5 Ways to Make Your Classroom Student-Centered Tomorrow

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We all want to succeed at student-centered classroom design, but there’s so much out there on what that looks like that it can be overwhelming…and expensive. Here’s the perfect solution if you want to create a functional, student-centered classroom (even if your budget is small….or not at all!). Introducing 5 ways to make your classroom student-centered.

Everyone’s talking about student-centered classroom design, right? We all know that the perfect classroom design is difficult. But what almost no one understands about this is the concept of what a student-centered classroom actually looks like.

It’s not simply moving around your chairs to create a flexible seating classroom that constitutes a student-centered classroom design; it’s creating a classroom that works for all stakeholders (that includes the students AND you).

Believe it or not, that can happen even if you find yourself settling for the way things have “always been”, as long as you’re also developing a classroom that is the best design for each student (and you!).

Are you trying to design a student-centered classroom, but finding that figuring out an easy, cost-efficient way to do it is just too much to handle? Do you start fresh every Monday, fail, then vow to start again with the same old design strategies that just don’t work as efficiently for today’s learner? 

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You need to discover a new way of designing the classroom that works for everyone. This changes everything! What if you could instantly differentiate the environment for every student who walks through your classroom door?

These are things that used to frustrate me as well. I knew there had to be a way to change the setup of my classroom to make it “click” for our learners today, but I just didn’t know how to go about it. Everything seemed expensive and that it needed to be personalized with all these fancy gadgets.

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Wow, was I wrong.

5 ways to make your classroom student-centered

Just imagine if you had the ability to create the perfect student-centered classroom design, what would you do? What would your classroom design look like? How would that instantly change your classroom for the better?

Unfortunately, student-centered classroom design isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers or sprinkling some pixie dust and VOILA! Your classroom instantly adapts to the students who are in there.

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Though that would be nice, huh?

But since that isn’t an option, we need to think outside of the box. We have to grab a few ideas from a colleague or a picture from Pinterest. Even if we design quickly, it’s going to take days to have a classroom that is easily adaptable, organized, and fits the needs of every student there, right?

While you might try to Google ideas to speed up the process, you can quickly get bogged down with so many different ideas that are intimidating, expensive or just don’t seem feasible in your environment.

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 Talk about student-centered classroom design overload . . .

If you’ve ever felt that frustration with a functional classroom design, then I can relate to you perfectly.

Just like you, I struggled with creating the perfect classroom for my students – until I found the secret...5 ways to make your classroom student-centered.

I played trial and error over a span of five years. FIVE YEARS. I took the plunge and put myself out there to see what worked…and what failed miserably…to try and figure out what kind of classroom dynamic would appeal to my students the most.

Once I figured it out, I was able to instantly differentiate the environment for every student who walked through my classroom door. Seriously.

I started telling my fellow teachers…those who taught the SAME students as me….about those results; what happened next shocked me. Some people were BEGGING me to show them how they could have the classroom that your students WANT to come to every day . . .

Others were really skeptical that it was even possible . . .

So I let them scope out my student-centered classroom design. I helped them brainstorm ideas they could easily manage in their own rooms. Then with that information, I gave them a challenge . . . the SAME challenge that I’m going to give to you right now.

5 ways to make your classroom student-centered: Classroom Design

The first of 5 ways to make your classroom student-centered is classroom design. When someone walks into your classroom, the first thing they notice is how things are laid out and the executed vision of your classroom theme ideas. It says a lot about your teaching style, expectations on student participation, and your teaching philosophy.

You may not get to choose your actual classroom, but you do have the option of optimizing your classroom design as much as possible for what you want to achieve within those walls.

If you plan to embrace student-centered learning, as you should if you want your students to achieve at the highest possible level, then there needs to be flexibility in the arrangement of the seating.

The more flexible seating research that comes out (including flexible seating research for parents), the more it is showing that when implemented properly, our students are thriving in this environment and doing much better than they would have in traditional seating. Of all the classroom management styles, this one takes the cake.

