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Let's Talk Classroom Environment!

     For many years now I've had my own personal opinion about classroom environments.  I'm of the opinion that if we have to send our children to school for six plus hours a day, they should feel comfortable there!  It makes sense right?  No one would want to be forced to stay in a place where they didn't feel comfortable.  So it's no surprise that when I got my first teaching job the classroom environment was one of my top priorities.  
     Now, I will say that my first classroom was warm and inviting, and I know the kids felt comfortable.  However, today I know far more and have had the benefit of many hours of sitting in conferences that were both enlightening and uplifting.  I've discovered through personal experience and continued education that children react to their environments.  We know this to be true.  We've had those talks with administrators and kid talk teams.  Ever heard the comment, "Well, you know they have a very hard home life."?  Yet, in our very own classrooms we don't stop to think about how our classroom environment is affecting our students, especially our most difficult students.  You know the students I'm referring to.  The ones that make us stop in our tracks at their behavior choices.  The ones we're guilty of labeling as kids that don't care about school.  In reality it may just be that we haven't done our job of meeting their most basic need.  The tricky part is figuring out what that need is.
     I was recently asked by my administrator if I'd be interested in trying an alternative learning environment in my classroom.    Um, YES absolutely! That got my wheels turning and my Pinterest browsing began!  What came next was a lot of research, one very late night at school, and one very exciting morning for my students.  


Beginning of Year 
     Above is what my classroom looked like at the beginning of the year.  It's your typical table groups with centers mixed in throughout the room.  Looks similar to every other first grade classroom.  
     To create our new alternative learning space I had to get creative.  Creating classrooms on a budget is what teachers do best and I'm no exception to the rule.  I live on a budget just like you so don't let that keep you from trying this.  I started by re-evaluating the existing items in my classroom.  How could they be re-purposed for this new environment?  I spent a long night, with some very sweet co-workers help, creating a variety of work spaces around the room.  We raised table legs to create standing work areas,  lowered table legs to allow for kiddos to sit on the floor, and removed individual desks to allow for more community based areas.  The most interesting, and most popular, seating turned out to be a Rubbermaid container.  Who would have thought right?  I will definitely be making more of these!  Below are some pictures of our new learning spaces.


I would eventually like to purchase exercise balls for the table in the background. 
Our standing work area.  It doesn't look that much taller in this picture, but the students had to kneel in the chairs or stand up to work there.

This lowered table which also serves as a bench during center time.

Our very popular Rubbermaid container seat!

The table on the left was lowered so the students could sit on the floor while working.
                                                                                                                       When my students came in the next morning they were beside themselves excited.  They could hardly speak.  They immediately explored the new areas and began to take turns using each of them.  They were more engaged, more focused, and had more of a sense of unity than ever before.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well they transitioned into our new environment.  
     There's so much I would still like to do, but I know it will take time.  I'm excited about what a difference it made our classroom, even for myself.  It felt like a community.  It made our classroom feel like a home, someplace safe, inviting and comfortable.  Best of all we had a very productive day which, when it's all said and done was my biggest concern.  I was worried we wouldn't be able to get things done in the same efficient manner we'd become accustomed to.  Wow, was I wrong!  Not only were we able to, but we enjoyed the learning process so much more!  
     I'll be posting more updates as I move through this process.  I'm anxious to see how it will change the dynamics of our classroom and our student success.  Until then I'll leave you with a challenge. Stop and evaluate your classroom.  Really ask yourself the hard questions.  What is your classroom like?  Would  you like to spend the day in your classroom...as a student?  Do your students and their families feel welcome and comfortable?  Are your students successful both academically and emotionally?  If not, what can you do to the classroom environment to help change it?  Remember our environments affect children too!

Comments

  1. This is awesome! This completely changes how kids view the classroom! I love it!

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  2. It has been so great watching your kids and their excitement. Helping you inspired me and now my students are loving the changes we are making as well!

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  3. That's what Joseph was going on and on about!! I was trying to understand what he was talking about! That is AWESOME!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. How does the Rubbermaid container seat work??? Looks interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You take a regular Rubbermaid container and cut the lid in half. The half you keep becomes a table top for the person sitting inside the box. It's great!

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