Friday, July 20, 2012

Classroom Design: "A Home Away From Home"

I posted about classroom set-up last summer, and then again I posted classroom design ideals during the school year.  I also posted about classroom design during my mid-year clean-up.  Making the time to think about and set-up the classroom during the late days of summer vacation is an investment that will pay off throughout the year.

The way the room is designed mirrors the mood, intent and focus you foster each and every day.  I want my classroom this year to be a "home away from home," a place where students feel comfortable learning in natural, meaningful ways.  I also want the classroom to be a place that can run without me.  As suggested by yesterday's #blc12 tweets, a teacher's work is often best understood by how the classroom runs without him/her--I want my students to be able to run the classroom without me, and that will underlie my classroom design efforts. Unfortunately red tape, dollars and policy prevented the system from purchasing most of the items I identified on my ideal list--system-wide we're not ready for greater innovation with regard to school design at the elementary level, but it's possible that those changes will be embraced in the near future as school organization is revisited.

So it looks like I'll fund any changes I hope to make in design and equipment.  Every so often I make a bigger investment in my classroom with regard to dollars, and this may be one of those years.  I have many years of teaching to go, and now that I know the difference classroom design can make for students' experience, it will be difficult to live with an outdated, less effective look.

How will I design the room for best effect this year?

Classroom Library
The book collections will be placed around the room in student-friendly, easily to access ways.

Tech Center
iPods, iPads, extra headphones, cameras, video recorders, rockstars, and the macbook cart will be stored in this area.  Helpful tech signs and protocols will be listed in this area.  I'll spend some time at the start of the year introducing student to this area so that students are able to independently access tech tools to assist their learning.

The desks will be arranged in a an amphitheater design facing the white board.  Students will gather here for class meetings, films, presentations and lessons that require desks and everyone's attention. The TV (yes we still use it sometimes) will be stored in this area too.

Rug Area/Thematic Center
This area will be marked by a big green rug, bean bag chairs, pillows, book display case and bulletin board.  The main thematic materials related to current units will be on display here.  This will be an informal and formal gathering place for stories, student work and reading.

Learning Tools Center
This area will have a table and shelves.  The shelves will hold multiple containers of learning tools including math manipulatives, observation/measurement tools, games, building toys, fantasy characters, art supplies and more. 

Teacher Center
The teacher center will contain the rolling file (easy to use during RTI efforts), a student-teacher editing space, small plastic files for current lesson materials and a small table for current books, materials. In the back of the room there will be a cabinet and book case for teacher materials.

Small Group Learning Spaces
Around the edges of the room, near bulletin boards, there will be a number of tables with chairs for small group work during RTI, PBL and other times in the learning day.

Guiding Posters and Signs
Unlike past years, I'm not going to fill all the bulletin boards with guiding curriculum posters.  This year the posters that I hang up will be posters that guide students' learning mindset and habits--essentially "learning to learn" posters and signs, displays that remind students that they are the ones in the "driver's seat" when it comes to their education and their actions matter. 

Student News and Organization Area
Current notices, student mail, sign-in and other procedural information will be posted here.  This area will be designed to foster as much independence and student leadership as possible with regard to the daily routines necessary to run a successful classroom.  In the past I haven't spent enough time teaching children how to use this space effectively.  This year I'll make the time to enlist students' ideas and provide an introduction and opportunities to practice using this space.  

Creating a "home away from home" in the classroom takes time, but the as mentioned before, the investment sets the stage for an optimal year to come.

How will your classroom design be similar or different than mine?  What components do you include to best support students' independent and collaborative learning efforts?

I will gather and organize the materials listed above in the weeks to come. Once I set up the room, I'll include photos for your information.