5 ways to make the most of your classroom
As teachers, we want to use all the resources available to us to allow our pupils to succeed. Scaffolding, manipulatives, models, photos, videos – there are so many resources we use every day, but one of the most powerful tools in allowing pupils to retain information, make progress and develop self-esteem is the classroom itself. Here are some simple ways to make the most of your learning environment:
Change up the seating plan regularly
We all know that it is helpful to create a seating plan early in the year, to avoid disruption and maximise concentration levels. You may think that you know those pupils who won’t work well together, and that sitting children with their friends will not be successful, however you might be surprised at how certain children might unexpectedly bring out the best in each other. Sometimes it is important for a child to be sitting with somebody they feel comfortable with, for example, a shy child who is only happy to speak to their friends and will not get the most out of a lesson if they are worried about sitting next to somebody they don’t know particularly well. At other times, it is beneficial for those children to sit with somebody they don’t usually interact with, to expose them to other ways of thinking. It can also be very useful to have a peer as a ‘role model’: a learner who will stretch and challenge their partner and set a good example. This is great for both parties, as one side gets to be exposed to a deeper level of understanding and the other gets to develop their explanation and communication skills. Overall, the most important thing to remember is that seating plans should be reviewed and adapted regularly to meet the ever-changing needs of the students.
Displaying a student’s work in the classroom can mean so much to the individual. They have something that they can be proud of, and they know that their hard work has been celebrated by the teacher. This is so important to a child’s self-efficacy, especially when there are so many children who will not be getting much validation or attention at home. I used to make an extra effort to display the work of pupils who I knew were struggling with self-esteem issues or going through something at home, knowing that it would most probably make their day. Any opportunity to share achievements and successes in the classroom should be jumped upon, even if it is just putting up a picture that a pupil has drawn for you at home or during break time. Children who feel appreciated and valued will be much more engaged in their learning and have much better aspirations for themselves knowing that somebody believes in them.
Use visual prompts
Pictures and vocabulary on the walls or tables of the classroom are a great way to help all pupils retain and recall information. Sometimes, children just need a little prompt to help them remember something they have previously learnt, or they need some examples of Tier 3 vocabulary to use in their writing. Visual aids can enhance your teaching, by appealing to those visual learners in the class, and they are a useful touchpoint to refer to as the lesson goes on. Graphs, photos and timelines can organise information in a more memorable way and can be an essential tool for those learners who have English as an additional language.
Keep it organised – and enlist helpers
Believe it or not, a tidy, well-organised classroom can make a difference to your pupils’ engagement and progress. If they can access all the necessary tools to support them in their learning, they are much more likely to produce work to the best of their abilities. Children often learn better with hand-on resources, and they should know exactly where to find dictionaries, maths manipulatives, globes etc, so that they aren’t wasting precious lesson time looking for equipment. Take advantage of the pupils’ willingness to help by allocating jobs, so that it doesn’t just fall to you to keep the classroom neat and tidy. You can assign a monitor for pretty much anything in the classroom, and the children enjoy having responsibility for something.
Create a safe space
Ultimately, the classroom should be a safe space for students. Although teachers need their time away from the children, it should be made clear that the door is always open if anybody needs anything. Incorporating a ‘worry box’ where pupils can write notes about their concerns might identify any issues that have arisen. Clear classroom rules, rewards and behaviour systems will also ensure that all pupils feel safe and valued in their learning environment. Teachers and students spend a lot of time at school and, for some of the children, school is a haven from what they might be dealing with at home. The classroom should be a place where they feel comfortable to be themselves and share any concerns that they may have.
About the author
After graduating with a BA in Communications from Bournemouth University, Emma worked in public relations and marketing before deciding to undertake a PGCE at Kingston University and begin her journey as a primary school teacher. Emma taught for 15 years in schools around London and Surrey, in a variety of roles including lead practitioner and assistant headteacher. Emma now works for Eteach as Education Partnerships Coordinator, where she can share her knowledge of the education sector and support those beginning their teaching career.