Heading into the start of this school year – one elementary school classroom in northern California took advantage of a chance to turn their classroom around. Students in Mrs. Caitlin Dyers 4th Grade class were given a unique opportunity to take control of their own space and in short order started seeing dramatic results. In just a few short weeks Mrs. Dyer’s students had begun performing better, with distinct increases in attention, engagement, and collaboration with their peers.
In a partnership with One Workplace, this classroom was outfitted with a select grouping of active learning tools and mobile furniture options. “These new additions to our room have changed our physical learning environment, increased flexibility in being able to accommodate all types of learners, and has increased and transformed how we can collaborate, interact, and engage in learning” Mrs. Dyer explains.
The new furnishings give students the ability to re-arrange the classroom for each activity on their own, swivel in their spot to stay visually connected with a speaker, or break apart in order to focus on a task. Students within this class have the ability to turn their seats into rows for notes and during lectures, turn back into a group for discussion, or buddy-up for partner work. Spreading-out makes test taking more manageable and eliminates distractions. Mrs. Dyer adds “I have noticed (that the ability to move) has helped cut down on student disagreements as well as chit chatting. It has also proven to help increase class participation and class work productivity”. The most important benefit seen within the classroom has come in the form of equity. Students with various needs each have the opportunity to be successful due to the freedom and flexibility this setting provides. This ranges from students who desire group interactions, to those who prefer solo work, or even just those who have a little trouble settling down. The flexible configurations accommodate many different students by allowing them to self-select into the work mode that best fits their own needs.
Students have also taken advantage of a mobile classroom podium and whiteboard easel, both tools that through their flexibility have been adapted for numerous clever uses. The podium, traditionally utilized as a teacher’s desk, has been reimagined into a student-centric work center. Students gather around it to present, speak to their group, or share work. Students who prefer standing while they work use it during class lectures to take notes, and it has become a hub for student and teacher conferences. Students have also designated it as a location for various classroom checklists where they can check-in to make sure they are not missing any homework or assignments. The most inventive adaptation of these learning tools has been with the double sided personal whiteboards and display easels provided by One Workplace. “We have used the white boards for math “battle ship”, addition problem “races”, and analyzing word problems. Students are able to get up and challenge each other by coming up with a problem on one side and flipping it around to have the other team solve the equation” states Mrs. Dyer. In one exercise the class engages in a mystery game where groups of students solve puzzles or answer questions about information hidden on the reverse side of the whiteboard held by their opposing group.
With a flexible and mobile classroom environment students have the ability to maximize their own potential and exercise control and influence over their learning. The resulting environment provides a powerful lesson in turning around any classroom.