The New Classroom

8 Sep

This past summer, I was in an program run by the Exploratorium up in San Francisco. It was an amazing month of the best professional development I have ever had in all my 5 years of teaching. I had taken the Physics class because for the first time this past year I taught AP Calculus and the application/ Physics portion was where I was weakest in.

I learned a million new things that will hopefully start creeping out as these blogs keep rollin, but one of the things that the program helped to inspire was the setup of my new classroom. In the first week of attendance I had attended a random seminar on how hands-on science exhibits are created. One of the hurdles that these professionals had come upon was that students were hard to engage! One thing that they discovered that did a beautiful job of engaging all the students was to have certain exhibits around a round table with the teacher amidst the children. They found that in this environment, the students couldn’t keep their hands off!

They also found that having screens mobile also helped avoid the classroom student mindset where they only listen and don’t engage. The change of somehow taking their focus off the “front” of the classroom and being able to move their focus to different places seemed like a brilliant idea in giving them more ownership of the classroom. Thanks to working with ProofBlocks for so many years now, I was very akin to creating huge white boards of my own ($12 for a 4′ by 8′ piece at Lowes or Home Depot).

So as soon as I came back into the classroom, I decided a good classroom setup was more important than I had given it credit for. I lucked out this year on a bungalow where all four walls were corkboard so I got to work.

It took me 5 hours just to clean up the dump, take everything off the walls, and put up the black butcher paper (something else I had learned from this one seminar was the importance of focusing the kids by using black as backdrops). I then went to Lowes and cut up a bunch of white boards to hang all around my classroom, one for each of the 6 groups I had in the class (**w/ the increase in class size, I use the two ends of my own white board to make 8 groups now.)

This is what the back of my classroom ended up looking like:

Without the white boards

Without the white boards

With the white boards

With the white boards

The black around my front white board was added to make it seem more like a curtain show when I’m up there so these kids can focus on the board and not be distracted by the clock, any cute posters, etc etc. Plus, it just looks cleaner.

white board

Lastly, inspired by the Exploratorium’s King of Rock, and having visited Nic Hess at the Hammer Museum just that week, I decided to give my own tribute to the King of Pop.

Exploratorium's Elvis

Exploratorium's Elvis

My Michael

My Michael

I wanted it to be in the corner and on the ceiling too, but MJ was pointing perfectly back to my white board in this position. =P

So far, this set up has been amazing for more reasons than one.

  1. I no longer bother with posting student work. Student’s work are automatically changing with the work on the white boards. Everyone only looks at student work the first time it goes up anyways.
  2. It saves paper. I used up a lot of butcher paper setting up my classroom. At least I won’t be using anymore for group posters. =P
  3. Changes are easy to make on white boards. And we all know how often students are hindered in putting something down on paper because they’re afraid it’s wrong.
  4. Each white board is mobile. I can have them take the white boards off the wall and work on a task around their desk (like at the museum!) and when they’re finished, they can put it up.
  5. My personal favorite, I can make up group presentations on the fly whenever the class leads that way! I was never able to do that before because either I would have to have the poster paper ready in advance OR they would get way too shy to come up on my white board to show their work! Just this last reason alone was worth all the trouble.

2 Responses to “The New Classroom”

  1. Wendy Lu October 5, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    Jinna – just visited your blog for the first time. OMG. You are such an overachiever. You have me in awe once again.

    Ok – so your room ideas are incredible. I’m totally inspired. How do you hang the white boards so they come off and go on easily? And I assume the hanging mechanism is durable knowing they’re handled by students repeatedly?

    And what exactly is the outline of MJ made out of? Painted? Masking tape?

    Is the black poster paper fading? Does that really matter?

    • talkingninja October 5, 2009 at 4:50 am #

      Hi Wendy! So glad to hear from you!

      I used these nails that were made for hanging heavy weight. It holds up to 10 lbs. It looks like a nail where the fat nailhead got stuck in the middle, diagonal from the nail (as opposed to the nail being perpendicular to the nailhead). I can only give you my girly description and not the actual name. I actually put a huge washer between the nail and the wall also for more support since all my walls are corkboard. It has been very durable so far.

      The outline of MJ is actually just painter’s tape. It’s non threatening to the custodian who keeps tearing all my signs off of my doors. =P

      The poster paper fades by the end of the year, but not noticeably. I only know after I tear it down at the end of the school year and the spots where papers were hung are darker. I think the only thing about hanging such huge amts of paper is the way it sags after awhile and I have to give it a face lift about once in several months time. =P

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