Saturday, September 5, 2015

There's No Place Like Home!

These were the words of Dorothy as she prepared to exit Oz and head back to Kansas.  She couldn't wait to get back to her family and the friendly confines of her own home.

Day in and day out we welcome students into our schools and classrooms.  We educate, nurture and try to inspire.  Yet so many of our students probably wish to click their heels together and magically appear at home.

I wager this is for a multitude of reasons.  One way we can combat this is by creating an environment where students feel safe, comfortable and inspired.  This may mean redesigning your learning space. 

This summer at #EdCampLDR in Chicago I teamed up with +Erin Klein and +Tom Murray to discuss learning spaces.  Tom kicked things off with a picture of a graveyard.  He then substituted the grave signs for desks.  Amazing seeing the similarities of the two.  I began to reflect on how often I sat in rows and how in some ways I was dying a slow death or boredom and rigidness.

Fortunately times are changing.  Educators across the globe are seeing the value and importance of collaborative learning spaces.  I'm blessed to work with an entire building full of game changers. Check out some of these spaces.  I'll add comments and insight as I post the pictures. 

Fabulous open space in @WeLoveFirst.  Mrs. Archer has a little bit of everything, flexible seating, open space, an exercise bike, tubs with materials and her walls don't overwhelm.  This is a spot her students embrace.

Check out @RockandRead2nd.  Mrs. Nash has ditched the dinosaur computers and gone to a simple, clean and sleek laptop look.  A subtle, yet powerful redesign effort was put in to vary the height of seating.  This lends itself for movement, collaboration and joy.

Easily one of my favorite spots in the building is in Mrs. Kline's kindergarten room.  I love the spot where students can build and create.  On any given day I can come in and see towers, castles or other amazing creations.  

Organization and storage are essentials to any classroom.  Check out what Mrs. Soper has done to help with manipulative's.

Often times teachers try to tackle everything at once.  @Candy_Brugger has really done a fantastic job in her new classroom.  One area that stands out above all others is her reading nook.  I feel like I could spend an entire day with a good book back in this spot.  Note to teachers - a small redesign can be a nice way to start.

Have you ever been that person that has had great ideas, but you didn't know where to begin? Check out this space in @JulieOliver333 room. She has developed a nice collaborative area for kids to gather, work and connect.  What's really great?  It was on a super inexpensive budget! Julie is a master at using one persons trash and turning it into a treasure!  I really love how she brainstorms ways to adjust learning spaces.

A few weeks ago I walked into @ldpricha classroom.  Desks were piled up, boxes were all over and I looked at Lisa.  Her face said it all, "Where do I even start?"  I knew she had this! Check out her small group gathering space.  The colors are so inviting.  I'm proud of how far she came in such a short time.

What is one easy way to change the vibe of your classroom or school?  Paint!  Check out the color scheme in @MoffittMelissa classroom.  All to often I hear that districts don't allow teachers the autonomy to paint.  I say, "Why?"  Colors can help create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome.

An essential in all rooms is a meeting area. These can be large or small, but having a spot where students can meet is critical.  I always enjoy spending time in Mrs. Laura Smith's classroom.  Watching her interact with her students in this meeting area is always a highlight to my day.

Let me ask, "Have you thought about ditching desks?"  Check out this space in @Suz_Gibbs classroom.  She has created a flexible, open environment where students have space and move about the room.  The colors and lightning are an added bonus!  Don't be fooled, this redesign took time.  Suzanne pours herself into her teaching and everyone benefits from her passion.

Do you have any students with the fidgets? @studiobree has the solution!  Check out this space with yoga balls, collaborative seating and a nice inviting space to come lay on the floor. Another fantastic spot to visit! 

I've visited rooms where it often feels cluttered and distracting.  What I appreciate about @HoltonThird is the simple, thoughtful approach of openness.  Mrs. Holton has a less is more approach to reduce distractions and allow her students to move.

I can easily relate to the "Guy's" approach in @BrJLenhart classroom.  I was also one that didn't spend a ton of time on patterns, lights and nooks.  I like how Brad has a cool design that gets people thinking.  One of my favorite spots in the school is to sit in the back of his room by the animals and just take it all in.

Short on money?  Have you put in the effort to write a grant?  I wish I had before and after pics of this room.  It looked nothing like this in early August.  Kuddos to @kolb_miss for taking the initiative to write a grant and have the foresight to redesign her space.  

Another common question I hear is, "How do you redesign with limited space?" @DeAnnaStruck faced this quandary last year with nearly thirty little ones in her room.  I applaud her for doing the research and developing a space that helped her be one of the four grand finalists last year for #classroomcribs. Check out her reading area!

How about spaces for small groups?  It hasn't taken long for @DelorSara to inspire and motivate her kids with a space that just feels like home.  Sara does the little things that excite her learners.

The last room to highlight in this redesigning 101 post is @JennyShearer2 classroom.  A few years ago it was, well let's say...ordinary.  Jenny has embraced collaborative spaces, gotten creative with seating and has developed an atmosphere that everyone loves.  Check this out! 

In days gone by our students would come to school, sit in rows and dream about the bell sending them home.  As an educator I know that we have fell short of the bar for years with our learning spaces.  Those days are quickly leaving.  I'm pleased to say that our Warner kids had a glimmer in their eye.  Watching kids walk in and open their mouth in awe was a cool sight!  I'm proud of the work the Warner staff has done.  

If you're thinking about redesigning your space here are a few things to chew on:

1)  Start small!  Don't break the bank with an entire overhaul.  Find an area and transform it.

2)  Write a grant.  Nothing shows initiative more than writing a grant.  

3)  Less is more.  Too often teachers fill every little space.  I encourage you to simplify your room and take away the distractions.

4)  What about seating?  If you can't redesign your room could you redesign your student seating options?  Think about it.

5)  Colors do a lot!  You'd be amazed what a little color can do for both the teacher and the student.

6)  Natural light is a blessing.  If you have natural light, I say, utilize it!  

7)  Get organized.  Nothing spells stress quicker than an unorganized space.  For your own health and well being I encourage you to start the year on a strong note and organize your classroom.

In the next post highlighting learning spaces and #classroomcribs I'll take a look at multi-purpose rooms.  How can these be changed so that everyone benefits?

Have you taken the #ClassroomCribs challenge?  Have you checked out the website and created a two-minute video showcasing your space?  Sharing is learning, sharing is healthy, sharing moves our profession forward.  I encourage you to check out and create a short video of your space.

As you kick start a new year, I have one question.  Does your room feel like home?


Tuesday, September 8th:  First Day with Students!  
Tuesday, September 8th:  Boo Hoo Breakfast in the cafeteria for our Warner parents (teachers, please remind parents of this event when they drop off in the morning)
Wednesday, September 9th:  Assembly for grades 3-5
Wednesday, September 9th:  Full early release
Friday, September 11th:  8am Staff Meeting in Mrs. Soper's classroom

Articles Worth Reading:

Charter Schools Are Unconstitutional  (interesting read) @seattletimes

Videos Worth Watching:

Wright's Law!  #RippleEffect (12 min)

Boys react to bullying...power of friendship! (3 min) #RippleEffect 

@JimmyFallon with Steve Harvey on the Tonight Show (8 min)

Risking it All! (11 min) #RippleEffect @E60


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  2. I love your blog! I teach 7th grade and I am really trying to incorporate more flexible seating into our classroom! Last year I ditched the florescent lights and used natural light and lamps! I am slowly collecting odds and ends of chairs to transform our space!

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