This new room comes with many challenges.
- How to instill the sense of responsibility with new furniture
- How to keep students engaged with such an inviting atmosphere
- How to use the room effectively
Students were absolutely amazed and thrilled with their new learning environment! They wondered why every other classroom wasn’t as “cool” as ours! They wondered why they couldn’t move around as freely in other classrooms as they do in my room. They wondered why my room got the “new lighting” when other rooms didn’t.
These presented some new situation I hadn’t thought through entirely.
Flexible seating /high impact learning environments can look different from a traditional classroom (or not). My classroom operates differently in its function and the philosophy behind it. It was my responsibility to help students understand the differences and that it is OK to experience a variety of learning environments. No matter the “look” or function of a classroom, the most important factor was the commitment by the students, in their own learning.
Understanding this, the students and I set about the task of making this room “ours”. We had to decide many things, including:
- bulletin board space
- storage for their items, since we no longer have desks (how many drawers inside each storage cubby do they get? Storage for my teacher materials (I minimized to bare essentials, as my teacher desk is gone.) Storage for shared class materials
- Movement of furniture: anchor piece-large couch-and everything else
- Common classroom supplies (pencils, markers, paper and such)
We came upon class decisions for these things and more. We set up the room to our likes and moved in! With things out of sight and boards filled up with minimum items (less “visual pollution”, as I call it), the room looked lived in and still attractive and clean. Some of the photos in the previous entry reflect our lived- in space.
NEW FURNITURE: How To Take Care of It
It never fails: Year after year there are spills, marker marks on tables, nicks and dings on furniture, table tops, walls. With so much money invested in my room, I knew this should be prevented at all costs.
I was smart: when the furniture colors and fabrics were selected, bleach-able/wipe-able surfaces were top priority! Disinfectant wipes are my mainstay. Students know they are to tell me if they accidentally make a mark on the table. couch, chair, wall. I can clean up stray marks easily and quickly. Students can relax a bit more and they aren’t damaging the furniture as they did when I had cheaper furniture in my room the previous three years. They take pride and ownership in everything. If they do (and they do!) sit incorrectly on the couch or a chair, they know they have to find a new spot to sit. Everyone respects this. It has only been five months but the room still looks pristine and has that “new furniture” smell to it! I believe this will continue for the entire year and beyond. Top quality furniture, even if it is only a few key pieces, makes for a definite psychological improvement.
I believe, and students will agree, the new learning environment promotes engagement and learning. It may seem, when someone first walks in, students sitting casually or working together at a table, or around the coffee table or TV station, learning isn’t occurring. It is the complete opposite. Walking into my classroom; students own the room. They love sitting in comfortable chairs, knowing the furniture and they will move during the next 60+ minutes. They won’t sit still and listen to me lecturing. They will engage in work, activities, share with each other, develop a product, work on math problems, research a problem for Science, gather as groups to develop a chart or project, and much more. ALL four corners of the room are what I call “Fair learning game”. There is no “front” of the room. I sit and work wherever the students and their needs are. I share the same furniture as them. My “teacher desk” is a podium for the laptop, which, with the document camera, is wireless. Even my podium is movable. Movement + ownership together= student and teacher ownership and engagement.
Simply put: we love coming into this, our classroom, every day. Students still compete for their favorite spots!