In today’s classrooms, so many other components are just as important as the content that is being taught. Teachers are constantly having to find new ways to reach their students and one of the best ways to do this is through classroom environment. Essentially, we want to have the mindset of turning our classroom into a home for our students. Taking to a step back to look at the whole student and all their needs is crucial to make the best possible way to make this happen for your students.
I don’t know about you, but the last thing that I want is to be stuck inside of a room that feels cold and uninviting. I am constantly making changes within my classroom to make my students feel welcome and a place that they enjoying visiting every day. Not only this, but many of the changes that I have made were done to specifically meet the needs of all students. It is very easy to get caught up in a “one-size fits all” mentality, but the truth is, every single student has different needs that truly need to be met in order for them to best learn.
We need to take into account feelings, their mental health, and a sense of belongingness as we lay the foundation of their classroom. In a sense, we want to turn our classroom into a home for our students. We should want a space that they enjoy being a part of and look forward to visiting every day. Over the years I have worked hard to do just that, and while I could always improve, these are some of the changes that I have implemented to create the best possible classroom for my students.
Think back to when you were in school. Did you enjoy sitting in those cold, hard desks? Now think about a cozy coffee shop. The mismatched chairs of various height and different sized tables. Which of those two sounds more appealing? The majority is going to go with the coffee shop vibe. One of the best ways to achieve this is through flexible seating options for your students. In my classroom, I got rid of the desks and lifeless tables and replaced them with actual kitchen tables. An array of chairs surrounds each table, each of which is way more comfortable than a back-breaking desk. Comfort is key and a big component of making a classroom into a home.
To fill in the gaps, high-top tables with barstools surround the room. The tables are all different sizes giving the students the option of sitting with a small group, a large group, or even by themselves. Their truly is something for everyone. While many tables were donated, I purchased some of the tables and stools on Walmart. This was a convenient, affordable way to get more options delivered straight to my door. By far, the best purchase seating wise has been the foldable, high-top tables. They add depth to my classroom, can conveniently be moved and stored, and were a great price-point.
Another thing to consider when creating the best classroom environment for your students is lighting. Think back to that cozy coffee shop. Does a blinding, fluorescent light fill the room or is it warm, cozy light that fills the area thanks to lamps and light filters? That cozy light is the clear winner and I have tried to implement that is much as possible.
Various lamps surround my classroom allowing me to dim the lights whenever possible. Christmas lights surround the room for another cozy touch and a string of porch lights cover my board so all the important notes are easy to see. While the overhead lights are sometimes necessary for activities, light filters cover many of the fluorescent panels to offer a softer atmosphere in the room.
Scent is a powerful sense. It can bring back memories, heighten emotions, and provide a calming vibe. Another great way to improve the classroom environment is with the use of scents. A wax warmer or wall plug-in can make a huge difference in the overall atmosphere of a classroom. After being filled with students all day, a classroom can also start to smell “funky.”
By introducing scents into your classroom, students can feel welcome and calm. With the right scents, they can feel a sense of belonging and enjoy their time in your classroom. One of the most noticeable things about being at home versus when you are at school is often times a scent. Taking this into account, this is an easy option to make your classroom feel more like a home.
All About the Decor
When we are decorating our homes, we think about every element. We add rugs to soften the floor and bring in a pop of color. Walls are filled with paintings and artwork that bring us joy. Shelves are covered with photos of the people that we love. Nature is also brought into our home with plants and flowers, both real and fake. Taking all of this into consideration, if we want to give our classrooms a home like feel, shouldn’t we be doing the same?
These elements are all great ways to really improve your classroom environment. For me, they are also one of the most fun. With the use of decor, you can really personalize a space. Through these personal touches you can create a classroom that both you and your students enjoy visiting. Thanks to the vast variety of decor options, it is also an affordable way to really take your classroom environment to the next level. In my space I have added it all: wall art, photos, rugs, and plants. It all comes together to bring the class so much joy. These elements are some of my favorite components of my classroom and I know that my students feel the same.
Our Room, Not My Room
The final component of turning a classroom into a home is having the mentality that this is “our classroom” instead of “my classroom.” With that mentality, you are going to think about all the needs of your students. You are going to add things into the classroom environment to make them feel welcome. Every day you should seek out opportunities to give them a voice and put a smile on their face.
Even in my high school classroom I am constantly surprising them with a fun board prompt or a random treat. I recognize the birthday of every student through a small gift and provide stickers for them to decorate their notebooks. I have a bucket of fidgets available when their anxiety overwhelms them or they just need something to do with their hands. My whiteboard becomes a signature component with fun, weekly board prompts they are excited to complete. I truly do think that they enjoy their time in my classroom. They know it is not just mine, it is ours, and that means something. With these things in place, my classroom feels like a home to most students.
The Best Classroom Assistant… Walmart
My classroom environment is constantly evolving and changing to better meet the needs of my students. Because of this, I am beyond grateful for my classroom assistant that has helped to make a lot of this a possibility. That classroom assistant is Walmart. With so many items available that are sold and shipped straight from Walmart, I can update my classroom with just a click of a button. Everything is shipped right to my house which is so convenient with my busy schedule. I have linked many of my favorite essentials below for turning a classroom into a home for students. I hope that you will consider checking them out and adding them into your own classroom environment.
To help your classroom environment even further, be sure to check out my post on Teaching Essentials. These are my must-haves to start off each year!