For someone who loathes interior design with the fire of 1,000 suns I spend way too much time thinking about classroom layout. After my initial move away from student desks, I had another classroom re-configuration at the start of the year when I was the lucky recipient of new classroom furniture.
Yet here I am back in the holidays surreptitiously stashing desks around the school. My initial classroom layout had for the most part worked well. The kids made great use of the space and the classroom could be configured and reconfigured based on our needs. Yet there were some niggles.
Some furniture wasn’t being used at all by the students, there were areas where the kids were bunching up and others they weren’t using at all. A further catalyst for change was the school library re-opening and taking with it an entire shelf load of resources. So I took this midyear break as an opportunity to do yet another classroom redesign and most importantly de-clutter the classroom.
I amazed at how much clutter I have been able to amass in my 18 months in this classroom. I didn’t even think I had packrat tendencies (when you move every 18 months or so you don’t tend to hang on to junk) but nevertheless old notices, a few resources and whole lot of empty boxes were still in my class. It must be a teacher thing as my mother (who is a teacher) has boxes and boxes of resources that she has stored away in a shipping container (not all of it is teaching resources).
How much do we hold onto in schools just in case it might be useful?
Does it serve a purpose?
Does it make your classroom environment flow better or does it add obstacles and create visual noise?
At the beginning of the year I was very fortunate to spend the day with @sherrattsam at NIST in Bangkok. His blog is a must read but this post on time and space. So I made it my goal over the holiday to create more space.
I’ve pushed most of the tables in my class against walls to create as much floor space as possible. Floor space creates a physical flow through the room. There’s no reason that the kids can’t move the tables (and I’m expecting they will) however by placing furniture on the perimeter of the room there tends to be more flexibility in space.
I’ve deliberately moved the teaching station to the back of the room away from the board. Stephen Heppell (one of my learning space gurus) talks about creating multiple points of interest around the room. By having a teaching station right by the board I was still owning the front of the room. I’ve also added in a coffee table and sofa to make the area more interesting. Hopefully this will spread out the points of interest more in the room and also give kids a positive experience in groups.
Music and smell are important and again I’ve borrowed from Time/Space.There’s an electric aromatherapy burner in the background and the dock where I put my iPhone for some relaxing music (much to the chagrin of my 1Direction fans). The aromatherapy has had mixed reviews by the students. Some love it, others roll their eyeballs but the idea of creating a calm environment appeals. The science is very much out on the efficacy of aromatherapy and I’ve been mindful to use scents that won’t upset the asthmatics. However even if the claims about the efficacy of essential oils is mixed it can take the edge of the odour of class full of adolescents post PE. The stools enable the students to use the sink as a work area if they wish.
Daily 5 board. I totally stole this idea from @heymilly. My classroom has this wonderfully velcro type material along one wall which when you add some some velcro to the backs of laminated bits of card make for an interactive display. The kids names are laminated on the right with different colours. The students park their name next to the choice with each colour representing a different session.The rest of my walls are pretty much bare for good reason.
The students aren’t here yet.
Each new term brings a chance for new beginnings and new adventures.
By creating more physical space I hope to create a learning environment that has purpose. Nothing gets added to our environment unless it adds to the room.
My mantra during this busy term will be to go slow.
To spend more time getting the why right.
Just curious about whether you have access to a digital projector/smart board? And in general, how much of these technologies are in NZ classrooms? (Rough guess is fine!)
There are a lot of smartboards in primary schools in Australia and quite a few smartboards/projectors in high school but I’ve just got no idea about the situation across the Tasman!
Hi Canberra Teacher
That’s a hard question to answer because each school in New Zealand is self-governed. I’d say most schools have some sort of technology to project onto a screen. Some are smart some just regular projectors. I have projector and use my phone to make a smart phone!
It’s a lovely space and I think you’re moving in the right direction – between integrating digital learning with an environment that enables and enhances this learning… and enhances the right types of interaction between you and the kids… good for you!
I’ll just send you a question on Twitter!
Love your thinking always… and will share this with many teachers who are working and thinking always about the space. question.. Do you and only you use your learning space?
Do you have to consider other teachers needs or do you have the wonderful freedom to let your space reflect your beliefs. I am also wondering of late about the resources being in the Learning resource center and thinking ab out the need to really decentralize this and give much more immediate access.
My classroom is mostly my space occasionally I might have another teacher in the room or have the whole syndicate (Group of 3 classes) in for special events. Interestingly I ended up having a conversation with the teacher next door about layout and we adjusted each other’s thinking on various furniture placements! She pushed me against the walls and I changed the placement of teaching station.
It’s great that you decided to move away from the traditional classroom structure, adding more spice and flair. I too made some changes to my classroom, I even involved the students in the change. I instituted a project that allowed them to add their own personal touch to their classroom tables. I gave them colored pencils, crayons, stencils, markers, and stickers to create their designs on colored construction paper. Then they taped their designs to their tables. It was a tremendous success!
You’ve reminded me again how important student voice is and that in my zeal to create space I might have overlooked that dimension.