Wondering how to create a calm, predictable, and inspiring classroom atmosphere? Let’s start at the beginning!
What is classroom atmosphere, and why does it matter? It’s actually quite abstract! Classroom atmosphere can be thought of as the climate a teacher creates. Think of it as an author’s tone in writing. Classroom atmosphere is the “tone” an educator sets through deliberate procedures and practices as well as more subtle nuances of the classroom’s operation.
Classroom atmosphere is a key to student success because it impacts attitudes and effort toward learning, student and teacher relationships, and motivation and confidence levels. To be intentional with your classroom’s atmosphere, ask yourself these questions: How do I want students to feel when they are in my room? What steps have I taken to make this desired feeling a reality?
When talking about some of the more complex aspects of teaching, I love to chat with colleagues. By learning about what works for others, I am often inspired to try new approaches in my own room. Sometimes, those approaches work for me, and other times, they inspire me to try an original idea.
This week, I sat down with Ashley Bible from Building Book Love to chat about classroom atmosphere. I originally thought of Ashley because of her innovations with Keeping the Wonder, which is a workshop experience all about creating an engaging, creative, and magical space for both teachers and students to thrive in the world of education. I respect Ashley’s work and knew she would have valuable content to share with my readers!
So, as we talked about this expansive topic, we decided to highlight three of Ashley’s best ideas for creating a classroom atmosphere that is calm, predictable, and inspiring. Let’s dive in to what she had to say!
Tip 1: Use classroom timers.
Why use timers?
If variety is the spice of life, predictability is a warm cup of coffee in your favorite mug. Some of my favorite things in life are based on daily rhythms and routines. Predictability is comfort. Predictability is calming. It’s knowing what to expect. And, predictability is so important for social emotional learning.
Classroom timers can go far in creating a calm and predictable yet inspiring classroom atmosphere. Timers help students learn important time management skills and help teachers keep their lesson plans on track.
How do you use timers to create a calm, predictable, and inspiring atmosphere?
When people think of timers, they often envision glaring utilitarian clocks projected on a screen. Tick-tock, tick-tock, your time is running out! However, I always enjoyed using a more calming approach.
One of my favorite writing hacks is to pick out an ambient media video and only play it during in-class writing time. If you’ve ever read Atomic Habits by James Clear, then you know that this not only sets up a positive cue, but it also creates a mild makeshift timer. For other timed work, I like to use calming LOFI timers which you can easily find for free on YouTube.
Tip 2: Try free-choice reading.
Why use free-choice reading?
From adding diverse voices to fostering a classroom reading culture, there are many benefits to incorporating free-choice reading into your classroom. But one of the biggest benefits of using free-choice reading is that it will help you create a calm and predictable yet inspiring classroom!
How do you use free-choice reading to create a calm, predictable, and inspiring atmosphere?
My favorite way to start an ELA class is with 10 minutes of free-choice reading. Using reading as a bell-ringer changed my teaching life. There is just something magical about starting out on a calm note surrounded by books. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes a day can reduce stress by up to 68%. So, even if you can only squeeze in 6 minutes of free-choice reading into your packed ELA curriculum, it can work wonders in creating a calm, predictable start to class!
Tip 3: Consider your classroom design.
Why does classroom design matter?
Just like with home design, classroom design is a deeply personal topic. I do not believe that your classroom has to be Pinterest-worthy to be effective. However, if you are someone who is inspired and influenced by your surroundings, then I think it’s one of the most important classroom elements to consider. Teaching is, at times, stressful, chaotic, and draining. You deserve a classroom that brings you (and your students!) a sense of calm and a spark of joy.
How do you use classroom decor and organization to create a calm, predictable, and inspiring atmosphere?
Studies show that your environment can impact your mental health. While most of these studies are done with home design, I think it applies to classrooms as well. After all, teachers often spend as much time in their classrooms as they do at home. To create a calming and inspiring environment, aim to reduce clutter and create a cohesive classroom. And don’t worry, you don’t have to spend a ton of money or time making this happen! For example, this past summer I made a few minor changes to this high school ELA classroom, and it made all the difference! Here are some tips:
- Declutter your classroom
- Find with an inspiration piece that sparks joy and informs the rest of your classroom design
- Create a mood board and color palette to keep things cohesive
- Implement your design while sticking to a budget
If you want more calm classroom inspiration, keep reading here:
- Nature Themed Classroom Decor: A Calming and Plant Filled Classroom
- Middle School World History Classroom: Inspiration for a small and windowless classroom
While there are many ways to create a classroom atmosphere that brings peace and accessibility for learning, these are Ashley’s favorites. Where might you start today? Could classroom timers bring a sense of predictability and routine students find comforting? Could free-choice reading help students begin each period with a calm mindset? Or, could freshening up your space give students clarity and focus?
Here’s to creating a calm, predictable, and inspiring classroom atmosphere! I hope this post inspires you to provide a peaceful space from which to learn and teach.
After a decade of teaching high school English in East Tennessee, Ashley Bible now works to help other ELA teachers create meaningful, engaging, and joyful learning experiences. You can learn more about her over at Buildingbooklove.com and @BuildingBookLove