Sunday, November 20, 2011

10 Ways to Make it "Their" Room

  1. Visualize a flow - do you see students moving around a lot, or will they be more sequestered?  Either way, make sure people can get by each other without any issues arising.
  2. Create different spots - I learn best sitting in a comfy chair or sprawled out, as do many of my students.  Some though prefer the rigidity of a desk.  Offer options within your classroom to fit all of their movement needs, which leads me to the next point.
  3. Let them use your classroom in whichever manner they see fit, as long as it is within safe reason.  My students don't ask whether they can move, they know that they can, as long as it is not disruptive or unsafe.  I love that they feel like it is their room.
  4. Talk about it as our room not your room.  Language matters and how you label the classroom is huge.  Do you have a sign that says welcome to "my" room?  That sends a message.  I still catch myself saying "my" even though I know it is ours.  
  5. Have them set the expectations.  We all work better when we decide our working conditions.  I have the students discuss routines and expectations for the year and then we adjust them as necessary.  Again, this is their room, not my room.
  6. Un-clutter.  At the elementary level there seems to be a need to cram as much stuff on our walls as possible to help the kids or inspire them.  I chose instead to give them room to create and to only put up things that are vital for our learning at that time.  Our room is by no means bare but it does reflect what we are working on and then provides calm.
  7. Get rid of your desk.  I cannot tell you how the energy of my room changed when I did.  I still have a table for my computer and planner but it is against a wall.  The students use when I don't and they also use the computer.  I was worried I wouldn't have a place to put all of my stuff and it turns out I have had to get a lot more organized because of this.
  8. Give them space.  Make sure the students feel they have enough room for their things, we just have bins and cubbies but it works for us.  The kids spread out more when they need to but they also clean up after themselves.  I had to let go a bit of how clean the classroom is but have noticed that the kids now take more pride in the room.
  9. Stop managing and controlling them. You control animals and manage tasks, not children.  How about guiding or leading them instead? Language matters because it changes your own mindset.  I don't do classroom management, we instead have classroom routines and expectations.  The power of words is immense.
  10. Believe in it and prove it.  You cannot talk about their room but then act like you are the queen bee.  It just doesn't work.  So if you truly want students to take ownership of their learning and their room, get out of the way.  Let them experiment with how the tables are set up or where they gather for a lesson.  Let them figure out how it works best for them.  You can direct obviously but have them discuss and try.  


    Lisa M said...

    This is a great addition to my post, "Let Students Own, Not Rent"!
    Making it "Our Classroom"
    Thanks for listing strategies to make it happen!

    Ann and Celina said...

    Love your 10 ways... These are 10 essentials to making the classroom a community space! I remember how jazzed I was last year pushing all my desks out in the hallway and digging several tables out of our building's storage closets, I received many strange looks but my students thrived off of the roominess of the classroom from that point on... I did laugh out loud with your queen bee comment though, as Ann and I have queen bee costumes we use as a metaphor... We hope the classroom runs as a hive, consistent hum of buzzing while all the worker bees do their job for the good of the hive, but if needed the queen bees will buzz about but they (we) are not the ones who get the job done. Honestly, we have tried to joke about how it is the job of the worker bees to serve the queen... And our worker bees just laugh because they know it (the hive) is their space... So I guess we used a different spin on queen bees :)

    All in all, though, you have posted an EXTREMELY important message related to the structure of student-driven learning...

    Morgan Sims said...

    My name is Morgan Sims and I'm a student at the University of South Alabama. I am currently enrolled in EDM 310. I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I will keep these things in mind for when I become a teacher.

    Tom said...

    For some reason I keep thinking of that scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High where Spicoli has the pizza delivered.

    Anyway, I wrote about this back in August where I was a bit skeptical about getting rid of my desk. However, I do like the attitude that it is "our" room as much as it's "my" room.

    My advice to anyone when taking this approach would be to make sure that you don't get taken advantage of. I know that sounds defensive, but I teach teenagers and while the majority are perfectly fine people there are always those who will abuse any trust you place in them or take advantage of the fact that you're actually a nice person.

    Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

    Hi Lisa, I did link your post at the bottom as well as it was your post that reminded me to finish this post. It is so important when we give students the ownership of the room, it really changes the energy. Thanks for writing your post!

    Ann and Celina, Thank you also for your long comment. I have been following along on your blog as you venture into the same territory and i love what you do with your room as well. It is incredible to watch the students come into their own and feel freer. the responsibility they take on is inspiring.

    Morgan, Thank you for following along from your class. I wish I had had a professor that told me to read blogs when I was in college. You will have so many ideas for when you get your classroom.

    Tom, I remember reading that post back in August. And I don't think your post is defensive, i think every teacher needs to find their own style and it is very different from age group to geographical location. Either way the message can be delivered in so many ways; this is their room.


    S Pyle said...

    I love your suggestions, as I do so many of your other thoughts on creating a student-led classroom. I am at a loss, however, how to implement these ideas.
    I am a first-year teacher-librarian--emphasis on the teacher, which is a completely new role for me. I would love to hear some suggestions for utilizing these strategies in the library, especially one that hosts over 200 students a week over a wide range of ages.
    Thanks so much!

    Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

    Dear S Pyle, I immediately thought; ask the kids! That is what i did and it changed my view of the space a lot. and also, think back to your own school experience, what would you have loved to be able to do? Sometimes it is the small thing that makes a huge difference. Obviously, with a library it is quite a different story but many of the ideas still work, but instead of the whole library you can create areas for them? I would love to hear about this, so if you want to email me and tell me about your progress?


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