Flexible Seating

Looking around my classroom this year, I was struck by a thought. Education has changed dramatically over the years. Classrooms of today look dramatically different to those in Victorian England. Or do they?

Yes, education has come a long way; research has focused on the different learning needs of students and innovative ways to help students to develop the skills they require in today’s world. Differentiation has been a buzz word for a long time and teachers have spent many hours and PD sessions learning about how best to differentiate their lessons to suit all learners. Yet we still expect all students to sit for long periods of time on chairs and at tables, regardless of their needs or learning styles. There is zero differentiation there.

This prompted me to do some research of my own. I came across a few blogs which got me thinking about the set up of my classroom and how I could adapt it to suit the needs of my class. On a basic level, designing a classroom which is comfortable and allows for student choice, will enable students to select an area which they will be able to focus in. Being focused and comfortable will help students to be better engaged and foster better outcomes.

Flexible classroom environment

Redesigning the classroom

Effective Learning Environments

Rethinking classroom design –Comfortable classrooms—physically and psychologically— promote a sense of well-being, keep minds focused, and limit distractions.” 

This fourth website really made me think about the way I planned my lessons. I began to ‘flip’ my classroom in order to make the most of my new classroom design and things really began to click into place. I’ll talk more about my flipped classroom in my next post.

In order to achieve my new classroom design, I had to beg and borrow as much of the furniture as possible! I have been really happy with the outcome so far, but as many of you can probably empathise, I continuously want to change and upgrade things.

 

This is the start of my classroom redesign journey. 

Students love the standing tables! They really enjoy the freedom of movement which comes with not being confined to a seat. The standing tables were simply created by putting old wooden creates underneath the tables. I have seen other teachers use bed raisers too, which is something I will be using in my new classroom. The bouncy balls are great for students who need to move constantly and find sitting still challenging. DISCLAIMER – they are a challenge when you first put them in your classroom! I know teachers who have given up on using these very quickly due to behaviour management issues. However, please do persevere, as when students understand that they are seats and follow the rules for using them, they will calm down and use them appropriately. I personally love lying down on the large cushions as I work with a group of students who are doing the same.

The outcome? Well, it’s only been 4 months of this layout and I can honestly say I’ve seen an increase in the engagement of my students. They love learning and feel proud of their classroom. Students who previously found it challenging to stay focused are actually the ones who are considering where they will work best in the classroom the most. My classroom is often used by other teachers and other students come into the room too. It’s been fantastic to see my students explaining the new layout to others and encourage them to make good choices about where they learn best and not just sit next to their friends. Proud teacher moment!

Many teachers and members of senior leadership have shared positive comments about my classroom and the innovative design. I know that for some it may seem a bit too far outside of the box, but honestly, teaching and learning is something which is always moving forward. It’s exciting to try new things and adapt your practice. We can’t continue to teach like we always have as we educators need to move forward with the times.

I am excited about starting the year with my new class and have already begun to redesign the classroom to allow for plenty of seating options.

If you’ve tried redesigning your classroom or have any great ideas to share on this, please do comment and share!

Flipped Learning

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Ente”The Flipped Classroom” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by AJC1r a caption

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Flipped learning seems to be the buzz word in education right now. Everyone is talking about it. This was enough to grab my interest and give me the enthusiasm to try it out in my classroom.

Essentially, flipped learning is turning the traditional idea of teaching on it’s head. In this way, teachers spend their time not teaching, but facilitating application of the learning which has happened prior to the lesson. This can happen in many different ways, but the popular way is through online tutorials uploaded through YouTube or Vimeo. Students would watch these tutorials, learn at home and then bring that knowledge into the classroom so that the teacher can then set up tasks which allow students to demonstrate their knowledge.

EDPuzzle (1)In my experience, I have used EdPuzzle to send tutorials to students which they have needed to watch before the next lesson. Using this application, I added questions to the video which pause the video at certain points and ask for an input. This is a useful added extra to just sending a video to students and hoping they watch it. For a start, you can see which students have watched the video as well as what their answers were to the questions you set. EdPuzzle works best if your students have Google logins, although I did manage a way around this by asking parents to sign up (for free) to EdPuzzle.

The projects which students chose to complete in lessons to demonstrate their learning vast exceeded my expectations. And then I realised something. My expectations. I had already put students into boxes. The lower abilities, the middles, the more able, the gifted etc. That way of thinking needed to be thrown out of the window! Yes I need to plan for challenge and ensure that every student is pushed and challenged well, but I should throw out all my original expectations of what students could achieve in these lessons. It was one of my ‘low achievers’ who taught me this when she shared her x-ray machine which she had made to demonstrate the differences and similarities between animal and human teeth. I was astounded. Had I given her a worksheet to fill in, or another written activity, the outcome probably would’ve been a lot lower. Yet here, given the opportunity to demonstrate her learning in any way she desired, she blew my mind!

Moving around the classroom, freed up to discuss projects with the students in my class, I was able to really get a good understanding of what the students had understood by the tutorial I had set for them. I had the opportunity, and more importantly time, to spend with each student/group to challenge them with their thinking. It enabled me to extend those students who struggled with the creativity side by asking ‘What if…’ questions. What’s more, the students loved the lesson and learnt a lot!

Now, inevitably you will have the odd student who doesn’t watch the tutorial or try the task at home. In these cases, you will have to plan in for allowing them to access that digital material during the beginning of the class.

Since that first lesson, I have experimented with delivering the content at home through YouTube videos I have made myself in the classroom, EdPuzzle tutorials and websites linked up to a Google Form to complete afterwards. I have only just begun my ‘flipped classroom’ journey but I am loving the outcomes so far. Please tell me about your flipped learning journey below.