Learn How a Few Simple Steps Can Encourage Collaboration in Your Classroom
We often forget how much the physical classroom and its tools can shape what we do and how we do it. We “fail to notice the ways in which space constrains or enhances what we intend to accomplish.”* While the word “makeover” may sound like a dramatic transformation, it only takes a few small changes to make our classroom spaces much more collaborative. Those small changes can be very impactful to learning. Here are just a few ways you can give your classroom a “collaborative makeover.”
1. Clear Away the Clutter
The first step is to remove anything that is not adding to the learning environment. The rule that applies to your closet also applies to your classroom: If you haven’t used something in the past year, get rid of it! This goes for things hanging on the wall as well as hiding in drawers. Clearing the clutter will help you free up new space to change and rearrange.
2. Invite Student Input
Ask your students how and where they like to learn and work together – at school as well as at home. Think how you can model the classroom to match the most popular answers.
3. Seek Donations
School budgets are always tight. To get the supplies you need to accomplish your makeover, ask students, parents, and local businesses to donate the things you need. As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. And for businesses, a donation can be a tax write-off.
4. Play Musical Chairs
A room that’s set up in rows of desks says to students, “I talk or demonstrate; you listen or observe.”* Rearrange the desks so that they are in quads or small groupings. Make sure you leave plenty of room between the desks and groupings, so that you and the students can move freely between the groups and to and from other learning areas in the classroom.
5. Let Learning Happen Everywhere
Teaching no longer has to be a front-of-the-room activity. The collaborative classroom has a key theme: learning can happen anywhere. Make sure it does by creating lots of learning centers around the room. Put whiteboards on every side of the room. If you are short on whiteboards, use whiteboard paint to create one on any wall. Add flat surfaces for computers and student devices. Put a document camera on a portable cart so it can be used wherever it is needed. Make sure seating is easily accessible, so areas can be set up quickly as needed. Set it up to move and flow from demonstration to group work to individual attention.
6. Make Comfort Key
You know how distracted you become when lighting is too harsh or the chair you are sitting on is too stiff? Comfort is key when you are trying to teach a concept and students are trying to learn. Do what you can to ensure that everyone’s comfortable in the environment.
7. Reevaluate as Necessary
A classroom makeover is always a work in progress. Regularly updating and changing your space will activate the senses and make it a more engaging and stimulating environment.
If you enjoyed these tips, find more ideas and resources from the following sites:
If you enjoyed this post learn even more about classroom collaboration and get free collaborative classroom activities in our Collaborate to the Core! 2 guide.