I started changing my classroom because I found I was changing the seating arrangement every week and it was a pain to move desks. I wanted students to work in groups but I wanted the groups to be fluid so that students would be able to get to know everyone. I wanted a classroom where everyone could be friendly and able to work with anyone in our class. I was finding that boys had difficulty working with girls, and girls would sit back and not contribute to class discussions. By getting to know each other, they develop respect for the ideas of everyone. I often make the groups or partnerships because I want them to avoid always choosing their best friend. One of the other things I wanted was to have students feel comfortable in their surroundings. I use lamps and only one set of overhead lights because I find fluorescent lights harsh to work under. It also gives a homey atmosphere. Also, I wanted to have my classroom be the students' space. I got rid of my desk and now I just sit at any of the tables I feel like. It is good to connect with my kids in this way too.
I found that last year's class was better able to work when allowed their choice of places to sit. This class is very chatty and I have had to put rules around where they can sit. However, that is NOT the way I want to do things. I want to allow students the choice to work where is comfy for them to work. That being said, I need to figure out a way to get them to reflect on how they learn best and who they learn best with for this to work because sometimes the students are not working if I allow them choice. Right now, I have times in the day where they work at tables and other times where they have choice. It works for now, but it is not exactly how I want things, eventually I would like to open it to their choice all day. I have only had my classroom this way for about a year so I am still learning how best to get what I want out of my students while allowing them what they want. Overall, the response to the changes has been amazing. My class loves showing off their classroom to their family. Past students marvel over the changes and wish the room was like this when they were in my class. I love it too.
Where do I want to go next with my classroom next?
I want to have more different types of seating in my class. I have a window seat with pillows, a carpet with pillows, a comfy chair, a bench with pillows, and mats, tables and low shelves they can use as table tops. I want to figure out a way that students can be more accountable when choosing their own places to sit. I also want to encourage students to reflect on their own learning so that they are aware of how they best learn.