The Deskless Classroom: Environment as the Third Teacher

The grammar of the classroom tells us what is possible there, tells the learner what to expect, how to act, how to interact, what is important.

You know those teacher dreams that happen in the last few days of summer where a classroom full of kids just won’t sit and listen no matter what the teacher says or does? Those are the dreams I had the week of the big reveal where we created our room and I knew I was in for something different. Our space now is unlike any space I have taught in before; wholly owned by students. I love that it has truly taken me away from being the centre of attention and creating space for student agency.

This is a space where design follows purpose.

Visible: The Word Wall, The Share Wall (which students REALLY want to be a Lego wall, but budget constraints mean they will have to content themselves with the Learning Commons Lego wall), Student-created bulletin boards

 

I never would have imagined at the outset what an all encompassing project this would be (but, Tracy, you’d say, didn’t you plan it?) the answer is yes, but it took more effort and more time than I expected, but the payoff was also far greater than I expected.

 

Visible: The Art Gallery, The Tipi (currently a tent that will be replaced after consultation with an expert) The Dojo: where students become leaders

 

My students can do math about our space. My students can discuss our space in French. My students plan and own their learning and the products that will be made in our space. My students are excited to be here. My students own this space!

What did they learn?

The students built on the 21st century competencies outlined in the ministerial order on learning in Alberta.

They collaborated, problem solved, researched, and communicated solutions, all in French!

Collaboration Café: Knowing I wanted a sofa in the classroom, I haunted Kijiji for several weeks before scoring a deal on an Ikea loveseat that the seller had not even unboxed yet!

 

Making the Maker Space: probably one of the classroom spaces the atudents are most proud of

 

 

 

The Stage: this space was supposed to be a raised balcony in the class with a reading space underneath but a budget of zero meant using what was already in the school. The stage will be the floor while seating is raised.

 

The Alphabet: some students still need support with letter formation and alphabetical order. The low placement allows students to interact with it.

 

The Traveling Trolley: contains our Daily 5 word work stations as I teach ELA in two classrooms.

 

The Genius Bar: a stand-up workspace with built-in storage

 

Teacher Space: an unexpected benefit of having no teacher desk: I have no place to leave my stuff out at the end of the day. My space is tidy(ish) and filed at the end of every day!

 

The reading corner/ collaboration café

 

The Low Table
If there is low seating it follows that there should also be tall seating, right?

 

A reflection at the end of the build on what might be possible here!

 

But what would you do differently?

The question was asked by a colleague who appreciated the space but wondered what I learned.

  • I would have owned less of it – let the students create more and solve more problems. Want a sofa but have $0? Let’s find a creative way to solve this… make it with cardboard, repurpose old furniture, have a bake sale…
  • I would slow down more. I felt pressure to have the space completed, but it was such a rich learning project that it could easily have been given more time.

This is a space that will need to be remade at regular intervals to meet our current needs. 

When we have a minute, I will have my students podcast about their learning.

On a related note: one of my students from last year dropped in last week to share his genius hour project where he read a novel, wrote a script, and filmed a stop-motion animation book trailer, and now my new group of students is fired up and ready to start creating!

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