Friday, April 30, 2010

Initial Effects

Design details
So the risers went up, and the regular classroom decorations (borders, instructional posters that no one looked at) started coming down.  After taking all of this down, the walls looked really awful because they are this textured tack board of indiscriminate vomit colour. Based on my experience with The Space in 106 and the effect it had on teachers, I also started putting up decor to soften the room up a little.  I had our TA put up a whole wall of blue paper (which she had to take down and replace with fire retardant paper).  I thought it looked like sky so I had my students sponge paint some clouds onto it.  It didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped and now it looks like a sheep got crushed against the wall.

My teaching partner got into the whole design idea as well.  He removed the really ugly curtains, and brought in a pink beaded string curtain for our classroom door.  Being a tall beast, he helped me suspend some sheers from the ceiling so they looked like clouds.  He now starts the day with an ambient nature CD that has some classical music mixed into it.  He also likes to find some nice nature images to project on the Smartboard.

The Whole Shebang
Today we gave our students the grand effect: risers, decor, mood lighting, sounds, window treatments, unmanly beaded doorway, etc.  The funny thing is that our students took it in stride, but the class across the hall made a bee line for our doorway and were marveling at the spectacle of it all.

I was out of the classroom all morning, but even for a Friday afternoon, I could feel a nice relaxed groove.  We had silent reading and I think the students could have gone all afternoon.  They had their book boxes beside them and comfortable places around the room (on the risers, lying on the floor).  There was a really happy feeling.  The lights were on the low side but no one complained.  It was a pretty great way to spend an afternoon. 

Another interesting thing happened yesterday 
Our district Occupational Therapist, Lynda, happened to be in our school for another reason, but I wanted to grab her and ask her about our new classroom arrangement.  On her way out to her car, I asked her to come back in and have a look.  I was a bit apprehensive because I was worried what she would say about the effect the risers and lapdesks would have on my students' bone and muscle development.  As luck would have it, she really liked the set up!  She thought it afforded a variety of good body positions and even said that lying on the floor (Sphinx style) would be good for writing.  She recommended that students not sit on a pile of soft pillows because of the instability, and that their feet should both be firmly on the ground when writing.  I asked her if it was okay that I had set up one of my students at a window counter, standing up when he writes (because he is surprisingly productive standing) and Lynda assured me that it was perfectly fine.  In fact, she said that writing on a vertical surface was good for development, Smartboard included.  Go figure.


  1. Wow! Looks amazing - can't wait to see it in person next time I am there. I am glad Lynda saw it - she is so knowledgeable and it is great to get her feedback.
    I am interested - from a Universal Design for Learning perspective - about the impact on students with special learning needs. In the past I was very happy with how I decorated my classrooms (very early primary - primary colours, alphabet, numbers, posters etc) but since I have been investigating learning environments I have wondered what impact the bright colours was using had on my students with attention and/or sensory issues. I am thinking that by rethinking our classroom environments to make them more calming and home-like we could have a positive impact on these students and their ability to learn within our classrooms. I am curious to find out as you go along if you notice any difference in your students with special learning needs within your new setting.

  2. Thank you for commenting on my post and sending me your blog. This is so interesting and I love what you have created. I am enormously jealous of your carpentry skills. I would love to be able to create something like you have. Although I doubt also if I would get permission. I was also interested to read how you had taken down all your posters. I too took most of mine down last year and not one of them has been missed. I replaced some of them with photos of the kids which we add to when I have the time. Although I have to say I am not even sure if they look at those much. I am going to show this to my co-teacher and see if she wants to try and create a ceiling like yours.

    thanks again

    Henrietta Miller

  3. Henrietta
    That's funny. I am jealous of your blogging skills! Maybe we could swap web design skills for carpentry services but the shipping might be cost prohibitive. If you can screw 2x4s together into a rectangle you could make my risers.

    Permission is another matter. I didn't really ask anyone if I could revamp my classroom. I just did it slowly, a couple if risers and changes at a time. I guess everone got used to the idea then word slowly spread. Before I knew it I had people from my district and others coming by for a visit. Because everyone likes it so much, maybe now is a good time to ask for permission.

    I like the changes you made. And based on the remarks you made on your blog, it sounds like your changes come from a research base or at least on the remarks of educational leaders. Luckily my district is very forward thinking and encourages us to try new things in the service of learning.

    Thanks for the feedback.


    1. Anonymous1:50 PM

      I am so happy to see this trend!! As a teacher with 16 years experience in the classroom plus other years tutoring and teaching in language centres, but more importantly being the mother of a slightly ADHD son with sensory integration dysfunction, I see how these design ideas could really help the learning of most students, boys in particular. My son suffered through those years of SITTING in bright and busy elementary classrooms. He is doing better now in middle school. As a result of my experiences and the reading I did to help him, I have since toned down my own classrooms. I would love to come visit your classroom sometime, Greg, and then once I get off the TOC list and back into a classroom, I'll be set to re-design!! Cindy Sepp