In last week’s post, I shared some strategies to create an inspiring and effective classroom layout for students and teachers. This week I’d like to delve deeper into the touchpoints approach. Touchpoints were first used in restaurant training and customer experience design. Basically, to make a space more effective for users or customers, we examine all the key places that they visit. In a restaurant, it’s places like the host station, server, bar, table, restroom, etc. For a customer to gain the maximum positive experience, all of these touchpoints have been carefully examined and tended to by restaurant management. Think of the best restaurant you have ever been to. It wasn’t that way by accident! It was designed to be exceptional, thematic and fun.
See where I am going with this? Our classrooms need to be designed in much the same way a fine restaurant is – with intention. Our students, gulp, are our customers. They have to “buy-in” to the overall experience and the more we have considered the effective and positive flow of the classroom experience the more students will buy-in, enjoy learning and keep coming back for more. So, how do we do that?
I have identified four core touchpoint categories – physical, emotional, mental and creative – that can be used as a launching pad for the flowing and effective classroom space. Here are some easy strategies and classroom arrangement ideas within each of these categories to get you going. Experiment, choose one or two and see what happens:
- Is entering your classroom special? How do you greet students? When students “cross the threshold” into a new classroom setting it is a golden opportunity to capture their attention. I always greet students at the door while making eye contact and encourage them as they exit to “take the learning with you, use it and share it.”
- How do you signal that your class is different from the previous one as students enter?
- Is there a physical signal such as a signature or theme song playing as they enter the room? How about the theme music to “Rocky” or “Chariots of Fire” signaling they are champion learners!
- Do the students have a special saying, motto, or greeting that they offer to you as they enter the classroom? Ask them to write one and say it as they enter. “It’s math class, we’re up to the task, we master what we’re asked” for example.
- Have you tried handing them index cards as the enter and asking them to write down what they remember from yesterday’s lesson as they enter and beginning the class with a group share?
- As you look around your classroom, are the key learning posters front, center and visible and referred to on a daily basis?
- Why do you have your room set up the way it is? What one small change might capture the students attention? Make it a small one, related to the lesson, and give them clues. Perhaps a new map of Asia is in a place where the European map used to be? Activate student learning by asking them to observe what’s changed in the space.
- Is there a way to easily move the desks to create some open space for movement? Get students in circles and pass ideas and concepts around the circle.
- Is there a system in place to have students work in collaborative teams? Create creative group names like The Innovators, The Explorers, The Designers, The Detectives, etc. and roll dice to get them in groups.
- What in your room can students relate to on an emotional and visceral level?
- Can you introduce a lesson with images from their favorite sports, music or movie stars?
- Can you identify real life connections with the lessons they are learning?
- What in your room is created collaboratively? A plant project, group circle map, sentence strips strung across the room with key concepts they have identified?
- Always show a big challenge problem or ask a big question that frames the dialogue for the rest of the class. Make the lesson “life worthy” in Harvard Project Zero lingo. If your class is studying fractions and decimals? Then show a colorful picture of a mosaic on the smartboard. Better yet, hand them colored squares and have them, as a group, create a simple mosaic as class begins. If studying immigration, ask them to tell their story.
There are an infinite number of ways to harness the physical, emotional, mental and creative space in your classroom. I hope you will post some here so we can all learn! In the meantime, remember learning, much like eating at a restaurant, is an experience and the overall level of satisfaction experienced by the customer (aka the student) will determine how often they come back!
Rob Levit, an acclaimed musician and artist and 2013 Innovator of the Year from the Maryland Daily Record, has created award-winning innovative “Life-Skills Through The Arts” programs for adults with mental illness, the homeless, adults in drug and alcohol recovery, youth in domestic/sexual abuse counseling, foster children, hospital patients, veterans and many more. He is currently Executive Director of Creating Communities and was the first Artist-In-Residence at Hospice of the Chesapeake, where he created and infused healing activities for the well-being of staff, families and patients. Email Rob.