The Common Core and other next generation standards put an emphasis on students being able to work together, recognizing that collaboration will be a key skill in college and career. It can be a key determinant in your students’ success.
Although students have been collaborating since the beginning of education, this new focus has led educators to come up with better ways to facilitate sharing and working together—and it often starts with the arrangement of their classroom.
Although a flexible classroom design is optimal, it might not be possible in some classrooms. In that case, teachers often set aside a particular space for student groups to work together.
It should have at least a table and chairs, but flexible seating that students can arrange themselves is preferable. Chargers and hard-wired Internet connections for the students’ devices would be great. Access to their own white board or, better yet, a SMART board or projector is ideal. If it can be separated from the other students to limit distractions, that’s even better.
The ability to take control
Collaboration can also mean working with the teacher. Investigate ways to provide students with methods to use the teacher’s presentation toys, like the projector or SMART board. Autonomy is key.
Students can’t work together if they are stuck in orderly rows of desks. It’s just not possible. If you’re stuck with old-school desks, make sure they can move around fairly easily. Think of bringing in some pillows or other seating that students can use on the floor to work in small groups. Again, students should be able to work with all of the assets in the room through their devices, without having to get up and plug something in (although if that’s unavoidable, so be it).
Kids will have to be able to work together to be effective components of the 21st century economy. The skills they learn in your collaboration area can help them work with people around the globe, as long as they start learning best practices now. That starts with a functional space.
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