It’s that time of year where I feel like I have a lot in common with sparrows, salmon, and lemmings. I feel the desire to tack sheets of paper to bulletin boards, arrange desks, and make name-tags. School is just far enough away that I am not panicking, but getting close enough that I feel the need to prepare for the panic that will come at the end of the month, leading up to a sleepless night before the first day of school running through the first day in my head over and over again.
I read an article recently from a person in higher ed claiming that perhaps if our classrooms were more comfortable places, students would be more apt to learn. Part of me thinks his idea of couches instead of desks could never fly because half of my students would be asleep before I started the lesson. But how do we balance making a classroom an interesting and comfortable place for our students while at the same time directing their attention to the lessons? How to we make room for lecture, where the teacher is the center, and group-work where students need to have their own meetings? It’s made even more interesting for me because I am in an open-concept school. I have two small cabinets and some shelves to store everything I need for all my lessons.
My solution has been to make sure I always have a small reading area for collaboration and down-time and at least one large table for small group instruction and meetings with students. Then I train the kids the first day on how to put the room into “pod mode,” “theater mode,” and “classroom-mode” for whatever we might need to do. By the end of the year I have the students trained like a good pit crew, able to change up the room in three minutes or less.
In what ways do you adapt your room for learning? Do you focus on instruction or groups? If you had one wish for your classroom (mine would be another wall to mount a hammock) what would it be?