student ownership in the classroom

When students come to Hampton Lutheran each day, we want them to feel like their classroom is their classroom, not just a room that they have to go to every day. We want them to feel a sense of ownership in their classroom. We want them to think: “This room belongs to me, and I feel comfortable here. My job is to do the best I can because it’s important.”

Student ownership in the classroom means that each student feels like an important part of the learning environment. This means they’ll feel comfortable, safe, and motivated to do their best work and learn and grow, along with their peers.

Teachers work to build each student’s sense of internal motivation. If a teacher constantly has to refocus kids on the task at hand, the classroom is not an effective learning environment. In a combined classroom, it is especially important for teachers to promote independent learning and help kids feel a sense of ownership in their work and classroom.

Students must learn that what they do matters to their own learning and to their classmates. Older students, especially, should feel that they have a role in maintaining that environment.

What Student Ownership Looks Like in the Classroom

Here are three ways Hampton Lutheran teachers promote student ownership in classrooms.

1. Flexible seating arrangements

Flexible seating is a newer concept that promotes student ownership in the classroom by allowing them to choose where they sit while working on schoolwork. Traditional education would say that students have to stay sitting straight up in their seats to do their work. But current methods say that each child learns differently and that students have a responsibility for learning what seating arrangement and workspace works best for them.

Of course, the amount of freedom in seating arrangements is ultimately up to each teacher, but students are able to figure out where they work best. Some kids prefer to sit on the floor or underneath something to work. Other students work best standing up at a higher desk.

To make flexible seating arrangements work, teachers must expect a child’s best work. And the student understands that if where they chose to sit isn’t working, then changes will be made. It all comes down to giving kids the freedom—and responsibility—to be self-aware and learn where they work productively.

2. Displaying students’ work in the classroom

At HLS, teachers carefully design their classrooms to make kids feel safe, secure, and comfortable in their learning environment. Part of creating that type of environment—and a way to promote student ownership in the classroom—is displaying students’ artwork in the classroom. When kids look around their classroom and see their work and their peers’ work, they know that they are in an environment where their work is valued, which encourages them to keep working hard and to be creative.

Students’ artwork displayed in the library

3. School families 

Another way HLS teachers promote ownership in the classroom is by letting kids be leaders in the school. Our sixth graders are the head “adults” in their school families. They take great pride in taking care of the younger children. They are also responsible for readings in chapel or other jobs that need to be done.

When the school has an outing, the students are divided into their families. The older children are in charge of the group (with teacher supervision). At school events, the children serve as greeters for our guests, knowing that they represent the school. The older children serve as leaders for our community National Day of Prayer.

Placing our older students in leadership positions teaches the children that they can rise to meet high expectations and ultimately gives them a sense of ownership in their classroom.