9 effective ways to create safe spaces in your classrooms

Trainer Tribe
May 9, 2019 · 7 min read
Photo by Jonny McLaren on Unsplash

As a 21-st century educator, do you believe that creating a safe learning space is essential? In this blog, we discuss simple and effective techniques you can practice on a day to day basis.

1. Establish a Connection with your students: As a first step towards creating a safe learning environment, the connection you establish with your students plays a key role. Remind them that you are there to help and guide them, and listen to them when they share their stories. You are the string that will connect all of them together, hence knowing about your students, where they come from, what their fears are and what makes them happy is important.

2. Give a chance for problem-solving:

“To become self — directed learners, students must learn to assess the demands of the task, evaluate their own knowledge and skills, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed”

We all come across various problems from time to time, whether it is in our personal lives or professionally. The habit of tackling problems is an innate part of us as human beings. As an educator, one needs to remember that they are playing an important role in developing the skills of “How to solve problems?” in your students.

1. Plan the exercise or activity that you want the students to participate in (with the help of textbooks, digital lessons and other resources available to you).

2. Share the exercise/activity with the classroom and give them an end goal or objective with a deadline.

3. Provide them with necessary access to information and stationary if its something that has to be completed in the classroom itself.

4. Allow them to brainstorm or discuss. It could be either alone or in groups depending on the activity. Guide them and enable them to think in a certain direction if they are stuck at some point.

5. Encourage them to share findings and solutions with the classroom

Help create an environment for creative problem-solving!

3. Create a sense of community in your classroom: Students should feel a sense of belonging and that of a second home in their classrooms. They should look forward to coming to your class with enthusiasm. It’s not an easy thing to accomplish, agreed, but there are ways an educator can adapt this as a practice, and eventually, it will become part of your relationship building skills.

1. To begin with, simple practices like establishing classroom norms — By discussing with the students and making them involved in establishing the rules. They will believe in those values as they discuss and say it out loud.

2. Grudges between students or bullying behavior that can cause a threat to the safe space of students. This should be addressed early on. This can be a “non — negotiable” value in your classroom, the one there is no room for.

3. Watching Ted Talks with your students can be a fun activity. You can then open the room for conversations where students can reflect and discuss. They can also share their own experiences with regards to the talk

4. Activities (eg: Appreciation, Aha, apology ; Gallery Walk) can be a fun way of students getting to know each other and each other’s interests.

You can engage with them with thought-provoking/ probing questions like (there are different kinds of questioning techniques):

“Who all like reading books?” “what do you read, name one of your favorite books?” “What was the moral of the story/could it have had a better ending?”

“Which movie taught you a lesson you can never forget?”

“Which place do you want to visit in the near future and why?”

“Have you ever helped a stranger, what did you do? And how did you think that person felt? How did you feel after helping the person?”

Give room for thought, creativity, and expression.

4. Create Dialogue Circles: This is an effective way for community building in classrooms. Students sit facing each other, preferably in a circle where conversations and open communication takes place. Ensure that all the students are listening to each other as they share their thoughts about a topic. Watch this video to understand how to facilitate a dialogue circle.

1. Students are encouraged to share experiences and opinions about topics that may be sensitive in nature (for example gender barriers, bullying or a traumatic childhood experience) or might cause slight discomfort initially.

2. It creates a nurturing environment where the students feel supported by each other as well as the teacher.

3. There is a sense of belonging as they start sharing feelings and emotions.

4. It also is a way to resolve conflicts and foster well being.

For example: One of the students in the circle says to another studentI felt hurt by the comments passed by xyz today,”. You as a mediator can ask “what hurt you most? we are all here to listen and help each other”

Dialogue circles help in conflict resolution, nurturing ideas and creating a sense of classroom communities

5. Be sensitive to the individual needs of the student: ‘feeling safe’ is largely dependent on acknowledging each student for the uniqueness, individual strengths, and weaknesses they possess. Understanding and handling the diversity responsibly plays an important role in building confidence for the student and also affects the student-teacher relationship. There might be different types of learners, where some may be motivated to take part in discussions, some may be shy to express themselves in a classroom and some may feel discouraged easily if they fail. Spending time to understand the different needs will go a long way in building a healthy classroom environment.

6. Keep your classroom visually pleasing: A welcoming classroom with tables, chairs, cushions and so on, make it more appealing to come to and spend a lot more time. You can make it fun and decorative by sticking posters, paintings by your students, inspirational quotes and other items that you will use for activities. We all function better when there is less clutter and a tidy/pleasing ambiance.

7. Giving Choices: A student’s ability to be creative and explore new horizons comes from confidence, and confidence is built by making choices — both right and wrong ones and learning from them. It will also make them feel involved in the class. By simply allowing them to make choices, you are enabling ‘decision-making skills’ that will become ingrained in them and also help in their professional and personal growth.

For example: “Shall we paint today or watch a video for today’s activity?”

Will you all help me in shortlisting the topics for next week’s group discussion activity?’

Photo by russn_fckr on Unsplash

8. Enable them to become self-learners: We are living in a world that is changing at a pace that has never been seen before. There are rapid advances being made at multiple levels in terms of technology and innovation.

The skills for adaptability, collaboration, and critical thinking that are required for jobs roles are constantly evolving. As a practice, students if they are taught the art of self- learning it gives room for a more meaningful student-teacher relationship. The process involves enabling them to be proactive to research online, enroll in additional courses of interest, reading articles, learn a new skill and become a self-regulated learner. “Reflection” plays an important role in the process of self-learning, and students should be made aware of the process of assessing their learning progress and how they can excel at each step.

Click here to read about How to become an effective self-learner and reflection.

9. Get the students ready for a 21st-century workplace: It’s essential for students to learn to get along with and understand people from all walks of life. Each one of them may come from diverse backgrounds, have their accomplishments, failures, family problems, language barriers, and class barriers. Some may express the discomfort of being around a person from another gender. By encouraging diversity, creating a collaborative environment, digital literacy, communication skills, and a self-learning attitude you be shaping your student’s for success!

A “ground rules” board made by students and teacher from a Government school in Bangalore

Article Written By:

Chitra Devaraj, Community Manager at QUEST Alliance

Reference Links for the article: How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching

How to create Dialogue circles

Video Links: Edutopia; K20 Center; Ted Talks

Trainer Tribe

Written by

Quest Alliance’s blog for Trainer Tribe - A community of 21st-century educators. https://www.questalliance.net/

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade