Tips to designing a great classroom

Here are a few tips and ideas to design a great classroom.

The ideas are from my 2nd grade classroom but some ideas I got from Ashley Marquez on the eHow website and Montie W. Stone on the Kids Enabled website.

Books I also recommend James Sutton’s book: 101 Ways to Make Your Classroom Special: Creating a Place Where Significance, Teamwork, and Spontaneity Can Sprout and Flourish. I also used some ideas from Michelle Bonus’s book: Creative classroom ideas.

A part of my final project @ the University of Iceland was designing a book for teachers on tips and tricks in the classroom, which I will use a bit from here as well.

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Kids are curious, inquisitive and learn a lot by exploring their environment. Because of these reasons, the ideal classroom should be colorful, engaging and provide opportunities for the children to interact with one another while absorbing new information. Elementary classrooms have to serve so many functions and subjects that it can be difficult to figure out how to make everything work together. While experienced teachers likely have design preferences for their classrooms, new teachers can follow these tips to create a fun space for learning that will appeal to all types of learners.

I personally change my classroom around up to 3 times a day, depending on the project we’re doing. We can have them working together 2 and 2 on a project in the first two periods but then have to be able to roam around and work on the floor  in large groups or by themselves for the next two periods. In the last session they might be working in groups of four in the last 2 periods. This takes time and planning to do and I feel it’s best to this before the kids enter the classroom. Sometimes the kids help out arranging the classroom and that’s always good.

Lighting, color, music, visually appealing walls, separate areas for various activities, opportunity for movement and flexibility in the room all work together to create a classroom most conducive to learning! Combine these elements with classroom teachers who are excited about what they’re teaching, and you have a learning environment that nurtures the whole child – socially, emotionally and academically.

Ursula Daniels reminds us that “teaching is not about the four walls. You have to think about how to use other spaces available to you. Wherever our students need to learn and grow, we need to be able to go there.” This philosophy can also be applied as “however” our kids learn. We need to be willing, as teachers and parents, to “go there” and acknowledge and respect how they learn. Not only will the student experience greater success, so will the teacher!

While perfection is not possible in an imperfect world, there are many accommodations that make learning more fun and less difficult for children with learning differences.

Lighten up!
Even simple adjustments can enhance a learning environment. Peggy Price, an educator at Coralwood School in DeKalb County, says it plainly, “It’s the little things.” Many classroom teachers start with changing the lighting from glaring, fluorescent lights to table or floor lamps and natural sunlight from the windows. Since lighting can influence both mood and performance, many teachers strive to create both well-lit and dimly lit areas to allow for different stimulation levels of their students.

Similarly, color choice has been shown to influence attitudes, behavior and learning. It has even been found that color affects attention span and sense of time. Educational planner Kathie Engelbrecht insists that, “Color is important and it can have benefits for the classroom…The mental stimulation passively received by the color…helps the student and teacher stay focused.” Younger kids are stimulated by bright colors while older students respond better to blue and green since those colors are less stimulating. Knowing that color does make a difference helps teachers make informed decisions about how to decorate the classroom.

I have a few ideas from my 2nd grade classroom @ Árskóli Elementary school in Sauðárkrókur, Iceland

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The main thing in my mind is to have it comfortable, fun and I want the classroom to have a “home” feel to it. I want the classroom to say that you are welcome here. I also use candles, lamps, bookshelves, the kids bring pillows from home to name a few things. I would love to paint the classroom but if you can’t do that you can always put up posters or window curtains in fitting colors to the mood you want to create.

The Colors of the Classroom

Pale yellow/almond
• Best colors for not irritating anyone
• Good general color for school hallways

Light pink/rose
• Very soothing
• Suitable for a room where the activity is high

Green
• Creativity…is inspired by the color green
• Green is a great color for an art room
• An excellent choice for a creative writing center

Blue
• The color of academics
• Best color for a science or math room
• Light blue is a good overall classroom color…
it is calming

Orange, yellow and red
• Bright yellow excites the brain and body
• The color orange seems to agitate

Source: Color and Learning: How does Color Affect
Our Thinking and Feeling? by Barbara Pytel.

Can’t wait to show you my 3rd grade classroom for next year!

Hope this helps.

Ingvi Hrannar

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