Saturday, January 14, 2012

Classroom Design: The Learning Environment

I spent a lot of time last summer planning my classroom design.  I wandered through thrift shops, IKEA, and other destinations seeking welcoming classroom containers, furniture and supplies.  Now midyear, it's time to revise and redesign the learning environment to reflect new learning and focus.

First, many of the inexpensive supplies I purchased broke, hence I'll be tossing some equipment. A lesson learned; it's better to purchase sturdy, quality items for classrooms that serve many, many children.  Next, due to our tech use, some of the paper related supplies are no longer needed.  We're still using paper for some learning, but not nearly as much paper as in the past.  I don't need mailboxes anymore as almost all student mail is sent electronically. I can also get rid of many files since I've started "filing" almost all lesson materials electronically.

The classroom library remains a focal point, and I continue to organize and reorganize the books so that the displays are accessible and inviting.  I'll query the students about this on Wednesday prior to the library clean-up.  Spaces for small group learning and project work also remain desirable so I'll work to make sure that those areas have the necessary materials for optimal, collaborative work including tables, chairs, easels, bulletin boards and supply shelves.

Children look for cozy, comfortable places to curl up and read.  I bought a few bean bag chairs from Walmart that they love ($15) but still need to gain approval from the fire department before buying more.  I've written to the fire department so that I can understand the codes well since I've had to remove many items from the classroom that don't meet the codes, and we do want to keep children as safe as possible. I'll continue to look for objects that support students' extended reading and writing.

Many educators at my school are thinking about learning environment design too.  They are talking about supplies that support students' comfort and growth particularly related to sensory and activity needs. I will continue to collaborate with my colleagues in this endeavor.

Since we're a 50% one-to-one classroom with numerous tech supplies, our tech integration specialist is working with us to find the best storage carts--carts that we can lock, store and access with ease.

That leaves me with the mid-year classroom clean-up plan:

  • Throw out all outdated, overused or dilapidated materials and furniture.
  • Reorganize classroom library with student help and suggestion.
  • Toss files that are now stored electronically.
  • Scan files that can be stored electronically, then toss.
  • Buy new storage containers that are easily labeled and stacked.  Store unit materials in those containers.
  • Order new furniture that supports literacy and numeracy development in child-friendly ways.
  • Rethink classroom rituals and routines to support the revised set-up.

As education continues to evolve, we will find ourselves holding on to treasured traditional pieces that serve children well while replacing outdated supplies and materials that no longer support effective instruction.  Similar to pedagogy and methodology, the learning environment should continue to adapt to  our best knowledge related to student success and happiness.