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Chris Mumford is the PR Content Manager for Western Governors University (WGU). 

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Hey Teach! Content Manager
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Chris Mumford

Using Classroom Design to Your Advantage

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Using Classroom Design to Your Advantage

Take a crack at being an interior designer with your own classroom! 

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The first time I walked into a classroom with flexible seating, I was intrigued. There were stability balls and stand-up desks, and students were sitting on bean bags chairs and milk crates. This is when I realized how far our education system has come. The traditional classroom setting is changing, at least in some school systems, and classroom design has become a major focus.

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The Benefits of a Well-Designed Classroom

How you structure your classroom design can impact not only the way you teach but also the way your students learn. In fact, researchers at the University of Salford Manchester found that classroom design can actually boost learning for students. According to the results of the study, the physical characteristics of a classroom can affect how successful your class is.

Further reading: Get a Clutter-Free Classroom the Kon-Mari Way

For instance, if you have a traditional classroom setup with all the desks facing forward in rows, students may not have the ability to easily participate in group work. Arranging the desks in groups or using tables can help your students collaborate. This can also make a difference in how students see the board and communicate with their peers.

Students also tend to perform better when the environmental factors are to their preference. With that in mind, try to provide spaces in your classroom that are well-lit and areas that are dim. If you can't adjust the room temperature, allow students who are always hot to sit by the windows, and encourage students who are always cold to bring an extra sweater to school.

3 Classroom Designs to Consider

Today's classrooms educators have found that students work better and longer when they are comfortable. But is there a classroom layout that works better than others? I considered the three most popular designs to see for myself.

  • The Paired Layout

A spin on the traditional classroom layout, this design places two desks together in the classic row format. This allows students to collaborate with their peers easily. However, like the traditional classroom layout, the students in the back usually get left out. Research suggests that clustered desks are effective when you want students to interact with one another, and if students are working on individual assignments, seats should be arranged to minimize peer interaction. Luckily, this layout is easy enough to adjust by just pulling the desks apart.

  • The Circle Layout

In this design, students' desks are butted up against one another in either a half-circle shape that faces the front of the classroom or a complete circle. This creates a sense of community where all students are free to actively participate. It also allows the teacher to see and speak to all students. Many middle school and high school classrooms utilize this setup because it helps motivate students to participate. However, this design may make shy students uncomfortable, and if the whole circle arrangement is implemented, it can be difficult to ensure that every student can see any visuals you may use.

  • Flexible Seating

Instead of classic desks, this design uses stand-up desks or tables. Instead of chairs, students sit on stability balls with feet, wobble seats, crates, mats, or bean bag chairs. The ability for students to bounce or move around in their seats while working can help oxygen flow to the brain, which is a great way to increase their energy and focus. But you'd need access to enough seating options to allow students to choose which seat works best for them, and if you work in a school system that can't afford to implement flexible seating, this design option may not be the best choice for you (unless you want to pay out of pocket, which I wouldn't recommend).

I've found flexible seating to be the most effective. My son struggled for years to sit still in school, and it wasn't until this year, when his teacher offered stand-up desks and stability balls, that he was finally able to concentrate and excel. The ability to choose which seat he uses for each subject has motivated him to participate more.

Further reading: How to Organize Your Classroom 

At the end of the day, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to how you arrange your classroom. What works for one teacher may not work for others. With classroom design's proven effect on learning and teaching, it's important to find the best layout for you and your students. Who knows; you may even invent a new layout that, much like flexible seating, shakes things up.

Quiz: Are You a Tech-Savvy Teacher?

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Tech savviness means different things to diffent people, including teachers. Some need to be able to deliver multi-media lesson materials in a one-to-one environment where students can collaborate digitally in real-time. Others just need to be able to enter grades in their LMS system, respond to emails, and maybe do a bit of Googling. 

This (very unofficial, just-for-fun) quiz is designed to gauge two things: how deeply you know the features and functions of common computer programs, like the Microsoft Office suite, and how up to date you are on some of the most important tech innovations of recent years.

So, what are you waiting for? Put your knowledge to the test!

