Making the Classroom Student Friendly

In a student-centered classroom environment, it is vital that students feel ownership in the organization and in the learning. Here are some ideas to get you started:

I mentioned concept maps in an earlier post. Here students are adding their recent learning about the Roman Republic government to our giant Ancient Rome concept map. I have found that making the learning visible not only reinforces the learned concepts but also builds student confidence and pride in their learning.

The concept map poster hangs from a clothesline for easy take-down and put-back-up so we can add to it regularly to give students ownership of the learning display.

An easy way to give students ownership in the organization is to organize in a way that makes sense and is easily accessible to the students. After I re-organized the Non-fiction section, it has seen more action in the last few weeks than in the whole first semester combined! After introducing the new non-fiction organization, we went into training as a whole class to put books back in the bins in a way that made sense. (My motto for everything: Be sure your decision makes sense!)

I make a point not to display meaningless posters in the room (Sorry, teacher stores, but I don’t need any inspirational quotes signs!). I prefer student-created signs, but not all posters in my classroom have student handwriting. The key to any poster you have in the room is that learning is anchored to it in some way. Several ways we utilize our ”feelings faces” are in mediating conflict resolution (”How did you feel when he pushed you?”), in determining how a book character is feeling, and in getting past ”boring” feeling-words like ”happy” or ”sad”. It’s also a great vocabulary builder : ). 

The Feelings Faces Chart can be found in Positive Discipline in the Classroom, by Jane Nelsen, H. Stephen Glenn, and Lynn Lott. Definitely a good read for any teacher looking for some fresh discipline ideas. The book argues that giving students ownership of the classroom environment often minimizes negative discipline issues. I would have to agree after using Positive Discipline in my classroom for two years!

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