My understanding of the classroom has changed greatly. All through my schooling we had the same classroom layouts, with table groups of four or six and a small section to sit on the floor. The walls were generally decorated with our work or resources. Looking back, the best thing about these classrooms was that they had huge open windows, so there was always lots of natural lighting coming in.
It wasn’t until my first block prac that I really saw a different kind of classroom. At first I was skeptical but eventually I grew to see how it was of great benefit to the students. This classroom had a large variety of seating options for the students. They were able to choose their own seat, and had to change every lesson so they were not sitting next to the same people. They had beanbags with trays to do their work on, short tables so they could sit cross-legged on the floor and work at the table, tall bar tables and chairs and only one or two of the ‘regular’ tables you’d see in a classroom. At first I questioned weather or not this would work, as the class was always very chatty. I figured letting them sit next to their friends all the time would be a huge distraction for them. I soon realised that they were making better choices about who to sit next to. They didn’t always sit next to their friends, but they would chose to sit next to people they knew were quiet, or those who could possibly help them with their work.
This class was also given the opportunity to sit outside for one lesson a day. There was a small, undercover area, with fake grass and bean bags. The students loved working here as they were able to be in a different environment. At first they were over excited, but as the weeks went on and the students became use to sitting outside, they were far more productive, as these lessons were usually at the end of the day when they would usually be acting crazy or half asleep at their desks. It was really interesting to see the different learning environments just within the one class.
Of course, the use of brightly coloured walls that are plastered with student’s work and other display are extremely beneficial. However, I have seen so many classrooms where the work is out of date, or falling off. I think if the class were to maintain these displays like they do at the beginning of the year, then it would make for a better learning environment. If the walls are looking sloppy, how are we to expect students to be able to sit there and do their best work if the teacher hasn’t done theirs?
I believe it is extremely beneficial to give students more of a role in deciding how their classrooms are set out, or what they look like. Students who get to chose their seating arrangement, once the novelty has worn off, are more likely to make better choices. Teachers, more often than not, will put students work up on the walls and chose what goes where. However, I think it may be beneficial for the class to sit down and have a discussion about what they think the classroom should look like. After all, they are also sitting in it all day! The teacher may find that each group of students have different ideas about what will be more suited to them. Giving students options is, generally, a fantastic way to run a classroom.