Blog entry by James Adams
As adults, we make choices daily. We choose where to eat, where to sit at the table, what to order, how much to eat, what to watch or not to watch on TV, what time to go to bed and much more. As teachers, we want our students to be decisive - but what choice do we really allow students to make?
Consider classroom space, for example. By creating a friendly environment for the students' brains, you also address many other compatible elements between the brain and the body, such as allowing a safe space for reflective thinking, movement around the room, student choice, and ease of collaboration. Therefore, it is imperative never to ignore the impact of your learning space - nor to ignore how students should be involved in this process.
A good friend of mine always reminds me that we are not creating a class of second graders, but, in fact, we are creating future adults. She says, "If they're old enough to do this alone, they shouldn't just be allowed to, but expect them to do it." This pearl of wisdom also aligns with the research that Susan J. Kovalik and Karen D. Olsen did on the impact on the growth of responsible citizens. Its “Integrated Thematic Model” focuses on ten elements of curriculum development and instruction compatible with the body's brain. These ten elements (listed on the right) shaped the way I approach teaching and learning in our classroom - and for this article, I chose to focus on the "Enriched Environment" element on this list.
Throughout my research and fieldwork in the industry, some of the most beneficial ways to start the steps towards an enriched and brain-friendly classroom environment are as follows.
1. Layout and use of space: when designing any space, you should first look at the available square footage and think about the best way to maximize that area. For example, our space was long and narrow, with a strange half wall that blocked part of our open space. Therefore, a breakfast nook made sense to allow corner seating and storage (inside the seat and under the bench).
2. Furniture choices: deciding which furniture options will best accommodate the space is critical. Because it is important to have the maximum space on the floor, it is also essential to have ample seats available. Students need comfortable options, but they also need choice, so keep in mind that not all seats need to be uniform in one space. Children will have different preferences.
3. Color selections: Avoiding bright colors and busy patterns is one of the greatest ways to start transforming your space into a brain-friendly environment. Research shows that more monochromatic and smoother color schemes work best. In addition, fewer standards are critical in an effort to avoid distraction and confusion from students.
4. Lighting: the ideal is to allow natural light to be the main source of light. However, if this is not an option, bringing incandescent lighting is preferable to strong fluorescent lighting. Lamps can heat a space and provide better light for wow essays learning than bright lights.
5. Nature: Adding plants to space not only warms up the environment and adds oxygen, but also gives students the opportunity for authentic classwork - how to care for plants and flowers instead of the usual classwork.
6. Printing and environmental design: lower all posters on the walls so that they are at eye level with the student, specifically if the material is a learning resource. Also, avoid any laminates that may create a reflection - this makes information difficult to see. Finally, it is important to keep the environmental impressions displayed on the walls to a minimum. Avoid distracting walls - less is more. When we have the same anchor graphics affixed to our walls, they tend to become permanent wallpaper.
7. Organization of materials: The first step towards disorganization is to maintain our space as a workshop for students - and not as a warehouse for teaching materials. Hiding materials behind cabinets and curtains prevent clutter from becoming a monstrosity and distraction. Having an organized space for student materials is also important.