Why Space and Design Matter

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A few years ago, I launched a contest for the Best Classroom Theme EverThat was three years ago and surprisingly, it gets pinned a lot in Pinterest! This moved me to talk about two things that teachers tend to forget when it comes to classroom culture and management – space and design.

Here are some quick thoughts and tips on why space and design matter!

1. Your space can define your classroom culture and identity.

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Some people might think that designing a classroom simply means putting random drawings, posters, artwork, etc. If you want your space to become meaningful, then you have to work with your vision for your class. What kind of relationship do you want to have in class? Which skills and characteristics do you want to develop? 

In my case, I’ve always told my students that we are a family and that we must treat each other accordingly. This is why I believe in creating a safe and happy space for them.

Try this: Post photos of events and fun memories. This will make students feel more at home in their classroom. It can also be a good visual reminder of their accomplishments.

Grade 2 Game of Life - this is where all the pictures would go!

Grade 2 Game of Life – this is where all the pictures would go!

Try this: Post students’ artworks around the room even if they’re not part of class activities. Photo below shows how my former Grade 1 class viewed our home in school as a spaceship!

Enter if you dare! ;p

Enter if you dare! ;p

Try this: Creating a Teacher’s Corner where you can write notes for your students!
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2. Make your space and design functional.

Some of our learning centers

Some of our learning centers

Working in a public school presented two classroom challenges for me: (1) having more than 50 students in one room; (2) sharing the classroom with another class.

The structure of the classroom itself was a problem because of a barrier in the middle of the two blackboards. Students from both sides couldn’t see what was on the other end of the blackboards. Apart from that, it seemed like there wasn’t enough space to manage movement. We also couldn’t decorate it solely for my class because we shared the room with a Grade 4 class in the morning.

Because of this, we decided to rearrange and set up the room daily. We would spend a good 10-15 minutes of our time fixing our classroom. Doing this was certainly worth it because we had enough space for our learning centers, storytelling / viewing area, and visual aids.

Consciously or not, we feel and internalize what the space tells us about how to work. When you walk into most offices, the space tells you that its meant for a group of people to work alone.

– Make Space by Scott Doorley & Scott Witthoft

Creating that space for movement gave my class a lot of advantages. Having that space allowed my students to play and work together. It also made them feel busy and entertained because we would be moving from the open space and back to their seats every now and then. These short periods of movement made transitions easier in a self-contained classroom.

Try this: Create small nooks or learning centers for your students.

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Try this: Putting progress charts on the walls or bulletin boards help students become aware of their performance.

DSC03399Try this: Making bulletin boards more interactive by regularly updating activities.

Mia from Ang Pambihirang Sombrero by Jomike Tejido

Try this: Post the works of your students so that other people can view them.

FullSizeRender (3)3. Make room for fun!

Scrabble!

Scrabble!

Whatever limitations there may be, I believe that we should always put fun at the heart of learning!

Try this: Make a storytelling / viewing / activity area where students can move around.

IMG_1941Try this: Creating a class scrapbook using the walls or bulletin boards.DSC07438Try this: Running funny contests or activities! Since my students thought of our classroom as a spaceship and referred to themselves as alien kids, we had a photo contest for the Wackiest Alien Award!

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If you’re looking for more ways to improve your classroom space and design, check out these books:

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CLASSROOMS – More Fun in the Philippines!

So how does your learning space look like? I’m inviting all teachers to send photos of their classrooms! Let’s show the world how creative Filipino teachers can be. Follow the steps below:

1. Take 3-4 photos of your classroom.
2. Write a brief description about your classroom and what makes it special.
3. Email photos and descriptions to: cris.tanjutco@gmail.com

We’ll feature your classroom here on  Teacher’s Pet!

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