Teaching in the round …

OK – so it’s not really ‘the round’ … cos I’m not in the middle … but there is a circle!! ;0)

On Monday my new prac student started after quite a hasty, last minute email request to supervise her. I didn’t get time to rearrange my classroom to feign a thoughtfully organised classroom layout. I just had to fly by the seat of my pants … again. So driving in to school on Monday morning I had to remind myself of the units I’m teaching for all classes whilst simultaneously ensuring I change to the correct gears, check my twitter/fb feed on my phone and answer my 6 year old’s incessant questions about the moon, earth, aliens etc. (Who said multi-tasking is a fraud?)

So what did I come up with? Something basic that I have found to be wonderfully flexible and effective for all of my classes. This image below kinda shows what I did:

Essentially I have created a space where the class can come together and discuss, present and listen (our campfire) as well as spaces for group work (wateringhole) and (when we get there) individual work (caves – hopefully). Here’s how it’s working for my classes right now:

Year 9: We sat in the ‘campfire’ circle to chat about their test results and the features of ‘persuasive texts’ that they were struggling with. Then they moved to the desks (wateringhole) to work on their projects … some more successful at this than others. See here.

Year 10: We sat in the ‘campfire’ circle to read ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and discuss what the novel is teaching us about ‘resilience’.

Year 11: We sat in the ‘campfire’ circle to read ‘A Property of the Clan’ and discuss the focus question ‘Should Art Imitate Life?’. Students then moved to the desks (wateringhole) to work on a mini-group task based on one of the Five Elements of Writing – these were then shared in our cyber-space campfire – edmodo.

Year 12: We sat in the ‘campfire’ circle to read ‘Notes on Nationalism’ by George Orwell and discussed the similarities between Orwell’s world and our own. Our discussion led us to the recent killing of Osama bin Laden and how the celebrations of the Americans reflected their nationalism.

It’s been so cool to stumble across a style of classroom layout that is flexible but not as messy as rearranging the furniture each lesson. Ah … one day in the future I’ll laugh at this post because schools will actually be designed for the 21st century learner.

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5 thoughts on “Teaching in the round …

  1. I’ve done a similar thing with my room, sitting in the middle with groups of six around. My desk has a wireless key board and mouse, there also student desks against mine, these spaces are reserved for students with special needs at the time such as those who might need help with their laptops, or assistance with a particular learning task or, as was the case today, have just arrived from an Intensive Language Unit. Oh, yes, I too find it useful for reading together with the whole class.

    The IWB is at the front. It’s basically students that are using the interactivity. This seems to work well for both discussion and presentations.

    • Hey Nordin 🙂

      It’s just chairs – so the kids get their chairs from behind the desks and put them in a circle in the central space.

      There’s actually another set of four tables to fit in there and two tables are outside (just now they are cos kids did exams and I didn’t bring them back in!) I don’t have a class with more than 28 students in it.

      Kids are happier to move just the chairs rather than the tables as well, or so I have found this week!

  2. just wondering if you could send me an image of the layout. I was wondering about your available space, and how often other KLAs have to use the room. I too essentially have no front of room, but it is no secret in the school how other staff claim it is not possible to teach a class without rows of desks facing a teacher. Some request not to be timetabled in my room, imagine how they would respond if i used a similar setup to your own?

    • I have my ‘own’ room – in that usually there is only me using it. One other teacher uses it for four periods per week but she is from my faculty and is happy to teach with the furniture however it is. She is very much of the old skool when it comes to teaching but she seems to be able to manage that fine with my classroom’s layout, haha!

      I have been really stoked that most classrooms in our faculty have flexible classroom layouts. One of our teachers is very creative with her room too – I learn a lot from her. At the moment she has what the kids call ‘the circle of love’ where all tables and chairs are in a circle.

      Mine isn’t really that radical, it’s just flexible and that’s how I like it best. When I first played around with the ‘mythical learning spaces’ idea I tried to create a permanent layout that included the cave/wateringhole/campfire space. It didn’t really work because there just isn’t the room and I still was trying to get all students in the same style of space at one time (e.g. all working independently in the cave) so there wasn’t enough space.

      I haven’t yet created a unit of work that gives students the flexibility to select a learning style to match the space – i.e. they can do an independent task, small group work or leader/teacher led discussion. Something to trial in the future.

      I’ll take some photos on Monday and post up for you to see better what my room looks like!

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