Hacking Your Dream Classroom

Like most other people across the world I struggle getting up really early and it has been all to rare of an occurrence as of late.  I really do like getting up early, getting to the gym, and participating in the Breakfast Club Chat found @bfc530 or by following the #bfc530.  Just so happens I made it today (March 3, 2017) and was able to catch an interesting topic that, when I was in the classroom was always obsessive over and that is “If I could have a dream classroom what would I get or what would I do differently?”  The reality is that we may not provided the resources we need from our schools in order to turn this dream into a reality.  This blog post was written to provide you some quick hacks (provided you are a little handy) on how to turn your dream into a reality.  Interestingly in reviewing the list I generated, these would also qualify as some of the key tenants in a “21st century” classroom design.

  1. Flexible spaces- One of the core tenants of a “21st Century classroom” is that they are flexible and allow for personalization just like the curriculum.  Traditionally classroom are often filled to the brim with rows of desk leaving the classroom feeling like a cemetery more than a learning space.  Providing space in the classroom that is flexible expands the range of possible instructional practices that can take place.  Providing three simple spaces such as those listed below is a great place to start.
    1. Whole Group – This space can provide a chance for the whole class to interact
    2. Small Group- A space that can provide some seclusion in the class to allow students to meet and collaborate or potentially the teacher to meet with students for instruction.
    3. Independent – A quiet space that provides students a chance to explore and learn on their own.
  2. Let’s Move!- Going along with the idea of flexible learning spaces, using mobile pieces in the classroom can provide much needed flexibility even when space is limited. Incorporating stand alone chairs, small tables or even adding wheels to something that was once stationary, can increase the potential flexibility of a classroom exponentially.  Often times you can find spare chairs in the school, but if that doesn’t work, yard sales are a great place to find low price furniture pieces.  Another simple hack is by adding wheels to something stationary such as a bookshelf now provides you with a mobile wall.  you can find wheels at your local hardware store for less than a $1 a piece.
  3. Tables vs. Desks- Many agree that a core skill necessary for being competitive in the global marketplace is the ability to collaborate.  Does your classroom promote collaboration?  One easy way to provide ample opportunity for collaboration is to swap desks for tables. But what if you can’t get enough tables for your class?  Going back to my previous section providing a range of seating options and workspaces means you don’t need to have enough tables for all students, flexibility.  Another option if tables are not, is to simply rearrange desks into pods.  I see this regularly in elementary classrooms but the idea loses steam as you work your way up the ladder.  Another collaborative space I regularly allowed students to use that all classes have is simple and cheap.  The floor!  Allowing students to work in groups on the floor frees up a lot of collaborative space with little regard to what you already have in the classroom.
  4. Let there be light!- Fluorescent lighting can be harsh to say the least.  Unfortunately your classroom may not have optimal light sources.  Science suggests natural light can provide positive affects on the mind so when possible leverage natural light in your classrooms. In lieu of windows providing multiple light sources can also have the same benefit of flexible learning spaces.  A lamp or smart positioned light can define a space.  Often times you can find a lamp around your house, the school, or potentially from a colleague.  If all else fails a yard sale can yield a few useful results.  Another simple trick is removing some of the bulbs in a fluorescent light.  It is incredibly important to be careful if doing this, but removing one or more lightbulbs can tone down aggressive lighting and have a calming effect.

This list isn’t the be all end all, but some of the quick hacks above are not only cheap, but can be very effective when redesigning a learning space that allows for a more personalized learning experience for our students.  Below I have added a couple quick links to help you with planning your space.  Happy hacking!!

Classroom Design Site

http://classroom.4teachers.org/  

http://www.room2learn.org/ 

 

 

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