The Year 4 learning space has recently undergone a makeover- morphing from two distinct classrooms into one vast learning space. The students sat down to discuss what effect this open learning environment would have on them as a learner, and how it might impact the way that specific lessons are taught.
Operating as a large group, we felt it necessary to familiarise the students with specific language around different approaches to learning before throwing them into a large, open plan environment- where chaos could effectively break out. After explaining that the students will now have freedom to choose where they wanted to work and who they might work best with (with teacher monitoring), we introduced Steve Collis' notion of the 'cave, campfire and watering hole'. The students understand that during 'cave' time, they are working individually on their learning tasks, they may be sitting next to somebody else or lying on the ground in a group, but the task is individual and the working environment should be quiet. During 'campfire' activities, the students know that they are working collaboratively in small breakout groups, while the 'watering hole' suggests a large group discussion.
The students were enthusiastic about a new learning space and couldn't wait to make the change. There was some apprehension in the beginning from a small number of students, mainly through fear of the unknown, however after the transformation took place- these students prefer the new arrangements.
As teachers in this learning space, we find that the students are responding well to the change, discovering new friendships, working more productively together and self regulating their learning. It's an uplifting moment when you hear a child say to his friends, "Guys, I love you- but I just have to go over here to work, I'm too distracted!"