For teachers, few things can be as challenging as capturing and keeping students’ attention. At one time, a classroom meant rows of desks, each facing in the same direction, but those days have ended. Today’s students are often situated in groups, where they’re encouraged to work together on projects.
But even as teachers encourage this interaction, they’re often dealing with the distractions that come with leading groups of children. Engagement is essential for the classroom environment, with studies linking it to improved performance and retention. For teachers, this means finding a way to improve engagement without sacrificing camaraderie.
Maximizing student engagement starts with setting up your classroom. Here are a few tips to create a distraction-free learning environment.
Ask students to help
Many teachers set up their classrooms in the weeks prior to the school year starting. This can be a mistake. Your students are your best assets in setting up your new classroom. Arrange the tables and chairs on your own, but enlist your students in planning and decorating other areas of the room. They’ll love being asked to help and they may come up with ideas that hadn’t occurred to you. The best thing about involving students in your room design is that they’ll feel invested in their surroundings. The classroom will be their home away from home, where they come to be surrounded by friends. When students feel comfortable in their surroundings, they’re more likely to focus on learning.
The first step toward minimizing distractions is to take an objective look around. Consider the perspective of each student and look for items that might draw their attention away. Is there a large window that overlooks the playground? If so, you may lose the students who face in that direction every time another class is on recess.As you choose colors for your walls, rugs, and bulletin boards, note shades that are most conducive to learning. According to experts, bright colors like red, emerald green, and sapphire make it difficult for people to concentrate. Instead, make sure the colors that are within the range of vision are more subdued. Save bright colors for your reading and play areas toward the back of your room.
Note whiteboard placement
Whiteboards and bulletin boards are an essential part of learning in almost every classroom. Whether you’re using it to project a presentation or to illustrate important points, it’s important to consider whether every student has a good view. Make sure your whiteboard is mounted at the appropriate height for the age group you’re teaching, as well as ensuring each seat is placed so that students can see the board without straining. In addition to placement, keep in mind obstacles that could inhibit a student’s view. If you have a projector set up, check from each vantage point to make sure it isn’t blocking someone’s view. Glare can also bring huge viewing challenges, since overhead lights can bounce off dry erase boards. If you notice a glare, keep those lights off while you’re using the whiteboard and, if possible, have the lighting adjusted in that part of the room.
Let your personality shine through
If you look around your home, you’ll likely find small touches that showcase your personality. Decorate bulletin boards with bulletin board borders and monthly themes. Purchase small items that suit your decorating tastes or bring items from home. If you’re looking for inspiration, search Pinterest boards. Browse local garage sales and bargain shops throughout the year for small things you can add to spice up your room décor. One area that you can really personalize is your desk, which is designed to be your own space. Decorate with past gifts from students, framed photos of your family, and other personal items. This not only gives you a space of your own, but it also shows your personality. The side of your desk that faces the students can be decorated to display your name.
Your classroom can’t be all business. Make sure students have an area where they can relax and have fun, whether it’s a reading corner or indoor play area. The right setup can encourage socialization and gives students something to look forward to as they get ready for school every morning. As you set up your fun space, keep in mind that children get some of their most important instruction through play. Find ways that you can provide playtime that will both challenge and enlighten them, as well as giving them downtime from the rigors of structured learning.
Determining whether your setup is working should be easy, considering children are generally very open with their body language. Make sure each student is fully engaged by paying close attention to students who seem distracted during class time. Determine whether that distracted behavior could be related to the way the student is seated and adjust as necessary. If you’re open to change, you’ll be able to ensure each of your students has the best possible opportunity to learn.Throughout the year, consider changes you can make as you set up next year’s classroom. Ask your students what they think you could do to make it easier for them to see the whiteboard, pay attention, and stay interested. The feedback you receive each school year will help you consistently find ways to improve your classroom. Each new school year brings an exciting opportunity to create a fun and engaging learning environment. But teachers don’t have to limit classroom design planning to the beginning of the year. By interacting with students and monitoring for distractions, teachers can make small changes throughout the year that create the perfect learning environment.
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