5 ways to make your classroom student-centered: Student Choice

The second of 5 ways to make your classroom student-centered is Student choice. This concept allows for personalization of content and lessons but still is directly constructed by the teacher in knowing the objectives and outcomes of that piece of curriculum. The key idea before you move into a fully choice-based classroom is to know what makes your students “tick”.

Knowing their learning styles, personalities, and even their interests allow them to build student choice activities that will appeal to each student in your classroom. You may have one student that loves art projects, but another one that would much rather write about a topic. Another student may love video, while the next prefers explaining verbally.

In giving students choice, you create assignments where they all have the exact same learning outcomes but appeal to each individual student in your class. This is differentiation at its finest.

And this WORKS. Check out the podcast episode about Kyra, a “seasoned” teacher who was thrust into a 3rd grade classroom for the first time just as students were returning to school (both in-person and virtually) in Fall 2020. She took my methodology, implemented it into the classroom, and it started working immediately.

5 ways to make your classroom student-centered

5 ways to make your classroom student-centered: Social-Emotional Learning

The third of 5 ways to make your classroom student-centered is by implementing social-emotional learning. I think one of the arguments being made for education today is that a lot of our students are missing soft life skills.

Social-emotional learning deals with social and emotional competency. People get an IQ test to see essentially how intelligent they are, and their emotional quotient, or EQ, is being looked at as how aware you are of your own emotional state, how aware you are, how competent you are emotionally and that isn’t just, “well, I’m happy, I’m sad, or I can control my happy, I can control my sad”. It’s looking at those aspects of how you feel, understanding how you feel, understanding how somebody else feels based on their body language.

Understanding that something that makes you happy or excited might make somebody else scared. Roller coasters are the best example. Some kids love roller coasters,  and they don’t understand why their friends won’t go because they make them so happy, but that other student is so scared.

Incorporating ways to include these soft skills of emotional learning (that don’t take any extra prep if you’re doing it properly) benefits all our students. Listen to this podcast with Dr. Marissa Kase who specializes in Social-Emotional Learning and walks us through some easy ways to incorporate this in the classroom.

Another great podcast is with the Namaste Project, a group that helps schools transform behavior with mindfulness techniques. They have worked with schools with some hard-to-manage students and, believe it or not, by replacing aspects of discipline with mindfulness (yoga in replacement of detention, for instance), not only are their behavior issues going down, but their test scores are going up!

5 ways to make your classroom student-centered: Flipping Instruction

The fourth of 5 ways to make your classroom student-centered is by flipping it. Having a flipped classroom is turning learning on its head. Instead of learning the content in class and then practicing it for homework as is what happens in a traditional teacher-led classroom, the students learn the content at home and then utilize that content with hands-on activities in the classroom.

How can this be done? There certainly is no “one size fits all” model. After trial and error, you will figure out what will work with your particular students. It can be a journal article or a comprehensive reading of sorts, for instance. Video is often a huge “seller” with this method (and there are programs that will grade these assignments for you in real-time!)

Our students are currently part of Generation Z who learn on their own accord on platforms like YouTube, so this method has pretty quick buy-in with them.

5 ways to make your classroom student-centered: Hands-on Mentoring

The fifth of 5 ways to make your classroom student-centered is by working with someone who “gets it” and can help you in more ways than you can imagine. Check out our course “A Passion For Progress: Being a Rockstar Teacher in a Stressed-Out World. After implementing our easy to follow strategies, you’ll MORE than have the classroom that your students WANT to come to every day . . . and from that point forward, for the rest of your career, you’ll have a skill that will serve you forever no matter what classroom you’re teaching in.

Obviously, there are more than 5 ways to make your classroom student-centered. These are just the basics. However, it’s a good starting point when making this switch that will change every aspect of your life, both inside and outside of the classroom!

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