By Lisa Carey and Amanda Hughes, 2016-2017 Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education Fellow
September 20, 2016
Interested in designing your learning environment to be more flexible and accessible? Here are some great resources to help you get started. The videos and articles contain practical tips that in many cases can be implemented immediately. Have fun!
Videos and Quick Articles
In his interview about inclusive learning environments, Dr. Jon Mundorf suggested that teachers move away from thinking about what a classroom should look like to what it could look like. This video includes some pretty awesome flexible learning environment ideas that move away from traditional notions of classroom spaces.
Gallaudet University, “the world’s only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hard of hearing students,” is home to some incredible learning space design. Check out images of their campus with descriptions of the purposeful design elements used to reduce barriers to learning.
How do we teach students to collaborate in their learning spaces? This video from The Teaching Channel offers some tips for facilitating student collaboration. Simple changes can go a long way toward encouraging collaboration. For example, painting a large table or a wall with dry erase paint creates an instant reusable space for collaborative brainstorming.
A great way to help students take ownership over their learning is to involve them in the classroom design. There is no need to have the classroom completely set up prior to the first day of school, before student needs are evident. We are Teachers offers some great tips for having students design the learning environment. Providing a variety of seating options and allowing students to choose their seats is another way to increase ownership.
The classroom space is ultimately about learning, so it is helpful to have a variety of easily accessible learning resources available to students at all times. Examples include dictionaries, word walls with definitions, graphic organizer models, manipulatives, and strategies to access help when needed. Students should know where each resource is located and be permitted to independently access a resource whenever needed. This post has some tips for storing and organizing learning materials.
Classroom Ideas Crowdsourcing
Still looking for more inspiration? One advantage of digital media is the ability to crowdsource ideas and resources. This Padlet was created in order to share student-centered classroom ideas. You can use it to peruse what other teachers have done with their classroom spaces and can upload your own classroom images to share. (note: all posts are subject to moderation and will not appear automatically.)
Trying to figure out what materials you’d like to purchase for your inclusive and student-centered classroom? Teachers around the country have posted to our UDL Materials Padlet to share their favorite classroom materials or their dream purchases. Feel free to post your own favorites. (note: all posts are subject to moderation and will not appear automatically.)
We hope these resources will aid you in considering learning environments as flexible spaces that can change to meet needs at any point in the school year. Keep up the wonderful work!