“The intention of the learning environment is to give children exposure to a range of materials, resources and experiences that give them practice in skill refinement, in language development, in creativity, and in play.” By Kathy Walker
Almost two years ago, I blogged about “The 21st Century Classroom Environment” and I still believe in everything I wrote and think it is still relevant but I also have learned a lot more about creating learning spaces, brain based research and learning within the last few years as well. Below I have compiled some tips and tricks based on what I have learned about creating learning spaces.
Tips and Tricks for Hacking Learning Spaces:
1. Student Designed: Let student design the learning space as this allows students ownership.
2. Make it flexible: Design the learning space to support quick transitions among different type of learning such as group work, partners and/or individual. I was in a classroom recently where the teacher called out ‘learning mode one’ and the students all turned their desks from partner pairing to small groups. This obviously took practice and procedures but only a few weeks into the school year and the students did it seamlessly.
3. Learning spaces should be comfortable: Students are in school for many hours, they should be comfortable when they are learning. Let them choose where they want to sit and learn. I am writing my blog from my couch with my feet up on my coffee table because it is comfortable for me; another blogger might like to stand as they write, we need to provide multiple learning areas so it is comfortable for the student.
4. Keep items at students eye level: I never thought about this before but when I took a webinar that @erinklein hosted on Learning Spaces, it made perfect sense. Now when I go into schools and classrooms I notice how all the work that is supposed to help students is at adult hight. For example recently when at a school they had a “Read” Box but the books where not at the students level to be able to read what the other students wrote on why they should ‘read’ the book. If this was at students eye level, the students would be able to read the other students reviews.
5. Technology: Technology needs to be accessible for students like dictionaries and encyclopedias were in classrooms. It should be fluid and not seen as a separate thing.
6. Declutter the Space: According to the latest brain research, having a room full of things such as posters and anchor charts over stimulates the students. As teachers we need to deduce what is learning information and what is decoration. With Pinterest so popular, it makes it easier for teachers to think cutesy equals learning. For example, a word wall is important for students learning. A word wall that is on chevron print is over stimulating for the students and is really just there for decoration.
7. Gender Neutral: Classroom colors should be warm and calming; not over stimulating and distracting.
8. Active Spaces: Classrooms should have active areas where students can be kinetic learners such as a Makerspace.
Pictures of different learning spaces I have come across in schools:
Other Resources for Designing Learning Spaces:
I would love to hear or see pictures of how you have changed your learning space, please share in the comment section.