Part II in the Current Series: “Building a Differentiated Classroom”
Consider the physical arrangement of your classroom. Are students in rows? Groups? Tables? Is there a space where groups of students can meet during the day? How are your walls decorated? Is the décor generic (i.e. do you put up the same things year after year), or is it specific to individual students’ interests and identities?
Where Should I Sit?
Ideally, to promote optimal learning, student seating would be in clusters. However, if you are new to collaborative, student-centered learning, or are not yet ready to give up the traditional “desks-in rows” model, you might consider having an arrangement where rows can be easily moved into clusters for part of the day or for specific activities.
Attention, Traffic Control
Even students who move around to several workstations during the day need to have a home base. Think about how your students will move around the room. Set up a smooth traffic flow for students to get to materials, learning centers, and group work areas. Designate areas for finished projects, or work in progress.
Their Name in Lights (or at least die-cut letters)
Now look at the walls. Does your décor invite students to take ownership in the classroom? Seeing their name and the names of their new classmates on a Name Wall when they arrive on the first day gives young students an immediate sense of belonging and serves as an ongoing resource for writing names of new friends. For older students, invite them to create an “About Us” wall, where they can post a family photo, favorite book title or hobby, or other personal information.
The Writing on the Wall
Students also benefit from seeing illustrations or posters describing units that will be covered—a great way for them to begin to collect and process information, since the visual pathways send the brain more than 80 percent of all information we absorb (Jensen, 1998).
Be sure to have alphabet charts, number lines, color words, calendars, and handwriting prompts posted. Put up cards showing the names of special classes and their scheduled times in both analog and digital form. (Including a photo of the specialist teacher with his or her name below provides additional visual reinforcement, as well as a sense of community.)
By attending to these details, your classroom will be ready for every learner that walks through your doors come fall.
This is part two in a four-part series on differentiated classrooms. The next segment will cover tips on differentiated assessment.
Post Author: This post was submitted by Scholastic and adapted from The Scholastic Differentiated Instruction Plan Book.