Optimal Work Environments – Brand New Day, Brand New Way

Creating Optimal Work Environments (OWE’s) using student’s ‘Learning Likes’ and ‘Preferences’(LLP’s)

 Scenario:

What seating arrangements do you have in your classroom?

Who decides where students will sit?

How is the classroom furniture arranged?

Why do students sit where they sit?

Do your students choose where to sit but don’t always work to capacity?

Do you choose where each student sits?

Do you choose seats for selected students due to behavioural issues?

By thinking differently and placing the furniture in your classroom in a new design layout you can create Optimal Work Environments to suit your student’s ‘Learning Likes and Preferences’ (LLP’s) . Students use their LLP’s to make informed decisions and choices relating to where to sit to optimise their learning and work output.

Try This:

Begin a discussion

  • How can different environments make us feel and respond?
  • Why is it important to have an environment where you feel comfortable and can work to optimise the time you have at school to ‘grow your mind’ and be the best learner you can be?
  • Today we will ‘Dare to be Different’ and create a learning environment in the classroom that provides opportunities that cater for your individual ‘Learning Likes and Preferences’. We will create Optimal Work Environments. (You can use the OWE letters and tell your students they owe it to themselves to make the most of this opportunity.)

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    Optimal Work Environment sign used in a Prep Classroom

 What is an Optimal Work Environment?

  An OWE is a place in the classroom where you can think and work to grow your mind and get the very best from yourself at school. 

 An OWE is based on your personal learning likes and preferences.

 What do we have in our classroom that we can move and help create Optimal Learning Environments?

 – Tables, chairs, shelves, cupboards and lockers.

We will make the most of what we have to create an environment where you can select an Optimal Work Environment for yourself. You will select your OWE based on your LLP’s.

 What are ‘Learning Likes and Preferences’?

Click to download the  Learning Likes and Preferences

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Brand New Day, Brand New Way – Learning Likes and Preferences

Display and discuss the options available on the Learning Likes and Preferences document.

Here are the learning likes and preferences we will be catering for. (Both terms have been used so students understand the difference between a like and a preference. Discuss the definitions.

 How will your LLP’s  influence your choice when you select your OWE?

Like = to find pleasant or attractive; enjoy:

Preference = a greater liking for one alternative over another or others, the selecting of someone or something over another or others: The right or chance to make a choice

Note: ‘Learning Likes’ – Options students ‘like’ to have e.g. I like to work with a partner.

‘Preferences’ – Options students prefer to have during work time in class e.g. I prefer a quiet classroom as I work.

After the discussions it is time to move the furniture to create OWE’s in your classroom.

Important – Before you start. 

Have a floor plan ready – check the photos for ideas. The Learning Likes and Preferences document provides the information you need to create the options needed for your furniture placement. 

You are aiming to set up tables by windows, seating for one, two, threes and fours, open floor space, a display table if you have a spare table, your classroom library or reading space, maybe a display table for Inquiry, your own desk and personal shelves.

(You could get the students to set up the room to cater for all the likes and preferences but from experience this is not the best option. However, if you are up for a challenge, lots of discussions and a lot of noise- give it a go! )

 Some options:

  • Do the moving yourself with the help of a few students.
  • Do the lead up before recess and do the move during recess.
  • Do the lead up last session and then the main move after school so that students are excited to see the room the next day. This generates lots of discussion and excitement as the students arrive at school.

Ideas for Setting Up Your Classroom to Cater for LLP’s 

 

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Creating space in the middle of the room allows for improved movement around the classroom. ‘I like the sun that comes through the window and how there’s space between other people. It doesn’t feel so squashy.’

 

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‘I love our new classroom set up because we get to make choices for ourselves. I feel like I can work more if I sit at a group table. I have finally found my Optimal Work Environment.’

 

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‘One of my students said he had always wanted to sit on the side of the room but never got the chance because I always did the seat selection. He is very pleased to make his own choices.’

 

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‘There’s lots of room and all different areas to choose from. I negotiated yesterday and it worked really well. I got to try a different spot.’

 

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‘I chose this spot because I like looking at nature and it helps me concentrate.’

Once the room has been redesigned students ‘try out’ different spots to see what works best for them. They are choosing OWE’s within the new classroom environment created. Students record their name onto the Learning Likes and Preferences list.

Display the completed Learning Likes and Preferences list for future reference. Students can continue to add their names as they try different OWE’s

Outcomes:

Year 2 students recording their names onto the Learning Likes and Preference Chart.

Year 2 students recording their names onto the Learning Likes and Preference Chart.

