Friday, July 31, 2015

Is Your Classroom Designed To Maximize Learning?

As we began the classroom design portion of Responsive Classroom training, our instructor asked us to think about a store where we like to shop and what we like about shopping there.  It didn't take us long to start to make the connection between stores and classrooms. What a powerful analogy!

Take a look at your classroom design with different eyes. Is it comfortable and accessible for all students? Would you want to learn there?

As you may have gathered from the name of my blog, I'm not a big shopper. I often feel confused, overwhelmed, inadequate, and irritated in stores. Here's my list.

Think about a store where you like/dislike shopping. What makes that store a place where you like or don't like to shop? Now consider your classroom.....

Now, I it's not always a great idea to think of students as customers, but in this particular situation, it's helpful. The stores have a goal for customers that is somewhat similar to my goal for students. Stores want me to spend money. I'm more likely to spend money if I like the store and the products.

I want my students to learn, but more importantly, I want them to see the value of learning so they will continue learning throughout their lives. I want learning to be enjoyable and accessible to my students. If my classroom is a place where students like to be, they will be more likely to do things I want them to do. 

When I'm shopping, I like to know where things are, how to get to them, and how to use them. I appreciate products that are labeled and organized. I like being able to find the information I need to make a decision.  Store accomplish this with helpful signs and logical flow.  I like to have choices that are within my price-range. My physical and emotional comfort is important.

 How can I create this kind of environment in my classroom? 

  • organize and label classroom materials
  • teach kids how to use materials
  • make sure kids know what everything is for
  • keep things orderly
  • make sure lights, sounds, and smells are unobtrusive
  • have comfortable places for kids to work
  • have and teach systems for getting assistance
  • have choices for kids at every academic level
  • give students access to supplies (if materials are off-limits, keep them hidden or at least clearly marked as such)
  • use nice materials (get rid of broken supplies)
  • make the atmosphere comfortable for all students physically and emotionally
I know there are ways I can improve with this. One idea I got from another teacher at the class was to hang "curtains" on shelves that are off limits. She suggested just simple curtains, you don't want them to seem exciting or interesting because these places are off limits. She mentioned using a flat sheet and cutting the corners so it could be held on a suspension rod. I thought that sounded like a project within my capabilities. :) Another thing I'd like to do is make my classroom more physically comfortable. This is really hard to do on my extremely limited budget, so if you have some good ideas leave me a comment! One idea is just to give kids the option to work where they want to work. If they want to lay under a table to read, no problem for me! I'm heading to a rummage sale this afternoon, so maybe I'll find something amazing!

Does this way of thinking inspire you to do anything differently? Sharing in the comments below might give another teacher some inspiration they need, so be brave!

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in some posts I wrote last year after my Responsive Classroom training. I wrote about morning meeting and teacher language

If you found this post to be interesting or fun, I'd love for you to connect with me!

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  1. That is a great way of thinking about the experience of a child in a classroom. I would not have ever thought of that. It makes perfect sense!

  2. This is a great lens through which to view and plan your classroom, Deb. Good ideas here. Thanks for sharing. As to your curtains, I think it might be easier to place stick-on velcro on the edge of the shelf and the top edge of the curtain to hang them. Wait until you get a 50% off coupon from JoAnn's and buy a spool. I do almost all the shelves in my classroom this way– I was very influenced by brain compatible learning environments when we talked about that more in the day and making things as visually uncluttered as possible. I wrote a post about hanging the curtains here And if you go to a place like TJMaxx or Big Lots you can probably find big cushions at a good price that when piled on the floor kids can use to read, and they'll give the room a "cushy" look too. If you click on my classroom decor label on my blog you'll find other ideas– I'm kind of a decorator nut, on a budget– garage sales are the greatest. See you around. Kathleen Kidpeople Classroom

  3. Great way of looking at your classroom environment. I agree that it's not always the best to consider the children customers but you do want them as comfortable in your classroom as they are in their favorite store (you can also think of it as just their favorite place). Do you have tile or carpet floors? Maybe some cushy carpets/ rugs would help tile floors? Maybe some seat cushions (just for special chairs).

    I would only include washable items for germs/lice reasons!

    My Bright Blue House


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