August 21, 2019

6 Strategies for an Inviting Classroom

While structure and the feeling of a serious learning environment are important, an inviting classroom where students feel secure and welcome is also critical to achieving inclusion for all students. Here are six different strategies for increasing the comfort factor of your classroom.

Lighting.

Yes, you’re going to have the traditional florescent ceiling lights no matter what you do. And yes, they are necessary for consistent illumination of class-wide seat work. But for those special little areas where you gather for story time, small group work, center activities or that special reading niche the students love to go to after they finish assignments, a task light creates not only some extra direct lighting for the task at hand, but some groovy atmosphere as well.

Special seating.

A couch, rocker, hammock, floor cushions, bean bags and stuffed back rests all create a special atmosphere for students of all ages. I’ve seen high school kids get as excited about couch time as primary and intermediate level students. You can still require them to have something to work on in those spots, but make them a special situation. A reward for good behavior, allowable only after completed assignments, or for center time only are all examples of how you can work in special seating in an academically appropriate way.

A therapy animal.

Generally, this is some sort of smaller class pet like a fish in a tank, a rabbit or even a ferret. However, this can turn into a maintenance issue for the teacher, and a logistical issue for room parents as well during school vacations. If you and your room parents are up for that, fine. But if you have a progressive school district and the money to put into some serious formal training of your own personal pet, consider a therapy dog. This requires that as a teacher you want to own your own dog, and have an interest in providing your dog with opportunities both in the classroom and local hospital wards. Personally, I’ve had to provide a successful inclusion experience for a fairly diverse group of students over the years and happen to believe the counselor’s office isn’t the only appropriate place for a therapy animal. Children really do relax when there’s an animal in the room. Reading to a pet is an excellent ESL or special needs education strategy, as I’ve touched on previously.

Snack tins.

These work great for crackers or the occasional candy treat. They are air tight and keep the bugs out in tropical or desert environments. It’s also nice to have a whole grain backup for the kiddos who forget snacks. For some kids, that’s what helps keep the stomach growlies at bay until they get free lunch later in the day. It’s an affordable strategy to implement, and often one your PTA can support you with. Or, if your parents are open to it, add crackers to your classroom restock list.

Unified storage.

One or two cabinets with lockable doors is probably a necessity, especially if you are teaching in a school that is routinely used as a storage shelter or have students with extra special needs where boundaries are concerned. They don’t have to look cold and uninviting. In fact, a coordinating couple of shelved cabinets can signify a place where all the special treasures are kept. It also keeps things visually simple and grounded for autistic or easily distracted children. For any open shelving storage, consider going with matching baskets, clear containers or mesh metal bins to provide a coordinated, organized look. If you can’t do it, then you can’t do it. But if classroom budget and PTA support permit, I encourage you to give it a whirl. Many children are easily distracted by what they perceive as too many options, especially if they haven’t been raised with a great deal of structure on the home front. Having an organized room helps them get into the groove academically.

An idea wall.

You could do this in a number of ways, but one of the coolest and most affordable ways I can think of is by using Idea Paint. The cost is much less than larger white boards, and having a large block of open writing space that’s only for creative brainstorming session that can’t fit on the board is fantastic. I think this is a fantastic way to provide structured learning yet set a subtle backdrop that promotes out of the box thinking. Walking the line between classroom creativity and guided instruction can be tough, especially where the inclusion of special needs students is concerned.

These are my top six picks for affordable classroom setup, something I consider a critical and integral component of successful classroom management. Other management articles here at LessonMag.Com include Four Hot Tips for a Smooth Running Classrom, Reviews that Rock, Twenty-five Ways to Say Good Job, Learning Centers for Less, Classroom Management Hacks and Low Cost / No Cost Student Rewards. Do you have a unique suggestion for setting up an inviting classroom that promotes creativity as well as structure and academics? How do you allow for the inclusion of students with any type of need?

Photo Credit: Liz Marie

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