In September, we engaged in four demonstration lessons on co-constructing criteria. As we worked alongside the teachers of an elementary and junior high school, we planned the lessons and we considered the physical layout of each classroom. We asked, “How might we best to use the space to meet our instructional goals?” We all knew we wanted:
· Students to feel our presence with no distractions.
· To feel the presence of our students so their energy could inspire our teaching.
· Students and teacher to feel part of and to be part of a community of learners.
· No physical barriers between students, so that they could easily and quickly turn and talk and think together.
· No barriers between teacher and learners, so that we could easily listen to their conversations and make moment-by-moment instructional decisions.
We wanted this both physically and symbolically in some part of each lesson no matter the grade level, the subject area, or the specific content.
We felt we needed a meeting or gathering space – a place where we can be in community with one another. In many early years classrooms, this has typically meant a brightly coloured carpet where the whole class can come together. Why do carpets disappear in older grades? Are we giving up that gathering place too soon? After all as teachers know, it is more than a carpet. It is a way to use the environment to create a learning advantage. It is a learning advantage that emerges when we build community, inspire each other and meet instructional goals.
And so, we have learned from teachers how to create a “carpet” wherever we go – K to 12 to adult – so that the environment supports the learning. For some spaces, it means having students move their chairs into a part of the room and create an ‘inside-outside’ circle. And for others, it means creating two or three lines of chairs in a semi-circle around an instructional area. Regardless of the configuration and in spite of the lack of an actual carpet, teachers gather students away from their desks, in order to create powerful learning-teaching spaces.
Written collaboratively - Brenda Augusta, Sandra Herbst, and Anne Davies