What Is a Sensory Classroom?
A sensory classroom in a school refers to a therapeutic space containing various pieces of equipment to provide personalized, sensory learning for students with special needs. Specialized sensory equipment can help evoke calmness and better focus amongst neurodivergent children, helping them socialize, learn and interact with others more effectively. Students may use sensory corners in classrooms for their entire learning experience, or they may use them when they feel overwhelmed, or need a moment of quiet.
When children are equipped with the correct tools for their body and mind, their willingness to learn and attention span greatly improves. Not only can sensory classrooms help students, but they also assist in making teachers’ and carers’ lives easier.
Benefits of a Sensory Classroom
There are many benefits of sensory rooms. We’ve received lots of feedback regarding the benefits of including a sensory area in your classroom, including increased focus and decreased distraction. We’ve listed some of the ways in which a sensory classroom can help both students and teachers.
- Better Control Over Classroom Atmosphere
Many teachers feel more in control of their class when sensory options are implemented into the classroom environments. Students tend to feel more connected and included when presented with alternative learning options, which helps to maintain a sense of community. Furthermore, if students are happy within their learning environments, this helps create a relaxed atmosphere that keeps children feeling safe and secure.
- Increased Student Attentiveness
By creating comfortable environments for children, their learning potential increases dramatically. Sensory classrooms are said to positively impact students, allowing them to become better at following directions and spend increased time on tasks. Additionally, sensory classrooms can help decrease negative behaviors and improve emotional development.
- Saves Money in the Long Term
If you are a school with a large number of special needs students, it may be to your financial benefit to implement a sensory area in your classroom. The initial set-up costs of sensory equipment for your classroom will be more economical in the long run than sending students out to third-party support services. In addition, a sensory corner within your classroom helps to cut out the middleman, allowing you to manage matters internally.
How to Use a Sensory Classroom
Every student will have sensory preferences, and these preferences change as we grow older. These are some of our favorite sensory classroom techniques and pieces of equipment you can embed within your teaching methods for students of all ages.
- Many young students are still trying to figure out their learning styles, so it is beneficial to provide a range of techniques that cover different abilities. Try to create lessons that cover multi-sensory abilities, playing on the senses: tactile, visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. You’ll find your students will be happier to learn if doing it in a way that makes the most sense to their minds and body.
- It’s no surprise that children can be very loud. Sometimes classrooms can get slightly wild, which can hinder learning and quickly escalate into chaos. Try using a sensory corner in your classroom to provide an area of respite for overstimulated children. Having a sensory area within your classroom where children can feel safe is an excellent de-escalation tool. You could use aromatherapy oils to create a calming area and use bubble tubes as a quick distraction tool.
- As children enter elementary school, they have established their learning techniques. In this period of their school career, your main priority will be maintaining focus. Weaving fun sensory activities into your lessons can help maintain a calm and focused atmosphere. Try letting your class play with Perfect Petzzz as a way for children to let off steam at the beginning of the day or after recess.
- If you feel your class is losing concentration, try splitting the class into groups and rotating using the sensory corner in your classroom. This way, your class will behave in anticipation of using the sensory corner and will feel more relaxed after spending time within the sensory area.
- Try to integrate flexible seating into your classroom where possible. Alternate seating arrangements can help to make children feel more comfortable and alert. Try using bean bags, exercise balls, vibrating cushions or even floor tables to accommodate individual needs. Vibrating cushions are an excellent tool for helping to teach children with autism, as it calms and focuses the child.
- Some may argue that highly-decorated classrooms can actually be distracting for children. Try making your sensory corner in the classroom as minimal as possible, letting the sensory equipment do the talking.
- As school becomes more stressful, providing a quiet sensory area in your classroom will be vastly beneficial to your students. Establish the sensory corner in the classroom as an area where students can go for some quiet time. Provide noise-cancelling headphones so they can listen to calming music, along with pillows and calming projections to help students relax before a test, or if they’re feeling stressed after returning to school after a break.
- Down-time is extremely important, so recess should be highly encouraged to let children blow off steam. Recess could be enjoyed inside or outside. If inside, consider bringing out a sound wall for children to play with on their break, helping them to have fun whilst working on their gross motor skills and providing sound and music therapy. If outside, give students playground equipment such as balls or jump ropes.
- Dotting small sensory items around the classroom for children to quietly fidget with can help minimize larger potential distractions, helping keep children occupied and happy.
- It has been noted that using sensory areas within classrooms to promote physical movement has been beneficial in increasing relaxation among older students. Try playing calming music and pinning posters of easy yoga poses for children of all abilities.
- To help your students work on their problem-sorting and hand-eye coordination skills, provide plenty of colored cards and folders. If you spot a student in need of a learning break, allow them to spend a moment sorting the colored card into the corresponding folders.
How to Set Up a Sensory Area in Your Classroom
In order to set up a successful sensory corner in your classroom, there are a few steps we recommend you taking. For more ideas, check out our list of our top five sensory solutions for schools.
- Clearly assign the space as a sensory corner and promote it to your class accordingly.
- Limit distractions where appropriate.
- Use calming colors and lighting to promote the desired emotional effect.
- Provide comfortable seating options.
- Add sensory posters and visual stimulations, such as bubble tubes or fiber optic solutions.
- Provide a range of sensory equipment for all abilities.
- Introduce your class to it slowly.
- Keep a log of what works and what doesn’t, so you can constantly improve your sensory area.
We hope you now understand the importance of implementing a sensory area in your classroom, and the benefits that this can bring to both students and teachers. We offer a variety of multi-sensory room packages, but if you prefer something more bespoke, we can create bespoke solutions to suit you. To discuss options or for any questions, get in touch with us today.