When your class seems like it needs a break from the normal routine, try one of these ideas to energize your teaching and change the classroom dynamic. Listed below are three ways a teacher can get students re-focused during a lesson or unit and get everyone excited about the learning process.
1. Screen Gather
For the times when information is given in a direct instruction format, try breaking up a lecture by getting students out of their seats. If your presentation has images embedded in them, try having your students get out of their seats and congregate where the presentation is being projected. This method works particularly well when analyzing political cartoons, photographs, or even writing. By bringing students closer to the screen and each other they become more engaged in the learning process by becoming more careful observers of content and willing discussion participants. They also get out of their seats which is essential to keeping them active. When they are gathered around the screen, ask them to discuss what they notice and guide them to a better understanding. For great ideas about what kinds of questions to ask students when analyzing a cartoon or photograph, check out Visual Thinking Strategies and the Learning Network’s weekly feature “What’s Going On in This Picture.”
2. Seating Arrangement
Still in columns and rows? Admittedly, this is an effective way to create a workable classroom space which helps to explain its popularity since students first started attending school. However, it might be good to change your classroom dynamic by changing how students are seated. Get students moving throughout a lesson by having them rotate their desks into small groups. When students are going to complete an assignment or handout, have them do it collaboratively instead of in isolation by changing how they are sitting. By moving desks from columns and rows to small groups or even a large circle, interaction will increase and students might become more engaged. Don’t be afraid to have students change seats frequently during a lesson or to move their desks multiple times so they can work with different people around them. Try organizing students into clusters and not in columns and rows. For more ideas on how to create active learning environments, check out this issue of 360 dedicated to rethinking education spaces.
3. Work With Students
Teachers around the country are beginning to realize that classroom dynamics change when they start working alongside their students on projects. Some of the most fun I’ve had in the classroom came when I created with my students. This model is especially important when teaching writing. Besides teaching students how to write, we as teachers need to show our students that we are writing with them. There is no better way to do this than by experiencing the writing process alongside them. Let students know that this process is never easy. If fact, it can be one of the most frustrating things in the world. Share your writing struggles and triumphs with your students by writing along with them. This concept was recently illustrated by Tara Smith, a sixth grade teacher from Glen Rock, New Jersey who recently wrote a blog post about teaching writing and Penny Kittle’s influential book Write Beside Them. “It wasn’t enough to share mentor texts, to confer, to do all those other things that good writing teachers do,” she wrote on the blog Two Writing Teachers, “I needed to share my own writing life with my kids, and walk them through my thinking as I wrote.” Check out Tara’s thoughtful piece and try working along with your students, letting them know you experience the same struggles they do.
These three ideas are fun ways to reshape a classroom dynamic both literally and figuratively. Give them a try. Best of all, they’re free!