It’s often what you hear when you’re watching Love It or List It but I argue the same is true for learning. Do students ever walk in to your class, slump down in their chairs and wait? Do you ever walk into your classroom and feel like it’s the most limiting space in the school? I sometimes feel this way and try to use my enthusiasm to energize the class. However, after reading @ckirsh’s most recent post about her experience with #designthinking I knew I had to take a different spin.
Students at the secondary level just want to be treated like adults, and we expect them to behave as such. Then why is it that we ask them to check boxes, and instead feed them answers we expect them to remember on demand? When empathizing with students, I thought about learning space. We have a couch, and individual desks with uncomfortable chairs. It’s an unnatural space to learn language in, and language, in my mind, should be lived to be learned! So, with this in mind, I defined my problem, and didn’t ideate too carefully because I also had a need.
I decided to change the learning environment for my Grade 12 French class, so I held the class at my house! Now before you cry foul, please understand that I live at a boarding school and I team teach this course.
The whole experience began when my son Nigel broke his arm and my spouse and I both taught on a Saturday. We didn’t have childcare, and instead decided that I would teach at home. I made coffee, tea, and there were muffins and croissants as well. As the student filed into the house, they all sat around the dining room table and immediately I knew something was different.
The dynamic shifted. Everything I’d tried to convey in class pertaining to my role as a language coach and not their “teacher” seemed to take shape. The collaboration and feedback with one another was fluid – they were at ease. They were working on their spoken expression products and they’ve never been more focused! They are normally hard-working but this was different, this is what I’ve been trying to achieve for the past two years but couldn’t.
The time flew by. Nigel read them some French stories he brought home from school and never before had French been so alive and natural. It was like a homestay, an immersive experience that is so elusive for language teachers. At the end of class, students were jazzed and wanted to have class at my place everyday!
I have read a few articles on classroom design but really like this one from Edudemic. The learning environment is something I am very interested in and I especially like the idea of collecting data to help guide the exploration.
Clearly I need to spend more time coming up with myriad ways to make my classroom a more natural space for language living. I have a coffee pot, and tea available and a convection oven for when we bake in class. I am going for a café style atmosphere. What do you do to make the learning space engaging? How do you establish your culture of learning in your classes. What have you read about #ClassroomDesign?