Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Designing Collaborative Spaces

In the days leading up to the opening of a new school year, I began redesigning my classroom to allow for more collaboration among my kiddos. I have always been a fan of kids working together when they want and finding a quiet space to work alone when they want. It is the particular learning experience that drives a student to make that choice. I like open spaces in class, lots of tables, use of floor space, nooks and crannies in which kids can hunker down, and a free-flowing climate where the approach to learning is fluid.

Our classroom is visually stimulating - some would say TOO visually stimulating. Dozens of posters adorn the walls, country flags hang from the ceiling, street signs are strewn about and all kinds of funky decorations can be found in the room. There is one whiteboard in the front of the room, but that's about it for accessible, collaborative space. Since my mission is to get kids learning more through collaboration, I knew I had to do something to make the classroom more conducive to group learning. So...I painted the table tops with Dry Erase paint (whiteboard paint). I bought one kit at Home Depot for about $20.00. Now, each table will have a tray of Dry Erase markers and an eraser in the center. Kids will be able to articulate their ideas right there at their table and can work together to design and execute, show their thinking and demonstrate their knowledge. At the end of the class period, it can all be erased.

The first table turned out pretty well (I painted four tables so far and one Dry Erase kit was enough to paint all four table tops). Now the kids, sitting in their office chairs around the tables, can use the space to enhance their learning. I am eager to see how the kids use these table tops to teach, learn and work with each other.

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