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Learning Environment

I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous... to humiliate, humor, hurt or heal. Ginott, 1972


The classroom environments we create are powerful. They can support or deter students as they move through their school day. When we make our classrooms safe, respectful, empowering and challenging places notable changes in behaviour and academic success follow.


What is my classroom climate?

Is there a sense of community?

  • Are students encouraged to work collaboratively and cooperatively and to problem-solve together?
  • Is every student accepted as a valuable member of the group? Are the unique abilities of different learners recognized? How do I ensure this?
  • Is there a sense of caring and togetherness?
  • Are visitors welcome in the class?
  • What is in place to support new students? Second-language students?
  • Are there any class traditions/rituals that set a positive or embracing tone? E.g class chants or songs, a riddle or tongue twister at the end of the day, greeting students at the door, or perhaps a high-five as they enter the classroom?

Are my voice, body language and words kind, accepting and respectful?

  • How do I handle my own frustrations, irritations or fatigue?
  • Do I use humour compassionately?
  • Are questions welcomed and responded to thoughtfully?

Does it feel safe to take risks?

  • What do I do to make the class respectful of differences in learning?
  • Is sarcasm and ridicule absent?
  • Do I communicate a sense of positive expectations for all students?
  • Are small steps appreciated?
  • Do I help students see mistakes as opportunities for learning?

Are successes recognized and celebrated in a variety of ways?

  • Are differences among children seen as assets?
  • Are activities designed so that every child can contribute something to the group?
  • Are student projects, writing and ideas displayed, published or acknowledged in some way?


Carol Tomlinson speaks about the impact a rich learning environment can have on students in a differentiated classroom.