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As educators, it is our responsibility to create an atmosphere conducive to learning and where students can find a sense of place. There are a variety of things you can do to positively affect learning when it comes to setting up your classroom. As the teacher you are responsible to organize materials, make effective use of storage and handle seating arrangmenets. However, there are also factors which can detract from learning that we have no control over but need to accommodate for.
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Factors we Can Control
Seating & Classroom Layout
It is important to make sure all tables and chairs are in good condition. If classroom furniture is uncomfortable or broken enabling students to wiggle in their seats they will not stay focused. Students should be able to clearly see all visual aids including blackboards, dry erase boards, screens, presentations and displays from where they sit. Seating should also be arranged so that the teacher can move easily among students to monitor their work and behavior. Placing students in small groups can provide an opportunity for them to become more actively engaged in learning. This makes it possible for the teacher to introduce new skills or steps suited to a particular group. These students may move ahead rather than being held back while the rest of the class catches up.
Classroom materials should be organized to ensure students and educators have access to what they need with little time taken away from learning. Teachers must first make sure that materials are safe for classroom use. Toxic properties and age appropriateness must be recognized. Supplies such as scissors, glue, crayons, etc. can be kept in labeled drawers, bins, or canisters. Tubs, shelves, or containers labeled with student names or class to store their work in when it is in progress and trays for turning in work to the teacher help to easily locate and keep items in place. Other ideas: color coordinating by class or activity, alphabetizing, and arrangement of supplies by class schedule.
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Factors we Cannot Control
Classroom set-up and environment are not the only factors, which affect learning. Self-esteem plays a major role in how students perform in school. Children who feel good about themselves tend to have an easier time handling conflict, resisting negative influences and remaing optimistic. It is relatively easy to help foster good self-esteem in students as an educator. One method is to monitor what you say as children are sensitive to words, especially coming from a teacher (or parent). Children need rewards for their effort and completion in addition to the outcome. Ensure that feedback is positive and accurate. Students will be encouraged to make the right decision when their feelings are acknowledged. It is also important to be a positive role model to students. By nurturing your own self-esteem and exuding a positive image, students will try to mirror you and your actions.
Good nutrition promotes health, and healthy children learn better. It is important for children to start their day with a wholesome breakfast which depending on circumstances, doesn't always happen at home. To boost energy in the afternoon, children should eat healthy snacks. However, many common snack foods are high in fat, sugar and sodium. If these foods are consumed frequently, they can affect our health. Foods that contain sugar are unhealthy, and interfere with learning. Too much sugar reduces a child’s ability to concentrate while foods with caffeine like chocolate or pop can be over stimulating and keep children from sitting still or staying on task. If you have the responsibility of providing a snack, some healthy ideas are: raw vegetables and a low-fat dip, fresh fruit cut in slices or halves, non-sugared cereals, snack mixes made with popcorn and whole grain cereal and unsweetened fruit juices.
Another factor which affects learning is sleep deprivation. Children do not feel like listening or learning when they are tired and perform below their learning potential. Frequently, parents try to blame their children’s learning difficulties on educators when in fact their children are simply not getting enough rest.
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What Can a Teacher Do?
As educators, we want to ensure that our students achieve success in our classrooms. While classroom set-up, materials, and visual aids are an important part of the learning process; there are other factors, which attribute to the support or detraction of an effective learning experience that we have no control over. While we do not have power over what parents do at home, as teachers we may have to make accommodations and adaptations for these instances including, keeping snacks in your classroom to energize students and always being a positive role model to promote self-esteem. With out consistent application, teachers will not be able to create a sense of place for their students; A place which needs to exist whether students need a nap or not.