A New Look Classroom Layout: flash back to January
Towards the end of 2013, myself and two other teachers at my school visited Leamington Primary School. The focus of our visit was to observe a 1:1 iPad class in action, in anticipation of our own 1:1 iPad journey for 2014.
Observing the spectacular classroom teacher was awesome but what really inspired me for 2014 was how the teacher had created a learning space. In place of individual student desks were kidney tables – at various heights, rectangle tables, swivel chairs, shared working areas, large cushions, swiss balls, kneeling tables, tote trays, students sitting on the floor and cocooned in a corner amongst cushions and bean bags.
Whoa, I thought I want one of these! My class of 2013 was a traditional 1 desk per student set up with limited floor space – due to the quantity of desks, 28 in total. After this visit to Leamington, I decided a modern learning environment was for me.
New Year: New Space
I jumped into setting my class up with vigour over the Christmas break. It was a blur of scribbled layouts, hours spent pouring over Pinterest, reading articles and scouring the school for furniture in the hope of repurposing.
After making the decision to vito individual desks, I was compounded by the question, “where will they put their stuff?”. I stumbled upon the spectacular idea of BUCKETS – thanks to a wonderful teacher named Judy. On the first day, I added a lollipop, a ‘I PICK’ bookmark, a piece of card for a name tag and first day notices. They are great because my learners can take what they need with them as they move around the class. I see these being used to also carry their iPads around in the safe manner.
In class we have 2 kidney tables – for student work shops – and 2 rectangle tables for individual or group work. The two rectangle tables are pushed against the walls to create space for gathering areas. I see this tables being moved as the needs of our learners and space changes.
3 flip-top desks have been repurposed as ‘learning booths’. A chance for students to work independently from their peers or to work together.
I repurposed camp chair. I intended for this to be my teacher chair – however my thinking has changed to an inclusive approach that no one (teacher included) has an individual piece of furniture. Share and share alike is our new motto.
The majority of furniture, tables and bookshelves are pushed against the walls and the outside parameter of the classroom. I attempted to create as much open space as possible to allow for flexibility – lying on the floor, seating in small groups on the floor, grouping cushions or bean bags, and a whole class gathering space. A new addition the week before school started was a flat screen TV for the projection of student work. We now have 2 possible presenting arenas, the TV and the whiteboard & projector.
WHERE IS THE TEACHER DESK?
I started with a teacher desk pushed against the wall in the ‘teacher corner’ – a few book shelves and a lockable storage cupboard. In another part of the school there was talk of ‘losing teacher desks’. The more I visited my class, the more I revelled in the idea of losing the teacher desk.
In short, I had a vision of the class as an organic space that could and must change as our learning needs, choices and activities change. My own work space and how I choose to work was flexible and organic as well. Sometimes, I enjoy sitting on the floor with a group, other times it is important for me to be in amongst the learning and ordered chaos to remain with it and at times I require an area separate from the class to work one on one. So, I move around as I need. Finally, and if not the most important reason, I have challenged my class to lose their desks and to inhabit a bucket that they are required to take with them if needed, to make conscious decisions about where they would like to work and with who and to acknowledge and share our learning spaces. A little ‘the pot calling the kettle black’ if I had my own desk. A final note – I also have a bucket 😉
Finally, I was inspired my the work and experiences of Anne Kenneally and if I was to flip my classroom layout at the start of the year I would definitely apply her approach of doing this collaboratively. I decided to add a feature of this approach into the class on Day 3. As a whole class, we discussed how we wanted our class to be, what it should look like and what we might like to add. It was cool to hear the contributions of the class and their reasons for their choices. As a class we decided we needed a ‘man cave’ which we renamed a ‘class cave’ and more cushions. Hence the addition of a beach tent. Depending on who is seating in it; it is a ‘man cave’ or the ‘cave’.
I am confident our space will change and as the term and year progresses. I am going to hold a World Cafe, as the term progresses, to find out how our learning space is working and what changes the students require to meet their needs.