Utilising Learning Spaces in the Primary Classroom
This post was written by Kimberley Rivett, a primary school teacher in New Zealand and was first published on her blog
I have just sat down to do a bit of a review of the learning spaces in my classroom. At the end of last year, I viewed Ewan MacIntosh’s ‘7 spaces for learning‘ and was inspired to consider how I used the areas in my room, as well as developing some other types of learning spaces that I hadn’t really considered before.
It’s not that the concept was new to me, rather that it was now a conscious choice that I was making to create some more opportunities for choices and self-management as well as the chance for more collaboration through shared spaces.
The 7 spaces are:
- Secret Spaces
- Group Spaces
- Publishing Spaces
- Performing Spaces
- Participation Spaces
- Data Spaces
- Watching Spaces
Applying the Spaces to My Classroom
It has made me create some fantastic extra environments in the classroom (and some outside such as our class garden) and I have thought much more carefully about how I use space in the room. The children have really loved the secret space which is our library – they just cuddle up there and enjoy the peace and quiet hidden from the world! Our group spaces are working better than they did – the children are much more collaborative within the writing area now, which originally operated as a mini-independent space. The blog is an online shared space which works well for giving each other feedback and also feedforward. It is being used as a constant reflection of ongoing learning and is finally developing into more of an ePortfolio, which was always the plan.
We used a cool book stand that I saved from the bin and have created a neat performing space – we present our intros to group play performances as well as doing our daily news reporters and our class mascot award from the ‘dias’. The class have really loved this space and often ‘perform’ unprompted to one another. They are practicing their poems for the poetry competition at the moment from behind the performing space!
The data spaces are fantastic and really functional. The time that I invested has been returned ten-fold by the level of buy in from children as well as the parents, through Facebook (class page managed by me and viewed only by parents) as well as the class blog, flickr account and wiki space.
The Class Wiki as a Learning Space
One of the biggest shifts this year so far has been the way our class wiki space has become a total learning zone for the children. This has become an extension of our classroom programme and since we are so fortunate with the level of investment our board of trustees has had in providing devices, we are brilliantly resourced and able to use the wiki in a fully integrated way throughout the day.
Developing Watching Spaces
The watching spaces are certainly growing and having now found a lot of safe ways to provide high quality youtube clips minus the ads etc. it means that the viewing is expanding and the class are able to share their clips safely and can now add these to slideshows and also embed in their wiki pages. There are so many different and magical skills being added to it daily and finally the class understand the importance of their investment in the decisions around their own online spaces, which has been a powerful discovery indeed.
Embedding Publishing Spaces
The publishing spaces were already well embedded early on and the class are starting to use googledocs more as a drafting choice as they realise the benefits of being able to edit online, visible editing is a great tool. We are adding almost weekly to the publishing choices and many children still prefer to print or publish in hardcopy. Somehow there is still the strong desire there for the children to hold or see on display their completed writing/storytelling. Although there is a much stronger pull developing towards comic presentations and vocaroo or voicethread as well as creating iMovies, the class still love the tactile world of paper and books! I like that there is a real balance to this publishing domain.
We are working more collaboratively now as a class to make decisions around where we locate some of the spaces such as the shared spaces and there have been some great debates and discussions around where certain learning centres and writing centres should/could be. This means much more of a personal investment for the class and a sense of real ownership which is a vital part of making any classroom tick as well as a helpful ideal when it comes to the spaces.