Editor’s note:  This is a post from regular MSTA contributor Pam Clifton’s Teaching & Learning blog. Clifton is a sixth-grade English language arts and reading teacher at West St. Francois County R-4.

 A first impression is a lasting impression. The words of this old saying are quite true. A first impression of something sets the tone for the rest of the year. From affecting student behavior to daily functioning, the design and organization of a classroom are keys to a student’s school year success!

Teachers spend many hours designing, organizing and getting their classroom ready for open house and the first day of school. From student desk placement to a calendar area, each area must be well planned. The ease of finding materials and manipulatives, long- and short-term storage, and even the location of the classroom library are things that must be considered before the first day of classes.

In addition to organization and storage, another aspect is of equal importance: creating a warm, inviting space in which students can learn. What can teachers do to accomplish this?

Here are several suggestions for teachers to create a welcoming class environment in which all students can feel ready to learn by using the five senses:

  • Smell – Although school policies might not allow air fresheners or scented candles, essential oils or scented crystals can be used to keep a classroom smelling fresh. Remember to use neutral scents in case anyone suffers from allergies.
  • Sight – Inexpensive items can be used to create clear divisions in the classroom. A colorful area rug, lamps, baskets of books, bean bag chairs, comfy cushions or chairs, and more can be used to create a warm, inviting reading nook for students of any age. Other features in the room can include colorful curtains, posters, additional lamps, interesting displays (a collection of old cameras, for example) or even an area to create art. Prints of famous artwork, small sculptures or even household plans can add vibrant, colorful touches to the room. Don’t forget little things such as a birthday bucket (students choose something from the bucket on their birthday) or a place where students can leave sticky note questions or suggestions for the upcoming school year. A “What We’re Studying” bulletin board is another great classroom addition. For more ideas on little touches to add to a classroom that students will see when they enter, try these Pinterest suggestions.
  • Touch – From rugs to bean bag chairs to curtains and tablecloths, students will be able to experience the touch of different textures and cloths. Simple steps such as placing a book as a welcome gift or even adding class textbooks or workbooks on students’ desk allows kids and parents to see and touch tangible items that will be an integral part of the classroom.
  • Sound – Playing music softly in the background helps set the mood in a classroom, whether it’s open house night or the first day of classes. Playing a variety of musical genres is one option to appease all listeners.
  • Taste – The last of the five senses is perhaps everyone’s favorite. A freshly baked cookie or a cold bottle of water are the perfect options for parents or students. The cookies, whether they are home-baked or store-bought goods, will be the perfect finishing touch once they are neatly displayed on a platter on a small table near the entryway.

The five senses can help create the perfect classroom. Students will feel welcome and ready to learn in a colorful, inviting environment.

Visit Bunker Hill in 2019