Some of you have been in the classroom for almost six weeks, while others have just begun. Making changes to your classroom at this point in the school year may sound odd, but sometimes it is good to make a change after a few weeks to spice things up.
If you’re thinking about shaking up your classroom dynamic, here are some easy changes you can incorporate:
- A simple way to display or decorate: I use a handy clothespin-type clip on a string that attaches to the ceiling panel frames (you can get a set of 10 for around $8.00 here). This ingenious design allows the ceiling hanglers to grip ceiling brackets. Each comes with its own supply of string and mini clothespins that you can instantly install to clip on student work, posters, decorations, or whatever! These are quick to put up or take down, removable, and reusable.
I usually start with “welcome back” decorations, quickly moving to fall leaves, then DNA ladders made by the students for biology. This then become a teaching tool as the walls of the classroom become the cellular membrane and various objects around the classroom become the organelles. In January, I move on to hanging snowflakes, followed by hearts for February, spring break ideas for March, Earth Day items for April, then graduation hats and banners in May. For those “in between” theme months, I hang paper Japanese-style lanterns of varying sizes. I also use these clips to hang “DO NOT OPEN” packages or envelopes to engage students—they can open these when directed to do so, and the contents provide instructions for a task or assignment.
- Memes: These are incredibly popular among middle and high school students! Have the students design posters (for whatever topic you teach) that include memes related to your subject matter. Historical memes, math memes, and even classroom rule memes will give your students (and fellow teachers) a good laugh.
- Switch up the focus: Move your focal point from in front of the classroom to a distant corner. You can enhance your presence by standing on a short stool or step ladder to deliver a particular point of information. Remember Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” from Dead Poets Society when the teacher leaped up on top of the desk to make his point? Do the unexpected.
- Get creative: Ask permission first, then spend a long weekend, winter, or spring break painting unused lockers to look like the spines of classic books. Don’t have lockers you can paint? Then cover cabinets in your classroom with butcher paper to achieve the same look.
- Look up: Have a drop ceiling in your classroom? Decorate the ceiling tiles or give your students an assignment requiring them to decorate a ceiling tile using a class topic such as inspirational quotes, the periodic table, or book covers. You could even slide out see-through panels for vocabulary words that change out as your chapters change. Or give the ceiling tiles a social media theme, incorporating famous quotes and historical events in a “social media” format. In the past, I have used various cotton fabric patterns to attach to the ceiling tiles representing the various biomes of the planet. I also have jigsaw-style fabric that I have used to maintain focus for my IEP students who need a break—they count the number of frogs they see in the fabric.
If you’re ready for something more complex, here are some additional changes to consider:
- Rework the space: Move out the desks and tables, replacing them with collaboration units—moveable tables (on wheels with locking casters), bean bag or lounge chairs, or wide tables where students can build 3D models or draw 2D models.
- Increase face-to-face interaction: Keep your tables and chairs in the classroom but regroup them to create larger surface areas for face-to-face interaction as opposed to the traditional face-to-teacher setup.
- Get up: Have your students stand up to hear instructions rather than sitting down, then they can return to a sitting mode when they are ready to get to work.
- Allow for group collaboration: If you have chairs with a table top connected to the chair, put them together in groups of four or form a circle with an aisle set aside for you to flow in and out while providing guidance or instruction.
- Put students in the pilot seat: Use upturned chairs as a “pilot seat” and have students wear safety goggles and turn on fans to simulate “flying” over a section of land. They can then describe or indicate their birds-eye view of an environmental issue, historical battle, or trade route.
How do you keep things interesting in the classroom? We’d love to hear your suggestions for changing the classroom dynamic in the comments below. To get more teaching tips like this all year long, be sure to subscribe to the Educator blog today!