Classroom Royale

Posted on April 23, 2012Filed Under Book List, classroom | 2 Comments

Continuing yesterday’s breakdown of the classroom as casino metaphor. Hmmmm.

We left off yesterday with Mr. Lee’s observation that casinos bombard you with lights and sound, and since this is the intro to his section on the physical setup of a “happy” classroom, I assume that he’s going to make some sort of connection. Are we to put up neon signs that flash “Free Drinks with any KBAR” and “Homework Pays 2 for 1,” and have speakers blaring sounds of pencils scratching across paper and the clacking of keyboards, with the occasional cry of  “Yes! Winner! A+”? Can’t wait to see where this is going. I’m actually kind of starting to like the idea.

His fourth observation about casinos is that the physical layout is supposed to get you lost between the door and the front desk. You’re supposed to get confused and disoriented, and presumably drop more money because all you can do is gamble since you’re lost.

This one I have personal experience with. Waaay back in the day, when the wife and I first started going to Vegas, we used to take advantage of those offers in Parade Magazine in the Sunday paper. The full-page ads promised that if you spent $400 for two nights at Vegas World (now it’s the Stratosphere), you got a free dinner, the usual coupon book of freebies, assorted free drinks… and your $400 back! And guess what? It was true. But… they gave you your money back in the form or four$100 chips, and then sent you across the casino to find the elevators and the front desk. And this casino played by all of Mr. Lee’s rules; it was loud, absolutely no windows, repetitive and confusing layout–it was almost impossible to find the cashier’s window to redeem your chips for cash. I was close to sitting down and playing one of the chips at the craps table just to get some cash, when the wife spotted the cashier.

We ended up gong a few more times, and even being invited to “invest” when they built the giant tower. Sigh. We coulda’ had our names engraved in one of the cornerstones of the new tower.

Anyway. Just how does this all connect to a warm and welcoming and productive classroom environment?

It turns out, it’s just an overly-dramatic intro to the idea that the physical layout of your classroom is important to learning, and that you should think about it in the same way that casino owners do: keeping the bottom line in mind at all times.

Well, duh.

He goes on to give examples like posting student work (whoa, revolutionary), walls-of-fame, classroom themes (what is this 1987?), attendance and behavior trackers (!?!?), a college corner (I did see a neon sign is his example pic), and so on… Not exactly earth-shaking, and pretty standard, first year ed-school stuff.

He ends this sample section with the question, “Does your classroom layout promote on-task behavior?”

Why didn’t he just say so?

But to be fair, I do see his (obscured) point.

I don’t like classrooms with windows. Kids ogle passersby and space out on a much larger scale when there are windows. I used to sub in Pismo Beach, down the coast a few miles, and one middle school there has the world’s finest ocean views. I swear, that property must be worth millions and millions. Many classrooms sport a fine bank of windows facing the ocean. I found myself staring out the window too.

I understand the clock idea, but I need one that I can see easily and point to. The routine needs timing, and I am also constantly teaching kids how to tell time. If you keep ’em busy and engaged, they’ll forget about time on their own.

The sights/sounds  and physical layout comparisons are a bit thinner. I think what he means is the old print-rich environment idea. You know, books and magazines and literate posters and projects and student work everywhere. Lots of stuff that invites discussion, and that sort of thing.

I think the classroom should be more like one of their bedrooms than a casino. Minus the laundry.

I guess this kind of turned into a review of a book I haven’t even read all the way through. Fun!

Comments

2 Responses to “Classroom Royale”

  1. Heather on April 24th, 2012 8:12 am

    I probably encourage clock-watching by actually posting a copy of the bell schedule right beside the clock (analog, but with the increments of 10 marked beside the numbers) – I got so tired of answering “when do we get out of here?” that I just gave in.

    I have a fairly “print-rich environment” but also a few students who are so easily distracted that they need to sit near a blank wall to focus. I wish my classroom was more like the library. I would replace my desks with tables in a heartbeat, or at least those table-like desks that aren’t connected to the chairs, if I had the option and the space.

  2. mrC on April 25th, 2012 7:11 pm

    @ Heather – My pat answer to that question was always, “There’s the clock, there’s the schedule, do the math and get back to work.” For some reason, I haven’t been getting that as much in the past few years. In fact, on weird schedule days, I’m the one asking the kids, ‘What time are we outta here today?”

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