The Responsive Mindset: 4 Ways the Classroom Environment Can Lower the Affective Filter

In the last blog, we discussed how to create a responsive physical classroom environment that focuses on both cultural and academic features. If you missed that one, you can find it here. But what about the feeling of the classroom?

What? Classrooms have feelings? Well, not exactly, but students certainly do. We all have an affective filter. Basically, if the affective filter is up, learning and language development stops. If the affective filter is down, learning and language increase! A lot of factors effect this affective filter, but it’s a pretty good bet that if students are feeling overwhelmed, chaotic, bored, or defensive, the affective filter is going to be up. Way up. It’s our job as educators to bring that filter down, even if we didn’t cause the filter to go up in the first place!

The classroom environment is a great place to start. Let me give you 4 ways to lower the affective filter from an environmental standpoint.

  1. Have a positive routine when students come in the door. Call them by name, give them hug, handshake, fist bump (whatever you are comfortable with), and tell them something authentically positive. Even if their affective filter is up from something that has happened previously in the day, you’ve taken huge steps to lowering it by having them enter the room positively.
  2. Have a classroom that represents them. We all need and like connection. When you have set up a classroom so that it represents the students’ likes, backgrounds, traditions, and work, an automatic comfort and sense of belonging occurs, which lowers the affective filter.
  3. Use music to calm and stimulate. Calming instrumental music can be used to bring students’ anxieties and heightened states down. Upbeat music (that students like) can be used for brain breaks and recharge. Music is a research-based way to help regulate emotions.
  4. Have an orderly classroom. Chaos, whether that be from people or from clutter or things can raise the affective filter. If students are in a dirty classroom or don’t where to find or put things, this raises the filter. It may not bother you, but for students who often live in chaos, it can be a trigger. **Quick tip, have systems in place for your students to help clean each day. This instills a sense of responsibility and ownership, and takes the brunt of it off of you! A quick 3 minute clean up time can make all the difference in the world!

I fully believe that the teacher has the power in the classroom, not the students. When teachers are responsive, students are engaged and learning! These are a few examples of how the environment can help or hurt learning, but if you want to dive into responsive teaching with your staff, reach out at, or visit

Also, for a free Responsive Teacher Checklist, click here! Get a gage on where your teachers are (or where you are as a teacher!). We are here to help!

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