Friday, July 20, 2018

Five Useful Tips for Designing Classroom Learning Spaces

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Robert Dillon speak about Designing Learning Spaces. 
He and Rebecca Louise Hare have written a short book about this topic, called 
During Dr. Dillon's session, he stressed that a teacher may not need to go out and buy lots of stuff to enhance their learning space. To me, it was really more about the mindset in developing a learning space.

I want to share 5 quick tips for rethinking your classroom environment.  I was so motivated after hearing Bob speak that I went straight to my classroom and rearranged desks and tables! 

1. What story does your classroom tell at first glance??

This was the question Bob posed when discussing classroom design.
So, when someone enters your room, what is the immediate word that comes to mind?
I wanted my "story" to be one of collaboration.
Previously my rug had been in the corner. Throughout the school year I arrange the desks in a variety of patterns and groupings, but never had the rug as the middle meeting space.
Now I've arranged the desks in pods of 2, 3, and 4. Some are around the rug, and others are near the wall.
I had 25 students last year, so that is the number of desks that are currently in my room.
I also have small group work spaces in the outer areas of the room. 
I love the look and feel of my room when I walk in. 

I haven't put much on the walls yet, but I am continuing with a global classroom theme this year. 
You can read more about that in this previous post.

2. Could you use whiteboards attached to your walls in a different way?
Dr. Dillon suggested turning long tall whiteboards from a horizontal display to a vertical one.
So, teachers could display classroom instruction on the upper section of the board, and the bottom area of the board could be used for student reflection and interaction of that content.

3. Do the items on the walls of your room have an expiration date?
Anchor charts should not be left up indefinitely. Instead, put a date on the back of them that will serve as an expiration date. On that date, you can revisit what you want to do with that chart. Is it still serving its initial purpose, or did students stop noticing it weeks ago? If it's still useful, leave it up, but reevaluate at a future date.
Find this chart paper and other favorites in my Amazon store here!
If it's served it's purpose, award it as a door prize for some lucky student!

4. Do you teach lessons on body language, and how that can affect learning?

Making students aware of how their bodies send messages can be powerful. 
Establishing expectations for best student learning positions may help to get your year off to a better start.
This is especially important if teachers are implementing flexible seating options. 

5. What message are your school's signs sending?
For instance, these banners at ISTE convey an overall communication strategy for the conference.
Do you have posters displayed right inside your classroom? Do they convey the overall message you want to send about learning in your classroom?
Rather than posting a list of dos and don'ts, Dr. Dillon suggests sharing powerful slogans about what your class will do together. This sets the tone for your year.

Dr. Robert Dillon also has videos on youtube that may be helpful with designing learning spaces. You can check them out here.
You may also want to follow Bob on Twitter here.
Share your ideas or thoughts in the comments below!
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