Strategies for Reshaping Practice: The habits of the classroom #6

Create the appropriate atmosphere

Creating an atmosphere is about creating the ‘feel’ that matches what is learned. A lesson on delight would be ruined by a dull ambience; a lesson on peace needs a calm mood. Anxiety over tests can be reduced by shifting to a celebration of what the pupils do know, creating a celebratory atmosphere by use of language such as ‘Wow, look at what you know!’ Establishing atmosphere could include using music, noise, silence, lighting, colour, images, body language and posture.

  • Teachers can use balloons in a revision class. These can be labelled ‘Triumphs’ and ‘Disasters’. Students can pair up, one student may find an area difficult (disaster) that another finds easy (triumph). They can then support each other and pop the disaster balloon when the student is confident in that area. When done in a playful spirit, this creates an atmosphere of support and fun that diffuses some of the anxiety and isolation round revision.
  • Teachers can darken a room and put the spotlight on a painting about hope to create the appropriate mood for a painting that is about hope through difficult and uncertain times.
The changes in atmosphere in these examples bring what is taught in line with the mood of the lesson and help teaching connect with learners.