What Are Three Things I Can Do to Change the Environment of My Classroom? | BE BOLD Teacher Tip

What Are Three Things I Can Do to Change the Environment of My Classroom? | BE BOLD Teacher Tip
September 10, 2019 Ali Thompson
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The lessons in BE BOLD empower you to help kids wrestle with tough questions in meaningful ways. But if you have a distracting environment, you may find that BE BOLD isn’t as effective as you’d hoped! The goal of BE BOLD is for preteens to be able to share with each other vulnerably and authentically, and some environments just aren’t conducive to that.

So before you even begin BE BOLD, evaluate your classroom environment in these three areas.

1) Eliminate Visual Distractions

Have you ever thought about the visual distractions that might be in your preteen classroom? There may be more than you realize!

Lighting. Things like flashing or moving spotlights, or just dim lighting, can pull kids away from the lesson. They may not even realize why it’s happening, but the overstimulation caused by the ever-changing lighting is drawing their brains in another direction. Or if you have dim lighting, their inability to see each other or their materials makes it easy to tune out, or can frustrate them when they’re trying to create something without their full visual ability. Likewise, they may find it easier to act up without getting caught if it’s hard for you to see them.

Games. We all want to have a fun, inviting preteen space. Board games, sports equipment, arcade games, and so on can be really exciting for preteens when they arrive. But if these things are still visible when you start the lesson, there’s a good chance your preteens are thinking more about the games than about the lesson. If possible, divide your space so the game area is completely separate from your lesson area. Or have storage bins where preteens can help you store games before you begin. If that’s not possible, try putting up a dressing-room style divider to block preteens from viewing these distractions.

2) Eliminate Audio Distractions

What do your preteens hear when a lesson is going on? Do you have several small groups meeting in the same room? That can make it hard to focus on the conversation in their group if another group is louder. Do you hear the crying babies from the nursery, or the loud worship music from the high school room? Do you have music playing in the background in your own room while you’re facilitating a lesson?

While you may not be able to avoid some of the sounds (except turning off your own music), do what you can to mute them. Look into sound absorbing panels for your space, or close the door if you can do so without safety issues. Split up small groups into separate spaces if possible.

Background noise can be distracting for adults, but we can try our best to tune it out. For preteens, that’s nearly impossible to do. So do it for them! If you want the deep, serious conversation BE BOLD offers, preteens need to be able to hear each other.

3) Eliminate Social Distractions

The way you arrange your chairs says a lot about the kind of culture you’re trying to create.

Chairs in rows: “You are all here to look at and listen to me while I lecture.”

Some kids in chairs, some on the floor: “We’re not really all in this together.”

Chairs in a circle: “Let’s all learn from each other…as long as you can stop tipping your chairs back.”

All preteens seated on the floor in a circle: “Let’s all learn from each other without distractions.”

Since BE BOLD is all about kids interacting and learning together, don’t put your chairs in rows. You’re just one of the group, facilitating a journey. You’re not a lecturer.

When everyone is seated at the same level, it facilitates conversation. It’s harder to engage in a conversation if some are seated on the floor, others in chairs, and others standing. (And that includes you. Resist the temptation to stand while kids sit, or to sit in a chair while preteens sit on the floor.)

So have kids sit in a circle, and choose whether you’ll have chairs or not. Personally, I find chairs to be distracting for preteens, and they get in the way of playing games. So unless you have a preteen who’s in a wheelchair and want to use chairs to put everyone at the same level, I’d suggest no chairs. Plus sitting on the floor feels more like a living room, hang-out-with-your-friends kind of environment…which is just the feel BE BOLD is going for!

Ready, set, go! Make any adjustments to your classroom environment so you’re ready to be bold with preteens.

Ali Thompson is the Managing Editor for Children's Curriculum at Group Publishing in Loveland, Colorado. She loves puppies, puzzles, and playing board games!

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