Middle School has changed dramatically from when I first stepped foot into Westwood Middle back in the 1980’s. While technology is a driving factor in the changes, the majority of improvements come from a better understanding of how students learn and what their needs are. From teachers looking to improve their classroom experience to families shopping for the best school for their student, here are four tips for designing a more engaging classroom.
A good teacher is always trying different strategies and activities in the classroom. How adaptable is the space to those needs? Good classroom set ups have lots of wheels, on chairs, desks, and even storage, so the teacher and students can quickly move things around for the day’s set up.
Middle Schoolers are a growing and changing group. They come in lots of shapes, sizes, and energy levels. In student-centered classroom design, seating options in class reflect this. Are there places to sit comfortably? Stand and still be productive? Do the seats allow different sized students to be comfortable? The answer needs to be yes to all of these questions.
Form Follows Function
This idea builds up the flexible space. Often teachers find a room set up that suits them and then leave the classroom that way for many months. A better idea is to have the classroom design reflect the need of the current activity. The classroom should be set up to meet student needs for group work, partner shares, or other activities. Changing it up also gives students the benefit of a literal new perspective.
Less is More
People like stuff, and it frequently gets dusty in the corner of a classroom. Students like to look at stuff, so they get distracted from the lesson in the room. Teachers should be willing to pare down their belongings. If posters and items on the shelf are not related to the current work in the class, they should be removed. Personal items should also be limited (family photos, college paraphernalia), as that declares this is my room and not your space.
The Shorecrest Middle School Innovation & Design Studio is a prime example of a great student-centered classroom. Come visit the Shorecrest campus and see it for yourself.