I wrote about the care Shigeru Miyamoto puts into creating the first level of a Super Mario game.
One “first level” teachers must carefully prepare is the physical classroom layout. Here’s a sort of Maslow’s hierarchy of classroom needs.
1. Safety First
Of course! Are there pathways for quick exits and windows clear for emergencies? Remove tripping hazards (cover those cables!) or heavy items that might fall during a disaster.
2. Business Systems
Make your class’ day-to-day operations run like butter by laying out clear systems. This will take a ton of clerical work off your plate.
By the end of the first week, students should know where:
- extra papers go
- work is turned in
- supplies are located
- lost items are returned
- attendance and lunch counts are reported
Bonus points for creating student jobs that check these daily or weekly, reporting any problems to you.
I’d estimate that Rick Morris’ systems gave me a two year head start towards setting up a smoothly operating classroom.
By the way, if kids keep asking where something goes or where something is, don’t get mad at them. Make the system clearer!
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3. Structure for Learning
Now that basic business systems are taken care of, how can you set the room up to encourage learning?
- Clusters of desks?
- Easily accessible storage for ongoing projects (I loved using these from Ikea)?
- Cool corners and nooks for group work?
- Clipboards for writing away from desks?
- Easy to access reference materials?
Intentionally use your furniture and supplies to set up the type of learning environment that you want to see on a daily basis.
4. Make It Theirs
Finally, how can you give your students more ownership of classroom?
Your classroom, after all, shouldn’t represent you, it should represent them!
They have a wild mix of passionate interests. They come from varied economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds. Some are boys, some are girls. This year, they might love Minecraft, painting, Lego, basketball, My Little Pony, and origami. Your room should reflect that variety.
Classrooms decorated with only the teacher’s interests can make students feel like outsiders. Cover those walls in kids’ passions and pursuits instead.
- a wall of photos showing students lives outside of class
- a curiosity board showing what kids are wondering
- a “what I know board” showing off unique expertise
- a board of “classroom memories” featuring photos of the year
- tons and tons of student work (featuring all kids, not just the 100%ers)
I’m sure you’ve got tons of ideas here. Please share: firstname.lastname@example.org
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