What makes a classroom ‘communication friendly’?
It’s that time of year when we’re all busy prepping our spaces ready for the new school term. And why not? After all, this is a space that we’ll be spending a lot of time in over the coming months.
The environments we live and work in can have a huge impact on our engagement and wellbeing.
Much about these spaces is beyond our control. We likely all have stories of working in less-than-ideal conditions, whether it’s a noisy corridor, a poorly-placed smartboard or some questionable furniture choices inherited from a previous decade.
Even still, there’s oodles that we can do with a space to make it our own and to increase attention, wellbeing and interaction. There are lots of elements to consider with your classroom. It has to fit many roles and requirements. Regardless of your particular list, we can all agree that good communication threads through many class objectives. Whether improved social interactions between peers, better attention, increased vocabulary or specific academic goals, effective communication is key.
So, with that in mind, here’s a few suggestions to create a classroom that supports communication in all its various elements.
As an enthusiastic teacher you likely want to take every opportunity to try out new resources. And, with limited funding, it is tempting to hold on to stuff ‘just in case’. But reducing the clutter in your environment supports good attention. Challenge yourself to think about the resources and displays you already have: What purpose do they serve? Are they actively used or have they become background ‘noise’?
When you create some space you have more flexibility in your classroom layout. Perhaps you have room to create a cosy, comfortable space for chat or a quiet corner for those who sometimes need a break from the bustle.
Some of the most beautiful modern school buildings don’t always allow for good acoustics. High ceilings, hard surfaces and open plan spaces bounce the sound around in a way that puts extra demands on our auditory processing. If you have one of these spaces, think about what soft furnishings you can add to dampen the echo effect. You might use fabric to lower the ceiling height or add cushions and curtains. Your local Hearing Impairment team will also have some useful suggestions in this regard.
Plan your Visual Supports
Visuals can be hugely beneficial when planned out intentionally. Consider your display boards: How do they support the children’s learning and participation? What might you regularly refer to? I often use question word charts to model questions and prompt children to ask their own. I also use emotion charts, such as the Zones of Regulation, to encourage self-awareness. Avoid the pressure to have every board filled up at the beginning of the year. A blank canvas can be a motivating thing to add to collectively over the coming months.
Add Some Greenery
There’s a large body of evidence pointing to the benefits of natural environments for social interaction, creative thinking and resilience (much of which is referenced in the Last Child in the Woods). Of course, this is about more than adding the odd pot plant to the shelf, but even a glimpse of green has been shown to have a positive impact on wellbeing. So, consider how you can bring in more natural elements to the classroom, even if it’s as simple as making better use of your window space.
How can you make the most of the natural light in your space? Can you shift your classroom layout so that the natural light is shining on your face when you address the class? It’s best to avoid having the window behind you when you speak as this makes it harder for the children who struggle with auditory processing to watch your face. Are there times in the day when light is very bright? Do you need to diffuse the light with some muslin?
If you’re interested in finding out more about how your environment can support communication, this podcast is well worth a listen: [#13 Learning Spaces with Elizabeth Jarman by The Garden Pod | Free Listening on SoundCloud](https://soundcloud.com/thegardenpod/13-learning-spaces-with-elizabeth-jarman)
If you are lucky enough to have a Speech and Language Therapist in school, ask them for further information on how to aid the design of a communication friendly classroom. Or feel free to contact one of our fabulous Mable therapists at firstname.lastname@example.org
Similarly if you have any of your own tips and/or pictures on how you make your classroom communication friendly, please comment below or email us your pictures so we can share them across our social media platforms.