At the beginning of last year, I was lucky enough to get to spend two days with Lee Crocket and Andrew Churches, the authors of Literacy is Not Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age. I had been introduced to this book a couple of years before and had tried some of the units from their website and the engagement level of these units was amazing. I was already running a 1 to 1 Ipad classroom but I still had a traditional classroom setup and had in fact just set up my room ready for the new school year when I attended this PD. This was the first time I had ever heard of a flipped classroom and after some fantastic advice on how I could institute this in my room, I quickly went back to school and started getting rid of a lot of my furniture, especially my desk, and put the chairs and desks back in piles for the students to work out what we would use.
I then gave the room to the students to design and what an amazing job they have done over the last year and a quarter designing highly functional and extremely enjoyable learning areas. Gone are the assigned desks all lined up in rows and in came the fit balls, bean bags, and collaborative work spaces. I don’t have much of a budget so we have made our own whiteboard desks and adapted other pieces of furniture to meet our needs.
So what’s missing in my classroom? Behaviour issues, that’s what!
No longer do I have to worry about seating plans, and who should sit next to who and more to the point who shouldn’t sit next to who. Given the freedom to sit where they want to sit or stand or lay for that matter, students quickly worked out who they do and don’t work well with, and what environment they learn best in. Some of my students still like to sit at a desk, but most don’t.
No longer do I have to tell students to sit on their chairs properly instead of rocking or perching on them like a bird as those kids simply don’t sit on chairs. Fit balls are perfect for those kids who can’t sit still as the work they have to do with their core stability to stay seated on a fit ball meets their need for movement.
Gone are the students who would fidget and niggle and annoy the person next to them in class because they couldn’t focus when being made to sit still for so long. This means those highly engaged and focused students are able to work free of distractions and can fly! That autistic student can find that perfect spot to sit in quietness and the student with ADHD doesn’t feel like a caged lion.
Gone is the mess and clutter in desks and around the room, as with ownership comes responsibility. Students take a great deal of pride in the room, as it is their room, their design, their learning space, not mine.
Gone is my desk covered in books and papers which I use to sit behind, sometimes hide behind, separating me from my students, keeping them at a safe distance. Now I am one of them, a learning partner who sits on a fit ball or the floor or the couch as an equal, sharing their learning journey. What a difference this makes for student engagement!
Each year I test my students multiple intelligence following Howard Gardners theories as I find this gives me great insight into my class as learners.This year from the test I found out that the vast majority of my students turned out to be kinesthetic and interpersonal learners. When I shared everyone’s learning styles with them and we looked at who had similar learning styles so would be good options to collaborate with on different tasks, one of my students made the observation that “no wonder we are doing so much better in this style of room, as we all got in trouble for moving and talking in other classrooms but that’s how we learn.”
It was after hearing that statement, that I started thinking about the differences in my room and the level of engagement and the relationships I have with my students and I realised what was missing, and I am so happy for it to be gone!