By James Rossi, Classroom Coordinator
Today’s post is part of a series on using the five senses to create an optimal learning environment. You can find all of those posts here.
NOTE: some of these suggestions may not be applicable due to COVID-19.
Let’s talk about the sense of touch.
I find the tactile aspect of a classroom is limited by the school itself. Sometimes, our classrooms just don’t have all of the space we need to create the best environment. I do my best to make my classroom feel cozy, but I don’t have the room or availability for carpets and comfy chairs.
Now, with COVID-19, there are other limitations, making it harder to engage our students’ sense of touch. This could be due to either remote learning or the need to limit the use of shared objects.
Still, there are ways to make the most of our spaces.
Arrange Your Classroom
One of the best things you can do for your students is be mindful of your classroom arrangement. You need to ensure that the space is comfortable for students to exist in physically.
This doesn’t mean ensuring every student has their own comfy pillow or blanket – that would be great but just not feasible – but it does mean considering how students will move through the room or sit at their desks.
Since I am limited, my focus is on the arrangement of the room – what it feels like to be a student moving through it.
I make sure they can all sit and see the front of the room without having to strain their bodies. I teach them how to sit properly and why, show them stretches to use that they are allowed to do whenever they feel the need. Sometimes, I’ll guide them through those when we spend too much time seated.
You might also want to consider what your students need beyond their desks. I make sure everything they may need to get up to access (loose-leaf/glue sticks/rulers etc.) is easy to get to and laid out in such a way that it is intuitive.
The Relationship Between Touch and Sight
The sense of touch is different from the other four senses in that it doesn’t have a single sense organ. As such, cognitive science literature has begun treating touch as naturally multisensory, setting it apart from the sense of smell or sight.
As a result, this sense often works with the others, perhaps most prominently with sight.
Engaging the color side of things here, I make sure anything they are free to use without asking every time is labeled with one particular color. I usually go with orange because it stands out. This color works as a signal for students – they will know that they are allowed to touch an item with such a label.
Learn more about the use of colors in your classroom here.
What classroom arrangement works best for your students? How do you appeal to their sense of touch? Let us know in the comments!
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