I made some decisions over the summer about the design of the classroom. I wanted something different, something that was going to suit the inquiry/independence/gamification philosophy I was going for. Something that was student-friendly and student-driven. Here’s what I was thinking:
1. I had already gotten rid of my teacher desk last year (boy did that free up a lot of space!), now it was time to get rid of my student desks. Tables would be more conducive to collaborating, conversing, community-building.
2. I wanted to have a variety of learning spaces where students could find an area where they can learn best.
3. I wanted students to be able to make the choice of where to learn and be able to justify their choice.
After some consideration at the lake with a beverage in hand, I concluded that getting rid of all the desks was not going to lead to free choice. Some students enjoy working at a desk, and who am I to take that option away from them?
I kept 5 desks. I’m grateful that the caretakers hadn’t taken them all away yet–not sure I would get them back :).
Walking into the class today, I was thrilled! It was bright and clean and ready to be messed up by some grade 5s. The tables and desks were there, clean slate, ready to be placed strategically throughout the room. The before picture:
I won’t go through the boring (and far too elaborate) steps I took to get to the end result. I’ll just show you the workspaces and why I think they work.
3 tables with 3 chairs at each. This area might be chosen by a student who needs lots of room to work, is better in a small group, needs to be near an exit, needs to sit near the whiteboard/SmartBoard.
2 tables with 5 chairs at each (6 chairs in this pic, reduced it to 5). This area might be suitable for a student who works well in larger groups, can easily share space and supplies, needs to be close to the whiteboard/SmartBoard.
2 desks. This area might be chosen by a student who is shy, who would rather work in a small group, needs to be near an exit, needs to be near the teacher (my conference table is adjacent to this space).
Round table, 3 chairs. This area is suitable for a student who prefers natural lighting, a small group, finds comfort/creativity from looking out the window.
I’ve placed three desks individually throughout the room. Some students work better alone, some need less distraction, some just need time alone.
I found these carpet pieces in Ikea (a bargain at $4 a piece on clearance!). I also have some pillows. Students might prefer working on the floor, spread out, with a large group/whole group. I’m thinking that if we are working at the SmartBoard, some students might want to be closer and can use the carpet to sit on.
Student choice has always been very important for me to give my students. It invites problem-solving, critical thinking and self-advocation. So, the very first thing my students are going to learn as they walk through the door is how to choose the best workspace for them. They’ll be asked to choose the seat they think works, then we’ll have a conversation about how they chose that seat. We’ll look critically at whether these are good choices as students and if these choices will lend to doing their best. We’ll brainstorm what criteria we could use to pick a good workspace. Finally, we’ll make an anchor chart that they can refer to throughout the first weeks of school. Very important process that will be repeated many times in September and beyond, as students come to take more responsibility for their learning.
Anyone else have thoughts on classroom design? Any feedback on my setup?