My Ideal Classroom A girl can dream

To start with, the photo above is NOT my dream classroom.

IT IS MY CLASSROOM AS IT LOOKED AT THE START OF THIS SCHOOL YEAR.

That far blue bulletin board (a painted old chalkboard that was unusable) is covered with student work, and the desks are formed in 4-desk pods.

There are some aspects I really enjoy:

  • It is vibrant and welcoming. Admin has allowed me to add spot color throughout the room.
  • One entire wall is filled with windows to provide ample ambient light, and I was able to add some character with the addition of some clear lights around the periphery.
  • I have adult-sized desks, which is needed for high school seniors. It is also a bonus that students can enter the desk from either side; this makes for added flexibility when moving desks to form groups, which we do often. As it is, looked at all together, the desks form a horseshoe around three sides of the room.
I also have a CozyCloset that serves as a refuge for many students. Inside, there is a beanbag chair, curtains, and an essential oil blend for relaxation and peace. There is also a mini-pantry, where students can grab a bowl of oatmeal or soup or a cup of tea or cocoa.

That said, there is much I wish to change!

The room itself needs to be repainted -- that was last done almost 30 years ago. Also, plaster is also flaking off on two walls, which seems like it could be a safety hazard, due to the age of the paint. While the accent color helps to disguise how aged the rest of the paint is, it is in dire need of a new coat or two.

When the room is repainted, I intend to heed suggestions made by Gargiulo & Metcalf ( 2013) and intentionally create a more tranquil and soothing color scheme; as a result, I will be removing the bright pinks and incorporating more greens and blues. While the goal would be to create a calm, productive environment, I also do not want to replace all of my classroom decor that I have invested in over the years. The schemes pictured below would allow me to make the shift without spending a ludicrous amount of money.

To the left, I found this lovely palette on Pinterest (where I could spend my entire life browsing, I swear!): https://www.pinterest.com/pin/30610472444487098/ To the right, a color combination created by Kelly Moore & http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/kelly-moore-paints-unveils-new-collection-top-color-picks-enliven-10-classic-neutrals-1273743.htm

Along the same line, I plan to reduce the amount of visual distraction on the walls. When everything comes down at the end of this school year, I plan to carefully assess the function and value of each item to determine whether it will retain wall-space for next year.

Also, while I appreciate the desks I have because of their size, I would also like more flexibility in seating.

So, the logo says Simply Secondary, but she has updated her site to The Teal Teacher. I think she might be my classroom-design soulmate. Notice how she has a variety of seating options for students. I love this! http://www.thetealpaperclip.com/p/my-classroom.html
This is the panoramic version of The Teal Teacher's classroom.

The Teal Teacher's room is DEFINITELY bigger than mine, and hers seems to provide seating for no more than 30 (maybe even closer to 25). My classes are usually between 38-42. Although I love the idea of incorporating a broader ranger of seating options, I know this isn't realistic at the moment. That said, I am going to be keeping my eyes open for options that would work at thrift stores and yard sales. I am not adverse to DIY projects, and I love to refinish furniture during the summer, so this might be a way to make this happen in the next year or so. As it is, I could replace sections of seating as items become available.

Below, I have roughly sketched the layout for my "new" classroom.

Because seating is flexible, options are available for students who need physical accommodations, such as wheelchair access or additional room to move about, as well as for those who prefer to work in a more social or solitary setting. Also, as suggested by Gargiulo & Metcalf (2013), I would have air-cleaning plants on top of the bookshelves. This is also something I can do now. Our school's horticulture class sells many of their plants at this time of year, and this will be a way I can support my students while also adding a calming element to my room.

Things to note:

My class needs access to computers on a daily basis. Technology can be used to support the learning of all students, including my ELLs and my students with disabilities; programs such as Read&Write and Google Classroom help students to have access to learning in multiple representations (National Center on Universal Design for Learning, 2014). Through the addition of laptops to the classroom, students would be able to access the Principle I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation (2014), as texts could then be available not only in print form, but digitally and in audio as well. This same support would be available, too, for students expression, in which is aligned with Principle II. Provide Multiple Means of Expression (2013). In consideration of our learners' diverse needs, such scaffolds seem appropriate; however, without daily access to those programs, students may not benefit from them as fully as possible.

