Creating the right learning environment in the classroom means promoting inclusion, helping our students to feel at ease and, eventually, the outcome is they express themselves in the target language fluently and with more confidence. Inspired by a blog post written by a blogger I love, I tweaked her suggestions about 10 ways to make the guests feel welcome and I adapted them to the educational setting. I came up with 10 welcoming classroom ideas for creating your own perfect, inviting classroom. These 10 fresh ideas on how to create a welcoming classroom environment reflect what Suggestopedia teaches us about how to facilitate the language acquisition and how to speed it up.
This blog post is deliberately inspired by The Ginger Home blog post “10 ways to make guests feel welcome” Thank you, Amanda!
Suggestopedic teachers pay a lot of attention to the learning environment in the classroom. According to the suggestopedic framework, an inviting classroom is the reflection of the teachers’ loving approach towards their students. The first suggestopedic principle is “Love” and that means the philanthropic love teachers manifest towards the students as human beings. Therefore, knowing about how to create a welcoming classroom environment is crucial to the effectiveness of the language lessons.
In other words, taking care of the learning environment in the classroom is the way we show the students we really care about them and their learning experience. In this article you are going learn about how to create an inviting classroom in a simple way.
How can teachers create a welcoming learning environment in the classroom?
Recently I came across an interesting check-list made by a blogger I follow. She is an interior designer and in that check-list she suggests 10 ways to make the guests feel welcome. I liked it because she spotlights 10 simple tips for improving the space at home and getting it ready for the guests. As a suggestopedic language teacher, I saw many connections with what I do in my language classes for making my students feel at ease and welcome.
I took those 10 tips from Amanda’s check-list and I tweaked them for the learning environment in the classroom. Hey, those 10 tips apply to virtual learning, too!
Ideas for creating an inviting classroom: 10 welcoming classroom ideas
#1 Make space
There’s nothing worse than attending lessons in a messy classroom. It doesn’t really help to relax and focus. Make sure the classroom is always nice and tidy before a class starts. Make sure you get rid of anything you don’t need in the classroom: spare desks, chairs, boards, they can go in a corner if you don’t use them. Also, ask your students to help you to take care of the classroom.
Furthermore, arrange the learning environment in the classroom according to the activities you plan to do. Be it working in small groups or doing exercises in a circle, you should feel free to move desks and chairs around for creating different types of settings.
Teaching online? Because the learning environment is virtual, it doesn’t mean it should be messy! Keep the virtual classroom tidy, all the resources and the files well organised. Keep your desktop tidy, too, in case you’ll need to share your screen.
#2 Natural light
Always make sure the classroom is nice and bright. Turn the lights on and, if you can, choose natural sun light over artificial light.
#3 Fresh air
Remember to freshen the classroom up by opening windows and doors before the students come in. The air should be as fresh as possible to help the concentration. Now this is a mandatory requirement, but beyond the pandemic, remember this is also a good habit.
I wouldn’t recommend to simmer any scents because some people are sensible to scents and therefore smelling scents could be annoying or distracting for them.
#4 Set the classroom
Let your students know you’ve been looking forward to welcoming them. The learning experience with you ought to be a proper event. Prepare personalised badges (I use labels, for instance) with the students’ names written already. Also, set the places if you want them to take a sit in a specific way: this will help them to break the habits and to do the activities with new people.
#5 Give gifts
I love when I join in a course and I get a personalised student’s kit to take home. A pencil and a notebook or a folder collecting the worksheets of the lesson. If you want to give out the didactic materials, remember to adding a special, personal touch to it, just for it to look like a welcome gift rather than a bundle of worksheets!
Usually I prepare a welcome pack showing all the information about the course. Knowing exactly what is going to happen in the next few hours and days makes the students feel relaxed. Also, together with the welcome pack I give personalised notebooks and pens and a treat, too. The treat is always a big success!
If you can’t do this for every single lesson, then you might do it once at the beginning of a course.
#6 Bare necessities
Remember to mention to the students where the toilets are and that they can feel free to go to the toilet whenever they need to. Teaching children or retired people? That’s essential. Teaching teens or adults? That’s a lovely act of care.
Also, have a look at the toilets before your students do: this is for the teachers who hire training rooms. If necessary, you will have enough time to ask someone from the venue to do some extra cleaning.
#7 Set up snacks
Put snacks or treats in some corners of the classroom. Sometimes people need an extra boost! Furthermore, I hate being in a class and pretending that rumbling stomach is not mine!
Usually I prepare, small fruit, mints, sugar-free candies and chocolates (in winter only, or they melt). Verify in advance any allergies, intolerances or specific diets before offering food.
Also, remind them to drink water every now and then: this will help them to keep the focus.
#8 Create a course playlist
Put together your favourite pieces of music you’ll be playing at the beginning of the classes (while the students are coming in), during the exercises, during the breaks (the music marks the beginning and the end of the breaks) and at the end of the classes (while the students are going out or finishing off the last tasks).
#9 Diffuse new input
Use a lot of visual aids and hang them on the walls. The students should always rely on visuals for revising what they’ve been learning about. Find out more about the visual for language teaching in this post.
#10 Curate comfort
Keep an eye on the students to see if they feel physically comfortable during the classes. For instance: are the chairs comfortable? Are the desks suitable? If they are sit on the floor, are they using pillows? Is the classroom temperature suitable? Are they cold or too warm? And so on.
Voilà! These welcoming classroom ideas will rock your courses! I’m sure your students will love the inviting classroom you’ll be preparing for them.
Creating a welcoming learning environment in the classroom starts from small attentions. We want to show the students we really care. The eventual outcome is to create a pleasant atmosphere where everybody feel at ease and free to speak and to express him/herself. This is part of the job of teaching languages. And I love it!
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