5 Perfect Learning Zones for Your Classroom

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?

Behind the Scenes of Building Great Lesson Plans of a Flipped Classroom

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.

Mindset to Mastering The Classroom Flip

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.

Be Creative

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!


Behind the Scenes of Building Great Lesson Plans of a Flipped Classroom

Building great lesson plans in a flipped classroom successfully plays a key role in differentiating instruction. My goal as a teacher is a pretty simple one – Do a good job. OK, so that might be a little too simplistic.  How can I as a teacher do a good job each and every day? By serving each student and designing lessons and activities to meet each student’s unique strengths and weaknesses. This is what we like to call “differentiated instruction.”

The idea of providing differentiated instruction is appealing; however, actually implementing it can be quite the undertaking. A simple internet search will bombard you with strong opinions on if Differentiation actually works.

Bottom Line – It takes hard work and preparation to differentiate instruction. Weird, who knew? #sarcasmfordays

Aha Moment – Lesson Plans

An important realization that occurred early on in my career was discovering a need to map out my units and reevaluate the way I formed lesson plans. As an extremely visual learner and thinker, I needed a way for me to visualize the various pathways my students could take during their journey to mastering the content. Mindmeister has provided me with an opportunity to view my lesson plans as a “road map.” Students might begin from the same “location” (pretest) and finish at the same “destination” (passing score on the summative assessment), but the way they get there is entirely up to them by either choosing an activity they WANT to complete and/or by providing students with activities that best match their unique strengths and weaknesses usually by placing them in various learning zones.

Has it been easy to come up with a wide variety of activities? No, but Mindmeister has kept it easy to keep track of and make adjustments along the way.

Example for you to use

Take a look at the mindmap template below. You may notice a few things missing that traditional lesson plans might have. For starters, I do not have any dates or even specific days outlined. This is intentional as students work at their own pace. I can have a classroom full of 30 students and each of them might be working on something different. I cannot imagine how difficult this would be to try to write on a traditional calendar planner.

Feel free to click on the “map actions” button within the above mind map to duplicate the mind map and use it as a template for your own lesson planning 🙂

Something you might find especially relevant in the template might be some tips and tricks I have included using some of the basic features of MindMeister.

Each activity is given a background color so that I can easily tell whether this is something for the whole group (green), lower level, orange, middle level yellow, etc. Again, this is something that works for my visual mind. You might develop another method that works better for you.

What makes it great

The best part about this is that these plans are so easy to access. Do you ever get an idea for a neat lesson when you are out and about? How often do you forget about it before you get a chance to write it down? As long as you have a connection to the internet you can quickly load up your unit specific lesson plans and jot it down. Plans are saved and can easily be accessed each year, so the teacher does not need to “reinvent the wheel” every year. 

Most importantly, having lesson plans saved and easy to edit gives teacher more time to spend with family, research new teaching practices, start a blog, and rest and relax.

Your Challenge

What can you do now to help set yourself up for success? How can you change the way you map out a unit so that you do not feel overwhelmed at any point as you begin/continue to differentiate your instruction?

Have more questions on anything discussed in this post? Reach out to me via email at jon@flipthatclass.com