In a 21st century classroom what is the most effective resource to make learning enjoyable for the students? Is it the never ending stacks of textbooks and encyclopedias? How do we improve the student learning in a world where every child holds a smartphone? Assessing the students has become even more challenging for the teachers as most of the students either don’t pay attention in the classroom or try to find ways to break the walls of the boredom classes that they are being packed in during their schooldays

A school in earlier days was made to train people to work in factories which explains why schools put students in straight roles nice and neat telling them to sit still, raise their hand if they want to speak, give them a short break to eat and for eight hours of the day tell him what to think. Oh! and make them compete to get an A. A letter determines the product quality.

This eventually results in developing an emotional state of stress blocking new learning, retrieval, and higher-order thinking among students. The education system is on the verge of a meltdown. We, as professors, take learning seriously but that does not mean learning should appear like a serious business for our students.

5 ways to revamp the ‘monotonous learning’ into ‘joyful learning’ in classrooms.

1. Improve the focus of students with learning differences

Every scientist will tell us that no two brains are same and every parent with two or more children will confirm that claim. So do we have an explanation for why we treat students like cookie cutter frames or snapback hats giving them this one-size-fits-all teaching? If a doctor prescribes the same medicine to all his patients the results will be tragic as so many people would get sick when it comes to school. This exact malpractice happens when a teacher standing in front of 20 kids having different needs, different strains, different gifts and different dreams are taught in the same way. That’s horrific!!

Most of us expect our students in the classroom to ‘sit still’ and maintain ‘pin drop silence’ for several teaching hours in the classrooms. We forget to realize the fact that each kid in our class is unique in their thoughts, learning style, potential, creativity and approach of understanding the concepts. Expecting all the 30 -40 students in the classroom to act in a similar way would be a wrong way of imparting meaningful education to the budding minds.

To improve the students’ attention to ensure the students are ready, willing and able to learn we can implement the following:

  • Begin the class with a mindful minute of 60 seconds to help students focus attention on their breathing and calm their nervous system, helping their brain become ready to learn thereby reducing anxiety and stress.
Source: agriosmindfitness.com
  • As teachers we can harness the energy of the students to channelizing it into instilling creativity among them by incorporating movement in classroom. Movement helps stimulate neural networks in the brain and increases blood flow, which puts students in a better mindset to think and recall.  
  • Tangles are recommended by several organizations for a wide range of special needs populations, including students with ADHD, autism and learning disabilities.
Tangles for ADHD students to improve attention span

To know more visit : https://www.tanglecreations.com/collections/tanglejr

  • By creating a transition from a  “fixed mindset”, i.e those who believe that intelligence or talent is fixed, to “growth mindset” in classrooms , i.e those who believe that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. By creating a growth mindset classroom, we can help students take more ownership of their learning and achieve their independence. 

The key is to emphasize the effort that students are putting in, rather than their intellectual ability, therefore helping them learn how to persevere and grow.

2. Bring in Flexible Classroom

Many of us might not think of classroom design as having that much of an impact on a child’s academic achievements or overall happiness in school, but it has been shown to help boost children’s learning and concentration levels. In fact, you can easily imagine the effect that a bad physical environment would have on your child – picture their classroom as a basement with grey cement walls, little natural light and rickety wooden stools and you can quickly understand how a child may become unmotivated to learn, distracted, or not even want to go to school at all.

Source: Flickr, Complete interior design

The 21st-century classroom is benefiting student learning by focusing on flexibility of design. There is a shift from a teacher-focused space to a more pupil-focused one. Versatile seating options, mobile furniture and welcoming classroom displays are all coming together to allow for independent, partner, group and collaborative learning.

Sources: Learning spaces

To boost the pupil collaboration and enhance ‘immersive classroom‘ environment here are some ways of altering your classroom layout’s:

  • Group desks and chairs together in small groups to encourage children to learn from one another and work together
  • Create a free-flow around the classroom for children and teachers
  • Clear lines of sight and clutter-free surfaces all have a positive effect on behaviour – make sure that your desks are set out in a way so that children can clearly see and hear you from wherever they are sat within the classroom
Source: eduequip.com, Blueprint of a flexible classroom
  • Choose furniture that can be easily moved – classroom spaces should be adaptable, rather than static
  • Designate different areas of the room to be used for varied learning activities, particularly for younger pupils.
  • Create a ‘quiet’ area with bean bags, a reading corner with a book shelf or a sensory play/ arts and craft area with storage for supplies.
Source : Learning Spaces, Lively classroom display walls
Source: Flickr, Colourful classrooms
  • Displays shouldn’t be too cluttered or over-busy. The ‘Clever Classrooms’ study states that ‘as a rule of thumb, 20-50% of the available wall space should be kept clear’
  • Try and avoid placing display materials on the windows as this results in loss of light, which can negatively impact a child’s performance.
  • The ‘Clever Classrooms’ study found that a feature wall in a bright colour was found to be most effective for learning as it provides an appropriate level of background stimulation
  • If you can’t paint a wall, then you can easily add colourful accents – adding bright colours to the floor, chairs, desks and blinds can help create flashes of extra colour, like in the image above

3. Use Reverse Learning Model in Classrooms

You may remember from your own school days how much students sometimes complain about teachers , “she gives so much busywork”, “The lesson is so boring, I felt like sleeping in his class”, “uff!! these 2 continuous block hours of her class…I will doze off in a while”. Often punishing your students every day with a test doesn’t make them respect you, and they won’t study either. Even if they do, it would study mechanically which in long term has dreadful outcomes. As teachers we need to realize that:

“Classrooms should be totally awe-inspiring, comfortable and fun places – if children LOVE their classroom, they’ll be extra willing to learn.”

