How To Make a Classroom Makerspace

By providing your students with a makerspace in your classroom, you’re inspiring them to become creators, rather than consumers of education. A makerspace takes the knowledge students have acquired and redirects it into action. It helps students to make their own inquiries and allows their curiosity to guide them. A makerspace allows students to develop critical skills such as:

  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem-Solving
  • Collaboration

But is it really possible to create an effective makerspace in your classroom? It is, and we’re going to tell you how to do it.

The Materials

Every classroom is different, and the materials you provide in your makerspace will likely change depending on what you are teaching at the time. Here’s a few examples of some of the materials that we recommend you include in your makerspace:

If you can afford to invest in some of the nicer stuff, such as 3D printers or littleBits, that’s great; but it’s not necessary to have those things to create an engaging makerspace.

You won’t be able to afford all the materials you’d like to have at once, and that’s okay. Ask parents for donations and you’ll be surprised at how many materials you’ll be given. You may also consider renting expensive equipment for specific units.

The Space

Finding space in your classroom may be a challenge, but with some creative thinking you can find a way to make it work. Setting aside a dedicated space for students to work on projects is important, so try to set everything up in a specific corner so there is one dedicated area in your classroom.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure all students are physically able to access the makerspace.
  • Give students access to electricity in case it is needed for tools.
  • Have garbage cans and recycling bins nearby to reduce mess.
  • There should be an easy, efficient storage solution in place to hold maker materials.
  • Have flexible seating options so that moving around for different projects is easier.

If space is an issue, consider reserving your makerspace for supply storage and specific tasks. Many maker projects can be done at desks, so this can be a good compromise.

Getting Started

So you have the materials and you have the space, but how do you actually get students to start using the makerspace?

Luckily students tend to gravitate towards makerspaces. They like to tinker with things, especially materials they may not see on a regular basis. With the right materials your students are able to create something new. Give your students freedom to come up with their own projects. The point of a makerspace is for students to use their curiosity to create.

Beyond that, we recommend presenting students with design challenges to help jumpstart their creativity. When you utilize design challenges, you are giving your students deadlines, focus, and giving them a chance to present their prototypes. Come up with your own challenges based on your curriculum or search online for design challenges.

We’d love to see your makerspaces! Share yours in the comments!


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September Craft: Book Page Bookmarks

September Craft: Book Page Bookmarks

Start off the school year right with a simple, fun craft that promotes literacy. With two holidays this month celebrating reading, there’s never been a better time to have your students create bookmarks.

Here’s what you’ll need.

Materials:

Book Pages
Construction Paper
Scissors
Glue
Pencil

You can find the full list of printable instructions, including pictures, by clicking HERE.

We want to see your crafts! Share a picture in the comments of your students’ completed bookmarks!


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How To Create a Genuine Relationship With Your Class

Even the most thought-out lesson plans can fall flat if your students don’t respect and trust you. Every single school year you are given a new set of students, which means every single year you have to build a new relationship with your class.

You can’t assume that just because you are the teacher that your students will respect you. You have to put in the work to create a connection with your class. You have to get to know your students, accept them, and actually listen to their concerns.

But how do you do it? This isn’t something that happens overnight, but over days and weeks during the start of the school year. And while building a rapport is a lot of hard work, the methods for doing so aren’t that bad.

  1. Make a Good First Impression

The start of the school year is an important time, and giving a good first impression is paramount. You’re going to have students who don’t like school or who aren’t interested in your subject. The way you approach meeting your students is an important first step to building a relationship.

Greet each of your students individually as they enter the classroom. You may even introduce yourself with a handshake on the first day. This is an excellent way to show respect for your students. By modeling respect, you are encouraging students to respect you in turn.

When you first address your class, do so positively. You don’t want the first impression your students have of you to be associated with negativity or anger. Smile a lot and use some humor. Be encouraging. It is important that you get the school year off to a good start with a positive first day.

  1. Stand In The Hall Between Classes

This gives you a chance to interact more with your students. Say hello to students. Pay attention to them. Notice when something changes, such as new shoes or a new haircut. This also makes it easier for you to greet each student as they enter the room. This is the easiest way to encourage casual conversation with students, whether you’re discussing hobbies or class work.

