Once I got the go-ahead (and a budget) from the Headteacher, I couldn’t wait to get started. School holidays were approaching and I had one week to kit out the classroom.
I started by looking for other blogs from teachers who had already changed their classroom this way. Most of the blogs that I found were from teachers in New Zealand or America.
- Edutopia was a very useful resource, in particular the blog of Kayla Delzer (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/flexible-seating-student-centered-classroom-kayla-delzer)
“Outside the windows of our classroom is a dynamic, fast-paced and ever-changing world full of choices. How can we expect our students to solve problems and make choices independently if we constantly solve their problems and make their choices for them? Our classroom environments should be conducive to open collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. This simply cannot be done when kids are sitting in rows of desks all day.” Kayla Delzer.
Other helpful blogs / websites are:
The first things that I learnt from reading these blogs was that I was going to have to totally blitz the classroom and rid myself of all non-essential furniture and storage. This meant having a good sort through of old papers and files; for example, things that I hadn’t ever looked at that were stored on shelves around the classroom.
Create as much space as possible.
You will need at least a whole day, in my experience, to have a good clear-out of your classroom. Take this opportunity to purge yourself of all the old pre-2014 (and often pre-1999!) resources, CPD course materials, reference books and worksheets that you thought might come in useful again but never did because you forgot that you had them and now they are out-of-date! If you find it hard to let go, just remind yourself that the resources are likely to be available either on your memory stick or on the world wide web somewhere. Failing that, try and convince a colleague to take the papers – then you can pester them if you ever want it again (which you probably won’t).
Once you get into the flow, you will be amazed by how much space you can make in your classroom. When I did my clear out I found 6 copies of the National Literacy Strategy but I also found really useful things that I have been using ever since! Make as much space as possible within your classroom – be brutal and clear out the clutter. You will find that this is the most time consuming part of the process but I can tell you.. it’s definitely worth it!
I also involved the children who sorted through some of the cupboards – e.g. the wet play toys and games. We were quite ruthless and managed to reduce a whole cupboard of games down to one shelf in a cupboard with the ‘keepers’ being things like lego, dominoes, card games, older kids puzzles, buckaroo, monopoly, chess and draughts. Any toys that the children thought were too young for them were passed to lower years.
By getting rid of lots of unused ‘stuff’ I was able to remove a whole cupboard and numerous tables from around the edge of the classroom.
Where to get your ‘flexible learning’ furniture.
Finding the furniture takes time and determination. There are lots of good second-hand sofas and chairs available on Shpock and Ebay. My best advice is to look carefully at any photos – What does the seller’s house look like? Are there any visible stains on the material? How bad is any damage? – and think about size and colour. IMPORTANT: Check that the item hasn’t been in a house with smokers and be prepared to wash covers or clean the upholstery – there are lots of good products around to undertake any spot cleaning.
I decided early on that I didn’t want the classroom to look like a living room so I avoided any large leather sofas and chairs. Instead, I looked for bright colours and managed to find a second-hand purple sofa bed for the bargain price of £10. It was just about small enough to get into the back of my boyfriend’s Nissan X-trail and only 10 miles away.
You might also know of second-hand furniture stores in your local area (like Emmaus on the edge of Oxford where I found an Ikea chair for £10) or good charity shops. Keep a good look-out for any beanbags that don’t cost a fortune. They are rare! I was lucky to buy one a year ago from a Helen and Douglas House shop for £5 but you have to be in the right place at the right time because they don’t hang around for long. If you can find second-hand beanbags for a good price then consider purchasing them for your new classroom.
In the end, because I couldn’t find good second-hand beanbags, I bought some fantastic floor cushions from Ikea (for £8 each) that look like manhole covers! The children love them and they are easy to stack.
The cushions, tables, tall chairs, lamps, picture frames and rugs all came from Ikea. ‘What would we do without Ikea?’ I ask myself!
You can’t beat Ikea for affordable rugs to revitalise the floor of your classroom and the range in the children’s section is usually really good fun and very colourful.
The initial budget that I was given was £200. This was increased to £250 when I got to Ikea and found some great lap trays/laptop supports (BYLLAN).
I just about managed to get everything that I needed within budget – proving that it doesn’t need to cost the Earth!