Classroom environments can support an inquiry approach

As the year winds down, mostly you are thinking about July.  But, should September creep into your thoughts at all, certain environmental changes to your room may help shape your practice to be more inclusive, more collaborative, more community-based.

  • Think about starting the year with the desks in groups.  When you start with groups as an expectation of how we do things, as opposed to a reward, you are sending a different message to your students.
  • Think about moving your desk, or maybe even getting rid of it altogether.  How you position yourself in the classroom can say a lot about how you view your role.  Are you an authoritarian or a facilitator?  Where is the space where you usually work?  Is it separate from your students or among your students?
  • Think about how you will set up for student movement.  Will it be easy in your classroom for students to move about and work with others or will everyone have their regular “spot”?  Can you easily change things in your room so that students can sit in a knowledge building circle?
  • Think about how you will organize supplies for students.  Do you get tired of students asking for pencils all the time?  Is paper available?  How are your books organized?  How do students access technology in the room?
  • Think about your guided learning table.  Can you sit at it and see the rest of the students?  Do you have supplies nearby that you will need such as little whiteboards, pencils, scrap paper, magnets, math manipulatives etc?  Do you have a spot to keep some assessment data close by so that you remember to keep anecdotal notes when you are working with small groups?
  • Think about the bulletin boards/walls in your classroom.  How will you use them to best scaffold student learning?  Store-bought posters tend to quickly turn into wallpaper.  If you have a poster up in your room right now that you did not refer to on a regular basis this year, likely it is not useful to your teaching practice.
  • Think about how you will communicate learning goals to your students.  While we do not want the learning goals to be a secret from students, we do want learning to be inquiry-based and exciting.  Think about how you can uncover learning goals with the students and make learning an adventure.  Learning goals can be visible in your classroom in many different formats:  co-created anchor charts, checklists (Good readers…/Good scientists…/Good athletes…/etc), exemplars, questions, inquiry-boards, rubrics.
  • Think about where you will be in the classroom at different times.  Could you sit among your students during lessons and sharing?  How could you organize groups of tables so that you can easily join them?
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