The classroom environment can both support and enrich the learning of all children so I thought I would share my thoughts on an area that I am incredibly passionate about. All the photos in this post are of the same classroom (as I have been in there since 2019) but hopefully you can see that even if you are in the same space, you can make it look different and inviting.
The Second Teacher
It is so important that classrooms are vibrant and welcoming, but it is equally important to remember that they are a learning resource. In a sense, they can be considered ‘the second teacher’. If they are used well they can:
build the class community;
create a sense of ownership;
support and promote learning;
celebrate children’s work.
With careful thought and planning, an effective classroom environment can be used as an interactive resource to support teaching, learning and assessment. A well-organised and stimulating environment can have a direct impact on the quality of teaching and learning and enable children to develop independence as learners.
Inclusive and independent
Ideally, classrooms need to be set up to ensure that children can access the equipment they need independently. This is what happens in Early Years, but can drop off as they move through the year groups. Classrooms should also support the children’s current learning and make the day run smoothly, even when the class teacher is not there.
Has your classroom got?
Labels on resources using colours and picture cues, written in a dyslexic friendly font and ideally on buff paper as this is easier to read from than white paper?
A visual timetable that is updated daily and discussed with children?
Clean surfaces and is it clutter free?
A reading corner that truly celebrates reading?
Interactive displays with key questions?
Important information clearly displayed such as school values, classroom helpers, talk partners etc.?
The better your classroom is set up, the easier it is for the children and other adults to navigate. To create independent learners, children must be able to find resources quickly and easily. A well sign-posted room helps children to feel confident and safe in their new classroom. Children who have dyslexia, are EAL or who find it difficult to read are helped by visual clues so keep using these even in Upper Key Stage 2.
Some children (and adults) suffer from sensory processing difficulties, this can mean that busy and cluttered classrooms are distracting. When the classroom is orderly and not cluttered, pupils can make sense of their environment. That being the case, try and keep displays on display boards and where possible walls, windows and doors should be free from display.
Hanging things from the ceiling can cause sensory overload for some children and adults so try to avoid this if you possibly can. Creating designated areas, allows children with sensory processing difficulties to know where things are and develop their independence.
Keep it Fresh
Keeping your classroom fresh and updated, linked to the current learning means that the classroom will act as a second teacher as the children will be paying attention to it. In my first classroom, I had so much on the wall that:
It was impossible to quickly change,
It became wallpaper to the children.
Keeping things fresh means that children remain interested.
As I said earlier, I have been in the same classroom for three years now and in the midst of shielding in 2021, I felt the urge to co-ordinate my room and make it more thematic. Historically, I had always based themes on the topics I was teaching but I became inspired by a planner - bizarre I know and decided that I was going to base my classroom design on that.
I bought the planner I had fallen in love with from The Positive Teacher Company and discovered that I could order display packs that matched from there too. I went all out with orange display paper and lilies everywhere. I don't know how many times I changed the displays over the course of the year but I had so much fun doing it and more importantly, the children loved it.
This year, I decided to do the same thing and went back to The Positive Teacher Company - the fact that they have design packs that I can order makes everything so much easier. I have gone with a darker theme this year and have moved from lilies to hot air balloons.
I like bunting around the classroom and it is easily editable in the display pack, as are the drawer and toolbox labels. I went with a turquoise and navy backing paper and cut out bronze stars similar to those on the planner cover. Needless to say, I loved every moment of the design and creation process.
Here is the classroom as it is now but If you look closely you will see that I have already changed one of the displays.
So, there you have it, my love of displays and learning environments. Now, I know that there are many teachers out there who truly don't share this love but for those of you who do and want to share your ideas, I have a padlet. Add your environments to it and please let me know what inspired you - remember to
add your Twitter-handle or name as the title for your post. I can't wait to see them.
The ‘Tiny Voices Talk’ book is out at the end of October – find out more here.
On the Tiny Voice Talks podcast, I am always chatting to amazing educators so tune in and let me know if you want to come on and chat about learning environments with me!