I’ve always known that LEGO blocks were a great learning tool and a great toy, but I never really connected the pieces (pun intended) until I read this article about the seemingly endless ways they can be used in learning situations, especially for young learners or those with learning difficulties. This article lists over 70 ways to use LEGO to aid learning and I’m sure we can come up with many more. It just goes to show that a wonderful learning tool might be sitting right in front of you and you don’t even realise it.
Tag Archives: classroom
Again, during another session of browsing, I came across something interesting and intriguing. Throughout our course, we have been exposed to particular theories of classroom design and what works. I’m sure that everyone doing our course would agree totally (or mostly) that what we have seen and read is very practical and logical and would be something that we would love to have in our own classrooms given the budget to redesign. This article, however, takes us through the classroom of a teacher who has been inspired by the Reggio Emilia theories of classroom design which, while not being radically different from our own learning, opens up some questions for classroom designs of the future.
Reggio Emilia discourages bright colours and replaces them with more neutral, natural tones. Are these colour palettes more, or less inspiring to the minds of children? The design also removes as much plastic as possible from the learning environment, replacing it with natural products wherever this can be done. The above picture is typical of a Reggio Emilia learning space. Many of the features we would identify with being a good learning space are visible. I would love to see more curves in their designs myself, as I believe that more curves would better compliment the organic feel of the learning spaces.
On a personal level, I love the effort to reduce the usage of plastics in the learning environment, as I believe that we can all do with more natural substances around us. However, to my way of thinking, the colour scheme is just too bland to be inspiring. Is this because I have a preconceived notion of what a classroom should be like, or am I just trying to cater to my own personal needs through a subconscious application of the 8 Ways of Learning?
I think that as teachers we must avail ourselves to all relevant theories of learning spaces and pick and choose the elements that work best for our students. I believe it’s not so much about the theories and the names behind them, but rather the students who will develop and be inspired within these spaces now and into the future.
I have to admit that some elements of the classroom design are impressive and a lot of time and effort has gone into their construction and organisation. I like the inclusion of the children’s work in the spaces as well. The usage of natural lighting and refractive crystals is also a nice touch, something that I always like to have in my own classroom.
This is a space for 2 and 3 year olds, not primary age students, so it is intended to be a busy space for children with shorter (and developing) attention spans. The staff have taken an educational design theory and used it to suit the needs of their students, which is what we, as students )and as teachers) have been encouraged (required) to do as well. I’m a bit intrigued by the Fairy Dust Teaching. Do I have an inner Tinkerbell waiting to be released?
I would love to know your thoughts on the Reggio Emilia learning space design. Please leave a comment.
Check out this article by Cristina DeCarbo who was a guest writer on Corkboard Connections. She shares three great apps to use with Upper Primary students. I’ve tried them out myself and can’t wait for the opportunity to use them in a class.
Redesigning the Classroom
Firstly, the main issue would be the management of any remaining toxic substances on the site. We must be totally sure that the site has no residual chemical or asbestos taint that could cause future harm.
The new classroom I would design would be open plan with a number of learning focus spaces to be used depending on the nature of the lesson. Desks will be in blocks to facilitate group work, with children having a cubby hole rather than a permanent desk space. This would enable easier mixing and matching of students into various group combinations. I would prefer if the room could be close to circular in shape with large sliding glass doors opening onto the garden. The class would be equipped with an IWB (with teacher inservicing) a wi-fi hot spot, and ipads for each child. The classroom displays would be student oriented with most of the displays put together by the students as part of their learning process, not just as a showcase of “nice” work. Each child must feel they are a valued and valid member of the whole class.
The outside garden would be an ongoing experiment in permaculture, with students being involved and learning how to sustainably produce fruit and vegetables safe for consumption without the use of chemical additives. The addition of chickens would also provide eggs on a somewhat regular basis. The garden could also lead into such areas as cooking and healthy diets, with children being introduced to fresh grown produce that they have helped to grow. This has shown in many examples to promote the consumption of vegetables in children who were previously reluctant to eat them.
The garden would also promote the ethics of working together to achieve a common goal with no one student owning anything the garden produces, and promotes the idea of sharing.
Setting up a classroom for a class has always been a difficult process. Rarely does the first arrangement last very long, as teachers (and the students) tweak the layout to better suit the needs of the students. As any dedicated teacher will affirm, the needs of the students are paramount, whilst the desires of the teacher are secondary. Students will often have input, and increasingly, so do parents and carers in their desire to see their children achieve.
The articles have shown a number of factors that are increasingly important in the layout of the modern classroom. Whilst there are restrictions placed by design and teachers have an established classroom space to deal with, increasingly there are other factors such as the economy and the socio-political-economic background of the students and their families.
Curriculum today is driven by politics and economy, and teachers are forced to alter classroom layouts in an effort to best achieve competencies for their students. Benchmarks are set by politicians and teachers find that a variety of classroom structures work best for learning particular skills.
Parents also drive this as they want their children to achieve the highest results possible in standardised testing. Parents also affect classrooms in that they don’t want their children attempting practices that are taxing or too demanding of them. Meaning that teachers have to find a balance between the two.
Interestingly, the text by Cinar (2010) indicated that student placement in classrooms mirrored a number of socio-political end economic factors. It was interesting to note the seating positions of village students (often perceived as having lower educational aptitude) and students with mothers with poor educational backgrounds. These tended to sit further away from the teacher than others. Less surprising was the positioning of students relative to their enjoyment of the class or self-perceived competency in the class. Girls tended to sit in more friendship based seats while academically oriented students tended to be at front and centre.
Classroom design plays a part in student interest as do the displays within the room. Read (2010) highlights the preference of young learners for curves, circles and wavy lines. Interestingly, in the centre I taught in in Singapore, the only decorations were coloured swirls and spirals in ‘company colours’ along the walls in the corridors and in the reception are. Classrooms, however, were bare white walls, with no allowance for any displays of any kind. Colour, location, natural light and defined spaces are what inspire younger learners and Read seemed to be very clear on this.
Classrooms with straight rows of desks are very much a relic from the past, but still can be found in the classrooms of teachers who are very ‘old school’ in their approaches and methodology.
Once the physical space is organised to best suit student requirements, it is up to the teacher to organise the students for the ‘best fit’ in the classroom. Teachers constantly revise their classroom seating plan, trying to achieve maximum success and optimum teaching for their class and its students. Who sits at the front? Who sits at the sides? Who should be sitting at the rear? Are there any pairings that should not be allowed or any that should be encouraged, for the benefit of the class? Who sits near the door? Near the teacher? Near the window? The list goes on and teachers continue to balance this against the changing needs of the class.
The biggest difference that this would make to my own classroom design would be in the use of display space, as I think much of the layout of classroom space is dictated by other factors. I think that in future I will use fewer rectangular displays and attempt to use more fluid designs and curving lines. Circular spaces seem to be far more inviting and encouraging to students.
Cinar, I. (2010). Classroom geography: who sit where in the traditional classrooms? Journal of International Research, 3(10), 200-212
Read, M. (2010). Contemplating design: listening to children’s preferences about classroom design. Creative Education, 2, 75 – 80
Schratzenstaller, A. (2010). The Classroom of the Past. In K. Makitalo-Siegl, J. Zottmann, F. Kaplan & F. Fischer (Eds.), Classroom of the Future: Orchestrating Collaborative Spaces (pp. 15-39). Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
Images from Google clipart.