Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Classroom Makeover - Part 1

I'm fortunate to have been offered the chance to makeover my classroom, thanks to some funding from our school board and my administrator. With the shift from lecture-based teaching to student-centered learning in my classes, different spaces within the room were needed in order to better accommodate how different students learn.

I wasn't sure how to change things up, so I turned to the #BYOTchat crew and asked the experts. They had tonnes of great ideas, from different levels (standing areas vs. sitting areas vs. floor areas), movable furniture (modular desks), and creative spaces (white boards, projection screens for students to connect to). Click on that link above to see the archive of the chat if you are also looking for ideas.

The Original Room:


It's a science lab, with built-in lab benches on all four sides of the room (the front bench becomes the teacher's desk/bench). 

  • It's a big room (30 students easily fit with room to move about);
  • There are already outlets galore;
  • There is a working sink at the back of the room;
  • There is more storage than I need;
  • There is a counter along the back of the room (under the cabinets) where I already have four desktop computers.
  • The built-in lab benches cannot be moved or removed (since they have old water & gas lines in them);
  • The benches limit the creation of "spaces" - it's hard to get much into the corners;
  • This will remain a science lab, so flammable items must be kept to a minimum.

I'm by no means an interior designer, but together with the students, we came up with some ideas.

Drum roll, please!

After an unexpectedly early IKEA delivery yesterday, here is what the room looks like now:
"After" - part 1
Groups of students can continue to work at the large tables, which are now better positioned to get power. Two smaller table areas exist (one in the centre of the room, one at the very front of the room) for students to work in a group of two or on their own in a more focused setting.

The lab bench along the left side of the picture - which was previously unsuable - is now a standing/high chair area, ideal for students working with laptops. We took the doors off the cupboards so students won't bang their knees. The chairs can be moved to any of the lab benches as the students see fit, and I'm hoping to encourage some students to stand, while they work, on a regular basis.

The area at the centre-back is the most popular area at the moment - an area rug with bean bag chairs, cushions (more to come) and a coffee table for more casual working. I'll be picking up more cushions next week to add to the area. I spent some time marking there during my prep, and it was pretty cozy! There's a rule of no shoes on the carpet; I'll have to remember to pick up a carpet sweeper or small vacuum to keep it clean. Everything in this area is portable, so if we do a lab, it can easily be removed.

Still to come:

In addition to more cushions, I'll be picking up some small lamps to tone the room down a bit and offer an alternative to the harsh fluorescent lighting. I should have those once we're back from the March Break. Done! See below!

In time, all but maybe one or two of the large tables will disappear, replaced by modular tables that better suit the space. Students will be able to re-configure the desks as they see fit, depending on what they're working on.

One of the side corkboards will become a large white board, pretty much exclusively for student use.

The sides of the lab benches (brown in the photos) will be painted brighter colours, and our senior art class will paint a science-themed mural across the front of the room. I'm totally loving JMSS's science mural right now.

So far, the students seem to like the change. The room feels more spacious now, too, and it is much easier to move from group to group. It will be interesting to see how the students choose to use the different spaces, and how they customize spaces to suit their needs. Part 2 still to come!

Update: April 2

Here are a couple of photos of the room with the lamps and the extra cushions. Two banks of fluorescent lights now stay off most of the time, and surprisingly enough, with all the extra seating, more students are choosing to stand along the side benches - which I'm very fine with! Next step - a little more colour for the benches!

New cushions for the comfy area

New lamps along the side
The east side of the classroom with lamps & comfy area


  1. I love your room, Heather! I can't wait to hear more about how your students are using your new space. How exciting!

    1. Thanks! It's starting to feel like a completely different room :)

  2. This looks awesome! I especially love the carpeted area with the bean bag chairs, and the idea of using lamps instead of the harsh fluorescent lighting.

    1. Thanks, Alyssa! I just picked up the lamps and extra cushions this week - can't wait to add them to the classroom on Monday! I wonder how the students will take to them?

  3. Wow! This looks so cozy! I want to be a student in your class. You have tapped into so many welcoming ideas. I had never thought of using a large white board just for sure by use before. Do the students use it often?

    1. Thanks, Maria! It's a work in progress, but I love the direction it's going in. I don't have the white board up yet, but I remember loving to use chalkboards as a student when problem solving, so I hope the students go for it once it's up. I will post more pictures then!

  4. Thanks for posting the updated photos. My furniture should be starting to arrive soon.


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