12 Things Every Classroom Should Have
Every classroom is different—and that’s not a problem! because every student and teacher is, too.
But are there any common components that most or all classrooms should have? To be precise, in a modern classroom? Screens and data and artificial intelligence and robots and Skype and holograms? Are these available in every classroom?
These elements can remarkably improve the learning of students and the overall climate of your classroom. So then, that’s the premise: What are the things that every class should have?
So here are some ideas for your modern classroom in 2021 and beyond.
Things Every Modern Classroom Should Have
1. A class full of great questions
This has been true since the time of Socrates and I can’t imagine this ever changing. At least until some point where culture is so sufficiently altered from its current form that none of this will make sense.
Learning doesn’t absolutely require great questions, curiosity, grappling with uncertainty, inquiry, and other ‘higher-level thinking’ activities–but if we want students to learn to ask great questions and cultivate their curiosity and grapple with uncertainty and sustain their own inquiry, it makes sense that a modern classroom should not only ‘have’ these things, but use them as central tenets of the learning process.
In the context of learning, questions are more important than answers, isn’t it?
2. Make the students critical thinkers
The gist is not just ‘teaching students to think critically’ but create lessons, activities, assessments, projects, and related ‘things’ that can’t function if students don’t think critically.
Now this seems like something that should happen in every classroom.
Imagine a great classroom that doesn’t have this?
Ideally, this starts with students but also extends to parents, communities, local organizations, job markets, and global initiatives.
4. Endless opportunity
Most importantly, every modern classroom should have endless opportunities that is immediately visible and credible to all learners. Some examples?
- Opportunities to solve local problems via project-based learning ideas.
- Opportunities to improve grades on past assignments.
- Opportunities to test themselves against a chosen peer group, standard, or national benchmark.
- Opportunities to reinvent themselves.
- Opportunities to read, write, think, and create ‘things’ that resonate with and are capable of improving them as human beings.
- Opportunities to see what they’re capable of and grow.
I’ll bring more on this idea soon in a separate post.
Genius in the way learning is personalized for students.
Genius in the way content is framed.
Genius in the way students are engaged and encouraged and cared for.
Genius in the ideas shared by students.
Genius in the way students use their gifts to create something from nothing.
Genius in the timing of interactions between students, curriculum, assessment, and instruction.
There should be genius in every classroom–if for no other reason than there is genius in every student and their genius should change something.
Compelling opportunities and ideas shouldn’t just ‘exist’ in every classroom, but serve an authentic and forceful role in the teaching and learning process. This might look like a mix of compelling models, content, curricula, and artifacts from the ‘real world’ and experts there, as well as students but it could also come from: Place-based learning native to students, Art and literature, Compelling design, Light, space, and other elements of classroom design, Mobile learning, Technology, Model-based learning or Books and apps.
However, inspiration can come from anywhere and that’s part of great teaching: figuring out how the best, most consistent, compelling, and functional sources of inspiration for your classroom.
7. ‘Learning sounds’
What does learning sound like?
Does it sound like questions? Uncertainty? Discussion, laughter, play, and joy? Whatever it sounds like–whatever the audible indicators of learning are, if learning is happening, it should (often) be heard.
8. Learning tools and materials that adapt to student ability
Finally some technology!
Student-centeredness can’t exist without learning tools, curricula, curriculum, learning models, technology, and other ‘gears of learning’ that can adapt to the way students change.
Strategies to accomplish this include: Learning models, Technology, Better learning feedback, More accurate student data and Adaptive learning algorithms.
9. Straightforward and compelling relationship to the world outside of the classroom
It’s possible to have an exquisitely run and intellectually high-performing classroom that’s focused on academics but will it change lives, communities, or futures? Ideally every great classroom should have a straightforward, ongoing, real-time, and student-authenticated relationship to the world outside that classroom.
Among other strategies (and more technology!), this can be achieved through:
- Project-based learning
- Publishing ideas, work, writing, etc.
- Sharing specific accomplishments and achievements in closed and open communities
- Peer to peer and school to school collaboration
- Video streaming
- Augmented and virtual reality
If failure isn’t happening, this likely means student projects, activities, assessments, and so on aren’t differentiated, personalized, or otherwise within the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ that is theorized to yield student growth.
Call it failing forward or a growth mindset or call it common sense. Whatever you call it, it should happen.
11. Visible progress and growth
Indeed visible progress and growth should be immediately obvious–to whatever degree, metric, or quantity its available–for all students in ways that make sense and resonate to those students.
There are many ways this can be accomplished, for instance:
- Competency-based learning
- Mastery-based learning
- Published (in closed or open communities) student artifacts/portfolios
- Grading systems that are credible and ‘make sense’ and are authentic and useful to those being graded
- Working backward from what they can do rather than what they can’t
- A culture of ‘can’
12. Good ideas
Whether students are learning from good ideas or creating them on their own, what we specifically refer to as a ‘good idea’ often refers to a new, interesting, or creative thought: a new way to solve an old problem, an interesting perspective, etc. And undoubtedly, classrooms should be full of them.