Trying to create the perfect classroom? One where students are engaged, prepared and collaborating on clearly defined tasks, but still differentiated according to ability as well as learning styles? The perfect classroom can be achieved and it’s easier than you think – even if you don’t stay in the same classroom all day. Blending the physical and non-physical attributes of a productive classroom will help you keep your students on task and foster a sense of community at the same time.
Supply Centre: A productive classroom starts with prepared students. Having a central location for extra supplies helps students get on task quickly, instead of getting distracted by asking others to borrow pencils or paper. Set aside a small table, countertop or even a rolling cart as the supply centre and keep it stocked with essentials. Your interactive notebooks, projects, and everyday assignments will be completed promptly and your students will appreciate the fact that you want them to be prepared. I use the back counter of my classroom as a supply centre and establish the routine early with my students. If they are in need of any supplies, the time to get them is before the bell rings. They know from the lesson objective what will be required that day. So, if an interactive notebook assignment is listed, they will need coloured pencils, scissors and glue in addition to their interactive notebooks.
Flexible Seating: Seating is perhaps the most important physical characteristic of a productive classroom. However, having the same seating arrangement every day does not always foster engagement in some specific lesson tasks. Create several seating charts for specific tasks, such as discussions, group work, and testing. Have students arrange desks in the formation best suited for that task: horseshoe-shaped for discussions, triads or quads for group work, and traditional rows for testing.
Communication: Be clear about what the end result of the lesson should be. Ensure that students know the lesson objective before the lesson begins, restate the objective throughout the lesson, and check for mastery at the end of the lesson. Stating the objective as a SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) can also help with students’ understanding and success in reaching the established goals. For example, if you are teaching a concept like idioms, your SMART learning objective could read, “90 percent of students will correctly identify idioms and match them with their definitions.” Then a mini-quiz at the end of the period will give them a chance to prove they have met the goal.
Differentiation: Students are most productive when they feel that they have a choice in the outcome of the lesson. Using Gardner’s multiple intelligences and designing lessons and assessments so that students can choose their own way to show understanding can make even the most reluctant class into an engaged and enjoyable group of learners. Students can choose to show understanding of a concept like vocabulary terms by creating gestures to define them, using the words to write a skit, defining them in a rap or poem, or illustrating the words in a poster.
Sense of Community: This final factor is perhaps the most important. When students feel that they are respected and they have some choices in the classroom, they will be more productive. Greet each student at the door, ask them questions about their weekend or activities in which they are involved, and use proximity control while teaching by moving around the room and interacting with students constantly. Your care and concern for students will pay off with increased engagement and more productive and on-task behaviour.
The perfect classroom is within your grasp – use these tips to create a space where students feel valued, respected and productive. Happy teaching!
By Betina Fuentes