Rediscovering magic in the classroom

The classroom is a magical place.

It’s a place where knowledge is created, a place where concepts are explored and a place where questions are provoked. The classroom is also a dynamic place, which grows and develops around the needs of the students. Wall displays change, new word banks are created and work samples are proudly presented. How will you make your classroom engaging and enticing in Term 3?

Here are some tips to keep your classrooms full of energy and life:

Inspire your students.

Have you ever sat in a doctor’s surgery waiting for a consultation? I have, and it’s pretty uninspiring. Many are out-dated; with drab pictures hanging off the off-white walls. The atmosphere is sterile, it’s not a place that you would want to spend more than a few minutes. Here’s the scary thing: I have been in many classes that feel exactly the same! They are lifeless, depressing and do little to stoke the creative minds of their students. It’s time to be honest with yourself, take a good look at your classroom and assess the damage. It’s never too late to change things and it’s never too late to inspire your students.

Empower your students to take responsibility for their own learning.

One of the things that I love about infants’ classrooms is that they are typically visually rich. They are colourful and engaging environments. Creating an environment in which students take responsibility for their own learning and where they solve problems for themselves is vital. This could mean adding cards with new words or letters to the room. It could mean keeping your reading corner stocked with interesting books. For high school teachers it could mean mixing thing up and creating more collaborative seating arrangements from time to time.

Provide a safety net to make mistakes and discover new solutions.

Classroom dynamics are not only determined by the space, but also by the attitudes and expectations of the teacher and the students. One thing I am passionate about it making my classroom a safe place where students can experiment with ideas, ask any questions and try things out without the fear of failure or judgement. Mistakes are a part of life and classrooms need to be places in which students feel comfortable and confident to try and solve problems even if they might get it wrong. In my opinion, making mistakes and learning from your mistakes is not encouraged enough in schools. Championing students who take a risk for a positive outcome is one of the best things you can do as a teacher.

Enrich their lives and their learning experience.

Your students should leave your classroom – whether at the end of the day, at the end of the term, or at the end of year – feeling inspired and encouraged to be their best. In many of the schools that I have worked in the classroom is sometimes the most stable and encouraging place in a child’s life. Your classroom should represent a place where children are encouraged to be themselves, try new things, challenge their thinking and be their best. I find laughter and personal encouragement are vital to making the classroom an enriching place.

Cater to many learning styles.

Howard Gardiner (1983), the famous educational researcher, identified at least eight types of intelligences. If you have been living in a cave and you are not familiar with his work you need to be. He argues that each child is gifted in a type, or a variety of, intelligences. When setting up your classroom you must ensure that every intelligence is catered for. For example for the special learners have content that stimulates spatial judgement and the ability to visualize with the mind’s eye. When designing your classroom and your teaching program make sure that each of these intelligences are equally catered for so that all students are engaged.

Never underestimate the difference your classrooms can make in a student’s life.

For many students the class may be the only place of refuge and encouragement they have. We owe it to our students to provide them with an engaging environment, which challenges and inspires them.

Mathew is a teacher, a writer and loves to mentor young professionals and university students at his local church. His “I’m a New Teacher” blog can be found here.