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Setting the Stage

Teach in Ontario

Developing a positive learning environment begins on the first day of school. It is important to include your students in the development of this environment as much as possible. In this way, the students will take ownership of their learning environment.

The Physical Layout

The design of the classroom contributes to the welcoming feeling of the space. The room should be organized in a way that makes students enjoy being there. It should be bright and welcoming, with interesting and informative material on the walls. As the year progresses, student work should be displayed to celebrate effort and success.

The arrangement of the student desks can also contribute to a positive learning environment. Student desks should be arranged in a way that facilitates easy access to all students. This allows the teacher to interact regularly with students and to build relationships that are caring and informed. Seating arrangements that encourage the sharing of ideas contribute to the welcoming atmosphere of the classroom. Arranging the desks in groups or in a U-shape encourages student participation and discussion.

Cultivating a Sense of Community

Studies have shown that students with a clear sense of identity within the group will be confident and successful. As the classroom teacher, it is your job to build an environment that fosters a sense of belonging for each student in the class. This is a task that is most successful when undertaken with the involvement of the students.

The first step in creating a sense of community is to enthusiastically welcome the students to their new classroom. It is important that you demonstrate that you care about them and value their input. One way that you can demonstrate that their opinions are important to you is to brainstorm with your class about what community means to them. Based upon the results of this brainstorming, you and the students can develop the classroom expectations (or rules). When students are involved in this process, they tend to take ownership of the resulting expectations.

When developing the expectations of the class, be sure to phrase them in a positive way. The phrasing of the expectations will give positive suggestions for behaviour, rather than sounding dictatorial and teacher-generated.

As the classroom teacher, you can model and provide explicit instruction about:

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Maintaining the Environment