GOOD SIGNS
POSSIBLE REASONS TO WORRY
FURNITURE
Chairs around tables to facilitate interaction

Comfortable areas for learning, including multiple "activity centers"
Open space for gathering
Chairs all facing forward or (even worse) desks in rows
ON THE WALLS
Covered with students’ projects

Evidence of student collaboration

Signs, exhibits, or lists obviously created by students rather than by the teacher

Information about, and personal mementos of, the people who spend time together in this classroom
Nothing

Commercial posters

Students’ assignments displayed, but they are (a) suspiciously flawless, (b) only from "the best" students, or (c) virtually all alike

List of rules created by an adult and/or list of punitive consequences for misbehavior

Sticker (or star) chart -- or other evidence that students are rewarded or ranked
STUDENTS’ FACES
Eager, engaged
Blank, bored
SOUNDS
Frequent hum of activity and ideas being exchanged
Frequent periods of silence

The teacher’s voice is the loudest or most often heard
LOCATION OF TEACHER
Typically working with students so it takes a few seconds to find her
Typically front and center
TEACHER’S VOICE
Respectful, genuine, warm
Controlling and imperious

Condescending and saccharine-sweet
STUDENTS’ REACTION TO VISITOR
Welcoming; eager to explain or demonstrate what they’re doing or to use visitor as a resource
Either unresponsive or hoping to be distracted from what they’re doing
CLASS DISCUSSION
Students often address one another directly

Emphasis on thoughtful exploration of complicated issues

Students ask questions at least as often as the teacher does
All exchanges involve (or are directed by) the teacher; students wait to be called on

Emphasis on facts and right answers

Students race to be first to answer teacher’s "Who can tell me…?" queries
STUFF
Room overflowing with good books, art supplies, animals and plants, science apparatus; "sense of purposeful clutter"
Textbooks, worksheets, and other packaged instructional materials predominate; sense of enforced orderliness
TASKS
Different activities often take place simultaneously

Activities frequently completed by pairs or groups of students
All students usually doing the same thing

When students aren’t listening to the teacher, they’re working alone
AROUND THE SCHOOL
Appealing atmosphere: a place where people would want to spend time

Students’ projects fill the hallways

Library well-stocked and comfortable

Bathrooms in good condition

Faculty lounge warm and inviting

Office staff welcoming toward visitors and students

Students helping in lunchroom, library, and with other school functions
Stark, institutional feel

Awards, trophies, and prizes displayed, suggesting an emphasis on triumph rather than community
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