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checkpoint 7.3
Minimize threats and distractions

One of the most important things a teacher can do is to create a safe space for learners. To do this, teachers need to reduce potential threats and distractions in the learning environment. When learners have to focus their attention on having basic needs met or avoiding a negative experience they cannot concentrate on the learning process. While the physical safety of a learning environment is of course necessary, subtler types of threats and distractions must be attended to as well; what is threatening or potentially distracting depends on learners’ individual needs and background. An English Language Learner might find language experimentation threatening, while some learners might find too much sensory stimulation distracting. The optimal instructional environment offers options that reduce threats and negative distractions for everyone to create a safe space in which learning can occur.

  • Create an accepting and supportive classroom climate
  • Vary the level of novelty or risk
    • Charts, calendars, schedules, visible timers, cues, etc. that can increase the predictability of daily activities and transitions
    • Creation of class routines
    • Alerts and previews that can help learners anticipate and prepare for changes in activities, schedules, and novel events
    • Options that can, in contrast to the above, maximize the unexpected, surprising, or novel in highly routinized activities
  • Vary the level of sensory stimulation
    • Variation in the presence of background noise or visual stimulation, noise buffers, number of features or items presented at a time
    • Variation in pace of work, length of work sessions, availability of breaks or time-outs, or timing or sequence of activities
  • Vary the social demands required for learning or performance, the perceived level of support and protection and the requirements for public display and evaluation
  • Involve all participants in whole class discussions

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