A Classroom Redesign

My classroom is a very odd space. It is the only space on the second floor of the building, no doors, and two annexes: the staff lounge, and the occupational therapist’s office.

My classroom, practicing for a small winter performance. Photo by the author, 2019

Having no doors has its drawbacks. Our school has lots of students who have experienced trauma and those students like to run away when they are upset. Parents have trouble understanding the challenges I have in this space. So when I was asked this week to design my classroom in an online program, I was excited to try it out.

I used a website called floorplanner to lay out my classroom. I struggled with finding substitutes for the objects I use daily, like xylophones, risers, and my square-spot rug. Instead I found objects that were similar in size, shape, or purpose to use. For example, the brown bars next to the TV are representative of my whiteboards and my Smartboard. The piano I use is an upright grand, but the upright piano (half its height) fulfills the same purpose.

You may notice that there is barely any furniture in the room. For kindergarten music the class is constantly moving around, dancing, singing, and playing. If we had chairs or desks it would hinder our ability to move. If I had the opportunity to start from scratch, and design the entire room, I would want to keep this free movement ability, along with providing safe spaces for my students who need it. The Third Teacher provides a list of design principles to follow when creating a classroom space. With my goals and this list in mind, I recreated my space.

Some items that need to be explained: the two carts next to my laptop cart are where I would place my large xylophones. The tool I was using did not have a good representation for xylophones, and I want them on wheels to be easily moved around the classroom as needed. Third Teacher’s #23 idea on their 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching + Learning is “Make classrooms agile” (The Third Teacher, 2010). By having all my big instruments (drums, piano, xylophones) on wheels, my students and I can rearrange the classroom to create the best space for that day’s learning. Instead of our square rug from before, I would love to have a circle rug that students sit around the outside. Learning how to make a circle is a surprisingly large part of kindergarten music and having this shape on our floor would help.

Although I cannot change our fluorescent lighting or lack of windows, I can change the color of the walls and floor. According to Kendra Cherry in her article The Color Psychology of Blue, blue is “often seen as a sign of stability and reliability” and “people are more productive in blue rooms” (Cherry, 2019 March 31). Third Teacher’s #4 idea is “Put safety before study”, and blue helps create this safe feeling for students. I also improved upon my break space with small, comfortable seating, a table, and the wooden bin would contain coloring materials and Think Sheets for students who need to think through their actions. There is also new backpack cubbies for my students so that instead of having belongings on the floor along the wall, they have their own designated space to keep their items safe.

With our own laptop cart for this floor (green cart next to the elevator), we will finally be able to use individual technology in the music classroom. This with our Smartboard and keyboard (to record songs for when I have a guest teacher) provide the basis for technology in our classroom. Not every piece will be used every class but it provides flexibility for my students and me. I may not have this space yet, but I can certainly dream about it!

Resources:

Cherry, Kendra. 2019 March 31. The Color Psychology of Blue. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/the-color-psychology-of-blue-2795815

The Third Teacher. 2010. 79 WAYS YOU CAN USE DESIGN TO TRANSFORM TEACHING + LEARNING [pdf file]. Retrieved from: https://lindsayluftcom.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/b3319-79ideasoveralllist.pdf

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