Teaching techniques are shifting from traditional classroom approaches to more diverse, self-guided instruction. The lecture classroom is being replaced by smaller, multiple spaces that are open, functional, and foster independent learning. Your room design directly influences how well your students are engaged in the classroom. Therefore, as classrooms evolve, our learning environment needs to follow suit. To be effective today, your students need a self-directed and motivating environment. The focus becomes not only what you do as a teacher, but what you do to empower your students to do.
Here are some ways that you can inspire and engage your students:
1. Be your own architect
Active, engaged classrooms require a stimulating physical environment. Design areas within your classroom that are open, well-lit, and emotionally appealing. Consider comfort and attractiveness, as well as efficient use of space. Use three or four smaller spaces within your single space. Think about furniture that is lightweight, moveable and can transition easily for small group vs. whole group. Allow for teacher movement and limit distractions. Let your classroom design underwrite your teaching goals. The ultimate environment allows for students to move freely and independently, yet manage within their own learning spaces.
2. Organize your spaces
Multiple spaces allow children to self-guide and self-instruct, promoting independence, motivation and discipline. Structure your classroom to support specific skills, such as writing and math. Arrange desks in small groups to encourage book discussions or conversations. Create independent learning centers and listening stations for reading. Consider using pillows for quiet reading corners. Try a u-shaped table for small reading groups. Place white boards on perimeter walls for writing or cork boards on walls for displaying. Play soft music in areas where students can finish work, and design creative multimedia spaces for technology use.
3. Focus on flexibility
Flexibility is essential for today’s classroom. Provide varied spaces that can be altered if needed, and choose ergonomic furniture that can be modified. Be sensitive to your students’ feelings and be willing to evaluate your spaces. “I have always equipped my classroom with several flexibly focused small group areas,” said Kelly Wood, a retired teacher from Reynoldsburg, Ohio. “This independent space is targeted to offer my student fewer distractions, alternative lighting and seating facilitating a different ‘feeling’ area for work, relaxation, reading or collaboration.”
Offering diverse spaces for your students’ steadily changing needs is critical to their achievement. Providing areas for communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and relationship-building nurtures cooperative, engaged, and successful learning.