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Developing a Dynamic Learning Environment

I've been accused of being the Miss Honey of High School by several former colleagues and students. They usually snicker at how much effort I put into making my space hospitable.

I'm not embarrassed to admit I take great pride in the space I develop for my students. When they walk into our shared learning environment, I want them to feel welcomed and happy.

Did I mention I taught high school seniors?

You may think it's hard to make adolescents both happy and engaged while at school, but I'd disagree.

Many older adolescents are much like their younger counterparts looking for nurturing while also desiring autonomy...

And our classroom should reflect that.

Consider the sensory details when developing a look for your classroom. What will the kids see when the walk inside? How can you make it a space that feels inspiring?

  • Make sure the walls are bright but soothing, a light blue if possible. 

  • Decorate bulletin boards in a complementary color (I don't have any windows in my classroom, so I have the added challenge of making the room not feel closed in)

  • What will have space on the walls that won't change and what will?

  • Where can you add student flare and touches that come from them? This year I have a goal wall. When we make our goals public and transparent, we are more likely to reach them. Each day I spend some time reading what the kids wrote on their goal strips. Helps keep me grounded.

  • Keep the room tidy, especially if you're in a school where kids are switching rooms all day. Each set of kids should walk into a clean and inviting room.

  • If you have desks or tables, arrange them in a way that encourages movement, maybe even leave space along the wall to allow students to sit on the floor. Consider bringing in cushions to make that a more comfortable experience.

  • Make one area of the room a consistent space for kids to look when they come in to know what's going on today, a clear focal point.

In addition to considering the look of the space, we need to think about how we use the time for learning in our spaces. I know that if my throat hurts at the end of the day, I've been talking too much. We have to remember that school is about our students' learning experiences and therefore must empower them to be doing the heavy lifting. They can do it. As long as we offer them multiple opportunities and a variety of ways to do something, all kids can and will obtain the skills they need. 

The physical space isn't enough, we need to remember that student-centered classrooms encourage kids to take those necessary risks that will help them grow and develop as people. Every choice we make in the kinds of pedagogy we use affects their experiences and since all kids are different, varying the approach will show them all that we care enough to tailor it to each of them.

At the end of each day, what matters most in education are the relationships we develop with the students. Whether it is making a comfortable physical space or taking the time to learn what each child needs to be successful, we do it all to increase the learning.

What do you do to make your learning environment dynamic for student learning success? Please share

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog Work in Progress on 9/8/14

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