Yesterday I changed the layout of my traditional seventh-grade social studies classroom to mimic a courtroom. We were learning about the Puritans in New England and I wanted to simulate the Puritan court. I was struck by how engaged the students were by simply entering the room and seeing a different setup. The thought that students could enter the room in be excited simply by seeing a different atmosphere was something I didn’t really think was going to happen.
For the remainder of class, students were given jobs such as witnesses, defendants, magistrates, and bailiff. Student-centered tasks included writing the court notes on the board, standing and giving testimonies, and three magistrates passed verdicts (all guilty) complete with “appropriate” punishments. Each class a student was banished to the hallway for heresy. I loved the look on their faces as they were sent to the hall all in fun.
The concept of hacking your classroom or developing inspiring spaces is something that teachers have been doing for many years. We find ourselves with a limited space: four walls usually one with windows and 25 to 30 desks. And we ask ourselves what am I supposed to do with this? Yet with a little ingenuity, sometimes with student input, we can create a space that inspires students instantly and we can leverage their excitement for the remainder of the class.