A few days ago, during an interesting conversation with a colleague, a realization came to me. The conversation began after my class had been cleared of its institution-like tables and chairs. In their places sprouted various couches, chairs, tables, pillows, and cushions.
"In my mind, they are not being serious if they are not sitting at desks or tables," my colleague, and friend confessed to me. This had been more than a stumbling block for me as well. How could they possibly work if they were sitting on a couch or at a picnic table? And more importantly, how would they test? We all know that our year boils down to that one day when we test (please note the sarcasm here).
Over the next few days, the strangest thing happened: work. A level of engagement began to happen in my classroom that had previously not taken place. Students were diligently working in the new areas, some together, some on their own. They had picked their own spots based on where they would work best. We spent a week moving around and testing out different areas and for the most part, they were making mature choices that were directly effecting their learning and engagement. Listening to their discussions was very interesting. The students knew exactly where they could work and where they were comfortable or even too comfortable.
The room consisted of different areas: the library, the mini-rooms, the genius bar, the maker space, the living room, the tech spot, the think tank, and, finally, the picnic area. Each area had its own theme that set it apart from the rest of the room. The living room and the mini-rooms were quickly identified as favorites. Personally, I adored the mini-rooms. My room came equipped with three large, 1970s closets. After talking to our administrator, the doors were removed, the cabinets emptied, and the shelves removed. Each cabinet was given a theme: Marvel, Harry Potter, and The Walking Dead. Pillows and tables were added as well as lights. These mini-rooms have become great places when concentration is essential.