Quick & easy ways to make your classroom a more positive learning environment
30th April 2018
A positive learning environment where active learning can thrive is every teacher’s ideal scenario. The best classrooms have a kind, supportive and encouraging atmosphere while at the same time setting clear rules and boundaries to control or prevent unwanted behaviour.
How can you do this on a tight school budget? Take a look at these ideas to get you started:
How to get students more engaged in the classroom
Create peer support groups
If you feel that you are struggling to connect with a student, a peer might be able to understand their fellow student’s thought process more easily. The students may also feel more relaxed talking to a peer.
You can create peer support groups in pairs of similar ability, allowing them to mark each others work and provide supporting feedback.
Encourage students not to fear mistakes
By creating a risk and reward scheme you can encourage a more positive learning environment. You can reward those students who are brave enough to tackle a difficult question, even when they are wrong.
You can reward them by sticking their name on an achievement board, or awarding them with a pin badge to wear on their blazer or school bag.
When you award students that are willing to go out on a limb in front of the class, you are encouraging those who might usually keep quiet for fear of failure to speak up and have a go.
Involve students in the design of their classroom
You’re sure to want everything to look clean, new and inviting as the students enter the classroom. There is an effective way to do this without having to stretch your school budget.
By involving your students in the design and look of the classroom you not only save time and money but you also add to student engagement. After all, the classroom is for the students. Split the classroom into groups and assign them each a classroom wall or area to design and fill with their own work.
You can turn it into a competition with a vote for the best display, awarding the winning team an achievement trophy to encourage them to take pride in their work.
Assign student jobs in the classroom
Another way of encouraging student engagement and adding to a positive learning environment is to assign each student a job in the classroom, such as:
Taking the register to the school office
Calling out the register for older students
Handing out papers
Sweeping the floor at the end of the day
Wiping surfaces clean
Tidying boxes, drawers and cupboards
You can also get students to take it in turns to teach a lesson for 5 minutes to test their knowledge and increase learning, as well as allowing others to hear a different perspective and voice.
Allow your students a level of control
Another great way of getting students to be more engaged in the classroom is to share some control with them, for example, allowing them to vote with a show of hands for the next activity. If they make a choice, they are more likely to be motivated and concentrate, thereby adding to your positive learning environment.
What environment do students learn best in?
Consider anything that might be distracting your students
You will only have a limited school budget over resources and the actual classroom structure, but there is still a lot you can do to create a more positive learning environment.
The classroom environment makes a big impact on the students’ ability to concentrate. Lighting plays a big part in the atmosphere of a room. Too dim and students can feel lethargic, but if the light is too bright then students might feel on edge or self-conscious.
Keep the main classroom lighting bright so that students don’t strain their eyes when working, but place a softly lit table lamp in a reading corner to make it look more inviting. If possible, get as much natural light into the classroom as possible, in any season. Make sure that all blinds are rolled up unless the sunlight is bright, as this can make it hard for students to see and concentrate.
Excess noise can lead to distraction, so you could use throws and rugs in the classroom to decrease the noise levels.
Establish some class rules with the students’ help
Students are more likely to follow rules if they have helped design them. Think about some positive rules to talk about with the students, such as:
Speak kindly to one another
Make sure that everyone is included and no one feels alone
Don’t laugh at someone
No name calling
Offer help to anyone who is struggling
Display the rules on a classroom wall and ask everyone to sign the bottom to involve everyone in commiting to them.
Look at changing the classroom layout
Envisage a typical classroom and you might automatically think of a traditional layout with every desk facing the front - especially for older students. However, research has found that if the classroom has no ‘front’ with the teacher instructing from the centre when needed, the students are more engaged and take a more active, independent role in learning.
Set aside a basket for personal needs
Things such as runny noses or chapped lips and sore throats can distract students away from learning. If you have a basket where students can put tissues and lip salves they can then put up their hand to go to the basket to use an item if needed.
This will prevent trips to the toilet to get tissues or rummaging around their bag during a lesson. You can have an emergency supply of plasters, tissues and creams as well for students who might otherwise ask to see the school nurse.
Ask students’ parents to visit
You may have some parents who have interesting professions. You can ask them to come and speak to the students to encourage them.
This will inspire students to work hard at school in order to do a job they enjoy in future. Having a variety of dynamic speakers will also add to a positive learning environment.