Welcome to the learning zone
Research suggests classroom environments can boost learning performance by up to 16%, which is staggering. But how do we move away from the seating plan and display-wallpaper classroom design to something more innovative? Simple, take inspiration from the best.
Office spaces at places like Google and Apple value the impact the physical environment has on well-being and productivity. I know what you’re thinking, ‘If schools had the budgets Google have, we could do amazing things.’ But developing a learning zone as opposed to a classroom won’t break the budget.
When was the last time you stapled something new on your ‘working walls’? I know myself, a working wall was really a planned display that stayed up until the next time I willed a couple of hours to staple something else from Twinkl up.
This changed when I moved school, ripped down my staple boards and replaced them with magnetic whiteboards. Children use them to clarify ideas then they’re wiped and changed in every lesson, by children.
Well organised environments have a direct impact on the quality of teaching and learning, and support raising standards. It enables pupils to develop independence as learners, and also builds on good Foundation Stage practice.
Do children need a designated seat? Does your classroom need tables and chairs for all? Why can’t children sit on the floor to learn? Why can’t they use the walls to clarify ideas and map out learning before recording it in a different way?
Learning zones are spaces where there are no designated seats, there are different ways for children to choose how to practice their learning, and resources (both physical and human) for children to go to when needed.
There doesn’t have to be enough tables for all children. In fact, there doesn’t need to be any tables at all! Spaces must be provided for children to explore learning, for example whiteboard walls or using lap trays for children to lean on, and breakout spaces outside the classroom or even outside the building, are also valuable in developing your learning zone.
Giving children their own waist-bags, where they store their writing materials, allows them to take personal responsibility for resources, as well as enabling free movement around the classroom.
At Forest Academy in London there’s a climbing frame inside one learning zone, where children can work at the top of the frame. In another zone there are a selection of small learning hubs where children can break away and independently practice skills. This allows for teaching with less directing, more choice, more collaboration and more responsibility.
A help desk needs to be accessible for all, providing resources both specific to the subject but also general resources for learning (iPads, QR codes, which link to ‘how to’ videos, paper, card etc).
Assigning ‘learning experts’ in the classroom, for children to go to with any questions about learning, is a powerful tool and also builds self-esteem of children in the class.
Assigning each child an ‘expert’ opportunity, from core subjects to art, computing and music, allows children to practice the 3B4Me strategy whilst building confidence, questioning and spoken language.
Learning zones are amazing spaces for children to learn, experiment and being creative. Versus a traditional classroom, learning zones also reflect the future workspaces they may be employed in.
A creative, purposeful space lends itself to more productive learning, and children who are skilled and self-motivated and leave school prepared for an ever-changing world.