Learning Environments

Rethinking the Learning Space

November 21, 2016

Above is a 360 degree tour of my learning environment. After 20 years in the same classroom I have changed and transformed it into the space it is today. I am finally satisfied with it because it is an efficient and effective environment where my students seem content, relaxed, happy and eager to explore, create, question and learn.

Let me break it down for you:

Mantra Our Class mantra “Wildcats are Making a Difference” is the focus of learning. We
work to make a difference for ourselves, our peers, our family, our community, our environment and our world.

Clotheslines I have hung “clotheslines” to hang anchor charts, learning goals and success criteria, student work and exemplars. This allows for efficiency and flow within my classroom.

Laptop I know a teacher laptop is common place in classrooms today but for my first 13 years of teaching a laptop was unheard of. My resources were limited to textbooks and unit plans in binders. Today, a textbook is rarely found in my classroom. Learning materials are authentic,”real” and relevant to my students.

Doc Cam I honestly don’t know how I taught without the ability to project. A doc cam (Photo Booth gives teachers almost the same functionality) allows me to share student exemplars immediately. This makes modelling and giving feedback incredibly easy and efficient. Students are able to get immediate feedback and see exemplars in a very timely manner. In math students can effectively share strategies with their peers. Gone are the days of photocopying student exemplars onto transparencies after the fact and after the real opportunity for learning is lost.

iPad and Laptops Portable technology has been a classroom game changer. The world is literally at our students finger tips. I am passionate about teaching my students how to use these powerful tools for good. We must model the positive use of technology and teach them how to begin to build their own digital tattoo.

Whiteboards Thanks to a product called “Idea Paint” I have transformed some of my old chalk boards (I hate chalk) and classroom walls into whiteboards. This allow my students to brainstorm and share their thinking through yet another medium.

Wall of Fame This wall, found directly at the front of our classroom, is filled with letters from dignitaries that past and present classes have received. It also includes quotes and words of wisdom from past and present students. This wall serves as a reminder that kids have a powerful voice and when used positively, anything is possible.

SMART Board My interactive SMART Board does just what it suggests, it gives my students the ability to interact with the content they are learning about. This has proved to be another game changer in my classroom. Student engagement has gone through the room. SMART Notebook, in my opinion, is the most powerful teacher software available. Learn how to use it and your teaching methodology will be forever changed.

Stand Up Desk The stand up desk by Ergotron has been a fantastic addition to my classroom, both for my students and myself. Sometimes we just need to get out of our seats and stand and/or move! No child should be forced to sit for 5-6 hours a day. Get kids moving, standing, sitting and even laying while learning and behaviour issues will diminish and productivity will increase.

Stationary Bike This has been a great addition to my classroom and provides another opportunity for my students to get moving while working and learning. Students self monitor the use of the bike. They have come up with a “sign up system” that works for everyone. I enjoy a few spins or two every day as well!

Flexible Seating Flexible seating has proven to be an absolute game changer in my classroom. This happened through much trial and error with my class. We have gotten to the point where students enter the classroom and go to their “home base” desks (determined by me). This is where they keep their bucket full of supplies, books,etc. This is also where they keep their indoor shoes. After opening exercises, I give my students full freedom of choice, allowing them to find a learning space that works for them based on what they’ll be working on and how they are feeling. The kids have learned to self regulate and make positive choices. I find they are more focused and collaborate well together. Using all of the space within our learning environment  has proved invaluable!

Buckets I call the “buckets” student “lockers”. By having my students keep all their supplies and books in their lockers, students are able to carry everything with them as they find their learning space within our classroom. Gone are the days of messy desks and lost supplies. My students’ ” lockers” are always neat and orderly which allows for increased efficiency.

Stand Up Work Area My back counter has become a place where students go to stand up while working. We know that many students love to stand (and move) while working. Stand up desks are not a feasible option in most classes, but countertops are found in almost all classrooms!

Long White Boards The long, skinny walls between my bulletin boards and windows have been transformed to whiteboards, allowing students to share their thinking and ideas or for us to create math, language, science, etc. word walls.

Board Games Board games are quickly becoming integral parts of my classroom. The opportunities for learning, problem solving and collaborating are incredible. I am currently working on a project with a colleague that leverages the playing of board games in the classroom to act as spring boards to social studies inquiries. We are excited to soon share our project, based on the grade4-6 revised Social Studies curriculum.

KCups K Cups 4 Classrooms have become an absolute game changer in my classroom. For more information, visit the webpage!

Stand up Desk I was fortunate to acquire a desk that I changed into a multi-tiered stand up desk. Mats, bean bag chairs, a variety of different chairs and desk arrangements have allowed for a wide variety of learning spaces.

Other Game Changes

Mindfulness My students and I practise mindfulness every day in our classroom. Students love this opportunity to give themselves the gift of relaxation and quiet.

Body Breaks Everyone needs a body break. Throughout the course of each day, my students do crunches, push ups, squats, planks and jumping jacks. We also get our body moving using Go Noodle and Just Dance.

Google Apps for Education The whole suite of apps have provided a great platform for learning. Google Classroom allows for a great way for a teacher to create assignments and provide feedback.

Blog My class blog has proven to be invaluable in many ways. Together my students and I write blogs about the learning that happens in our classroom and we share student work, ideas, lessons and resources. This gives my students a powerful voice that reaches far beyond our classroom walls. As well, through the creation of a “Parent’s Page”, the most important stakeholders in my students’ education get a glimpse into their children’s classroom and feel connected to it.

Remind The “Remind App” has become a quick and effective way for me to connect with my students’ parents.

Twitter Twitter is one of my most powerful teacher tools. Visit Mr.C’s SharesEase  for a variety of examples of how I use Twitter in my classroom.

Google Hangouts Google Hangouts have allowed me to tear down my classroom walls and take my students to incredible places from all over the world to meet amazing scientists, conservationists, explorers and adventurers. This video will give you a glimpse of some of the places I’ve taken my students. Here’s a link to find more about the World’s Best Ed Travel Agent!

That’s all folks! Hope you enjoyed the tour through my classroom. I’d love your input and suggestions. Feel free to share a comment about your own classroom. How has it evolved? What do you like best about your learning environment? What would you change? Would love to hear from you!

On Wednesday, November 23 at 8:30 pm EST I’ll be leading an #ONedchat on “Rethinking Classroom Design”. What type of questions would YOU like to see addressed? Please take a minute to fill in this Google Form if you have a question idea, then join us for the chat on Wednesday. Hope to see yo there!

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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