Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reflecting On My Current Classroom Setup #NerdySpaces

I spent a couple of hours in my classroom today taking pictures, sketching ideas, and annotating those pictures on my iPad using Skitch and Evernote. Here were my thoughts as I looked at my room. (Caution: These are just rough ideas, not final decisions.)

I'm going to start with the stage area in my classroom. This is the area that students love the most and tend to congregate before and after class. It is also the center of group work for most students if they can claim it before anyone else. The chairs have been collected over the years and student love to sit there and work. The whiteboard areas always change during the school year and the door is painted with IdeaPaint and it is called the Dream Door. Student can post thing they hope to accomplish during the school year. As I looked at the space, I took down some ideas. 

The stage used to be the center of my Blogger's Cafe idea from a few years ago. I moved away from that because the students had their own devices and they didn't need to be there to have access to their blogs. The chairs stayed and the iPad cart was added. A few more chairs were added, but the space has gone unchanged for the most part. The answer to my classroom space issues have been staring at me from the stage for a few years. Instead of viewing the stage as a special area to lounge and work, why didn't I see that the entire room should be like this? Despite how innovative or progressive I try to be, there are elements of the "old school" mentality that stick with me and are hard to break. 

The front of my room needs some serious changes as well. Here is what I realized while staring at the front of my room like a student would in class. 

I have wasted so much space in my room because I had the wrong idea of what a classroom should look like. "All eyes up front" is not the way to go about designing the classroom. That makes the learning environment about me and it should not about me at all. Even when the desks are moved into a table formation, students are constantly adjusting their seating to make eye contact with the speaker. 

I move all over the room, yet I set everything up to make the front of the room the focal point. It doesn't even make sense. I spend time dodging stray backpacks as I walk the room and students are turning every which way to keep me in their view. This formula is a huge fail. 

Here are a few more shots where I suggest some changes. I hope I can make them. 

I have all of this board space that should be used in class by my students on most days. I need to arrange tables and chairs around those learning hubs so the students can collaborate freely without having to get up and go to the library or the hallway to get comfortable. 

I would like to see each part of the room that has something a little different and special that could accomodate the different types of learners that come in and out of my room. Maybe a couple of the areas have screens for students to plug in their device and work collaboratively on a computer. Maybe another spot features dry erase boards and desktops so they can map out their plans with markers. I think there are so many different possibilities if I take the time and figure out what is best. 

Once I get some ideas set, I'm going to reach out to some students for feedback and see what they think about the learning space. 

If you are a vendor interested in helping me create the #NerdySpaces for my students, please drop me a line on Twitter (@TheNerdyTeacher) or though email


  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and plans for your classroom! I never considered un-used board space as collaborative space (I've always converted it to bulletin boards with magnets)... I'll be looking at my classroom with fresh eyes this fall. Thanks again!

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  3. I might suggest allowing students to generate ideas and then you give them feedback. Reverse the process you have described. If you design it, its your space. Placing them in a design role makes the space theirs.

  4. I love the idea of using bulletin boards as collaboration areas!

  5. Looks good! It's nice to see classroom design from the perspective of a HS teacher. Good luck! I think your kids will love it!

  6. Curious, what are the dimensions of your room?I am moving into a new classroom this school year.

  7. Good morning to you friend... I am super excited to see where this adventure takes you:) Last summer I was in a very similar mindset. Going back to the classroom I had some ideas of how I wanted the physical space to be different than a traditional classroom. After reading The Third Teacher I saw such unique possibilities for the learning space. My budget of course was my own (I have a very supportive and understanding husband) who encouraged me to get what I needed to bring this vision to life. My little ladies were instrumental in the set up and vision. my oldest daughter was right around the age of the students in my class so I knew she would give it to me straight. I am on a new adventure this fall... Teacher Librarian & itinerant who knows what yet, but wanted to pass along a few pics that I captured before school start up in the fall. Here is the link to my Flickr stream: Looking forward to seeing you capture your journey:)

  8. I think that putting students in small groups is a great idea. Learning groups are not only for Lower El!

  9. I love that you use Evernote to arrange your room. (Must remember.) I am in a brand new school, thanks to a tornado wiping us out in 08, so painting my door like a white board is never happening. Can't tell you how jealous I am! I've played with desks in quads, triads, and twos. Depeinding on the day, project, and what I expect it reallly helps. (I also love creating two long rows across from each other to pass student work around the "table." )

  10. This is amazing! I wish I had a teacher like you when I was at school. Basically, the teachers I had were so not interested in their job. Just like robots they would give certain material without even making a slightest attempt to get us interested in the subject. However, there was this one teacher whom I am thankful even now that 12 years passed. Thanx to her many of my classmates love reading and writing (check this college paper writing service)even now. Never lose yourself! You are a great person!

  11. Hey Nick, just seeing this now as I was researching stuff on flexible seating... realized I've never been to your room. What became of this? Did you make these changes? Admin supportive? - Kendra


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