Several years ago I had the privilege of working with a veteran of the United States Air Force. When I asked about his role in the service, he informed me that he was an Airborne Climatologist who was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. He went on to explain that his job was to go up in the plane with the 101st while they were on a mission and monitor the weather to ensure that the climate was conducive to a safe deployment. He further explained the measurements and checklists he followed to ensure that the team would be able to safely and successfully execute their mission.
In the classroom, you are the climatologist. You can assess the environment to ensure that it is conducive to student learning. In the book Project Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences, author Suzie Boss shares the following checklist to help you audit your classroom to ensure a positive climate for learning (pp. 26-27):
- What students see: Do photos, posters, and artwork reflect students’ cultures and backgounds? Do students have choice regarding what is displayed? Is student work prominent?
- What students think and say: Are students’ thoughts captured and displayed on the boards or in classroom norms? Are works in progress displayed or only finished work? Are student supports (i.e. word walls, sentence frames, etc.) visible in the room?
- Seating arrangements: Is seating flexible, allowing for individual work, pairs, or other small groups? Does the classroom setup accommodate for students with special needs?
- Who owns the stuff: Are tools, books, and resources for learning readily accessible for students, or does the teacher control them?
- Learning in process: Is it evident what types of projects the learners are working on? Is the work of high quality? Are models available? Are rubrics visible?
Conduct a quick classroom audit as you prepare for next week. Make adjustments as you see fit. Ultimately, your classroom will become more conducive to learning, and your students will benefit greatly.