  • Students make informed seating choices based on their personal learning likes and preferences.
  • Some students ‘nest’ – they stay in the one spot.
  • Some students move about all the time.
  • Some students negotiate with others to sit in certain spots.
  • Students settle quickly to work.
  • Watching the students organize themselves is a ‘treat’.
  • The noise level drops once students are settled.
  • Students can ‘be good to themselves’ leading to heightened wellbeing and self-esteem.
  • Students learn to be adaptable – may need to negotiate with others and give up their chosen spot or may miss out on their first choice of an OWE .
  • Students learn to be accepting – they might not always get their first choice of an OWE.

Tips:

Today I want you to ‘be adaptable’, move and try a new spot for the day.

Be accepting, today you need to choose to work with someone you haven’t worked with before. The person you meet and work with today might become a new friend, will have ideas, knowledge and skills they can share with you.

I am putting my trust in you to make worthwhile, authentic decisions when you are choosing your OWE

It’s important to be good to yourself and select a OWE that works for you.

  • Introduce the Optimal Learning Spots strategy first. This is a good lead in to OWE’s.
  •  Great time to use the quote, ‘If a window of opportunity opens don’t pull down the blind’. Here is a huge window of opportunity. Use what you know about your personal learning and make worthwhile choices for yourself.
  • Add small pictures to each section of the Learning Likes and Preferences for younger students.
  • If students are not working and are being disruptive or distracted, challenge their thinking and decision relating to their choice of OWE.

I notice that you are not being good to your self. The OWE you have chosen is not working for you because you are … distracting others, not working to capacity, not able to focus on the task. Please be good to yourself and get it sorted. Follow up a bit later with a verbal thank you or note after they move and select another spot.

Ideas:

Allow the students to change three times during a lesson to try different spots or during the day students must choose a different spot for each session, trying different spots opens new options.

Students record their name on the Optimal Work Environment Learning Likes and Preferences list.

  • Trying new OWE’s provides students with options if their first preference is taken.
  •  Students can negotiate with others when selecting OWE’s keeping in mind a win/ win situation must occur at the end of the negotiation.
  • Use a selection of students to assist you when introducing the Learning Likes and Preferences. They could read and explain each item. Display the lists around the room, students sign the likes and preferences that best suit them either before or after trying different OWE’s.
  • Select three students to tally and record the numbers for each section then report the findings back to the class.
  • Read ‘The Best Nest’ by P.D Eastman as an introduction to OWE’s. (Tells a story of two birds seeking the best environment for a nest.) Discuss where and why the birds chose the best place for a nest. How does that relate to creating OWE’s in our room?
  •  If you have access to an extra chair or table when setting up the room put them in. It’s great to have a spare seat available if you can.

Teacher’s Feedback:

 It’s great to watch the kids making a conscience decision when selecting where to sit.

The kids love the new room arrangement. It works so well.

One of my students said he had always wanted to sit on the side of the room but never got the chance because I always did the seat selection. He is very pleased to make his own choices.

The kids have been interacting more.

The atmosphere has changed for the better.

Everyone goes off and gets organised independently.

The kids are not just ‘nesting’ in one spot but will help others.

They discuss and negotiate about sitting in different spots.

They seem so happy. I also move my seat before I start to teach. They like to see me move.

It feels totally different.

I always thought that the room was small and pokey but it has opened it up. It’s been a new start for all of us.’

 Student’s Feedback:

Year 5

I like the sun that comes through the window and how there’s space between other people. It doesn’t feel so squashy.

I can sit next to a really good friend of mine and we check each other’s work.

I like my new seat, its quieter and easier to work.

I chose this spot because I like looking at nature and it helps me concentrate.

I like sitting at the back because I can practically see everybody and its peaceful and quiet.

I love our new classroom set up because we get to make choices for ourselves. I feel like I can work more if I sit in a group table. I have finally found my OWE.

Year 2

My teacher doesn’t have to say be quiet because everyone is working.

It’s good, you can chat without disturbing everyone.

Everyone does tough stuff.

The reading spot is great – I like to read by the door.

Its good to see through the window; I sometimes look outside for ideas.

Really good, lots more space to sit and read and different places to work.

Good, lots of room, all different areas to choose from. I negotiated yesterday and it worked really well. I got to try a different spot.

It doesn’t matter if you have the latest and greatest furniture designs or plain table, chairs, cupboards and shelves in a small or large classroom.

By using the furniture you have available you can create Optimal Work Environment’s to allow students to make an informed choice when choosing where to sit for optimal work. OWE’s will contribute to a culture of trust, commitment, real life thinking and decision-making in your classroom.

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