Think About This! // 7


I have never enjoyed classroom set-up as it seems there is this in-built protocol for what it should look like and be. Similar to the idea that teachers are a certain "type" of person, (don't get me started… :) the classroom generally has that "classroom" look. 

With the sense of myself in those high school years and the accompanying anxiety I personally experienced in "that" classroom, I knew I had to do something different for my students once I became a teacher. As a student with nothing else to look at or engage me,  "boring teacher talk" often made me want to be anywhere but there. 

Knowing every student is in a different place mentally and emotionally from that personal experience, as a teacher I try to vary the visual dynamic in my classrooms to best facilitate engagement and active learning within the group. I've found my most recent classrooms took on more interest with a few simple touches:
  1. A video screen was always playing my newest DVD of fish swimming, a fireplace going, etc.  This was part of the mood-enhancing that my classroom was needy of and it gave the visual kids something to look at.
  2. When I stopped talking, classical music started playing.
  3. With the benefit of a bank of computers in my classroom, if the lesson was on Renaissance art each computer had a different work of art displayed so that students could move and view.
  4. The bulletin board was a giant map of the world because we were memorizing the countries of the world and all their capital cities as an extracurricular, 'just for fun' activity (not part of the curriculum but wow, were there a lot of kids sitting around the school with atlases in hand!).  Many riotous "girls vs the boys" showdowns proved a great way to get the competitive types memorizing the countries of the world. We included pins with string placed on the map from our location to whatever locations of the world we studied. You could also add whatever locations the students originally came from or had recently traveled to (colour coded). My map took up most of that wall...big was better in my mind, as this visual was a focal point for my students and I.  
  5. In my performing arts class located in a portable we created acting zones that included the hill above the playing field, which was just outside my classroom. The other students loved us taking it one step further and enacting our scenes during breaks right on that hill. This drew a crowd and the lessons were always that much more fun.
  6. Career and Technology Studies landed on my lap! How, I do not know. Instead of teaching each of the endless 25 hour units we did project proposals and project management formatting that I fashioned after a business model. The result was active learning in animal husbandry, fashion, cooking, construction, welding, design, architecture, etc. vs. students sitting through hours upon hours of my instruction on such topics. With the addition of mentors, the students developed a gymnasium 'project fair' of sorts, full of impressive completions that I am still in awe of.

These are some of my ideas…all of which served great purpose in my classrooms and offered engaging alternatives to the conventional classroom set-up. You and your class, with all of your skills and the varied personalities of the students in the room, will also create a room that is full of life and learning over the course of this year. I'm sure in many ways you already have! I think we can all agree that creating this safe haven of learning and growth is so truly worth it. 

If you have any tips or techniques you're especially fond of, please share below. We'd love to hear them. 

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