1. Seating Arrangement
Tables or clusters of desks suggest there’ll be opportunities to interact and work in pairs or groups for various tasks.
Desks in a U-shape allow students to see each other while having a whole class discussion but does not lend itself to small group interactions.
Desks in rows probably mean there’s little student interaction or collaboration throughout the day.
2. Display of Student Work
If the work differs from each other—and some of the posted work even has a few mistakes—we may conclude that uniqueness is encouraged and the process in this classroom trumps producing a final “perfect” product.
3. Display of Class Rules
Rules written with a positive perspective (e.g. Raise a hand to respond) versus those written with a negative emphasis (e.g. Don’t call out answers) suggest an overall more encouraging environment.
4. Classroom Clutter
A distinct cleared area surrounding the white board and minimal “extras” placed on counter tops and hanging from the ceilings suggest an understanding that some kids can’t filter background stimuli.
5. Hands-on Learning Stations
Learning stations guarantee that there are opportunities to get up and move throughout the day, work independently, and learn at places other than the students’ desks.
6. Personalized Touch
Extras, such as plants, class pets, and fun furniture (rocking or beanbag chair) suggest there’s a conscious effort to create a friendly environment.
Anything unique suggests a more creative versus traditional learning environment. For example, kids in my classroom earned vacation time and then “flew” to Hawaii (a part of the room transformed to look like the beach) to hang out.
Is there often a direct connection between a child’s behavior and the physical classroom environment? Yes. Can we use that information to then support our child? Yes, again.
For example, if the teacher comments that he’s easily distracted in class, you might explore removing some of the “extras” around the instructional board (if you’ve noted a lot of stimuli).
So check your child’s classroom, and see what you can learn!