Classrooms don’t belong to teachers!
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Classrooms don’t belong to teachers!

Giving students ownership of their learning space is the most powerful thing we can do for them. Our learners spend a big chunk of their day inside their classrooms. Since this is such an integral part of their lives, shouldn’t they be part of their classroom design and function?

-by Megan Tregoning, classroom teacher 3 Red

Studies show classroom design affects student learning. It is, thus, vital to design a space that reflects the PYP philosophy and supports student development.

Student agency

One of the most important parts of the PYP is agency. It is defined as, “Students have voice, choice, and ownership for their own learning. When students have agency, the relationship between the teacher and students becomes a partnership. Students with a strong sense of self-efficacy bring a stronger sense of agency to the learning community.”

What helps students learn?

Student agency starts at the beginning of the school year. As soon as students enter the classroom, they are posed questions. If you frame this conversation and your questions carefully, you can facilitate the conversation to a deep level. “What do you think helps you learn best in a classroom?” rather than “What do you want in a classroom?” will steer past the amazing yet unrealistic dream of a classroom pet dragon or jumping castle. As a group, we discuss and brainstorm. Where should we keep our stationery? How should we set up our tables? How many chairs do we need per table? Do we always need to sit and work at a table? Do we need a place to read? A huge component of this conversation is discussing the agreements of how we will use our learning space. This is also a process that the students lead and agree to as a group. Without clear expectations and agreements, this can descend into chaos very quickly!

Setting things up

When the brainstorming and planning are complete, students work together to bring their vision to life moving furniture, resources and setting up their space. Not only does this give them complete responsibility for their classroom, but it also allows them to work together and collaborate. It gives them the opportunity to listen to other perspectives and make compromises. 

Change is the only constant

This is an ongoing process. A classroom, just like learning, is never static. After an agreed-upon time, we reassess our space and see if the current design is positively impacting our learning. We can adjust, reflect, and create new spaces to include current units and learning. This energizes students and gets them excited to enter the learning space, a space that truly belongs to them.