These 5 learning zones are something all teachers should consider implementing into their respective classrooms. Teachers often spend time reviewing standards, how the classroom is set-up, what “tweaks” could be made to improve lessons, bulletin boards, how to end world hunger, and pretty much everything else in the universe, but how about learning zones which encourage personalized learning?
Personalized Learning plays a vital role in how much success today’s students will experience. Personalized Learning can be defined as enabling student voice and choice through activities the teacher aligns with learning objectives and the students enjoy. One way of achieving this is to “flip your class” by setting up various learning zones in your classroom.
Learning zones allow you to unite components that would seem to be incompatible such as the following: critical standards, instructional activities, assessments, games, and whatever else your creativity brings. The discovery, creation, show-off, practice, and teacher zones save you time and energy throughout the entire year. Planning and preparing for learning zones does not take much time and is super easy when using mind mapping software.
1. Discovery Zone
The discovery zone houses information that exposes students to new information and/or builds on previous topics covered in class. This is where music videos, teacher demonstrations, news articles, instructional videos, screencasts, and fun books and magazines are housed. Give students the freedom to choose what resource(s) they want to dig deeper in. This will lead to a greater sense of ownership of their work leading to higher quality of effort given from the students.
2. Creation Zone
The idea here is to spark the imagination of the students. Do this in a number of different ways. I have experienced the most success with having students create maps or graphs at times using data gained from another learning zone. Setting up science labs where students work in small groups to investigate a topic is great as well. I also enjoy giving students the option to create a model of some kind, for example, a plant or animal cell. This learning zones also doubles as a supply station where students go to get markers, crayons, paper, scissors, glue and whatever else they need. This saves me time and my sanity.
3. Practice Zone
Students use this zone to become more familiar with the class content. This zone is for everyone. Many times students perceive this zone as an area for the lower performing students, but you can confuse your students by making it beneficial for all of your students. I use this area as a grab and go stop. Students grab what they need to go to work and can work in small groups of 2-3 if they choose. I house extension activities for my high performers as well as intervention materials for students who need more assistance with grasping a new concept at this learning zone.
4. Show Off Zone
Let’s face the facts here. Many students like to show off new skills. Evidence of this has been provided in the form of the many fads that have come and gone #dabbing. Give students the chance to show off what they have learned. I typically place independent activities here like small assessments, instructional activities, and one player games. Decrease student test anxiety by switching their mindset to the idea that they are showing off instead of being tested.
5. Teacher Zone
You need an area of your room that is off limits to students. House your graded papers, grade book, and a secret stash of candy here. Students will be moving around your room and establishing an area for you is important. Using this area to work one-on-one with a student is also great as students typically know not to interrupt you.
Do not let a small class be your weakness. You set up a learning zone of a countertop, bookshelf, extra desk, whatever you have. I have 3 along one counter top alone and the students do just fine! Do not feel the need to launch all 5 learning zones at once as that could lead to you burning out. Instead, start small by choosing one or two that you feel most comfortable with and have fun with it! Remember the more fun you have will lead to the students having more fun and at the end of the day isn’t that what this is all about?!
How do you set-up your classroom? Leave a comment below and feel free to post any questions you may have!