Change Scenery to Create Better Learning
The element of surprise is not lost on adolescents. Although consistency is tremendously important, sometimes a teacher has to throw a curve, just to spice things up.
Often, when things grow stagnant in a class, there are things a teacher can do to spark the chemistry. One of those things is rearranging the room to suit specific projects or accommodate different learning styles.
Teachers no longer have to adhere to rows of one-armed bandits, to maintain order and space. Learning should be done in an inspired, collaborative space and the way we arrange the room can often dictate the tone.
Like teachers, students can grow complacent when comfortable and therefore doing a little extra to keep kids on their toes is a good thing.
Here are some suggestions:
Change the configuration of desks. The one shown in the picture is a horseshoe. The room was arranged like this for about two weeks while we were conducting student-led discussions about a novel. Students sat along the perimeter in order to create an atmosphere where we could all see each other and speak on an equal plane. When a teacher's desk is at the front of the room, it communicates control subconsciously. Conversations shouldn't have one leader who is more important than anyone else, they should promote open ideas.
Change the groups. Try putting the names of students you placed on a post-it or cards like seating cards at a party. Let the kids find their seats when they come in. Of course, the groups should be selected intentionally.
Design a new bulletin board that celebrates student learning. Create a competition among the kids to design the bulletin board that shows off the amazing learning that is going on in the space.
Change the decorations in the room. Change the decor regularly. Have student work as well as other text-rich posters changing. So there is always something new to notice. Make the space about the kids. Let the room be evidence of their learning.
Get the kids involved. When it comes time to shift the space, ask the kids what they want from time to time. Where do they want to sit? Can they sit on the floor? Why not? Ask them the create posters for the walls. Give them space to design an area of the room to take ownership of.
Get the kids out of the classroom. Although the classroom is primary to learning, how about an in-school field trip or a regular field trip. Learning can be done anywhere and experiences make lasting learning. Take kids places that connect to what is going on in the classroom. They won't soon forget it.
There is no one way to change a space; it's like a puzzle with multiple possible configurations. Some will work for some students and others will work for a different some. Work hard as often as possible to accommodate as many as possible.
What do you do to change your space to maximize student learning? Please share
*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog Work in Progress in January of 2015.