How could I develop my space?

Over the last week or so it has been decided that I will be spending my second year teaching year 4, although I will be working with a completely new team. I have much to reflect on to inform my practice next year, but I have already decided something I want to work on is my use of space.

I really want to start to use my classroom space to really support my values of a child centred classroom for personalising learning and giving children responsibility and independence over their learning. This year I have reorganised quite a few times, but my placement of the furniture has too often been influence by managing behaviour rather than supporting learning, and this is something I want to change.

The space in my classroom is very limited, although we do have a shared group area with the other year 4 class that I want to make more use of. Therefore organisation of space is often down to how I can actually fit in the tables and chairs for all the children. This may be a mistake to begin with, perhaps I do not need to have tables and chairs for every child to sit down at the same time…

This year I have mostly worked around group desks, partly because that is what I was used to, partly because I like to encourage group interactions, and partly due to my use of Kagan cooperative learning, which is based around groups of 4. More recently I have experimented with creating different areas of the room and allowing the children to choose where they sit. We have had a horseshoe table, desks facing the wall, group tables, and individual island desks. The children have then had to sit with their ‘cooperative partners’, but choose where they sit for different lessons. Asking them to stay with certain partners was intended to trigger conversations and debates on the merits of certain places, and we have had some interesting discussions of learning dispositions and why they choose certain places.

I feel like this is just scratching the surface, and I would be really grateful for ideas, advice, and links to reading on use of space, that I can use to develop my room to really support the kind of learning I want to encourage. Obviously its hard to advise without knowing my room, but I’d really appreciate some ‘blue sky thinking’ on creating a learning environment to support personalised, child centred learning with Key stage 2 pupils.

Continuing thoughts on classroom space
Problems with timetabled learning

10 thoughts on “How could I develop my space?”

  1. we do a lot a group “problem based learning”….. not sure how that translates to the younger students though.

    we did struggle when trying to use traditional lecture hall facilities though, a more group orientated layout would have been more useful

  2. Simon M N Hunt

    I'm sure you do this already, but what about outdoor learning?

    The other thing I'd add is that there probably isn't a perfect way to set out the room for all activities. I tend to set my tables up differently for different subjects and activities. And I involve the children in that. By doing that, we now have several different classroom configurations that we use for various activities; from all tables to the side to create a large floor space to test configuration (like an exam hall) but not for tests. Then there are rows, groups, large horseshoe (like a conference room) etc..

    And because the children know what they all are they do the lifting and the shifting at the start and ends of lessons so that I don't have to. I suppose you could argue that that means we lose five minutes of learning here and there, but since the learning environment is so important, I think that we regain that time (and then some) in the way that the classroom set up positively affects the actual learning that takes place.

      1. Simon M N Hunt

        Of course you could always have some monitors who take on the responsibility for moving tables during break times. That way you can limit the pandemonium by having a few sensible children in charge of the moving rather than getting 30 kids to all start moving thing at once.

  3. I too am gearing up for my second year as a Y4 teacher, and have not been happy with my learning environment all year. I feel I am totally restricted by the space I have available, but I am sure there is something I could do with what I have.

    I really like your idea of different areas/set ups around the classroom and will definately try this out. I was also wondering if you could use Simon's idea below about different spaces for different activities, and after introducing the layouts to the children (or even letting them design them), they could then choose which layout would be best for that activity and set-up the classroom accordingly.

    As for me, I would really appreciate any bright ideas you have of the different areas/set-ups that I could incorporate into my classroom.

    Thanks,
    Iain

    1. I too find my space very restricting, as I have a small classroom which make it a bit of a jigsaw to fit everything in. As there is only just enough space for all the children and the furniture it would be very difficult to train them to move it around, as there simply isn't the space for children walking around with tables. If you can achieve this I agree it is probably a good use of time Simon, but I just don;t see how I can do that with the space I have unfortunately.

      I have found this article by Dr. Kenn Fisher to be really useful for looking at different uses of space.

      http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/

      Most of these are in the cintext of dedicated spaces but there may be ideas that could be borrowed from it.

      1. Thanks Oliver. That article is really interesting. Definately some ideas I can put into practice there. I'll let you know what happens.

  4. Simon M N Hunt

    Of course you could always have some monitors who take on the responsibility for moving tables during break times. That way you can limit the pandemonium by having a few sensible children in charge of the moving rather than getting 30 kids to all start moving thing at once.

  5. Pingback: Continuing thoughts on classroom space

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