Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Action Plan 1 - room environments

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Photos from four schools whose rooms celebrate quality student 'work' across the curriculum.

Schools who value student's 'work' ensure their classrooms celebrate their students' creativity and inform all who visit what the students have achieved.

For such teachers the classroom is the 'third teacher' - the first being the teacher and the second the materials used by students to learn.

It is an excellent idea for all teachers in school to think carefully about the environments they create, for better or worse. This would make an ideal 'action plan' for a school to undertake. If given appropriate guidance such a 'plan' could culminate in all teachers having a 'walk and talk' staff meeting visiting all rooms to see what others have achieved.

If this were to be done there needs to be some sort of agreed criteria developed to assist teachers reflect on how well they are achieving what has been agreed to.

Some teachers may need to be convinced of the worth of such efforts and may consider it to be 'window dressing'! Consider the kind of environments teachers appreciate in their staff room or their own homes - all environments 'tell' messages about what is important. Aesthetics and visual design are becoming important elements in all aspects of our lives.

Certainly the commercial world is well aware of the power of aesthetics and visual display.

To start ask teachers to look at their rooms as they are now. Is there any sort of 'wow factor' to be seen? What 'messages' does the room give to a new students or a visiting parent or teacher?

How much of the material to be seen is commercially or teacher developed? As the year progresses rooms should celebrate student thinking and creativity.

A quick look around the school will soon show which teachers might be able to act as a design resource for others who might need assistance.!

Secondary school subject teacher's room ought to reflect the important 'messages', or big ideas, of their particular Learning Area, as expressed in the New Zealand Curriculum.

After a preliminary look at the room, to gain a 'first impression', take a close look at what is on display. Are there examples of well designed student work to be seen? Looking closer at such work, are students' questions, ideas, research and reflections to be seen? Is there any evidence of an inquiry approach being used?

Can you see a range of Learning Areas on display, if a primary class, or examples of students work in the subject if in a secondary room?

Is the work for the current study displayed with a clear heading ( preferably as a provocation or challenge). Are study questions and tasks to be seen? As the study is completed examples of students work should be added to the display.

Looking at the blackboards, or whiteboard, are tasks and goals for students clear?

If a school were to set out to develop powerful celebratory classrooms, that both inform and celebrate student thinking, then teachers need to given a term or so before a 'walk and talk' staff meeting is undertaken.

When all classroom celebrate students and teachers creativity it leaves a powerful impression in the minds of all who visit.

Well worth the effort.


Anonymous said...

How come secondary teachers ( with the exception of art teachers) care little about creating stimulating room enviroments? Is it because they have a limited learning style - one of telling!

Bruce Hammonds said...

I presume it is because they are academics who pass on their knowledge to their students and possibly do not appreciate the importance of visually presenting ideas, or celebrating their students' work, on the walls of their classrooms? As well secondary teachers often teach in different rooms so this would make it hard, but not impossible, to create stimulating room environments. Secondary teachers also say that other students deface work left on walls - if this is so then the students are expressing some 'message' about what they are learning.
Possibly secondary teachers do not create such rooms because it has never been a part of their culture ? Whatever it is time for change!