Friday, March 22, was the last day of two weeks of TCAP testing. While my students tested and I walked around giving sharp pencils, picking up dropped items and handing out lots of boxes of Kleenex I did a lot of thinking about the environmental layout of my classroom.
So you might be thinking, why am I writing about this topic now at the end of March. The reason is one word: iPads. It has been one month since becoming an 1:1 classroom and I am noticing how differently my students are working. During the limited time we were not getting ready for testing, taking the test or moving desks to their original location after testing, the students were working together on researching Native American Indians of Colorado. Students worked in "tribes" to research specific topics such as food, shelter, clothing and art, music, and games. Students were given the choice of where they wanted to work around the room.
The first thing I noticed was that out of the eight tribes only one tribe used tables to work at. Most students were sitting or stretched out on the floor the whole time they were working. As I don't allow students to work under the desks there wasn't a lot of space left with so many kids on the floor. Another observation I made was that most of the tribes were highly engaged in their work and were exchanging ideas and resources with similar tribes (Arapaho, Sioux and Cheyenne) who were also on the floor. This type of interaction has been very challenging for this particular group of students this year so I was delighted to see and hear the different discussions and interactions.
During the last week of school prior to spring break, I let the students choose where and with whom they sat. After forming 5 teams, instead of the 7 teams I usually make, the kids noticed that they had created a large open area on the floor. I noticed that all the desks were squished to one side of the room and there was one super large group of squirrelly boys ; )
As the week progressed, this large open space was utilized for many different activities during the day and reinforced my belief that I need to change the physical environment of the classroom.
With only two months left of school, I am not sure how much modification I am going to implement, but with our upcoming units on Food Chains & Webs and Colorado Life Zones I will definitely begin experimenting with the furniture arrangement. I will also begin collecting containers, pillows and other items I find that can be used to create a new classroom environment for my current and future students.