 

5 REALISTIC Ways for Teachers to Get Healthier This Year

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There are many realistic options for teachers to improve their health

Improving your health is a matter of making smarter choices.

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By now, you’ve probably heard the stats about New Year’s resolutions: they’re highly popular (40 percent of you will make one) and virtually impossible to achieve (only 8 percent of you will stick to it). So, what’s a teacher who wants to improve their health to do?

No matter what the stats say, setting goals is a good thing to do, provided that they're realistic and designed with your busy teacher lifestyle in mind. 

We’ve done some research based on the factors that explain how those who actually achieve their goals are able to do so, and came up with five theories, techniques and technologies that can make your health and fitness goals attainable – even on your hectic schedule. 

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Fight the Flu! A Teacher's Guide to Battling Germs (Infographic)

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Classrooms are places of learning, discovery, creativity, and... infectious illnesses. During certain times of the year, your classroom may begin to look more like "Outbreak" than "Stand and Deliver." 

But fear not, there are some basic steps you can take to limit the transmission of bugs among your students and keep your own bill of health clean too. First and foremost, getting a flu shot is usually a good idea (check out the official guidelines here).

Beyond that, check out our infographic and pass it around so that these classroom cleanliness habits go "viral!"

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Quiz: Which Hogwarts Professor Matches Your Teaching Style?

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Downloadable Guide: Top Ed Tech Trends in 2017

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Check out our great ed tech trends guide for 2017!

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Ed tech trends have always been tough to keep up with, but things have become nearly impossible with the spread of cheap, easy-to-access app making tools. These days, all anyone needs to create an app for educators is some rudimentary coding ability, access to app building tools, and an idea. 

So, how can you possibly sift through the ever-growing pile of new apps and ed tech offerings? Our Teacher Tech Trends 2017 guide is a great place to start!

This guide was put together by Amy Hughes, who is a course mentor for WGU's SPED Teachers College and has some great highlights and tidbits to get you up to speed on all the latest and greatest. If you know of great tools that weren't included, be sure to let us know about them in the comments section below!

The 9 Key Elements of Classroom Gamification (Infographic)

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Classroom gamification has gone from fringe concept to mainstream trend in a matter of years. But as more teachers attempt to incorporate game elements into their lesson plans, many are finding it difficult to sustain their games long-term or generate the engagement they were hoping for.

That's why we've put together this nifty infographic. We researched a variety of the best sources and guides on gamification and distilled their advice into nine elements that are required for gamification to be successful.

As the nine elements we've outlined in this infographic illustrate, serious thought and planning needs to go into your game in order for it to work. But with the right planning, a compelling classroom game can completely transform the way you teach!    

Ed Tech Review: Interactive Whiteboards and TVs

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At first glance, interactive screens/white boards don't appear to be much more than huge flat screen TVs with touch functionality. Cool, but perhaps not much more than a flashy gimmick. 

However, on deeper inspection, most models come bundled with proprietary software tools that, under the right circumstances, open the door to some truly unique approaches to lesson delivery, quiz taking, and collaborative projects, among other things. And many of the teachers fortunate enough to have one in their classroom laud their ability to rejuvenate lessons and revolutionize the way children learn.

So, is an interactive board right for your classroom? Before you can answer that, you'll need to answer some other vital questions first.

Free Printable: Customizable Punch Pass Cards

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The school year is winding down, which means you likely have students who need to catch up on work, earn extra credit, or whose attendance and tardies need to be tracked more carefully to prevent end of year ditching. Maybe you just need an easier, more reliable way to track hall pass usage. 

Whatever you need to track, we've got a great, free resource to help you do it: our customizable punch pass cards! Just download the file below and open it in Adobe (or your web browser) to enter the student's name and the task you'd like to use the punch pass to track — and don't forget to add expiration dates to ensure that the tasks get done on time. 

Just keep some stickers, a hole punch, or a plain old marker handy to quickly and easily mark the passes and you're good to go!

Free St. Patrick's Day Word Search

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It's that time of the year when we take time to appreciate little green men, shamrocks, and pots-o-gold. Get your students into the Irish spirit with this fun, free St. Patrick's Day word search!