Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.
The 21st Century Classroom
Gone are the days when education means students sitting in rows listening to the teacher talk all day. No longer is it acceptable for a teacher to be the center of the classroom, with students passively learning. The 21st century classroom is one in which students are the leaders and center of learning with the teacher acting as facilitator.
Because of this shift in education, designing and managing a modern classroom must change also. How you situate furniture and materials and manage student behavior must reflect new theories in education. This lesson will provide you with several strategies to use in your own classroom.
Imagine trying to place modern students in rows and expecting them to listen and work all day. It probably looks like chaos, and it would be in practice, also. Education research shows that students learn better through group collaboration and activities that are tailored to their learning styles. Your classroom design and environment should reflect those values.
For example, the simple task of organizing desks is incredibly important. If you want to encourage group collaboration and cooperation, your desk arrangement should reflect that. Placing desks in groups shows students that they are encouraged to work together to solve problems. This placement also allows for easy transitions from one group activity to another since desks are already organized that way.
Additionally, students benefit from moving (physically) from one activity to another. Therefore, your classroom design should allow for easy, safe movement from one area to another. If things are pressed too closely together, you'll get traffic jams of students, resulting in utter chaos (which we're always trying to avoid).
Students should also be encouraged to be as independent as possible in the classroom so that you can focus on small-group or one-on-one instruction. Therefore, designing classroom procedures for everything (literally every little thing students might need to do) is an important element of 21st century classroom design. You might need procedures for:
- Sharpening pencils
- Asking to use the bathroom
- Turning in work
- Asking for help
- Transition to a different activity
Trust me, the more procedures you have in place, the more smoothly your classroom will run and the more instructional time you'll have.
Finally, you'll want to have centers around the room where students can go to find materials they might need. These could include a classroom library or reading corner, a math materials corner, an art supplies shelf, and a cool-down spot (for students who get easily overwhelmed and need to take a minute to chill out). Having these places around the room encourages students to be independent when trying to find materials they need to work.
Modern classroom management should be focused on giving students control and ownership over their behavior. This means fewer 'rules' dictated by the teacher and more 'responsibilities' decided by the class as a whole. This style of classroom management allows you to be more proactive about behavior, instead of reacting to small interruptions and situations throughout the day.
The first step toward modern classroom management is to allow students to work together to write a list of classroom responsibilities. I know this sounds scary, but it's really not. You'd be surprised at the insightful things students come up with when put in this position of power. You can help students by framing responsibilities in three categories- taking care of ourselves, taking care of others, and taking care of our space. Some responsibilities you might hear include:
- Treat others as you want to be treated
- Raise your hand if you have something to share
- Use listening ears while others are talking
- Always put trash in the trash can
- Make sure your space is clean before leaving the room
By framing classroom management in terms of what responsibilities the students have, you are placing ownership for their behavior in their hands. Students will also monitor each other to ensure everyone is taking care of their responsibilities.
The procedures mentioned above also aid in classroom management. If you picture a student who isn't sure what he is supposed to be doing versus a student who understands all procedures and can operate independently, who is more likely to act out? If all of your students understand the class expectations and procedures, there is little chance of anyone acting out.
Finally, should students require reactive discipline, it's best to stay positive and discuss with them why they should be following the established responsibilities. For example, if a student is calling out instead of raising their hand, just remind them what the classroom responsibility is for participating and why it's important they remember it. If you are consistent with this, you should only have to respond to the most severe of discipline situations.
You may be thinking that it's odd that no mention of technology was made when discussing a 21st century classroom. This was done on purpose because, as prevalent as this technology is, there are still a large number of schools and students without access to educational technology. Your classroom design and management plan should be made using the strategies listed with the knowledge that you might have to adjust for any available classroom technology.
Designing and managing a 21st century classroom, or one in which students are in the centers of learning and teachers serve as facilitators, requires different skills and strategies than classrooms in the past. However, the strategies and techniques detailed in this lesson should help you come up with a solid plan that can be adjusted for any unforeseen circumstances, such as the availability of technology.
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