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Tips for Creating Safe and Supportive Learning Environments

learning environment learning spaces

As we know, dyslexia rarely acts alone. Although identification and intervention are critical, so is an understanding of the whole child. We not only want to look deeply at student learning profiles, but we want to develop trusting relationships so we can begin to make progress on helping our students feel empowered on their journey.

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Cathleen Killeen-Pittman for a conversation about setting up our learning spaces for success!

Dr. Cathleen Killeen-Pittman, founder of Our Learning Studio, is an academic support specialist and literacy coach. She works with parents, teachers, tutors, and students in her private practice based in North Carolina. 

Cathleen’s career as an educator spans over 30 years. She began her teaching career in a 5th-grade classroom before going on to serve as a teacher or administrator in public school, community college, and university settings. She spent over 15 years serving as a beginning teacher evaluator where she mentored and coached teachers during the first three years of their careers. During that time, she had the opportunity to conduct over 2,000 classroom observations and developed a passion for exploring how to create structured learning environments designed to set students up for success. 

Cathleen is also an entrepreneur, founding her first academic support center in 2006. She currently works in private practice serving families and educators across the country through online small group classes for students, strategy sessions with parents and educators, and self-paced online courses.

Cathleen holds an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, a graduate degree in Educational Leadership, and a doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration. 

During our conversation with Cathleen, she shared with us her tips for creating a safe and supportive learning environment.

How to Create a Safe and Supportive Learning Environment for Your Students:

1. Establish a strong rapport

When someone walks into a classroom where a teacher has established a strong rapport with his/her students, there is an undeniable mood or feel. The students know they are in a safe space to ask questions. 

2.  An organized classroom

We want to model organization for students. Provide visual supports but not visual clutter. Children with learning differences can be overwhelmed with a lot of visual stimulation. Provide visuals for multi-step directions, timers, expectations, and schedules, but not too much more.

3. Clear procedures

The expectations for things like transitions, stations, and how to access materials were clearly communicated and understood by the students.

4. Active engagement

Find ways to keep all students actively engaged in the lesson and participating, not simply having one student answer at a time. This could look like having every student answer on their whiteboard and hold it up.  

It all comes back to routine, structure, and predictability!

Connect with Dr. Cathleen Killeen-Pittman at Our Learning Studio and find her on Facebook and YouTube.

For our full conversation on learning environments, check out our latest episode of the Together in Literacy podcast. If you like what you hear, don’t forget to rate, leave a positive review, and subscribe!

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