It may not be unknown to most teachers that a safe, clean, comfortable and attractive classroom can stimulate learning and help build classroom community. But for many teachers seem not to be bothered about it. Remaining absence from the class and drop out from the schools are very common phenomenon in rural schools and even in some urban schools. In rural schools it happens due to some social and financial factors where teachers may not have any direct control or influence. In urban areas also it happens because of not having any attraction or excitement in the class. But a teacher can make the most of his/her classroom environment by carefully considering his/her needs and the needs of his/her students. The physical environment of the classroom is a key element in effective classroom management. Though a subject teacher does not have full control over the overall school administration, an individual teacher can contribute a lot to bring some novelties and attractions in his/her class. Really some wonderful ideas are imperative to improve physical arrangement of a class. In order to be the star attraction in the classroom a teacher will need to create a ‘center stage’. Certainly a classroom comes to life with word walls, bulletin boards, and posters but for many students visual stimulants like these are very distracting. A teacher should take time to think about where he/she will be when delivering most of his/her instruction. It is best to create a bland area there so a teacher becomes the brightest star in his/her classroom universe. When these individual efforts to make a classroom attractive can collectively exercise an impression on overall administration of the school and bring a real positive change.
Colourful pictures, posters, drawings and writings of the students can be hung on the walls of the classroom. It will help them own the classroom and an unknown kind of urge to come to the class to their individual works. These creative works will remain in the classroom till a certain time. And then they will be replaced by newer kind of creative materials as the old ones will not hold their attraction for long. Newer posters and drawings mean newer excitement and environment. One class can take minimum two shows a year and if possible three or four. Unfortunately in our classes most of the cases there is nothing except one blackboard. It will never attract the students to come to the class whatever bright students they are. Teachers have full control over the class and such kind of arrangements. He is the monarch in this field. So, he can bring tasteful changes in his class to bring novelty and love for the class.
School compound remains bare or unused. The whole school campus can be turned into a heavenly place by making beautiful flower gardens, vegetable gardens and fruit gardens. The newly established schools in the cities and towns do not have such kind of facilities as schools are housed on one or two floors. But in rural areas still schools are located in the open space offering a serine and suitable environment for teaching and learning. But these beautiful places are not looked after to retain and increase its beauty.
A teacher can help kids stay focused by carefully arranging classroom furniture,. Items don’t have to live where they were dropped off by the custodians. The physical elements in a teacher’s classroom can have a great impact on learning. He can’t change the location of window, doors or boards but keeping window an doors to students, back or at least along the sides can be effective ways to reduce distractions. Teacher’s desk and such operations center should be away from teacher’s center stage in a somewhat less visible location. When the teacher confers with a student or group at his desk while other students are doing seat work or group work, a less visible desk area will minimize distractions. So carefully consider your furniture arrangement and the function of various areas in your classroom.
Seating arrangement in the classroom should be made purposefully. A teacher should not or cannot simply ‘stand and deliver’. Research in best teaching practices shows that for many of today kids don’t respond to the teachers who don’t move in the class. And moving among the students while we are teaching is one of the most effective ways to manage a class. Of course some teachers just lecture and think these are a great job. But no matter how spellbinding we might be, their hidden dynamic that directly relates to the ways students are seated. In the traditional classroom seating arrangement of row of desks, those students in the front row or two are much more involved with your lesson due to your proximity. The middle rows are somewhat involved but to a lesser extent. Those back rows, no matter how much you try to involve them are too far away to have the same feeling of involvement as the front rows.
Change this dynamic by rearranging your seating to include some aisles you can walk through. As you teach waling among the desks, you will give all students the feeing of those front row students as you repose yourself here and there in the classroom. When you begin using this new arrangement, explain to the students what you are doing and why. Tell them you are trying a new arrangement to help you be the most effective teacher possible and you hope it will help them learn as much as possible in your class.
A learning centre is a space set aside in the classroom that allows easy access to a variety of learning materials in an interesting and productive manner. Learning contents are usually designed to offer a variety of materials designs through which students can work by themselves or with others to operation the information learned in the classroom. Centers are designed to enhance the learning of concepts, skills, themes or topics. This learning can take place after a topic is presented to students during the course of presenting important concept or as an initial introduction to material in the text.
Learning centres can have any number of designs each limited only by your creativity and imagination. Feel free to work with your students in creating a center they will want to use. Such shared responsibility assures that students have a sense of ownership in the center and will be more willing to engage in the resultant activities. Education specialists say that there three different types of learning centers: enrichment centre, skill centers and interest and exploratory centers.
Enrichment centers are designed to offer students a variety of learning alternatives as an adjunct to a common unit of instruction. These centers are typically used after the presentation of important materials or concepts and are designed to provide students with opportunities to enrich and enhance their appreciation and understanding of the topics through individual experiences in the center. For example, after you have presented a lesson on the life cycle of plants, you might assign individual students to a center with the following components.
Enrichment centers require you to be aware of your students’ learning styles as well as their knowledge about a topic. The enrichment center can provide individual students with varied activities or combination of activities that differ from those pursued by other students. As such the center becomes an individualized approach to the promotion of the topic.
Skill centers are similar to enrichment centers in that they are used after the initial teaching of a concept or skill. Their differences lie in the fact that students are assigned particular areas in the center as opposed to having free choice of the topics they want to pursue. Thus after introductory instruction on a particular concept has taken place; you can assign students to various parts of the center to help reinforce the information presented. You must be aware of the various skill needs of your students to effectively assign individuals to the areas in the center through which they can strengthen and enhance these skills.
Interest and exploratory centers differ from enrichment and skill development centers in that they are designed to capitalize on the interests of students. They may not necessarily match the content of the textbook or the curriculum. Instead they provide students with hands on experiences they can pursue at their own pace and level of curiosity. These types of centers can be set up through the classroom with students engaging in their own selection of activities during free time upon arrival in the morning as a free choice activity during the day or just prior to dismissal.
These centers allow students to engage in meaningful centers. A paper and pencil inventory can provide you with important information about their interests. Many teachers apply different strategies in the classroom and some of them are highly effective. Sometimes a few simple changes can make surprising improvements in the way students remain focused and help reduce interruptions caused by minor distractions. As teacher we should remember effective teaching begins with a well planned physical set-up of the learning.
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program, PACE and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers’ Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh