Designing Classrooms of the Future Now!, pp. 5 of 11

Design Idea #1: Everyone can be a Designer

Kate Bucknall, a Middle School teacher the Singapore American School, recently moved from 5th Grade to 7th Grade and in the process she remodeled her new classroom to better accommodate her students’ needs and learning styles. Kate documented the changes in this video which provides a before and after view of the changes.

Interviewer: Would you talk about the changes in your classroom shown in this before and after video?

Kate: I do a lot of collaboration in my class. When I walked into my new classroom in 7th grade, it looked very traditional and rigid. The desks were an old fashioned design with the chairs attached, which makes it very difficult for students to move around and talk with one another. I also noticed that the room had mold and the air quality was not good. Fortunately, I had furniture from my home that I had used in my previous classroom to bring in. Along with this I asked the school if they could provide me with some tables to replace the desks. The change has been dramatic and positive. Students can work with each other in partners, small groups, or independently without being distracted by others. For example, writing partners choose a place to sit where they can focus; some students like to work on the floor; some can work at desks or on the higher tables. When students meet for their book club, I assign them a place to sit which is far enough from other groups; this way they can have discussions that won’t distract others. Some students like, or need, to work independently; they can sit in a quiet area at the back with no distractions. The different heights of the work areas also help support collaborative work and discussions. When desks are all at the same levels, the sound level is raised, whereas with different heights the students are less distracted by the noise.

Design Idea #2: Domesticate Classrooms

Interviewer: Your classroom looks more like a person’s home than a typical school setting, is this intentional?

Kate: Yes, there is an ample amount of brain research to show that students learn better in a relaxed-type setting rather than a sterile institutional environment. I want my students to be comfortable, to feel at home, so they can have a learning space that feels safe and familiar when they are sharing their thoughts and feelings. If students feel safe in their environment, they are more likely to take risks.  I have noticed shy students raise their hands and contribute to discussions more, students might not be sure whether their answer is correct or not, but in a relaxed setting they will give their answer anyway as they feel less stressed.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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