Mimio Educator

Designing a Learning Classroom

Posted by Kelly Bielefeld on Wed, Aug 30, 2017

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As we look at our classrooms to arrange them for the start of the year, we should ask ourselves this reflective question: “What type of classroom do I want to create?” Or even better, “What type of learning environment do I want my students to experience?”

There are different answers to these questions, and multiple answers are correct. As a teacher, you must first teach from the heart—from your own heart, and not someone else’s opinion of what teaching should be. The environment that is created should not be gathered from Pinterest, but should sprout from your own philosophies about teaching and effective learning.

There are a few things that should be in place in every classroom, regardless of style or philosophy:

  • Whole-Group Instruction: Every classroom must have a room, place, or system for whole-group instruction. Even if a teacher is primarily focused on project-based learning or a constructivist philosophy, there are always times when all of the students need to pay attention to a speaker. This doesn’t mean that all the desks have to be in rows, but at a minimum, there has to be a system in place for students to turn their chairs and their focus to the speaker or the content at the front of the room. All students must be looking at the speaker—not just to maintain their focus, but to also show respect to the speaker.

  • Paperwork Flow: This may be digital, but there must be a system which is taught to students for how paperwork will get to the teacher. It may seem like a small detail, but in many classrooms, missing assignments are “zeros” in terms of grading, so this is a critical routine to teach and reteach all students in the classroom.

  • Seating: All students need a “place” for their self and their stuff. Even if your heart leads you away from traditional seating, make sure there is a place for everyone.

  • Talking: All classrooms should have the ability for students to talk to one another and to the teacher. How this happens is a matter of preference, but make sure there is a structure and routine in place for it.

Now that some of the essentials are out of the way, the critical questions come next: “What do you want the culture to be? What do you want the climate to be? How should learning ‘feel’ for the students?” Here are some reflective questions to help guide the decision making: 

  • Classroom Content: Where in the room will the content be found? Textbooks? Devices? Other students? The teacher? Paper handouts? On displays or the touchboard? Will there be one location or different locations? Will they change or will they be consistent?
    • Each of these questions has multiple answers, but all come back to the design for effective learning. If you are most comfortable with a controlled source of content, then there will probably be fewer options for locations and sources. If you are most comfortable with students finding their own information with multiple activities going on once, the location of the content should reflect this.

  • Moving Students: How often should students move? When should they ask to move? (Or should they even ask at all?) Should there be systematic movement? Why would students move around the room?
    • There could be some “right answers” when it comes to movement, depending on the age of the students. But each teacher must ask themselves how comfortable they are with it and how much instructional time they're willing to allocate toward it. The more teachers can embed movement into the learning, the better.

  • Setting Classroom Expectations: What are the expectations when students work? How do they get help if they need it? Can they get help from peers? If there are instructional support paras in the classroom, can all students access their help? And back to the question of content, where can answers be found?
    • Some teachers are very comfortable with students being open and speaking freely with others around the room. Other teachers are not as comfortable with this, and prefer control over both the conversation and the information being shared. Once again, there isn't a right answer to this, but a teacher must consider all of these questions while designing a learning environment.

  • Assessing Students: What kind of learning will take place? Will students be able to demonstrate knowledge in a variety of manners? What role will assessments, both formal and informal, play in the classroom?
    • This is really a critical question for all teachers. Most likely, teachers will use multiple forms of assessment in their classroom. But teachers must still reflect on how many options to give students, how many assessments to give students, and how to score and grade all of these assessments.

Good teachers don’t just give answers to students—they lead them to the answers through good questions. Reflect on these questions and think about your teaching style, the teacher you want to be, how students should be learning, and the amazing learning environment that you want to create.

Check out these helpful guides on whole-class learning solutions and collaboration tips and lessons.

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Topics: 21st Century Skills, Classroom Management, Classroom Collaboration, classroom assessment

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