What’s in the classroom?
The classroom setting is equally important as any lesson or activity conducted within its boundaries. Indeed, as humans we don’t even need to consciously attend to visual or auditory sensory stimuli within our radius in order for our brain to process, make sense, and even store this information. Therefore, every object or “decoration” in the classroom needs to serve an actual purpose. Some things may have an educational while others may have an emotional value – such as helping children feel safe and secure while shaping their sense of personal space. For early age students (and especially for new students), it is of significant importance to feel a sense of belonging to the school community and the classroom itself. This is best achieved when children’s work is displayed and they can easily refer to it when they feel ‘lost’. It also helps boost kids’ self esteem.
The Power of Photography
I try to capitalize on the power of taking pictures not only as an evidence of students’ engagement and celebration of their achievements but also as a learning tool. Printing out and displaying photographs of important daily moments/events/achievements and talking about these help students make sense of the information and memorize words and phrases better by ‘revisiting’ the moments of learning. Along with our days of the week board, I have made a corresponding album section where prominent events during the respective day are displayed. I collect all printed photographs and make them available for the kids. At small groups they revisit these memories by talking about what’s happening in the photographs.
As an example, we were learning words with the letter A and then paid a visit to the nearby park where one of the students found an ant. I captured this moment, printed out the picture and displayed it as a memory of what we did on that Thursday. During the remaining of the week, students kept on remembering and talking about the experience.
Another way of helping children better understand the sequence of events is by involving them in the classroom routine. Once children learn the name for each part of the daily routine, they are ready to take part in its sequence. The teacher’s helper for the day is in charge of the classroom routine board. He or she arranges the board and announces when a certain activity is over and what comes after. This helps children begin to make choices and see alternatives throughout the day.
Last, teachers must be very weary about clutter and bombarding kids with unnecessary visuals. As with everything else, simple is best. It is quite tempting to adorn everything with cute decorations especially when working with early age kids. Nevertheless, if these decorations don’t carry any significant educational or emotional benefit, then they only distract the children and shift their focus from what matters. Position important things at children’s eye level. Exhibit only information that is relevant to the children and their learning. Aim for complementing visual with auditory information so that children can make connections.