Many students thrive in distraction-reduced areas. For some it is a formal accommodation provided by their IEP. Teachers have long understood the benefits of providing areas of the classroom where students can concentrate and work without as much distraction. The challenge then becomes trying to create such a space in the classroom when it is already filled with students, furniture, and learning materials. We asked teachers across the country how they provide distraction-reduced areas and here are their best suggestions for implementing such a space in your own classroom.
How to Create Distraction-Reduced Areas in the Classroom
Under desks, under tables, and under tented areas of the classroom can offer children a quiet spot to concentrate. Erin O’Rourke Schoen said, “They love working under my desk with a clipboard and beanbag chair.”
Getting away from the area of distraction is important when students need to concentrate. “I have a ‘refocus’ desk area that students can go to work. It’s by my desk and [in] the quietest part of the room,” explained Christie Pena.
Set The Classroom Up for Success
Sometimes how you arrange the classroom can play a huge part in how and where you can find distraction-reduced areas. “I have a long bookshelf that runs horizontally, and I use it as a partial wall,” said Krystal Mills from Lessons From the Middle, a blog for teachers. “There are two tables on the other side (windows also – but less distracting than the classroom side). There are bins and things on the very top of the shelf too, so when students are sitting at the tables, my view of them is somewhat obstructed, but that’s also to reduce the distraction. It’s the first year I’ve had my room set up like this and it’s been great!”
Cindy Burrell knows that noise distraction is as much of an issue as visual distraction for some students. “I use old headphones that no longer work (just cut the wire off) for them to put on to block out noises. I also have a partition on wheels that I can move to block them from seeing whatever is distracting them,” she explained. Tara Adkins Robinson has a similar suggestion. “I have noise canceling ear muffs for those who need quiet, little mp3 players with only instrumental music that I put on for those who prefer noise, and, if needed, they can use the connecting ‘work room’ room I share with another class to work or go into the hall,” she said.
Imagine how challenging it is for some students to concentrate in a large or small group. It is not that they do not want to concentrate, sometimes they just cannot. Traci Steere’s solution is to set up “islands” that students can escape to when they need a break. “There are a few ‘islands’ set up around my room which are extra desks that are away from the mainland. Students can ask to go to an island or I may also suggest it if a student is struggling with distractions.”
Re-purpose for a Purpose
Finding the right materials to use to create a distraction-reduced area is part of the battle. “I have an old science carrel that students often use for privacy or [a] quiet down area. It’s always an option…as well as various spaces away from our main learning areas (corners, under tables, cushions in the classroom library, desk outside the doorway,” suggested Joan Lindsey Phegley.
How do you provide a distraction-reduced area for your students who need one? Share your ideas with us below.