Improving Your Classroom Environment

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James Manwaring

James Manwaring is Director of Music for Windsor Learning Partnership, a Multi-Academy Trust in Windsor, Berkshire. He oversees music for the 4 schools in the trust and has been working in music education for 16 years. James has been nominated for a National Music Education...
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How can you improve your students’ learning environment?

A classroom is a special place. Every day it comes to life and potentially hundreds of students pass through the door on a weekly basis. But I would like to propose that classrooms are often uninspiring places to be. Messy, unorganised, with broken chairs, wires that lead to nowhere and piles of paper. 

You may disagree – your classroom might be an absolute palace, a haven of learning and inspiration. I often think that about my room, but there are times that I look at it and think it needs a bit of TLC.

What would the idea classroom look like?

Let’s imagine our classroom and consider what it needs to be for our students; then think about how we might improve it.

  1. It needs to have stuff on the walls. Every school is different and it may be that you aren’t allowed to go near blu-tack. But hopefully there is a way of decorating your walls. Work, photos or pictures. Whatever it might be. 
  2. It needs to have everything in it that you need to teach. I hate it when I am scrabbling around for a board pen or rubber. Have a space or place for all your key resources. Paper, spare pens and I guess anything else that your department might need. 
  3. It needs a bin that is available, used – and emptied at the end of the day!
  4. I would suggest you need a certain amount of technology that works and is easy to access. Projector, sound system or speakers and laptop power cables so you never run out of juice in your computer. 
  5. It might be good to display the school rules or values and some schools provide specific things for display. Make sure your room is in line with the school policies so that there is consistency.
  6. It needs to have enough chairs and the same chairs. That one rogue soft chair can cause lots of issues as every student wants it.
  7. A classroom needs to be a place where students don’t eat and drink so that it stays clean and tidy.
  8. I believe a classroom needs to be accessible to all teachers and therefore shouldn’t be personalised in any way.
  9. It needs to have a focus? This might be a whiteboard or screen. Students need to be able to see this clearly and have access to it.
  10. A classroom needs to be free of clutter and there shouldn’t be piles of paper everywhere or any old bits of furniture.

So if we are going to improve our classroom environment then we need to consider this list and maybe add to it our own requirements. I am a music teacher and so I need a piano in my room for example. Whatever you teach, make sure you have everything you need in that room.

Keeping The Ecosystem Tidy

Improving the environment can take time and effort and I have genuinely hoovered my own room, painted my own walls and moved around the furniture several times. Getting the environment right is down to us.

But I guess it could be argued that what is on the walls or how tidy it is won’t affect the power of the teacher or the teaching? Is learning really linked to work on a wall or photos stuck up everywhere? Surely the classroom environment is also what we make of it.

So, think about it this way. When students walk into your classroom is the environment one where they can learn or are you making it oppressive and uninspiring? Are you sat behind a desk too much creating a “them & us” type of scenario? Is the environment safe and do students feel comfortable? Is the atmosphere calm or are you shouting at them as they walk through the door?

Ultimately we as teachers determine the environment not just of our classroom but the whole school. A classroom can be any room or outside space where learning is taking place.

You can have all the wall displays neat and tidy and you can have every sharpie and every bit of stationery you could possibly need. But if there isn’t any learning taking place and the environment is dull, stressed, oppressive or boring, then students won’t learn.

If we are going to truly improve our classroom environment, then we need to look at the walls, chairs and desks, but we also need to look at ourselves and what we as teachers bring to that environment.

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