Designing Intentional Spaces

I’m a new reading specialist coming from a background in music education. I taught K-8 music for nine years before I chose to make the transition to literacy. I jumped on the chance to read Becoming a Literacy Leader, to learn from Jennifer Allen’s journey. The program I went through was fantastic, but there’s nothing like experience and learning from others’ experiences to really teach the nitty gritty stuff.

My current position was vacant for just shy of a year before I started. Students weren’t receiving reading intervention services, and classroom teachers weren’t getting literacy support. If I look at the silver lining of the situation, I have a lot of autonomy in what I do. Since nobody was in the position, it wasn’t all that established what it should look like. I kind of get to write my own job description! That said, I am looking forward to utilizing my classroom space and the time in my schedule in a smart way to support students and teachers.

One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is getting my space ready for the new school year. New storage! Coordinated supplies! How many times have I succumbed to the dollar bins at Target and came home with 5 or 6 cute little buckets, or a seasonally-themed storage container having no idea what would become of it once I got it into my classroom?

So, despite having studied interior design for two years, reflecting on Chapter 2 was kind of like a lightbulb moment for me. Of course, I should think about the room’s purpose first. Isn’t that what all my beloved design books and websites tell me, too?

I love the reading room as a resource for classroom teachers – somewhere they can come to get ideas or to chat about literacy stuff while also being an inviting space for students to receive intervention services. One of my core beliefs in education is that for anyone to learn, there has to be a sense of comfort and trust. The physical space reflects that – do children and adults feel comfortable coming into the room? It is inviting and warm? I think of how I feel when I walk into an unfamiliar place – if the space is inviting, I can relax and better take in what I need to, whether it’s in a doctor’s office or a gym. My room is small, but I think with some ingenuity and strategic planning, I’ll be able to make it work.

What are the best parts of your classroom? What designs have worked well for you? I look forward to getting some great ideas!

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Redesigning Learning Spaces for Creativity and Innovation

Today I attended a one day workshop hosted by Innovative Educator Consulting on how to redesign learning spaces in schools. The purpose of this type of work is to give students more opportunities to be creative and take their personal ideas from start to finish. We are developing a makerspace in our school, so I was looking for ideas to share with our staff.

We started off the day by responding to four different questions related to spaces for learning, displayed on poster board. The participants added their thinking to the board via Post-it notes. This was followed up with brief introductions and a learning walk with other educators. Many images of different modern learning spaces were displayed on poster board. Our task was to have a conversation about what we liked and didn’t like for our learning spaces in our different schools. If we reached consensus on a certain idea, we placed a smiley or frowny face on the image.

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A variety of content was also shared with participants to explore. One of my favorite resources was the 7 Learning Zones “that every classroom must have” from Edutopia. Students, teachers and school leaders can design these zones as they create their makerspaces. The consultants suggested using small standing frames from Ikea to label each zone for learners.

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After lunch, we engaged in another discussion protocol. Called hexagonical thinking, participants used the principles of design thinking to respond to the question, “What one idea or concept best describes the goal you have for redesigning learning spaces?” As a group of educators, we wrote our ideas and explanations on a blank paper hexagon. Then we put our ideas together one at a time, physically connecting similar ideas and explained why (my offering was “personalized” – far right).

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We wrapped up our day by exploring the different online resources available for educators. This activity was called “Rotation Stations of Discovery” and were categorized around different tenets of redesigned learning spaces:

  • Virtual Learning Spaces
  • Color Theory
  • Research on Best Practices of Learning Spaces
  • Data Collection
  • Video Tour Playlist
  • Classroom Furniture

I thought this video overview from Australia, using concepts from the resource The Third Teacher, was helpful.

My overall experience was positive. I discovered some valuable ideas about redesigning learning spaces and creating the conditions for students to be innovators. Below are my visual notes from the day.

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