A well-designed learning room should foster a sense of purpose. Contrary to belief, classrooms should not necessarily be quiet and calm places – some of the most exciting learning takes place in loud and dynamic environments. That said, a sense of purpose and shared community should always be established. The ease and ability to calm pupils quickly after a boisterous activity is also important.
Particular colours and textures, limited display, neat shelves and organised storage areas can be used together to create an orderly, organised and welcoming space that allows for noise but is also effective in establishing focus and motivation.
It is becoming better known that pupils can be over stimulated when every area of the classroom walls are covered in endless posters, key words, objectives, times tables, grammar rules, behaviour rules, expectations, class codes. At best, pupils quickly ‘turn off’ and no longer notice this visual ‘noise’, but at worst, the room looks chaotic and complex and is a distraction to the active learning that should be taking place.
Pupils respond best to a creative but organised environment, and zoned areas of display allow for this. They like their work being presented, and it should be shown at eye level and changed on a regular basis.
Some schools have chosen to eliminate classroom display altogether, and even hide bookshelves behind neutral-coloured doors so that pupils are presented with vast expanses of pale colour, punctuated only by furniture and flooring. While this may seem like a radical approach, the sense of calm created, especially in schools where some pupils have exhibited high levels of anti-social behaviour, has been a revelation. Flooring material can also be used to create a positive ambience in the learning environment, as well as providing cues to pupils about the type of learning activity appropriate to different areas of the classroom.
Whilst vinyl floors are important in primary classrooms to allow for a range of messy or wet activities, it is recognised that carpeted areas produce a different feel, especially helping with the acoustics of the room. Many schools now like the majority of classroom flooring to be carpeted. Other schools are using a combination of vinyl and carpet to create learning zones. A carpeted area can encourage quiet activity, especially if pupils are encouraged to take off their shoes and relax with the feel of fabric underfoot.
A carefully thought out storage strategy is also crucial to establishing a positive ambience in your learning room. New pupil storage solutions are required to foster the more independent learning that allows a classroom to run smoothly, and learning that can carry on uninterrupted. The most effective approach is for pupils to have access to resources as and when they need them.
Gratnells Learning Rooms philosophy suggests that all equipment required for the activity or task at hand is best located where pupils are going to be working. In many classrooms, pupils who need a piece of paper or pencil have to put their hand up, wait until the teacher spots them, and ask permission to go to the cupboard or shelf and get what they need. This takes time and is distracting for everyone.
To solve this, resources should be stored close to where pupils will need them. For example, two pupils could share a set of trays located directly next to their tables, containing their book bags, books, pens and paper. This gives them instant access to equipment as and when it’s needed; it also encourages them to take responsibility for their own equipment. If moving desks for other activities, the trays can simply be moved along to a new destination with minimum disruption.