Its time to get back to the grind. I’ve considered my online learning space, how it is set up, what I want students and parents to be able to access in that space and how accessible it is to anyone entering it.
I went into my classroom last week and grumbled to myself quietly as I thought about doing the same with the physical learning space my students would inhabit for the next 9 months. My classroom is approximately 25 ft by 20 ft. Not a huge room but a nice sized one. It was recently completely remodeled from the floor up and is as modern as an urban district with money issues could make it. There are 15 -2person benches, 4 desktop computer stations, a lab bench with running water and electricity, a couple of nice side counter spaces, and plenty of cabinet storage space. I also have a desk station with portable file cabinet and computer cart.
I’ve read a little on how the arrangement of the classroom makes it more student centered and can assist with keeping students focused and on task. I have a few articles on the subject listed below for your perusal. I even violated my “Pinterest is crack, don’t do it” rule and poked around there looking at examples of redesigning classroom space. (I was only there 2 hours, yay me!) I visualized what I wanted to see happening in my classroom, mapped it out with a digital tool and girded myself for the grunt work. When I went in the day after maintenance returned everything to the room after their annual “deep clean”, the tables were lined up in 3 neat rows of 5 tables each, the computer tables were lined up against the back wall, and my desk station and computer cart were nowhere to be found. (they were next door for some reason) The place looked like a throwback to the mid 70s. The first thing I did was stand all the tables on end and glue small pieces of felt to the feet. I wanted to preserve the nice wax job on the floor for as long as possible AND try to muffle the noise we tend to make as we move around so I wouldn’t disturb Mrs. J below us this year. I did the same with the chairs. One of the custodians happened to wander by and announced I was his new favorite teacher for doing this. We pushed a couple of chairs around to test the felt feet and they were silent as mice and didn’t mark up the floor. Felt is easily found at any fabric store. Check the remnants bin. I got a yard (and didn’t use half of it) for $2. I used Tacky Glue to apply the felt. It dries completely overnight. I”ll try to remember to let you know when I might have to start replacing all of this from wear and tear.
Next I considered the ’70s look of the room. I will be doing more stations in our learning space this year, so first I separated the computer stands. Two stayed in the back of the room, two moved up front between my desk and the lab bench. One station can be for watching videos, the other for listening to podcasts, working with simulations, and other media. I then considered how students like to learn. I’ve never been one for assigning seats, as middle schoolers are falling in and out of like with each other daily and need to “move away from or near” each other at a moment’s notice. I created one large work area of 4 tables, for 8 students in the middle of the room. This area will be a work station for creating and inquiring. Nice and large, supplies and lab equipment fit nicely and there’s still room for everyone to work without crowding each other. Around this large work space, I set up 3 sets of tables to hold 4 students each. A third seating area will hold 6 and a final area in the front of the room, against the wall, 1 table, for 2 people: for my introverts to work quietly without being overwhelmed. This space will also double as a station where reading articles and/or books and taking notes can happen. Fifteen tables, with a nice haphazard look to them. My side counter tops will act as stations as well; I now have seating for 30 with up to 6 learning stations. I can have people move around and “own” the space.
I’ll work in this space for the quarter and see how it works. If needed, I will rearrange it, but I like it. Its not crowded; there is open space for people to work on the floor and move around each other. I’m searching for a used rolling stool now to scoot around from station to station on to keep tabs on people and work with them without hovering over them or taking someone’s chair. (you know how they get when you take their chair!)