Whether you’re setting up a new classroom as a first-time teacher or if you’ve been in the same space for decades, classroom set-up is an important part of every teacher’s life. As an educator, you get to decide what you want your classroom to be like – from the decor you choose to the way the room is laid out.
How you set up your classroom at the beginning of the year can make a big impact on how your students feel on the first day of school and beyond. A calm classroom can help students feel more focused and emotionally safe; it can also lessen stress for you, the teacher.
Here are some tips to help you set up a calm and peaceful classroom where learning can flourish.
Organize the clutter
There’s usually a lot going on in classrooms. It makes sense; you need a lot of resources to get through school curriculum, from whiteboards to tablets to art supplies and more.
The problem is that when a classroom looks or feels cluttered, it can become distracting or even overwhelming for both you and your students. And when you or your students feel overwhelmed, the learning experience can get disrupted.
Try to manage the clutter in your classroom as much as possible. Having a labeled “home” for everything in your classroom will help your students understand where to return items and lead to less chaos. If you have the opportunity to, you can also look at how the desks and other furniture are arranged – try to arrange large items in a way that makes the room feel more open and spacious.
You might think that your students won’t be affected if your personal workspace (like your desk) is cluttered. But research shows that clutter can increase stress and anxiety. And if you’re stressed and anxious, then your students will feel the effects of that, too.
It’s understandable not to be able to keep a perfectly tidy space all the time while you’re teaching – but if nothing else, try to remove any clutter from your field of vision.
Research studies have found that spending time in nature goes a long way in reducing anxiety and stress, and can even help with symptoms of depression. Except for a lucky few, most of us teach indoors – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t bring the calming power of nature to us.
Try incorporating nature-inspired designs in the way you set up your classroom. There are so many ways you can do this; for example, fill your classroom with potted plants (and have your students help with watering), get a small water feature for your desk, or simply open the windows to let the sunshine and fresh air in.
If none of this is possible, you could put up some photographs of nature on your walls. One study found that just looking at images of nature is enough to lower stress levels.
Be intentional about decor
On top of putting up pictures of nature, there are other ways to be intentional about the decor in your classroom to create a zen environment. It’s fun to put up cute and colorful posters or other visual reminders (like the letters of the alphabet) to help your students learn.
But think intentionally about how you’re arranging your decor. For example, too much on the walls can be more distracting than helpful, especially for students who already have trouble focusing. Think about where students’ line of vision is, and try to arrange decor with this in mind.
The colors you choose for your classroom are important, too. Research has found that certain colors – like the green tones of foliage – can be helpful in reducing stress. You may have some colors that help you, yourself, feel calmer, too – and that’s just as important!
Create Calm Corners
You may want to consider setting up some physical calm spaces in your classroom this year. These "calm corners" can give students a place to self-soothe and regulate big emotions when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Calm corners should be cozy and inviting. Fill the spaces with tools that students can use to calm themselves down. For example, you might use sensory toys, headphones with calming music, or materials to color mandalas. When a student is becoming overwhelmed, they can be given the option to go to
An important note: Calm corners should never be used as punishment. All students should understand that the calm corner is a positive space they can go to when they need to. Try to encourage all students to use the calm corner (of course, with boundaries and time limits in place).
Think about lighting
Many of us may not put very much thought into classroom lighting when we’re setting up for the year. After all, lighting is built into the physical space – it may not be ideal, but you may not feel like you have much control over it.
And although that may be true to an extent, playing with lighting to the extent that it’s possible can make a big difference in how your students feel. For example, fluorescent lighting can make students feel more alert, but could increase stress and anxiety in some. Softer lighting can be relaxing, but could also induce sleepiness if introduced at the wrong times of day.
Play around with your lighting, and use it to your advantage. Think about how you want your students to feel at each time of day, and use lighting intentionally. Even with built-in lights, you can use floor lamps, natural light, or cover up existing lights if necessary.
Let Calm Classroom help
Calm Classroom’s school-based mindfulness program lives up to its name; we can help you set up a calm classroom that will serve both you and your students throughout the entire school year.
We have many different program offerings, from access to our digital and physical handbooks to comprehensive staff support. Our program is filled with quick and easy 3-minute mindfulness exercises for every grade level that anyone can teach and learn. You don’t need to be a mindfulness expert to get started with Calm Classroom – we make it as simple as possible.
Schools that have implemented Calm Classroom say that they’ve noticed a huge difference in mood and stress levels, both for themselves and in their students.
Here’s what one Florida teacher had to say about using Calm Classroom to create a peaceful classroom environment:
“Calm Classroom has changed the whole dynamic of my classroom. My children are able to self-regulate their emotions more easily.”
Best of all, it’s never too late to start the Calm Classroom program. Even if you’ve already set up your classroom, you can still sign up to start your school year off on the right foot.
Are you longing for a calm, chaos-free classroom this year? Give us a call or take a look around our website to learn more about training options.