The fascination of walking into another teacher’s classroom. We have all felt it. The “Ooh, did not think to set up my bookshelves like that.” Or the “That works well for a learning center.” Now, I am not talking about Pinterest classroom jealousy, rather the ideas that pop up when you enter another teacher’s room and wonder if yours could work that way too. That’s professional reflection.
Kids feel that fascination too, especially when entering a classroom that is designed for older students. Each week I volunteer at a local elementary school doing book clubs with students. This year I have primarily led groups with Kindergarten through 2nd grade students. Last week, when I met with the kindergarteners, our normal room (the music classroom) was occupied. So we were asked to use a 5th grade classroom. Well, those kindergartners walked into that room with wide eyes and open mouths. They walked around the higher desks and the taller chairs but the biggest excitement was the snake! I asked them to wait till the end of our activity/reading session and then I promised we would check out the snake up close. With a few reminders, we did wait and the close up viewing was worth the wait. They pondered if it could get out (cage top has a lock on it) and if it had enough air (yes, the cage top was a screened top).
The funny thing is I also walked into this room with wide eyes. My eyes went to the collaborative table set low to the ground in one section of the room with cute crates and seat cushions. Made me think of another teacher’s room I had seen earlier in the school year. She also had a low table for collaboration but also a table that was set to counter height for standing around. This teacher had noticed in the last few years that some kids need to stand when working. She says it has worked well for learning space choice this school year.
Back to the 5th grade classroom. I noticed the section of her board with the learning targets displayed and the poster that set up the behavior expectations. I saw that the supplies were well positioned for independent student access. I considered if I would have left a little more “empty” space on the walls (something I am investigating through reading studies and how it affects students ability to focus and remain engaged).
When I do school visits for accreditations or consulting, I take lots of pictures of classrooms so that I remember all the great and unique configurations that teachers design. I also note the posters, anchor charts, and how students’ work is displayed. When talking with the teachers, I often ask why certain things on their walls were used or placed in a particular way. Their answers lead to great discussions on pedagogy and just what they think will get their students thinking.
As this school year winds down, take a trip. Take a walk to a classroom in your school, one that you rarely go to. Maybe it is in a different grade level or maybe it is the art room. See how that teacher has designed the learning space. Start a Design Thinking Cycle of how you will re-create learning spaces in your classroom for next year (http://edtechease.com/index.php/blog/teachers-use-design-thinking-all-the-time). Maybe re-arrange your current classroom design to try it out for a bit. Elicit the ideas of those most affected by your learning space, your students. Invite next year’s students to visit and ask their opinions as to how they would like to see the classroom look. Ask them if they want more or less “white” space on the walls.
Don’t stop there. Keep taking in-school classroom walks next year. Ask why a teacher chose to use bookshelves as space dividers or got rid of book shelves for book buckets. Notice if the posters change throughout the school year and does a lamp help set the mood for reading time.
Share your observations and your pictures! (@edtechease on Twitter and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/).
Originally posted on Thursday, 10 May 2018.