Excursion 2 and 3

a. Physical space. What does the physical space of your learning environment look like? Where does the teacher work? Where do the students work?

When I have my own classroom I want it to be a welcoming place for students. I imagine the physical space of my learning space with me comfortable, colorful, organized, and an encouraging “home” for my students. My room will be full of color on the bulletin boards, on the desks, and on the posters / anchor charts hanging around the room. This will be a place in which students feel comfortable and ready to learn. I will have my own desk which will be placed near the computer and smartboard. This will be my personal space in which I will be able to store my extra supplies, grade papers, and confer with my students. My students will be able to work anywhere in the room. They will be able to work at their desks, the back horseshoe table, etc. I will provide my students with flexible seating meaning they will have a few seating options such as wobble chairs, ball chairs, regular seating, and yoga mats. Students will have rules to follow about flexible seating such as they need to sit in seats that they will learn in, not be distracted.

b. Student autonomy. How much autonomy do the students have about their workspace and their own learning? How much freedom do they have in each of the areas indicated below? What will that freedom look like? How do they determine what they know and don't know?

I believe that having a balance of student autonomy in the classroom is necessary. I do not think that elementary students should have 100% control over their learning because there is a curriculum that needs to be met and they may not make the best choices for their learning because they are so young. It is important to give our students options daily to keep them interested. Many assignments in class have parameters for each student, but within the parameters they will have choices. For example every student will know their individual reading level, but they will be able to choose the books they want to read. When a project is assigned to the class, I will give students a choice to pick the topic they are interested in to work on. Giving students autonomy over their learning helps them to learn ownership. Students will have freedom over where they want to sit during lessons and independent work. Students will be able to determine what they know and don’t know based on their assessments. Once I hand back students assessments, we will go over each answer. They will be able to recognize the skills they have answered correctly and incorrectly. Each assessment will be kept in an individual folder for students to look back. 

c. Cooperative student learning. In what ways are your students working together? When do they work with other students and when do they work alone? Give some examples of the types of work they will be doing in this learning environment.

In class students will be sitting at a table of four to five students. Students will work alone while they independently read, when they take assessments, and when they write. Students will be able to work with a partner or group during a math challenge problem, do nows, book club, and much more. There are many times in which students will think-pair-share during lessons or engage in group work with their table. This allows students to help support each other with all different levels of understanding. They also will have time to complete independent work in which they are able to see what they know.


    • Miranda Barbara
      Miranda Barbara

      Hello Anna!

      I love your idea for flexible seating! In my post I mentioned students having rolling desks and a few whiteboard tables, but I like that you would also have some other options for students to feel more comfortable. It really is all about students feeling welcome and accommodated for in your classroom. I'm sure it would take a little while to lay down the rules for the flexible seating, but they will get the hang of it. In my post I also said that I would give students options within a project or activity! I don't think I would even trust my high school students to be too independent, but of course younger students do need a lot more structure. I also like that you have a balance of independent work with group and partner work; this is something I hope to have in my classroom too. Great post!

      • Hannah Treuer
        Hannah Treuer

        Hi Anna,

        I really agree with and like your ideas about seating. Not only flexible seating but putting students in desk huddles of four or five people. I have my students in pairs right now but always love the collaborative learning them resemble when I ask them to get into groups of four. I find that it is a much easier way to support different levels of learning like you mention. Also, what you mention about student autonomy is very interesting. Do you think elementary students should have less or more control than adolescent students in the classroom? I tend to go back and forth with this idea because I think there are many pros and cons to having students have complete control because some will feel free to learn how they want but I think it would make others feel overwhelmed. Thanks for sharing! 

        • Gerald Ardito
          Gerald Ardito


          You have clearly sparked some real engagement here. Thanks to Miranda and Hannah for their comments.

          I think that you have done a really good job addressing these questions. You have clearly been thoughtful in your responses, and more importantly, in the design of your learning environment.

          I was intrigued by this:

          I believe that having a balance of student autonomy in the classroom is necessary. I do not think that elementary students should have 100% control over their learning because there is a curriculum that needs to be met and they may not make the best choices for their learning because they are so young.

          You have raised an excellent point about an external factor (the pacing of curriculum) and its impact on the degrees of freedom within a classroom (for good or bad, I guess).

          You have also raised the idea of autonomy as a function of development or maturation. So, here's my question: what would you do about students who have differing amounts of maturation or self-regulation? Is there anything that could be done to assess student independence and then (re)construct the learning environment to meet their individual needs and capacities? Also, what do you make of Montessori or Steiner inspired classrooms that assume and foster student independence, even for very young students?

          • Emma Nolan
            Emma Nolan

            Hi Anna,

            I agree with two specific points you made in your post. You mentioned that you want you classroom to feel like an "encouraging home" for your students. I really believe that is so important. If a student is not comfortable in their classroom, then learning can not be expected. The classroom should feel like a home base to students where they know it is safe to explore and learn and make mistakes, just how a home should make students feel. As we know our students sometimes grow up in environments that do not feel as comfortable or safe as we would want for them, this is as the more reason to create a classroom environment that gives students a sense of home. 

            You also mentioned that giving students choices promotes autonomy and ownership over their own learning. In my teaching experience, especially in middle school, many students struggle with taking ownership of their learning. This is a critical life skill that students will be expected to have come high school. I find that the earlier students are exposed to this, the better chance they have at developing the skill and becoming more independent.

          ED 524 Spring 2020

          ED 524 Spring 2020

          This is the online home for ED 524 Spring 2020.

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