Mythic Classroom – update

A couple of weeks ago I made the decision to transform my classroom into a 21st century learning space with NO budget. My inspiration was the mythic learning spaces of watering hole, campfire and cave. See me post here.

So how did my students respond?

Well, as per my post, my Year 7 students were responsible for the actual design of the space, so once could imagine that they would revel in it. Not so … they LOVE the open space that the arrangement provided at the front of the room – giving space for circle-time and whole-group discussions (campfire time). What didn’t work very well was the division of some students in ‘watering holes’ and some in ‘caves’ – my room was still inflexible when ‘set’ in a specific layout.

What a classroom needs is flexibility of space and furniture. Instead of the design ‘owned’ by Year 7, what has manifested is an ever-changing, dynamic learning environment. I have become far more relaxed in my approach to classroom furniture being moved – in fact, I’ve changed entirely as I now actively encourage my students (nay, require) them to move the furniture to suit the learning experience they will be involved in during our lesson.

My room at the moment still has the centralised green mat (this is our campfire) and has 5 groups of 6 tables. Year 7 and 8 are working on PBL projects (Year 7 is Shakespeare, Year 8 is Burton and Shakespeare) so the groups works well for this. Year 12 are working in a combination of the three mythic spaces (campfire, watering hole, cave) so the tables move often at the beginning of their lessons. The campfire mat has become a much loved space as the students gather together for informal circle-time as well as initial whole-class discussions regards what will be covered in each lesson and the learning goals for each group and individual.

I’m really happy with my new approach to learning spaces. I do hope that in the future more schools will be approaching learning spaces in a far more flexible and student-centred/learning-focused way.

How is your classroom looking these days?

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8 thoughts on “Mythic Classroom – update

  1. Wondering which furniture and types of furniture work best for this?
    And if you have any thoughts on how it might translate to university studies

    Thansk for sharing

    • My suspicion is that this would work very well in a university setting, as the rooms tend to be larger which is helpful. And the ‘campfire’ concept is one that is portable if there is a room change!

    • Hi Nick,

      I agree with Kelli – I think that university spaces are a LOT more conducive to this mythic spaces idea. Why? The pure size of the spaces – high schools are still operating on the out-of-date teacher-focused model. We’re stuck with hundreds of small rectangles with often one door, a whiteboard at the front and 30 square tables, 30 chairs and a teacher desk and chair. Cram into this a book shelf, a TV, possibly an IWB (at the front – of course!) and one or more filing cabinets (urghh!).

      You have the luxury of larger rooms – furniture can be far less restrictive. If you see the link in my first post to SCIL you can get a good idea of some great furniture – tables that are on wheels for ease of moving as well as triangle shaped tables that force collaboration (watering hole-style). They were my inspiration for the post HOWEVER one must keep in mind that they have substantial funds to create these spaces – they have a design team, architects etc – things teachers like me would never even dream of having. My design team is always the kids :0)

      If I were you, I’d play around with your space. What I have learned is that you need to train your kids to (literally) think outside the square! They have become habituated to the learning funnel that is the traditional classroom structure. It’s our job to get help them develop some new synaptic pathways!!

      I’ve got another post in my head about some silent signals to help students make this neural network branching easier – keep an eye out :0)

  2. You’re a few steps ahead of where i want to be. All the stuff you said earlier (i just spent the past few minutes reading back through yr blog) about needing to reinvent the learning space has put into words what has been floating, aimlessly, through my head.
    I’ve got a year 7 class next year (with their own home room) for 3 subjects as part of a middle school model our HS is adopting and your ideas about the mythic learning spaces is, i now believe, exactly what i need to get them engaged and thinking before they get too far into high school and get “educated”.
    Thanks for your engaging ideas – i will be sure to keep reading yr blog.

    • Year 7 is perfect! The thing we high school teachers need to remember is that students have come from a very different physical learning environment. It’d be worth asking high school teachers when the last time was that they visited a primary classroom. Us HS teachers with young children visit them often, but our observations are often limited to finding our kids to throw a hastily prepared lunch (or one bought from our canteen) at them and a quick kiss. I doubt many teachers are looking closely at the very specific design that *many* PS classrooms feature.
      My son is in kindergarten and I just LOVE the freedom that imbues his classroom. I visited him last week (to give him his ‘forgotten’ lunch) and found his teacher at her desk eating lunch, he was typing his three-page story into a word doc and other classmates were occupied in a variety of different tasks including independent reading, maths, group craft, IWB learning games and hand-writing. Can you identify which task fits into which ‘mythic space’? Ms M has her room designed to allow for ALL of these different learning modes to occur at once.

      Could this happen in my classroom? Not really … at least not yet!

      Please keep your eye out for my next post on this as I’ve got some updates on just how I am ‘educating’ my Year 7 students to become even better at transitioning between ‘mythic spaces’.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. I LOVE your classroom approach Bianca! I’ll be sharing it with my preservice teachers next year. I think one of the keys to success is to have the whole class on board with furniture rearrangement. Many high school teachers seem reluctant to ‘waste’ any class time with ‘menial’ tasks such as room rearrangement…in English this has a profound negative impact on our capacity to integrate Drama activities, which require more room.

    • Thanks Kelli! It really is funny watching the kids come in for roll-call and try to guess which class I just had based on the current design of my classroom!

      I think we need to help new teachers feel free to take risks and empower their students to self-select the best learning space for them and their learning!

      Will keep updating you :0)

  4. Make your own whiteboard surfaces.
    There is a paint that acts as a whiteboard and allows you to paint on cardboard if you want.
    We have just done one wall in the office and now we can’t believe every wall in the place is not painted in this stuff! Check it.
    http://www.ideapaint.com/

    We have even painted a floor!

    P.s – thanks for the comments and feeback – if you have links to great and versatile furniture ideas – throw them my way lease

    ta

    Hi from Australia!

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