In order for each child to grow he/she must be comfortable and feel nurtured in their environment. In my 22 years of teaching I have made that a priority each and every year. This year we have 16 students in a very small room. We have managed to create 4 distinct spaces for the students to choose from, allowing each child maximize their potential.
When I first began teaching 22 years ago my goal was to create a classroom where each child would have the space to learn and grow in comfort. I called on a friend who was an occupational therapist to advise me creating this space. She recommended various types of seating allowing for children to choose the space they felt most comfortable. This idea developed into the model I have adapted year after year: an area with desks and chairs for those that prefer a more formal seating and studying arrangement, bean bag chairs for and lap desks allow for comfy reading,writing, and problem solving, pillows and lap desks for group or individual instruction as well as buddy work, round tables in the back of the room for conferencing.
Each year the arrangement may vary depending on class size and funding but keeping these areas available to my students is crucial to their growth as individuals. I do very little frontal teaching, 15 minutes at max. Then I send the children to the areas they find most comfortable to read, write,discover, and explore. This year we made our own pillows giving the children a sense of ownership over their environment and allowing them to move that space anywhere in the room they so choose. Making the pillows was not only fun but gave the children a sense of belonging as they settled into their new classroom setting.
Children come in many shapes and sizes as do their learning needs and preferences. This classroom arrangement allows my students to select the the environment of their choice. I have seen my students growing together as a group and as individuals in this optimal setting.
Rivki Wiener has been teaching elementary school for the past 22 years. Rivki received her BA in education from Stern College For Women and her MA in education from Wilkes University. Over the year she has taught general studies on grade levels 1-6. Currently she is teaching general studies in grades 2 and 4.