When creating a positive environment for a child’s learning, there are many factors to take into account. First of all, how are a child’s needs different from those of an adult? The differences in brain chemistry are vast; children use different parts of the brain than adults when performing the same task. Their brains are also organized differently than those of adults. This all boils down to the fact that we as adults have to think outside of our own needs and preferences when it comes to creating an effective learning environment for children.
The first factor to address is the physical space of the learning environment. Be it in a school or home setting, any learning space should be optimized to suite a young learner’s needs. No matter what, these spaces should be clean and tidy. This is the most important aspect for the learning space, as any kind of clutter will serve as a distraction to the students. Decluttered does not mean empty, however, and learning tools and colorful guides should be displayed on the walls and around the room. The key is in controlling the child’s attention. In the same way the mess will attract attention in a negative way, a colorful guide or resource will capture attention in a way that will assist both teacher and student.
A successful learning environment does not end with the physical space. The energy in the room should always be as positive and open as possible, in order to encourage students to take risks in their education. The teacher’s attitude is inextricably linked with the student’s performance. A negative or brusque attitude will make children reluctant to speak up. Failure is a necessary part of learning, so ensure that you provide a safe environment to try new things without fear of reprimand or embarrassment. The student must feel comfortable, including lighting, temperature, and other environmental factors.
Once you have a neat, age-appropriate learning space and that students feel comfortable in, it comes to the actual lesson and teaching method. While there are hundreds of different methods and pedagogies, a few things are agreed on by most educators. The child must be included in the lesson. This is no college lecture hall; a long presentation may work for adults but will put child learners to sleep. Instead, the more a student can be involved the better. To take it even further, many encourage lessons where the students do the majority of the talking, leaving the teacher merely to introduce and subsequently guide the students in a project. A good example of this is “popcorn reading,” where one student reads a section aloud and then calls on another to read next. This method increases information retention greatly, thus creating a more successful learning environment.
Many believe that teaching is about the teacher and lessons, nothing more. However, those people may be missing out on some of the most influential aspects of a child’s learning experience. When you put effort into creating an inviting learning environment, not only will you have happier and more willing participants, but the quality of the education will increase.