Standing in the hallway is also a deterrent for bullying in the halls. Keeping an eye on your students outside of class will also give you a good idea of who has friends or significant others.

You could stay in your classroom to try and get some work done, but there isn’t a lot you can get done between passing periods. Instead, use that time to show your students you are available to talk.

  1. Attend School Events

While no one would expect you to attend every school event, going to several is a great way to show your support for your students. Many students participate in sports, theater and music productions, and other after school activities.

This makes it easier for you to comment on what students do in their free time, and shows you have a genuine interest in your students beyond their academics.

  1. Find The Good In All Your Students

It doesn’t matter how good of a teacher you are – you are going to run into students you simply don’t like. Maybe this is because of behavioral issues, a lack of drive, or simply because your student has very different opinions from you. No matter what it is, it’s important to see the good in all your students, even ones you may feel inclined to complain to colleagues about.

What makes each of your students special? What are their hobbies? What music do they like? Never forget that your students are people dealing with their own problems. School isn’t their entire life, and there is much more to a person than how they behave in the classroom. Put in the extra attention to make it easier to connect with your students.

  1. Understand The Community

The community your school is in has a huge impact on your students. This is the community where they go to school, but also the community where they sleep, shop, play, and relax. If you don’t understand the community, you’re going to have a hard time understanding your students.

Don’t just do research about the community, get out there and experience it. Talk to colleagues and administrators about what the community is like. It doesn’t matter if the community is one of privilege or not; you need to get to know the community no matter where it is if you want to have meaningful connections with your students. By understanding where they come from, you are able to respect their struggles and become a better educator.

  1. Never Assume

Avoid stereotyping your students at all costs. While stereotypes may be a good starting point at the beginning of the school year, don’t let those stereotypes cloud your view of how your students really are. All students are different and a stereotype cannot give you a full understanding of your students.

Talk to your students. Get to know them. Pay attention to the things they do and ask, when appropriate, why they do those things. You may think you’ve seen it all, but no two students are alike and it’s important to remember that.

 

Building a genuine relationship with your class takes time, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away. Just keep working at it! If you’re looking for more advice, we have a ton of teacher resources available on our website.

What’s your favorite way to build classroom community?


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How Teachers Can Quell Their Back-To-School Anxiety

Is back-to-school anxiety keeping you awake at night? Even veteran teachers face anxiety at the start of a new school year. You may be teaching a whole new grade in a whole new school, or maybe nothing is changing except a new class of students. It doesn’t matter; anxiety can happen to anyone, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

While that anxiety will likely begin to dissipate after you’ve been in the classroom with your students for a couple of weeks, there are things you can do to combat that anxiety right now.

And we’re going to help you do it.

Tip 1: Mourn The Loss Of Free Time Without Dwelling On It

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that no one is excited to lose their free time. Sure, you may be excited to get back to work with your students, but we all know that teaching is a lot of hard work with long hours. And while there are ways to work better at school and less at home, you simply aren’t going to have as much free time during the school year as you would like. It’s okay to feel sad about this, but the key is not to dwell on it. Remember all the reasons you love teaching, and use that as a way to stop dreading your return to the classroom.

Tip 2: Don’t Worry About What Your Students Think Of You

It’s easy to get wrapped up in worrying about gaining the respect of your students. Sometimes this takes the form of strict rules and policies, and sometimes this takes the forms of teachers trying to form a friendship with students.

You’ll be amazed at how much anxiety you’ll eliminate just by not worrying about your students’ opinions. Focus on doing your job well; including showing your students you care about them and their well-being. But it’s impossible to make every student happy, and worrying about doing so is just going to increase anxiety.

You can’t control if your students like you or not. In all likelihood, some of your students will like you while others don’t. By accepting this as an issue that cannot be controlled, you can let go of the stress that comes with those fears.

Tip 3: Embrace Your Blank Slate

Instead of being fearful about building a new classroom community, think instead about the blank slate you’ve been given. How many employees are able to start completely fresh every single year? This is an amazing opportunity for you to take advantage of, for both you and your students.

