An effective learning environment is key to helping children come to know


An effective learning environment is key to helping children come to know. Managing the learning environment means creating a learning centered environment that is brain friendly.

My first classroom consisted of desks and rows. I had not yet discovered the power of cooperative learning or the importance of word walls in teaching sight and content area vocabulary.

What turned things around for me was a statement in a workshop I attended with Dr. Fritz Mengert of Neuro-Cognitive Applications Protocols: "If you lower the lighting in your classroom and put up word walls, your test results will improve by 10%."

I began to listen, and what I learned was that creating a positive learning environment was critical for the brains of the children in my care. So I learned how to create an effective learning environment that would be brain friendly and support learning in my classroom.

Every classroom has been different since that time, and I have had to adapt to each teaching situation, but the basic elements of managing the learning environment have remained the same.

Amount and Quality of Light

The lighting in classrooms is extremely important to learning. One of the major causes of stress in schools is over-lighting. Fluorescent lights are the worst and their constant flickering is distracting and can cause headaches as well as reduce the amount of serotonin in the brain.

Alternatives are natural light (draw back those shades!), skylights, and lamps. When it is not possible to use lamps to provide adequate lighting, commercially produced light filters can be used over fluorescent fixtures to diffuse the light.

I am using them now in my current classroom for the one row of fluorescent lights we use to supplement the light from our windows and two skylights.

Brain-based classroom

Fluorescent light filters

Opportunities for Movement

A learning centered environment created with the brain in mind will provide space for movement. Patterned movement after a period of learning, especially when accompanied by music as with energizers may significantly improve memory so it just makes sense to plan for space in which to do them.

Energizers are also fun for kids, producing emotion which is linked to memory.

Ability to Play Music

It may be a CD player, your computer (with extra speakers), or an Ipod and dock (the best!), but you gotta have a way to play tunes!!

Music in the classroom is essential, and an Ipod dock can deliver!


Sound Support

One of the reasons many children do not do well in school is because they cannot hear well. This is particularly true of children of poverty who may have experienced frequent, untreated ear infections before coming to school.

Sound support does not need to be terribly sophisticated and expensive, either. The voice amplification system shown below is available from Amazon at a cost of less than $100!

Clicking on the picture will take you to the site where details are available.





Go to Learning and Emotion from Effective Learning Environment

Go to Children and Stress Management from Effective Learning Environment




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Opportunities for Cooperative Learning

Offering a variety of comfortable seating which will accommodate group work and centers is essential in creating a learning centered environment. It is important to understand that this will look different from classroom to classroom and from grade level to grade level.

In my space in Georgia, I created a homelike atmosphere with couches, comfortable chairs, and Pizza Hut booth seating. It worked beautifully, and my eighth graders loved it.

Every situation is different, however, and my current classroom has round tables which enable students to work in groups. It is this cooperative learning which is most important in deciding what seating is appropriate for your classroom.

Brain based classroom



Limited distractions

Clutter on bookcases and decorations on classroom walls tend to be distracting to the brain. Covering bookcases with neutral-colored cloth and refraining from putting decorations on the walls will help children concentrate and focus more on the learning at hand. This is especially true for children with special needs.

Covered bookcase



Word Walls

No classroom should be without at least one (probably more!) word wall!

Math word wall



Math word wall



Math word wall



For more information on environmental support for children with special needs I highly recommend