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Some children may be distracted from learning by the classroom environment, but simple adaptations can improve their focus and concentration.
Reduce the visual stimulation in the room. Use calm pastel shades rather than bright distracting colours or wallpapers. Keep displays simple and at child level. Too much on the walls can be visually distracting and may cause anxiety or over-stimulation.
You can encourage independence and responsibility by planning your environment carefully. Organise resources in a visually appealing way using colour-coded boxes, baskets or trays. Encourage children to access the resources they need and to put them away by using picture labels and having storage is at child level. Use lids or fabric to show when resources are not available or use a choice board to limit what's on offer.
Children need to feel comfortable to be able to learn, so be aware of the temperature in the classroom and how different children respond. Some children may need reminding to remove jumpers, as they will quickly overheat, others may be feel cold but struggle to get to their bag easily.
Background music can be used to create a calm working atmosphere, or as an indicator that it is time for change (such as playtime or time to tidy up). Vary the kinds of music to find out how children respond and get to know who likes classical, African drumming or rap music, for example, but be aware that what sounds calming to one person may be distracting to someone else. Choose the time and place for using music in the classroom. If you are encouraging children to develop their listening, speech and language skills then background noise will create a distraction.
Make spaces flexible so that children who learn in different ways can be accommodated. Some prefer enclosed spaces where they can work on their own, so a work station can be created through carefully positioned furniture. Other children need open space to move around independently, using a walking frame or wheelchair.
A guide for teachers and special educational needs co-ordinators
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