It is not uncommon for my students to enter my classroom and find that something has been added, changed, or rearranged, but recently I over-hauled my entire classroom set up and I want to share my purpose for this big change in my room.
Firstly, I have been thinking a lot about the way academic spaces feel for the people that work in them. Growing up a zealous reader meant spending a lot of time in libraries from a young age and spaces like those became my go-to for any studying, writing, or reading throughout my academic studies. The space of a library, surrounded by the knowledge and stillness of books, just seemed like the right place to engage myself in learning. I had a big realization a couple months ago when I walked into my mentor’s classroom. I saw the periodic table, the lab counters, the microscopes, and I thought it really looks like science happens here. I went back to my own classroom and asked myself, does it really look like reading and writing happens here? Could this room be confused with a math room, a social studies room, a business studies room? I found the answer to my question was, yes, it could.
The purpose of my redesign is to address the need for the academic work I expect students to perform to be reflected in the space itself. My first area to tackle was reading. What can I do to make it look like reading happens in my classroom? I created a reading area with all my comfy seating to encourage students to get cozy and read. I believe we engage more fully in tasks when our bodies are comfortable. And what is better than a comfy chair and good book? (In this English teacher’s opinion, it doesn’t get much better than that!)
Next, I thought about writing. What does a writing environment look like? I used this guiding question to design the main seating and lesson area of my room. This question is a little more difficult and forced me to tap into my beliefs about teaching and learning. As a constructivist, I believe students learn best when they socialize over their learning. I have long abandoned the idea that writing is an act of solitude and complete independence. Good writing is regularly reflected upon by a number of readers. For my classroom, this meant goodbye, desks. And SO LONG! I have never been a fan of desks and the switch to tables added a spirit of community to the room immediately. Now, juniors are arranged into “writing teams” with their table-mates, which has been the perfect marriage of environment and teaching philosophy.
Another important change I made was to make more materials accessible to my students. I believe that one step in ownership of learning is a feeling of freedom and accessibility in the classroom. I moved all my shelving closer to the center of the room. When students enter the space, they can find their own bellringer activities, SSR books, notebooks, and other items they might need in one central location in the room.
I am absolutely loving my new classroom arrangement. It feels good to have my space match my intention: the teaching and learning of reading and writing. What a wonderful space to do the work I love.