If we peek into the most effective classrooms, we will probably see not just students thriving, but also teachers thriving. We all know that with so many kids with different needs and so many demands to juggle, every day won’t be perfect for each and every child. In the October 2017 issue of The Atlantic, writer and educator Erika Christakis states, “Our public education system is about much more than personal achievement; it is about preparing people to work together to advance not just themselves but society.” I agree with her.
So, here is the question I have asked myself:
What makes a classroom dynamic effective for each individual learner and the classroom as a whole?
Borrowing an ideology from our son’s elementary school that the best learning environments honor the important connection between head, hand and heart, I have made a list of what that means and what it might look like in a dynamic classroom where those three needs are honored and met. Over the next few days, I’ll write a little something about what each one means to me.
The best learning environments honor the important connection between head, hand, and heart. I have made a list of what that means and what it might look like in a dynamic classroom where those three needs are honored and met. Here, then, is how a nurturing classroom recognizes that we are all unique learners:
- A thriving classroom “meets students where they are,” which means not all students should be working on the same task or at the same pace. Some students will be working independently, while others will work with partners or in small groups supported by the teacher or a student leader.
- Learning is collaborative, not competitive. Teachers make sure that students have time to think and voice their ideas without being interrupted. Classmates learn how to listen when other children are talking.
- Teachers take packaged curriculum and revise lessons to make learning meaningful and accessible to every student. If a child is not developmentally ready to tackle an assignment, the teacher will pre-teach the lesson or send the lesson home for pre-teaching. Expectations will be modified.
- Teachers diverge from prepared lessons to address student questions and follow paths of inquiry that are interesting to students. Teachers make room for students to pursue their passions.
- If students don’t understand a lesson, teachers re-teach the lesson in a different way.
- If there is homework, it should be necessary, reasonable (no more than 10 minutes added on for each grade level) and modified to make every student feel successful.
- Required textbooks are supplemented with interesting, age appropriate, up-to-date resources from a variety of media.
- Teachers are always looking for ways to integrate learning across the curriculum.
- Teachers employ a variety of methods to assess whether a student understands new material.
- Learning is active and hands-on. Students should be moving around the classroom independently and actively engaged in the tasks at hand.
- Teachers recognize that every child is gifted and talented in some way, and find ways for the students to share their talent.
- Art and music are present in the classroom or the school. Is there a classroom library? A school library?
- There is time each day for teachers to read aloud to their students.
- Time is made for classroom movement breaks in addition to regular recess.
- Teachers show children how to use classroom tools and time wisely, and then they trust them to do just that.
- Teachers take the time to teach children how to care for others. Everyone helps each other succeed.
- Teachers try to understand the challenges that children may be facing in their home life.
- Teachers recognize that parent input is critical to their child’s success.
- Everybody gets the chance to be a leader.
- Student work is highlighted all over the classroom.
- Children feel that they are part of their classroom and part of the school community.
- Students are encouraged to be active participants in making their community and the world a better place.
- The students and the teacher are joyful.
And, finally, EVERYBODY LOOKS LIKE THEY WANT TO BE IN SCHOOL.