decorate it!

If you’re as keen as I am to boost the likelihood that students will succeed in your class, it is paramount that you nurture and create a positive learning environments with the help of student input. Involving students in the process of planning, arranging and decorating the learning environment can certainly increase the feeling of classroom community and give the students a sense of empowerment.

Desks, desks, desks…..

Now that you have decided on how you’re going to get students involved in co-creating a learning space that celebrates the contributions of all its members, it’s time to plan on desk arrangement. Deciding on where to place the seating arrangement is a decision based upon two converging points of view: your instructional style and meeting the needs of your students. “Is your instructional approach more teacher-centered”?, “Do you prefer group work?” Or maybe “You prefer a combination of both teacher-centered and student-centered learning opportunities” The following provides a quick run-down of matching instructional styles with seating arrangement.

The Importance of Color in the Classroom

Color has the ability to inspire, excite, soothe, heal and even agitate. This is particularly true for students who can be extra sensitive to the impact color has on their learning. So the importance of picking out just the right color scheme for creating a warm and inviting learning space shouldn’t be underestimated! I highly recommend using the following colors in your classroom to create a sense of balanced harmony, warmth and a sense of belonging:

Blue – Having the opposite effects of red, blue decreases feelings of anxiety and aggression and lowers blood pressure and heart rates. Students who experience tantrums or other behavioral challenges may appreciate the soothing effects of a blue room. Also, research points to the impact of blue on increasing; productivity, tranquility and serenity.

Green – This calming, natural color has a soothing impact. Green stimulate creativity, relieves stress and promotes healing. Scientists have also found that green may improve students reading speed and comprehension. There is no need to keep this anxiety-reducing color to a minimum.

Orange – Largely underused, orange is perhaps one of the most misunderstood color in the color wheel. This warm, friendly and youthful color is actually great for students since it’s said to encourage confidence, extroversion and independence. The social nature of this color also puts students and their feelings at ease, inspiring communication and cooperation.

Warm Colors – Warm colors inspire happiness, coziness and comfort in most people. They can also make large, open space feel more intimate for learning. Warm color schemes doesn’t limit yourself to using dull browns and tans, but provides a platform for more brighter and more daring shades.

Let’s See If Your Classroom Stacks Up!

Here’s a quick self-assessment to determine if your classroom has what it takes to feel warm and inviting: ask yourself these questions:

“Does the classroom offer a warm and inviting environment?”

“Are all areas in the classroom (I.e. learning centers, independent work areas, whole group areas) accessible to all types of learners?”

“Are the walls bleak and lacking some color or are they bright and cheerful?”

“If there are classroom decorations, do they help to make the students feel comfortable?”

“Are all areas well defined as to their design and purpose?”

“Are your classroom walls meaningful and interactive?”

If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, than your well on your way in creating a nurturing learning environment for your students!

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