Here's what my classroom looks like right now:
This is the view from my door.
From the back of the room looking forward
North to south view
South to north view
Last year, I didn't put too much thought into how my classroom was designed. I didn't really have time to. Going into last year, my biggest focus was surviving in an elementary school setting and in a new grade level. I was never very happy with how my classroom looked. It was this weird collage of student art work (I wrote about how I feel about that here) and random teacher store materials. Creating an environment that encouraged collaboration and learning was far from my top priority last year.
This year, I've been putting much more thought into this. I've been in my classroom about once a week this summer trying to get things organized and visualizing my final product. Also, I've spent a good chunk of time researching how the environment impacts how the brain works. Today, I participated in a webinar with Erin Klein (@kleinerin) which was all about incorporating brain research into classroom design. I think I'm finally at a point where I can jump into actually designing my classroom.
I have three main goals this year. First, I want to create more flexible seating. I didn't offer my students many choices in where they'd like to learn last year. This year I want to go away from a seating chart and not require that my students work at their tables all the time. To help with this, I'm hoping to create a few more areas for students to choose to work. Right now my tables are set up in a u shape. My hope is to find a small coffee table (or some kind of shorter table) to put in the middle of the u with fun floor cushions to go around it. This would offer my students a chance to get away from the hard plastic chairs and find a spot that might be more comfortable to them. I also want to work on my classroom library area. My library is currently located on the loft on the north side of my room. I want to bring it down to the main floor and create a cozy area with a rug and some fun options for sitting (more floor cushions and a fun bowl chair).
Secondly, I want to work on my decor. In the webinar today, Erin talked about the importance of color choice, especially in the primary grades. I'm hoping to replace the teacher store materials with homemade materials in warm browns and cream colors. Since most of my furniture and the cupboards are red, I'm going to try to work a little red in too; however, I want that to just be a highlight color. Erin also talked about the importance of including plants, so my goal is to find a couple of house plants to go on my windowsills. Just for elements of home, I've been contemplating adding a few fake flower arrangements here and there and maybe some fun picture frames.
Lastly (and this is the one that might not happen this year), I'd like to work on the lighting in my room. The two big windows on the east side of my room let in a lot of sunlight, so there were times when my students could work without the overhead lights last year. It's still a little dark though, so I'd like to pull in a couple of lamps here and there. Throughout my research, I found numerous studies that showed that natural and incandescent lighting is less distracting. Why not try to create the least distracting environment I can?
I don't know how much of this will actually happen this year. The whole process is not going to be easy on my wallet. My ultimate goal, however, is to create an environment that is brain-pleasing and allows my students to collaborate and grow. As I continue working on this, I'll try to update my blog to show pictures of this process. Nothing gets me more fired up than a good challenge for my students!