Creating a Welcoming Classroom Environment
When you get your first teaching job, decorating and arranging your classroom is probably the last thing on your mind. Though a few rungs down the ladder from lesson planning and learning everyone’s names, creating a welcoming (and engaging) classroom environment goes a long way in helping students learn.
In this article, I’ll go over some tried and true advice that new and experienced teachers can use to make their classrooms student-friendly.
Have Personal Touches (But Not Too Many!)
When I started student teaching, one of the first things my mentor teacher did was explain his ‘Superman Corner’. This corner was a big bookshelf with all sorts of Superman memorabilia. He explained that by showing off his nerdiness and passion, it helped him connect better with his students.
Idea #1: Show students that like them, you’re just a person. I’ve seen this expressed all sorts of ways from movie posters to record sleeves. Just don’t make the mistake I did my first year and make personal touches your ENTIRE classroom. After all, a classroom isn’t a dorm room. The material you teach comes first.
Feng Shui Your Classroom for Better Flow
When it comes to designing a classroom’s layout, consider how students will interact with the space. This is especially important if students need to routinely access materials such as books and handouts.
Idea #1: If students know to pick up handouts at the beginning of each class, make sure these handouts are near the door so they can grab what they need as they come in. Having a dedicated space for these materials is a good idea, too. This strategy will avoid ‘traffic jams’ and allow students to get to work as soon as possible.
Another thing to keep in mind is how you organize students’ desks. There are many ways to do this, but one thing not to forget is to leave enough space for your students to maneuver in and out of their desks. This can be especially difficult if you have many students in a small classroom.
Idea #2: If you need to free up floor space for your students’ desks (or other things), consider downsizing your teacher desk. You would be surprised with how little space you actually need.
Display School Spirit in Unique Ways
Teaching at a small alternative high school, I couldn’t put up a ‘go school sports team’ banner. No, I had to get creative with my school spirit. And so can you!
Idea #1: At the end of the year, your school’s art teacher will throw out hundreds of students’ drawings and paintings. Ask him or her if you can display some of the best pieces in your classroom. When students come back in August or September, they know that you’re taking an interest in who they are outside of your class.
Idea #2: Provide something in your class that your school as a whole may lack. As my school did not have a library, I decided to stuff my classroom with used books that students could check out at their leisure. (To be fair, I did steal this idea from the teacher across the hall.) Sure, buying the books and bookcases cost money, but by making this extra effort, I was able to encourage a love of reading in my students.
Keep Distractions to a Minimum
A welcoming classroom is also a classroom where all children can learn. Students with ADHD, for example, can quickly become overstimulated. With that in mind, here are two guidelines that will keep distractions to a minimum:
- Not too many colors.
- Not too many types of objects.
You may find yourself adjusting your classroom throughout the year to accommodate certain students’ needs. This is completely natural.
Creating a welcoming classroom environment isn’t an exact science. Every teacher has their own unique style. To get more ideas, it never hurts to poke your head inside other teachers’ classrooms.
Thomas Broderick lives in Northern California. A former high school English and social studies teacher, he now works as a freelance writer in the education field. You can learn more about Thomas on his website.