One school visited had a wonderful setup combining the three streamed classroom into three separate learning areas.
- One room was set up for group work, part of the room was the office (which was soundproof) originally used for teachers, which was converted into a studio for recording work.
- The other had a genius bar where students could sit beside someone for partner work, or work individually while being with friends. It has some single tables that could be moved to be individual or grouped, creating a flexible environment. Which is the key to a great classroom. and another area with MacDonald like bench tables for more groups to work.
- The Third section has a amphitheatre so that the three classes could listen to a teacher or student give directed lessons or share a whole class talk.
Another school has created great areas, Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney, (although on a Million dollar budget) I love the terms they use though, for each learning area. (See video Below)
- Campfires- one to many - Experts to many or small group. Teacher or student directed, or virtual experts to video.
- Watering holes- Many to Many collaborative, peer tutoring like a market place who do you want to see that will help you.
- Caves- individual spots to get away and learn in small group or individually.
5 Keys to classroom design:
- Flexibility- mobility of furniture
- Variety -not all desk and chairs, some comfortable pillows etc (why do we think that students can learn, sitting in hard plastic seats all day?)
- Storage-to build up supplies you need storage areas. stackable plastic containers are suitable
- Designated Areas-If space allows make designated areas for watering-holes, etc. so students are comfortable and now were to go, especially helpful for students on the Autistic spectrum who find too much change uncomfortable.
- Writable surfaces-whiteboard tables, write-on walls etc. You can now by whiteboard paint and paint the tables, one school I was at allowed it another didn't, the benefit was wonderful. I never forget sitting with a student at their table quickly working on a math's problem with them until the light came on and they realised they had it.
- Model Area Use-The key to all this is to model behaviour before the areas are used and keep modelling. Students will adapt if the behaviour management is clear. The benefit will be amazing as students become happy collaborative independent learners.