A $1000.00 for my current classroom is like winning a million dollars! Prior to this week’s lesson, I probably would have looked to making cosmetic decisions rather than educational decisions. Being a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, I am limited as to what I can and cannot do with the placement of my students. Unlike their hearing counterparts, I need to make sure that all of the students have a direct line of sight of me as well as each other. My classes are smaller than a typical class, but the classes are also smaller. Additionally, access to a light switch is crucial.
Upon reading this week’s assignments, I was intrigued by two ideas: flexible seating and adding a “genius bar” to my class. Flexible seating was not a new concept to me, but after reading Kelly Almer’s article, Top 3 Reasons to Use Flexible Seating in the Classroom, I learned that I really did not know as much as I thought I did. Students have always been allowed to sit where they wanted in my classroom. But I notice that students tend to sit in the same place all of the time and IF someone makes the bold move to sit elsewhere, there is usually backlash. Additionally, my classes use DEAR (drop everything and read) time in class for personal reading. Students usually remain at their desks. Despite access to floor pillows, students do not take advantage of them. In examining my classroom as it is now as well as completing this week’s assignment, I have been thinking about how I could re-design my classroom. While my students usually sit in a “U” formation, it is not really conducive to teamwork. Students sit near one another, but rarely engage. I would change out the desks for tables. The desks could be separated for group work, set in the “U” form for a standard Deaf classroom or “T”, there are more learner friendly options when tables are used. Tables also allow for more floor space, where students can walk, stand or sit on the floor if they choose.
The second idea that I read about that was really intriguing to me was the “genius bar”. Andi McNair discusses adding a Genius Bar on her blog, Engaging Their Minds. While her view was more from a teacher of advanced students, I find that this idea has the potential of be beneficial for all students. As a teacher of the Deaf, many of my students are well below the progress of their age/grade level peers. Yet, they all have areas of expertise to share. I like the idea of questioning each other and looking for answers among themselves without always depending on the teachers. Many times, my students have become dependent on the adults in their lives to give them the answer. A Genius Bar forces them to think outside of their comfort zone.
Now that I have a revised classroom, I have $1,000 to spend. I would spend the majority of the funds creating a reading area for my students. These mobile materials would be flexible enough that students could use them in other parts of the classroom as well. Purchases would include a large rug to lay/sit on, several bean bag chairs as well as “husbands”. I would also purchase several lamps, this way a variety of brightness could be accessible. Additionally, I would purchase dry erase paint and supplies to paint the classroom tables as well as the Genius Bar. I like the idea of students being able to write their ideas directly on their desks and collaborate immediately with one another. I would purchase one Rocketbook Everlast Notebook for each table and Genius Bar (per period) allowing for all collaboration to not only be available to the class, but to the teacher as well. The new Everlast appears to be longer lasting than its predecessor. I would include storage for iPads and cameras over by the video corner, for easy use. The video corner is used to create signed video blogs, lit responses, portfolios and interactive vocabulary. I would also include an adaptor that would allow me to control the lights from a distance (flashing lights is how I get student attention), allowing me to move around the room more easily.
Even as I type this, I know there are some barriers that I will face. I work a very “inside” the box kind of thinking, so it may be an uphill battle. But, I think it will be worth it. In speaking with my colleagues, many of them have adapted a more flexible classroom. A majority of them state that it is a good procedure, it just needs to be thought out well, planned and with set ground rules. I hope to make little changes, like a reading nook, this year….but I WANT that classroom I have designed. Maybe not next year, but little by little, I will get there 🙂