Over the last few weeks I have read some fun and thoughtful posts about teachers and librarians who have redesigned their rooms. I started thinking about an Extreme Room Makeover last spring. I got a SMART Board installed in my room last year which my class and I liked a great deal, but the location (which I had little control over) was right in the middle of the room. The SMART Board became the giant elephant of the room. I knew I had to change things for this year so that when kids were using it to collaborate, other kids wouldn't just stop and stare.
So here is my design proposal for this year. If you happen to have friends at HGTV, feel free to pass this along. I think I could do a much better job than the three finalists I saw last night on Design Star (In case you missed it, one of the designers suggested using your clothes as inspiration. Since my typical wardrobe is cargo shorts and T-shirts, I'll pass on that advice).
In thinking about what I have learned from countless hours spent on The Third Teacher's site and reading all the things the Third Teacher tweets, I decided to focus on a few big goals:
1) Diminish the presence of the SMART Board by creating more inviting spaces for students to work if they are not at the board.
2) These inviting spaces should allow for different types of groupings and work to be done.
3) I wanted to get back to the idea that as much as I love tech, fostering a love of reading is still the most important goal in my room.
4) I still wanted a huge space in the room to meet as a class and if possible sit in a circle or oval.
After several attempts of moving things around, I decided I should just draw some things out. I found a nifty little tool called Classroom Architect that helped me play with the space. This is what my "final draft" looked like:
Last night, I was able to see what my design looked like. I think it turned out much better than having khaki walls with lots of storage space like my cargo shorts ... come to think of it my room does have tan walls and lots of storage space. Maybe I am not that different from the young lady on Design Star.
When you first walk in the door ...
you get to see a long narrow, tunnel of a room that sometimes makes me feel like I am in a subway. Not much I can do about that, but I do get to hang all the pennants from stadiums I have visited over the years across the room from the door. At least that is a little fun. You also get a little peek at my new crazy cool table I found at Ikea that will hopefully be a 'coveted' place to do some collaborative work when the kids are not working at the SMART Board.
The Back Corner ...
is where I think I will find 4 to 8 of my class during workshop times because of the table and these 2 little cubes that students from previous loved. I have 4 more of these cubes stationed around the room, but the 2 that are in the little nook were "hot spots". There must be something to reading or working in a place that someone standing at the door (e.g. our principal or parent volunteer) can't see. I purposefully bought an oval table to make conversations between students easier.
The Meeting Area is still huge and the SMART Board is still front and center but I am optimistic the other spaces I have created will offset the presence of the SMART Board. I also added a little bookshelf under the screen to maybe subliminally suggest that reading and thinking are a good foundation for using technology. I am also a little excited about my fun new floor lamp that is in the picture. My daughter was a heavy influence on that decision.
The Library and Computer Tables ...
now create an area that is separated from the rest of the room. One of my colleagues who saw this said something to the extent of. "You know, kids might not read there because you can't see them." I wanted to respond, "You know, kids still might not read when you can see them if you don't value reading." But I took the higher ground and just replied something like, "We'll figure it out." I love this space for many reasons, but the main one is this new area gives my students the opportunity to show that they can read/work without being seen by an adult.
My new favorite spot is this little table I put against the window in the back corner of my room. We have a great view of a wooded area near our school and this space will be a great spot for one or two of my kids (or me when they are at lunch) to work and get a little glimpse of nature at work. I am thinking about putting a little plant on the table as well, but I want to see how much space this table actually has before I do that. The stools will also be nice for storage during the summer or drumming like the guys you see in summertime Chicago near Millennium Park.
A view from the other direction ...
shows that three of my tables are now pushed against the "back wall" of the room. I have never done something like this, but about the only time my class is at their desks for long periods of time is during an assessment, so I figured this design allows for as much floor space as possible.
It will be interesting to see how this little experiment works. I think the class will really like all the little nooks and crannies that will give them independent places to work. I also think they will like the places that allow for better collaborative work. I know that my true reflective thinking might not take place for some time. I want to see how the class uses our room before I get too excited about this redesign. After all, the room is meant for the kids, not just me. If you have any ideas, let me know (I am talking to you Candice, Vern and Genevieve)