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The importance of whitespace in education

Read why it’s just as important for teachers to focus on the time between teaching, as delivering inspiring lessons.

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In education, every moment is precious. We’re so busy ensuring we deliver the most engaging and inspiring lessons to our pupils and keeping up with new edtech, we sometimes forget about the valuable time in between. The time spent reflecting, giving pupils time to catch up with their learning and, as teachers, recharging our batteries is often overlooked.

One of our Promethean advocates, Alison Lydon, is a Deputy Head (Early Education) at Mary Erskine and Stewarts Melville Junior School in Edinburgh and is also a trained graphic designer, so she knows a thing or two about the importance of whitespace in design. Alison has written a guest blog for us about the relevance of this in teaching too.

When I was learning graphic design, whitespace — the portion of a page left unmarked — was an important element. I was taught that the space was not blank but an important element of design which enabled the objects in it to exist, to become important rather than being lost in the clutter and business of a page. This is an idea I have been adopting in my classroom recently. It is so easy to become caught up in the hurly-burly of Pinterest, the competitive world of ‘just a bit more’. However, as we embark upon a new school year, I would urge you to think about leaving some white space.

What does whitespace in education look like?

It could be removing a piece of furniture from your classroom that doesn’t add anything to your teaching or reducing the amount of displays in your classroom to ensure the important ones stand out. It could be in the creation of your own resources. Maybe a little white space in a worksheet so that the content and appearance does not overwhelm the audience.

The use of whitespace can give a classic, elegant, or rich appearance. Consider using just enough text on an interactive whiteboard flipchart to encourage and not distract your pupils, and keep them focused.

The importance of time to think

We all know the importance of allowing children thinking time. Do you do it enough?

Do you take time to watch and observe children whilst they engage in an activity, eat lunch or play in the playground? Sometimes a few minutes a day will tell you more about the development of the children in your care than any amount of testing.

Have you allowed white space between activities, to ensure everyone is ready and calm and in the right frame of mind to start the next task? Planning a short time at the end of the day to reflect is another example of white space. This will allow you to extract yourself from the blutack, confiscated fidget spinners, lost socks and think about the bigger picture, the strategies you will employ tomorrow, the goals you need to set for the next day.

Finally, how about you?

Have you considered areas where you need a little white space in your life to ensure you continue to arrive at school as an enthusiastic, happy teacher? Take time for you; walk, swim, cook, paint, shop, whatever it is that makes you feel revitalised. Reboot your enthusiasm for life.

I set myself a challenge for next term; find 10 minutes of white space a day. Build it up in small blocks of five or ten seconds, or a minute or two. This will remove some clutter and free up more white space in my teaching. What about you?

So, while we’re busy crafting engaging lessons for our classes, and working out the best way to use edtech software like ClassFlow to inspire our pupils, it’s just as important to think of the time in between.

Education and pedagogy is only as good as the teacher that delivers it every day, after all, so take some time to make sure you’re recharged and motivated.

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