Tuesday, February 7, 2017
The 5 Senses in a Classroom
Imagine that you’re a student on the first day of school. You walk into your first class of the day. The room is bleak. It has no posters or other distinguishing features. There are no windows and the only source of light is from fluorescent lights above your head. There is an alphabetical seating chart and the desks are arranged in rows, all facing a board in the front of the classroom that reads the teacher’s name. This isn’t an uncommon experience for an average student.
Now, imagine that you’re in the shoes of a student who doesn’t play school. You walk into class with your headphones in and your head hung low, oblivious to your surroundings. You plop down in the same chair you’ve been sitting in all year and prepare yourself for another lesson you’re not interested. The only time you show signs of life is when the bell rings and you quickly exit the classroom, preparing to relive the cycle in your next class. When you finally get home after what feels like and endless day, you don’t want to do your homework. So, you don’t.
So, what happens when you mix a bland classroom with a nontraditional student? Nothing. When students don’t care about the teachings and the teachers have given up on the students, nothing happens. Nothing is achieved. The students simply tune out the class and wait it out and when the teacher doesn’t try to encourage them, nothing changes.
When a student first walks into a classroom, they draw all their conclusions about the teacher just based on the room. Right then, they decide if the teacher is boring or interesting or whatever else based off a single glance. If the students see a room like the one I described, they lose all hope in liking the class, forming a connection, and having a good year. While a classroom doesn’t define how good or bad a teacher is, it has a HUGE influence. So, when a single glance determines how a student feels about the teacher for the rest of the year, the teacher really has to nail their image.
There are so many simple things to change about the classroom to make it more interesting. Teachers could have unique decorations that kids take interest in. Something as simple as that would make the student pay closer attention, just because they’re more interested in the teacher. Room decoration should also appeal to the senses and work towards a more comfortable learning environment that will enhance the student’s education.
I feel that sight is the most important sense to be pleased when decorating a room. It’s the most prominent sense that the students use when they’re in the classroom. They form the majority of their preconceptions about the teacher based on what kind of posters they have or if they have action figures or not. However, when a teacher decorates their room they shouldn’t blindly throw posters up that they know nothing about, as the kids will think that they’re trying way too hard to seem cool. When decorating a classroom, teachers should find the area where their interests overlap with the students, so that they can form connections with the students and realize increased class participation. The other huge aspect of appealing visually to students is how teachers arrange the desks. If a teacher wants to appear cool to the students, then they should probably arrange the desks in groups. Most students prefer to be able to socialize with peers, so when a teacher grants them that, they’re more likely to care about the teacher’s class.
When students first walk to class, the first taste of the class could be heard in the form of music drifting into the hall. Before class starts, quiet music could be beneficial to students, as it won’t distract them, but only provide a more easygoing environment to learn in. It doesn’t even matter if the music is new or old, because it’s hard to know what type of music can affect a kid’s mood for the better.
Smell can also be utilized when designing a classroom. Although it’s not a prominent sense that kids notice right away, they could feel more at peace because it doesn’t smell like printer paper and they don’t even notice it. All a teacher would need to do would be to add a scented air freshener of whatever scent they choose.
Another important part of classroom design is feel. Not mental feel, but how the classroom literally feels beneath your fingers. This is a lot harder to achieve than the other senses, because changing what a classroom feels like is hard. Most classrooms have lots of hard surfaces like desks and chairs that are uncomfortable to sit in for long periods of time. To change that, the easiest solution would probably be to add pillow, cushions, beanbags, or couches. I can’t explain it myself, but sitting in a cozy chair makes me feel much more important and more inclined to be productive.
A classroom can also leave a taste in your mouth. The taste of a classroom isn’t the literal taste of the components that make it up, but how the other four senses work together to leave an impression on the student. When the four senses are utilized well in a classroom, they can create a whole different feeling than that of a standard classroom. A well-organized classroom can have a relaxing and safe aura that promotes productivity and creativity and has students leaving with a great taste in their mouths. Susan Ohanian has a great example of this when she says, “Four eighth-grade girls come every day…The girls hate the noise of the cafeteria as much as I do.” (Caught in the Middle, 2001) Ohanian set up such a positive environment, students are giving up their lunch because they care about the subject. All students “Can learn, if they want to learn” (Seeking Diversity, 1992), and a good classroom environment like Ohanian’s can create that want to learn.
I hope that the teachers reading this blog can utilize the four senses I described to reorganize their classroom, which I’m sure are already vibrant places that leave students with a good taste in their mouth.
Ohanian, Susan. Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids and a Killing Curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001. Print.
Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity: Language Arts with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1992. Print.