The relation between the teacher and their student can be amplified through social networking and switching roles. The student becomes the teacher and vice-versa. Mix things up in class, and befriend your students. The more comfortable they feel in your presence, the more chances you have to keep them engaged and learning with enthusiasm.

As a teacher in the present digitalized education era where everything is present at the right click of the student how to we compete with social networks that unveil scoops by the minute, educate while entertaining, offer mini conferences of experts to the topics touting?

Instead of the teacher taking up the sole responsibility of the students learning they can set up a forum for students to provide constructive and timely feedback — criticism or praise — through mediums like a group Google Doc, Twitter hashtag, Edmodo site, blog, etc., helps you improve your teaching. It also helps students, emphasizing that learning is about partnership and working together.

The major objective of this method is: The teacher defines the knowledge to be acquired by the texts and exercises chosen for them, in reverse pedagogy, it is the students who define and seek the knowledge they need to co-build the course.

Steps to be taken to create a “Reversed learning model”

This would ensure ‘the keys of the class to be handed over to the students’ and would allow the transition of students mindset to considering the coursework as “their coursework”.

4. Cultivate joy in your school

It has usually been observed that students are more engaged when they enjoy classroom life, laugh, and connect with peers. Transitions between activities can be the perfect time to infuse more joy and fun into your daily routine–and get your students energized and excited to learn. As teachers we need to hook up the interests of the students with fun transitions in classroom like:

  • Take 45 seconds to have a dance party.
  • Find out which songs students are singing in chorus or music. Sing them as you’re cleaning up and making the transition to the next activity.
  • Start a new activity with a fun and interesting way to physically enter the space (such as a crab walk or backward walk).
  • Lead a firework cheer (rub hands together, make a sizzle sound, then clap hands and say, “Oooh, ahhhh”).
  • Organize a walk-and-talk activity (give the class a question related to the content, set a timer, and tell them to discuss the answer while walking around inside or outside for 4 minutes).
Handouts for the students to reflect on their experiences

Create a blog post at the end of the day where each studereate a handout for each day’s beautiful moments and place it in a binder that your class can add to each day. By the end of the school year, your class will have thousands of small beautiful moments that they can read through and enjoy.

As a 21st century teacher we need to integrate at least 3 multiple intelligence during transaction of lessons in class, this definitely incorporates holistic skills of cognitive, psychomotor, emotional, spiritual and musical element the the class. This would help in ensuring that in a class of 40 different minds the lesson is not taught in the same way as it would be injustice to the young creative minds.

9 Multiple intelligences stated by Horward Gardener

5. Use Six Thinking Hats in classroom

Have you heard about the magical Harry Potter’s hat which could predict the thinking skills and aptitude skills of an individual? Why not bringing something similar to add up some fun and colourful element to the boring lessons in the classroom. Edward de Bono’s had introduced the concept of 6 thinking hats which I believe can be incorporated in the classroom transactions. Lets first look what do these 6 hats indicates:

The Six thinking hats
  • Yellow: Focus on the benefits. Take a positive and optimistic perspective.
  • Green: Focus on creativity and building on the ideas. Refrain from criticism.
  • White: Data focus. Analyze trends & look for knowledge gaps.
  • Red: Focus on intuition, gut reaction, and emotion. How could others react emotionally to the decision?
  • Black: Focus on negative outcomes and flaws in the plan. Be cautious and defensive. Highlights weak points (in order to eliminate them later), makes thinking more robust.
  • Blue: Focus on the process. Manage the discussion, define where to focus.

Since we are living in a fast paced era where a child is expected to know everything, but as teachers we cannot just pour in all the facts and figures into their small brain. Instead what we can do is allow students to enhance the multidimensional thinking skills which they possess. The six thinking hats empower a student in classroom to enhance the parallel thinking in them so that they can explore all the six different perspectives of a complex scenario.

Being teachers it is our responsibility to prepare students for the future and not the past. We understand we all had a past, but today we don’t need to make robot zombies. The world has progressed and we need people who think creatively, innovatively, critically, independently with the ability to connect.

A doctor can do a surgery and save the life of a kid but a great teacher can reach the heart of that kid and allow him to truly live.

If we can customize healthcare , cars and Facebook pages then it is our duty to do the same to education to upgrade it to the core. Though students are 20% of our population but they are 100% of our future dreams so lets attend to their dreams.