I made some big changes this year and it's time to think back and evaluate.
The biggest change that I made was I ditched ALL desks...even the teacher desk! Ditched them all!~ No desks! Zero...zip...nada...nothing!
I LOVED it...and so did the kids! On the first day, the students walked into a "Learning Lounge". The looks on their faces was priceless!
How it started...
While perusing Twitter, I came across a tweet from Erin Klein about her classroom and the changes she had made to her classroom design. This is a link to her blog with lots of amazing pictures of her classroom.
Erin Klein also put out some tweets about a website called "Classroom Cribs". There was a call to all educators who were going to try some different room/furniture arrangements and they were asking teachers to submit their photos and ideas to their website...so I did and my class was honored as one of the top 30! I was so excited! Here is the Classroom Cribs blog post about my classroom!
How did I do it?
I did pay for some of the furniture, but I only spent about $200 total that summer and that included bright green fabric that I stapled up on two of my bulletin boards to use as green screens! Yes, the furniture is worn and scratched in some places, but it's all very sturdy and the change in how my classroom FELT was well worth the effort it took to collect and haul it all in come September! I had many, many compliments on my "new" classroom design. People remarked on how comfortable it felt...and that was my goal!
I found most of my furniture on Craigslist. Yes, that weird place (sorry Craigslist) where people try to get rid of their old bathroom sinks or the dirt out of their backyards! If you peruse Craigslist often and look under "Free", you'd be amazed at the stuff people are giving away! Most of the furniture I got was because people were moving or were wanting to buy new stuff and they just wanted their stuff gone!
Every year we have a wonderful lady who comes in to our 3rd grade classes at my site. She comes once a week and does "Scouts". She does the whole bit...wears the uniform, teaches scout pledge, scout badges, folders, recycling activities, citizenship lessons and much more. She is an awesome lady, but she is very strict and likes things a "certain" way (everyone in their seat, no talking, no getting up, no bathroom, etc). When she first walked into my "new" classroom this year, she had a look on her face that said, "Oh no...this will never work!". By the end of the year, she gave me the BEST compliment! She started off by telling me that she didn't think my room design was going to work at all! But she went on to say that my students followed directions beautifully, were respectful, and in general was a very well-behaved class. She came to appreciate the room arrangement and said that she really enjoyed working in my room.
Now I want to point out...I did NOT get the "primo" class. I had the usual number (30 to be exact) of energetic, antsy, goofy, loopy, needy, un-focused, challenging kids as I normally do. Because "those" kids weren't forced to sit in a desk without the ability to get up and move around; they thrived! During the Fall parent conferences, I had parents tell me that their child was excited to come to school, that they weren't having battles in the morning, they weren't having "homework" fights and that in general their child was happy.
Here are a few more resources for you:
Classroom Cribs - 4 Finalists
Alice Keeler - Rethinking Class Design
An Article about Innovative Classroom Design
Tim Bedley's Unusual Classroom