Space to Learn!
Another success story.
If you have been following my blog and videos for some time, you will have learned about creating a good study space.
In this blog, I am reiterating how important it is to take the time and the effort to make this space happen for yourself or your child.
To achieve one’s best results, having a good environment is important. Of course, there are many topics involved when looking at a good learning environment including structure; positive messages; coordination with students, teachers, parents; and so on. Today, however, I am talking about the actual physical environment at home, and I am going to use one of my previous students as an example. I have changed his name, of course.
First, I have listed a few reminders for creating that marvelous space.
1. Pick the quietest place you can.
It does not have to be fancy, the corner of a room will do if a whole room is not available.
Turn off radios, televisions, cell phones, any extraneous noise that is not necessary to the current study session.
You can also use fans to help moderate sounds that might be more disturbing for you. The background hum will at least cut the sudden high-pitched noises of traffic or people in the other room.
2. Have a solid writing surface and firm but comfortable chair.
You should practise “sitting up” when studying. Good posture helps the body – and the brain is part of the body. Don’t be too comfortable! No bed studying. If you are falling asleep, you are not learning much.
Having a solid writing surface is essential for keeping your notes tidy and organized. I have seen notes that were written when the student has admitted lying in bed. They are not great! Often, the student cannot even read them.
3. If using a computer, make sure it is positioned correctly so that you don’t have to strain to see the screen or to use the keyboard, mouse, etc.
4. Provide good lighting.
You will want enough light that you can see easily without straining your eyes. If the light is too dim, you will feel tired and might begin to fall asleep. A less common problem is light that is too bright – but that could be annoying, so just try to find that perfect amount.
5. Try to have all the necessary bits and pieces on hand.
This saves you having to scramble and search for items like paper, pens, erasers, paper clips, highlighters, staplers, and so on. Having shelves or drawers will help, but you can use large baskets or stackable bins as well.
Of course, you can do many other things to ensure that your study space is inviting and a spot that you enjoy. For example, you could have some plants. Not only do plants look good, but they have a calming effect, and they release oxygen into the air. That can’t be a bad thing!
You could paint your area in a soothing colour. I’m not going to specify a colour because what works for one might not work for another. I would, however, suggest that you avoid anything too bright or too dramatic.
Basically try to make your space inviting. One word of caution: Don’t include any distractions that will reduce your focus. You want to make sure that this is an area that is attractive and that you will enjoy going to each day.
Now back to my student.
Trevor was a bright boy who tried during tutoring sessions and seemed to be trying to do his best at home as well. He was a very quiet boy and found it challenging to focus when other things were happening around him. He was naturally inquisitive, so everything became equally important. I had a meeting with Trevor and his parents so that we could discuss some possible changes to help him with his homework. One of the ideas was to set up a corner in his bedroom – a study place with many of the aspects mentioned above. He shared his room with a younger brother who was full of beans and generally thought noise was the meaning of life! This did not help Trevor’s study situation.
After some time, I noticed that Trevor was remembering more from our sessions, and he seemed to be doing better at school from what I got to see. My next tutoring report for him was quite positive and noted these changes.
Mom called me shortly after the report to say that she was pleased with his improvement both here and at school. Also, she mentioned that they had employed many of the tips that we had talked about, putting a small desk in the room with supplies on hand. They had set times for his homework sessions. Little brother was taken away from the room to spend time with either mom, dad, or both. She said that not only was Trevor doing so much better at getting his work done but that his brother (after a few complaints) began to look forward to the games and activities that they did together.
This was also a teaching/learning moment about respect and time management. Younger brother had less homework, but he saw what his older brother was doing and wanted his time to do schoolwork himself.
I don’t want to give the impression that everything is simple and works out perfectly. For example, in this case, I am sure that there were bumps in the road and adjustments to be made over the coming years. Still, always working toward improvement is the goal.
There are some simple, practical actions that all of us can take that will improve our learning space. We just have to take that first step and begin to change.
Do not overlook simplicity! It can work a charm.
This week's video: Learning Space.