It almost seems like the place is deserted….the floors are extra shiny, random pieces of furniture are stacked up in small piles here and there, the lockers are clean and empty. However, you walk down the hall a little further and peek inside one of the classrooms and teachers inside are frantically setting up their rooms… creating cute bulletin board displays, hanging posters, placing books onto bookshelves, carefully writing student names on name plates, arranging furniture, cutting out laminated letters, and admiring their new Flair pens 😉
This is one of my favorite times of year. I LOVE the beginning of the school year. I LOVE the anticipation of meeting my new students. I LOVE setting up my classroom. My home away from home. The place that will become my new student’s home away from home. I spent ALL summer thinking about the changes I wanted to make after living a full year in a flexible classroom space. There were so many positive things that occured, but there are a few major changes that I am making this year in hopes to make my flexible classroom even better than last year!
- No Teacher Desk/ Add More Furniture
Our generous PTO awarded the 5th Grade Team with money to purchase more flexible furniture, I needed to make space because my dream was to have a couch :)) I chose to “ditch my desk” to gain that space for the couch. I am lucky enough to have a wall of cabinets and I am not the “pack-rat” type, so I had plenty of open space to store my things in the drawers and cabinets along the wall. I also feel I will be more connected with the students because I will always have to sit in their spaces with them. It truly will be OUR space. I also got some Ergo Stools and a dry erase table which I adjusted to standing height.
- Create Specific Zones
Last year I allowed the students to move ALL the furniture anywhere, anytime. This year students will only be able to change their seat options. I have developed specific “zones” that will remain in place all school year:
- Whole Group/Class Meeting
- Floor Sitting
- Table Sitting
- Quiet Area – I don’t want to be bothered
- Guided Reading/Math – work with teacher in small group
- weCreate Corner / Reading / I’m done with my work
- Designate Number of Students per Zone
I will be designated a specific number of students who can sit in each zone.
I am really excited to try my new ideas out this school year and as with anything I will constantly reflect and make changes along the way as needed!
Now that…Is Positively Techie!
I am super excited to introduce my guest writer, Bethany Martino :)) Bethany teaches 1st Grade at Madison School and started her journey implementing a Flexible Classroom last year too. Since I teach 5th grade, I asked Bethany to share her experience as a primary teacher so you can gain the primary perspective as well!
I am a person who is always looking for ways to freshen up my teaching and my classroom. I was tired of how my classroom was set up– with desks in pods and all students sitting in little blue chairs that have to be uncomfortable. (I certainly wouldn’t want to sit in them all day long.) I knew something had to change. I had heard about flexible classrooms but I had never seen one in person or knew a teacher who had transformed her classroom. I was also a little worried about how it would work in a first grade classroom with little bodies that are already active, easily distracted, and excited about everything . This could either be a complete disaster or an absolutely wonderful thing for my classroom and students. I crossed my fingers and made a plan.
Luckily, I work with some amazingly supportive colleagues who helped me turn this dream into a reality. I was able to get everything I needed from exploring our school basement and claiming unwanted items and our extremely generous PTO.
In my classroom, I have different options for workspaces and chairs. Students are able to select their ideal workspace as well as the chair that helps them focus and do their best work.
To begin transforming our classroom, the students and I talked about what would be changing and how we would use the new materials appropriately. The students were beyond thrilled and couldn’t wait to start using everything. When everything arrived, we used time to explore the new chairs.
I knew I couldn’t let first graders have free reign over the furniture or it would be complete chaos (and there would probably be a lot of arguments) so I gave the students some choice while I also was able to control it to an extent. We used Kahoot (an online quiz and survey website) to take a survey on our workspace and seating preferences. The students ranked the different options from 1-4 with 1 being their most preferred option. They did this for workspaces and seating. (To be honest, this process took longer than expected the first few times but the students picked up the process quickly and it became much more efficient each time we did it.) I took the results and assigned students a workspace (based on their preferences) and then a chair. In most cases, I was able to give each student their first or second choice. We continued to do this every two weeks so students could experience all of the different workspaces and chairs. I was impressed by how well my students were able to choose what worked best for them. They were all willing to give the different options a try and most found their favorites quickly. I found most students were able to focus on their work and finish it in the allotted time. This wasn’t always the case in past years. Most were able to start working right away. This wasn’t always the case in past years. The students also became aware of how they learn and work best. This wasn’t the case in past years.
As a teacher, I am so glad I made the switch. I feel like I am better able to meet my students’ needs. I’m a more flexible teacher because things are always changing in our classroom and we are able to move furniture and adapt to what is needed in our classroom for any given project or lesson. This is a switch that I am glad I made. I can’t imagine teaching in a traditional classroom again. If you’re on the fence about changing your classroom, do it. You won’t regret it and your students will LOVE it!