You can hang up some posters or rearrange the desks, but to truly revamp your classroom or change the dynamics, you need to think outside of the box. Audrey Homan, writing for the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, identified three key changes that will turn your classroom into a space for more flexible, functional learning in her article, “Hack your classroom: flexible learning environments.”
1. Seating Arrangements
The goal is to remove as many barriers between you and your students. Identify areas that can be used for collaborative seating, she recommends. For example, beanbag chairs, fabric-covered blocks, soft, cushiony rugs or couches are definitely different and encourage more comfort and communication.
Make sure the seating fits the space, and that reading area chairs are less rigid or structured. Ergonomic seating is a big plus for keeping students focused but comfortable while engaged with instruction. Remember that seating can include the outside, too.
2. Schedule and routines
You may not be able to control when the bell rings, but within periods you can institute “brain breaks,” says Homan. Have the kids stand up, sing, move, or simply shake their arms and legs for a few minutes. Conversely, quiet time can also have a calming, settling effect on the students. “One of our standard routines incorporated music and a quiet chat time so that junior high learners had a chance to engage each other during learning. Music – either meditative or relaxing – was supportive of a focused learning environment and was played daily, ” says Kelly Wood, a retired 8th teacher at Reynoldsburg City Schools.
Putting lesson resources online offers your students the opportunity to do their class work at home if they’re too distracted in the classroom to concentrate.
Rather than hang up printed inspirational posters, Homan suggests covering the walls with students’ work or “spangle” such as mind maps, research notes, giant student-generated posters, life-size character drawings and even projections onto the wall. The goal is to be inspiring while supporting and celebrating the efforts of the students.
These small changes can make a big difference in the lives of your students, and help them be more engaged and effective in retaining what they need to know.
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