“You’re far too radical!”
That is a comment that was made about how I’ve laid out my classroom for this year. I agree! I’m taking an approach that I haven’t seen used anywhere else, however I’m fairly certain that I’m not the first person to come up with this.
I have 25 children in my class, yet I only have tables and chairs for 18. For the 7 without furniture, there are cushions and clipboards.
“Why, that’s wackoidal!” cries our esteemed Secretary of State for Education.
To that I reply that, yes, I agree. Wackoidal it is. My question to the world is: why do we force children, moreso from Upper KS2 onwards, to sit at tables and chairs? Just because that’s what has always been done? In EYFS and in KS1, the use of “areas” in the classroom is more prevalent, so why do we lose this? I have been reading a lot lately about how learning “feels” and I really do believe that if you make the learning environment comfortable and relaxed, children will respond positively and will be more receptive to what they should be learning. After all, do you sit around the house wearing your school shoes, sitting upright and on a hard chair? I know I don’t.
So what have I done?
Well…first of all, I have taken out 4 tables and 8 chairs. This frees up a huge amount of space for me to create what is currently being known as my “independent learning garden.” This name will change to become more hip and down with the kids. Of course, the children will be deciding the name for this area. It’s their classroom, so they should have ownership of details like that. In my so-called garden, I have a 2-man tent with a green blanket out the front. If you squint, the blanket resembles beautiful green grass. This area is primarily for independent reading, with 2 children being allowed inside the tent at any one time. If you could choose to read sitting at a table or lying inside a tent, which would you choose? There is also a computer with a wireless mouse and keyboard for independent blogging.
I have also purchased 9 cushions for sitting on the floor, as children’s time on the carpet will be significantly increased if they are in the group who do not have the traditional furniture. They’ll be working on primarily on clipboards.
Stephen Heppell’s Shoeless Learning Spaces are something that caught my eye recently. I’m now trying out shoeless learning in my classroom, and the children have the choice of removing their shoes whilst in the room if it makes them feel more comfortable. The massive green and white box is our big shoebox.
It is normal that I will receive a lot of criticism (particularly about posture) in response to this idea and that it will be viewed with a great deal of scepticism. Even I have a bit of scepticism about how and whether it will work in the long-term, but I’ll never know if I don’t try. For those who do pose the posture question, my response is that the children will not be spending all their time in school sitting on a cushion on the carpet. The structure of the school day in my class is such that the children will have different seats in practically every different lesson. In addition, children who decide that they would rather not sit on the cushions will never be forced into this. I’m not forcing children to sit at tables, so therefore I will not force them to sit on the floor either, if that is what they choose.
I look forward to seeing how this arrangement develops and I’ll definitely be blogging about this at a later date.
Please excuse the blank displays on my walls – it’s the first day back and we haven’t got our bits and pieces created yet to put on them!