In addition, we are completing blogs as a part of 20Time; this form of writing was originally planned as a weekly task, but with limited computer access, it soon became clear that I needed to rethink that frequency. In the end, as a result of the ways we use technology to promote access and learning, I think this is a realistic request. Also, I already have a locking computer cart in which the laptops could be stored; it just doesn't have computers in it!

Also, this classroom design and its access to technology would allow students to be assessed in more diverse and responsive ways:

  • Essays, both by hand and via word processing;
  • Verbal assessments, which can be in the form of discussions -- whole class, small group, and via audio response through Read&Write;
  • Short response & multiple choice via GoogleClassroom & Forms. This could also provide students with extremely timely feedback on formative assessments prior to the summative so they know what concepts and skills to practice further;
  • Formative assessments can also be conducted on exit slips or on Post-It notes on the whiteboard.

I also plan to install 2 large digital photo frames that will display student work, which can easily be scanned and uploaded to the system. Significantly more student work will then be able to be featured in a classroom that has very little open wall space. This is something I hope to have in place for next year.

The cozy closet isn't pictured, but will still be present. It will still have the student pantry and beanbag chair, as well as provide storage for art supplies for student use.

Much of the space at the front of my room would still be intact, but would be located on top of the mini-lab cart. What is labeled as the Absence Log would be where I place my class filing box. In it, every student has a color-coded folder labeled with their 4-digit class number (period & numbered alphabetically). This is the student's "personal" space in my room -- many students leave supplies like paper and pens that they otherwise forget; in addition, it is how work is passed back and where students locate absent work. On top of the cart, they would also locate any needed papers for the day, which corresponds with a hanging line that is immediately to the right as they enter. In the image above, you can see this space next to the door -- it is bright pink and labeled "bell-ringer." Each morning, I upload all documents for the day to Google Classroom, but I also label and hang all papers needed for each period. It is their responsibility to pick up the ones that correspond with their class period when they enter. At the same time, they check their folder for returned work and move their class magnet (which is on a grid on the whiteboard) down to "Present" -- this is how I take roll. While this sounds complicated, it is a routine that allows students a great deal of autonomy and creates a sense of predictability for the students. As Gargiulo & Metcalf (2013) state, "A good organization plan for materials is necessary;" this system ensures that all students know where everything is located and when to access it.

Also, I have allocated seating for a class of up to 40 in my "ideal classroom;" however, I believe that I could better serve all of my students were the classes somewhat smaller. We talk frequently about the significance of building relationships with our students, and I work very hard to do so; at the same time, it is difficult to have a genuine and authentic interaction with every student and to promote active learning and engagement daily with classes this size. I know we all do the best we can, and my classroom design accounts for the "worst-case scenario" that seems to be the norm these days. Still, more room for flow and movement in the classroom could be created were it possible to remove a number of the desks.

SOMETHING IS MISSING!

I have chosen to get rid of a teacher desk. This is one way to make more space for students. This instead provides room for students to work at a table on computers or on art-based projects. Also, in implementing 20Time and some interpretive tasks this year, I realized that there are times when larger open space would be beneficial. Moreover, this is something I can change now.

All in all, I feel like I have created a space here that is responsive to students' physical, social, and emotional needs as a result of considering the Recognition, Strategic, and Affective Networks as discussed by the National Center on Universal Design for Learning (2014). Students will have access to material in printed, digital, and audio formats, and they will be able to produce work in the same ways. In addition, they will have access to a number of art supplies, which I keep in my CozyCloset. In addition, I have tried to minimize fluorescent light and created a tranquil and inviting environment that considers access for all.

If the comprehensive plan for teaching and learning is initially designed with the diverse learner in mind, opportunities to impact student learning increase.

(Gargiulo & Metcalf, 2013)

In the end, I believe that a classroom should be a continual work-in-progress; while this design takes into account my current philosophy of teaching, I know that each class is different and has unique needs; as such, my classroom design must be flexible. In implementing the concept of UDL, I have attempted to account for the diverse needs of my students, not only for what they need today, but what they will need in the future.

References

Gargiulo, R. M., & Metcalf, D. J. (2013). Teaching in today's inclusive classrooms: a universal design for learning approach (2nd ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.

National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2014, March 7). Principle I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines/principle1

National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2013, July 16). Principle II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines/principle2

National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2014, March 7). What is UDL? Retrieved April 21, 2017, from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl

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