This can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Start by setting your back to school goals for the new year. These will give you a starting point for how you want to set up your classroom. Even small changes can make a huge difference in your classroom. Get excited! There’s so much you can do in your classroom to facilitate learning and community.

You can do just about anything you want before your students arrive. Decorate your classroom a way you’ve never tried before. Change up your classroom management style. Add new routines or try out new tools you never got to last year. There’s still time to make some big decisions about how your classroom will run. Don’t dread it, get excited!

Tip 4: Think About What You’re Gaining

It’s easy to get yourself into a cycle of anxiety when thinking about heading back to school. When that starts to happen, take a step back and think about what you’re gaining from the new school year.

  • The ability to start with a blank slate
  • The opportunity to change the lives of your students and their families
  • The relationships you’ll form with students and colleagues
  • The chance to empower the next generation
  • The new things you’ll be able to try in your classroom
  • The people you’ll meet who will make an impact on your own life

 

What tricks do you have to combat back-to-school anxiety? Let us know in the comments!


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How To Transition Kids To Kindergarten

Heading back to school can be tough for any kids, but it’s especially tough for students heading into school for the first time. Even for kids who went to pre-school, kindergarten is a big deal. It’s the first time they’ll be away from home and in school for an entire school day, and it can be overwhelming.

The first couple of weeks are extremely important. This is the time where you set expectations and give your students an idea of what school life will be like. It’s important to be prepared to meet this challenge head on.

Create A Welcoming Environment

You want to give your students a positive first impression when they enter your classroom for the first time. The best way to do that is by creating a classroom space that feels both comfortable and welcoming. Make sure each student feels included as soon as they step inside. A great way to do this is by featuring student names on a bulletin board or door.

Classroom décor will go a long way in making students feel welcome. You want your classroom to feel inviting, so make sure your space is spruced up for the occasion.

Prepare For Homesick Students

There will probably be a fair amount of tears from students (and parents) for the first couple of days. This is to be expected. The best thing you can do is make sure homesick students get involved in the tasks of the day. Distract them with activities and games. The more fun and interested your students are in your class, the faster they will get over their homesickness.

Having some comfort items such as stuffed animals can make a big difference for the first couple of days. If the initial homesickness doesn’t seem to be passing, get in touch with the student’s family to determine what might be making the transition so hard for the student.

Use Students’ Names Immediately

Using a students’ name is an important step in forming a connection. The sooner you start using names, the better. Make sure each student has a nametag visible on their desk. Depending on the school size, you may even want to give students wearable nametags to help keep track of students during transition periods. No matter what you do, make it a point to use student names every time you call on them to breed familiarity.

You may also choose to play a “name game” as an icebreaker. This will not only help you get to know your students better, but help your students get to know each other.

Establish Classroom Routines

A smooth first day begins and ends with a solid classroom routine. Giving your students a routine helps them understand what to expect every day in school. This can lessen anxiety and help to dictate student behavior. Posting a daily schedule somewhere all the students can see it is recommended. A lot of your students probably won’t be reading yet, so using visuals in addition to text is important.

The start of the school year is when you have to establish classroom behaviors. Make sure students understand how you want them to line up, enter class, turn in work, and how to ask to use the bathroom. Once you’ve explained these expectations, be sure to practice the routines daily for at least a week until students understand the routines fully.

Take Students On Tour

One of the easiest ways to get students comfortable in their new environment is to help them get to know it better. By giving students a tour of the school you’ll ease anxiety and make each student feel like part of the school community.

Take students around the whole school on your tour. Show them the cafeteria, gym, library, and any other room they are likely to spend time in. By the end of the tour they’ll already be more confident about their new school!

Be Open About Yourself

Your students should feel comfortable around you, but that will be hard if they know nothing about you. Make sure you share details about yourself with your students. Why did you decide to become a teacher? What are the things you enjoy doing? Remember that your students don’t know you and you may be their first teacher. Building a relationship in the classroom goes both ways.

Good luck!


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