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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Most educators have little choice about the (usually) over-crowded, (often) unappealing rooms they teach in -- but they intuitively know that the spaces children spend their time in can have an effect on how they learn. I've gathered a collection of videos to explore the questions: How important is environment to learning? And what small changes can you make in seating, organization, lighting, and decor to build your own space into a better place to teach and learn?

Video Playlist: Innovative Learning Spaces

Watch the player below to see the whole playlist, or view it on YouTube.

  1. Flexible Learning Environments (04:02)

    Students and teachers at Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas, talk about the district's experiment with creating classrooms of the future to foster 21st-century skills at all grade levels.

  2. Building a Positive School Climate (02:28)

    This excellent video infographic from EdWeek describes a variety of ways that the physical school environment can affect the school climate, and visits a number of innovative learning spaces along the way.

  3. How to Organize Your Classroom, from Instructor Magazine (03:29)

    Scholastic offers several videos on elementary classroom layouts. This one shows how highly organized first grade teacher Lindsay Brooks sets her class up. See a video about traffic flow in another classroom here.

  4. Wooranna Park -- The Third Teacher (06:13)

    I've heard wonderful things about the integrated experiential learning at Wooranna Park Primary School in Victoria, Australia, and this video about the thinking behind their beautiful learning facility does not disappoint.

  5. Classroom Seating Arrangements (02:39)

    Seating plans are one way of quickly transforming your space. Check out these tips on the pros and cons of three ways to arrange student desks. You can find a post from producer Tesol Class with more info here.

  6. Project-Based Learning at High Tech High (02:25)

    In this excerpt from a short documentary about San Diego's High Tech High, founder Larry Rosenstock takes us inside the school building, where walls are glass and halls are designed to exhibit student work.

  7. Classroom Cribs: Sprinkle Teaching Magic Classroom Tour (14:50)

    Search "classroom tour" to find any number of teacher-made videos on YouTube to steal new ideas from. Though it's 15 minutes long (!), I like this one in particular for teacher Sheila Chako's infectious enthusiasm. She wrote a blog about her classroom environment here.

  8. How to Make an Ugly Classroom Beautiful (06:54)

    This adorable time-lapse video shows an English teacher in Korea getting very crafty with a whole lot of construction paper, while making a drab beige room into a colorful movie-themed learning space.

  9. Space to Learn by Bobbi Macdonald (05:42)

    Although a bit hurried, as Ignite talks can be, it's inspirational to hear this educator describe how when her team founded Baltimore's first public charter school, they re-imagined what the physical space could be.

More Resources on Learning Spaces

Ready to roll up your sleeves and re-think your classroom space before the school year starts? Here are a few organizations and resources to help you as you imagine what your ideal learning space would be. And be sure to check out the Remake Your Class video and tips series that we published last summer for more inspiration. I hope that no matter whether you're in an award-winning eco-friendly school building or a boxy portable, you can find some inspiration about how to customize your space!

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Redesign Your Classroom Space
Back to School: How can changing up your space lead to engagement?

Comments (19)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

H.Wilson14's picture

As a teacher going in to my 2nd full year of teaching, I really enjoyed all of these innovative ideas for setting up my classroom. This week marks the week of pre-planning for my district, and that means a frantic scramble for teachers to get their classrooms in working order before students arrive! As a special educator, I am used to setting my room up to utilize the space for a small number of students. However, my school is transitioning to a fully collaborative model where I will spend the whole day supporting students in the general education setting and sharing space with a co-teacher. Since I was still able to keep my own classroom that is across from my co-teacher, we have decided to try and utilize both spaces for the benefit of our students. Her room will be used for math, science, and technology while mine will be used to teach reading, writing, and social studies. Each is set up to our own strengths, though we fully plan on team teaching all subjects together at the same time. Now my question: I am wondering if anyone has any advice or can direct me to information on how we can best utilize the space in our classrooms for the specific subject areas as well as to facilitate our collaborative model.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas!

czechjane's picture

Thank you very much for this collection of videos. I am about to start my first year of teaching English as a foreign language and was encouraged and inspired to make the classroom an innovative and engaging space. I especially liked the segment on the seating arrangements. Do you have any advice for making a seating chart arrangement if you have no idea of the students' learning styles or personalities before the year starts? The U-shaped or cluster formation seems to be the most advantageous, but without knowing the students I'm not sure which one to pick. Maybe I will just have to choose one and be flexible to change as the year goes on!

Scott Bedley @scotteach's picture
Scott Bedley @scotteach
Teacher, Creator, Un-Maker, Foodie, Global School Play Day

Hey H.Wilson,
Could you explain a bit more of the type of lesson structure you see happening? Mainly lecture? Project Based? Constructavist? How do you envision learning happening in your classroom? Starting the process with exploring how you see learning happening helps lead me to how to establish and use the different spaces as well as how I want to create those spaces. I'd be stoked to hear more about that learning piece. Just the fact that you're putting thought into this will be a huge benefit to you and your students. Major props to you!

H.Wilson14's picture

Hi Scott Bedley,
Thank-you for your complimentary response. After re-reading my post, I realized that I forgot to mention that I am an elementary Interrelated Resource teacher. I will be co-teaching with a 3rd grade teacher this year. We are hoping to facilitate most of our instructional time in small group rotations using the workshop model which is a requirement for math, reading, and writing at our school. The idea is that we will team teach a mini lesson, and then each of us will work with a small group while 1 to 2 groups (depending on class size) will be doing some sort of collaborative or independent work. I hope this makes sense!
Thanks!

Kanwal's picture

great article, I will be working with second-grade in September, do you have an ideas how I can incorporate this into my classroom?

Arun's picture

This is definitely a great information. Thank you for sharing. I also want to know that from where can we purchase products that are used in the videos?

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

Hi Arun - Scroll up in the comments and you'll see a long comment from Elana Leoni about where to buy the furniture.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

Hi Kanwal - what do you hope to do with your 2nd grade classroom? How can we help you incorporate these ideas?

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

Hi czechjane! I piloted a variety of new furniture types this year, which meant my students weren't all using the same types of chairs/desks/tables. I had to have a seating chart (how else to take attendance with 160 students over 5 periods?), but I told the kids they could move during class to try the different furniture. That way they had opportunities to decide what works best for them. I think the old model of sit-in-this-seat-all-class-period is being replaced by a more flexible, go-where-you-work-best model -- but for me, I need that seating chart at the start of class before they start moving around.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Czechjane,

I use tables, which has it's advantages and disadvantages. However, one of the big advantages to classroom management is that I can move kids around with relative ease. They use seat sacs on the back of the chair, so I only have to move the chair.---no clunky desk to move around the room.

MPena's picture

This is great!!! I really want to revamp my classroom and give it a completely different look this coming year. I am a bit of a control freak and like to have my classroom EXACTLY the way I envision it. BUT I totally LOVE the idea of a more student-centered environment and allowing my students to take charge in my classroom by letting them create it!

THANKS for sharing!

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