Tuesday, December 29, 2015

5 Common Mistakes Teachers Make when Designing Their Classrooms (And How to Fix Them)

Hi, it's Angela from The Organized Plan Book.  As dedicated teachers, we spend most of our waking hours during the school week inside our classrooms, am I right?

We want our classrooms to just plain ol' ROCK.

Well, sometimes our best intentions don't always make for the most productive learning environment.  Check out some of the most common mistakes we are making when designing our classrooms...and solutions for changing them.

1. Over Decorating the Space:  I love colors and patterns as much as the next teacher, trust me. Yet, that doesn't mean you want to go and throw every color of the rainbow alongside 5 different animal print patterns, ya feel me?

When choosing colors for your classroom, create a cohesive look by using only 3-4 colors.  Make your bulletin boards match by using only one or two solid backgrounds.
My classroom uses teal as the primary color with pops of lime, navy and blue spread throughout.  All of my storage containers remain neutral in either black, white, or clear so that if I ever want to change my color palette, my storage containers can stay put. 

Incorporate the remaining colors in the palette through just 1 or 2 boarders.  Do not go crazy making every bulletin board different.  This creates for a distracting and visually noisy space.

I use double borders on my bulletin boards.  I use a plain white to help break up the teal against the lime polka dots.  All of my bulletin boards match this cohesive look. 

2. Creating Educational Noise: Anchor charts are an excellent way to introduce new skills.  However, please for the sanity of your students with attention deficits, do not wallpaper your walls with anchor charts.

Too many anchor charts become cluttered noise.  Not only are they distracting for students, but they become completely ineffective because students do not know where to turn for help.  It is information overload.

Avoid this problem by creating mini anchor charts using a mini anchor chart stand like this one below.  You can click here to learn how to make your own.

3. Putting Desks in Groups:  Okay, I may get some push back for this one...but just hear me out.

Sometimes, group seating is just not appropriate for certain students.  I teach children with special needs, and 80% of them have attention deficits.  I have tried grouped desks. They just do not work.

I use rows because truth be told, the students are only at their desks when it comes time for independent work anyway.  The rest of our instruction time is done in centers, where the students are working in groups at tables or other spots in the room.

So, rest assured that it is in fact okay to put your students in rows, and may even be beneficial to your kiddos who need that little independent break.

4. Using the Word Wall Incorrectly: I recently took an Orton-Gillingham based training and we talked about the universal word wall in the classroom.  

For those of you who have struggling readers in your class or those teaching ESL students, the English language can be tough to decode.

How many different sounds do those vowels make?  Or what about the letter c?  We teach students that c says /k/...but then we put words like "census" under c...when it makes the /s/ sound.  Confusing for young, struggling learners?  Yes, particularly for the learners mentioned above.

Consider using the classroom word wall only for those words that are phonetically appropriate.  For the rest, create individual word wall folders for each student to keep track of, that way you can differentiate based on abilities.

5. Taking too Much Control:  I love a neat and organized classroom.  I love everything labeled and printed neatly, but this year, I started giving up that control a bit.

I allowed students to start labeling their own folders, write their own class expectations, create bulletin board headers for their work, etc.  It was hard at first, but seeing how excited my students are about taking ownership over their classroom is definitely rewarding.

There ya have it. Five little tips you can take into consideration for your classroom this New Year.  Have some other tips to share?  Leave your comment below, we would love to read them!

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