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How to Create A Classroom Culture - Part 1

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By Jana’ Thomas, Scholastic Chess Instructor


There are tons of best practices in the field of education. Creating a classroom culture is one of the most effective methods to optimize both the instructor’s and the students’ classroom experience. We will use the acronym C.H.E.S.S. in this five part series to help you remember these tips for creating your classroom culture.


Control the Space (the best you can)

The space, or environment, is key, including seating, decor, lighting, etc.  I’ve been thrown into settings completely uncomfortable and unfeasible for learning.  My response: Let my Feng Shui flow!  


  • Rearrange the furniture to be more welcoming to the students or the day’s activity.  With chess, students will typically be seated in pairs for playing.  Feel free to change the seating to accommodate larger groups for team activities.  I’ve used a circle or U-shape seating arrangement to encourage classroom discussions.  


  • Decorate the walls, desks, or whatever.  Inviting your students to help is fun and instills a sense of pride and ownership of their contributions.  You can post student work or instructional posters; my students love my chess posters!


  • Lighting is the trickiest. I can’t tell you how many headaches I’ve had behind harsh fluorescent lights.  Let the sun’s natural light come in, if possible.  This tends to have a calming effect on my students, which is sometimes needed.


  • Background music is another way to “control the space” and block out distractions.  I have played soft jazz, or classical which is known to increase focus. Try music as an incentive and encourage students to make requests.  


Students may have seen your designated space many times before you arrived.  However, you can to make it your own and take creative license to transform the environment; it will influence a new approach and give off a new feel.


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