Does Your Classroom Reflect What You Believe About Learning?

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As teachers we are so lucky. We know that when we come to school each day, each day will be different and interesting. We also know that to help students to learn, you need to be a learner yourself. 

In the past few years the rate of learning for teachers like myself has soared due to social media. I recently read a post about a teacher in New Zealand who had changed her learning space. At the time I read it, I thought it was a great idea but was not sure how I would go about  creating the change. I have always been interested in creating a culture of thinking and learning in my classs,  where the teacher steps back and the children help drive the learning. It was for this reason that an epiphany struck me one day last term.

We recently had our school PYP Exhibition where my year six students presented their learning to the school and wider community. Throughout the learning process for the Exhibition, the kids in my class were creating their own spaces for learning. In setting up for the day most of our desks were taken out of my room and stored. There was suddenly all this space in the room that could be changed. I realised that for so many years I had worked on creating a collaborative learning culture in my room, but I was helping my pupils to decide who to collaborate with and where their learning should take place. Still a little uncomfortable about what I was going to do to change the space and how I was going to do it, I asked one of my colleagues about her thoughts.  I asked myself the question, “Does Your Classroom Reflect What You Believe About Learning?” The short answer was “No”. While discussing it I became convinced and my excitement started to gain momentum.

So….. after the Exhibition I put the idea to my class. I explained that I had been teaching for so long and that teaching and learning has changed so much over this time. We spoke about being 21st Century learners in a learning space that was static. I asked them what they thought about the idea of changing our space and they were really enthusiastic. So we went about the school looking for alternative furniture to replace desks and chairs. We changed these for Ottomans instead. The whole atmosphere in my room began to change. The kids told me that a new Essential Agreement for this Flexible space should be created. They created one and constantly refer to it if things are not going so well.

Flexible Learning Space

 

Now that we have a shared flexible space when it comes to tidying the room a sense of “we” has emerged in the room rather than “I”. Everyone now helps to clean the space. We are still experimenting with the space and are now trying out different types of furniture that a kind furniture rep has agreed to lend us. The children are excited to be helping to choose their furniture. They give me feedback about it without me even asking.

I had wondered what would happen with this new found freedom in the room. How and if  it would change learning. My observations are that children are now mixing things up and are learning and collaborating  more  than ever before. The children look more comfortable when they are learning.

As for me, I feel a sense of freedom too and am so glad that I took the plunge.

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2 responses »

  1. I like it 🙂 I’ve been doing a bit of that myself with the class in a slightly different way….and been amused with the great differences in what each one thought! It seems like we always either choose rows or groups as a base for the tables (they do wander and work in other non-table areas often since it’s all open) and both frustrated me a bit because either one didn’t necessarily cater to everyone all of the time. I had them draw a map of the classroom and then put an x on where they thought they would learn best and in what sort of arrangement (I left it open – whatever they thought it should look like) They then had to explain a little about their thinking and I said I would take it in and see what I could do. We have a very odd looking classroom at the moment which met most of their requests and are just about at the end of our two week trial (when they get to give feedback on how it’s going/what they think) but if all else fails, I figured out that being by the window has a calming/focusing effect on one of my students (his request) who has behavioral problems so that’s been great for him and me. 🙂 Let us know what they end up preferring!

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