Every teacher has talents. I, too, have a variety of talents, but organizing space is NOT one of them. I recognize that I am a very fortunate planning time teacher because I have a space assigned exclusively for music and I usually spend a week or two thanking my lucky stars for the space. However, after my football touchdown dance is over, I have to attempt to decide on a classroom layout.
In the arts, we rely a lot on community to be able to create together as a class. I believe that in order for my students to create, they need access to materials and space. They also need supportive information and guiding rules in easily accessible locations to facilitate their collaborations.
Here are some things I consider when creating my classroom layout:
Materials and student accessibility: All recorders, xylophones and percussion instruments are in places where the students can easily access them. We go over the proper use of all the materials and if we are in the experimenting phase of the creative process, then they are able to access any of the materials that we have introduced. Sometimes this makes for a noisy, chaotic environment, but for me, allowing students the platform on which to create is important.
Rules for recorders and group work: Having some information posted in the room gives accountability to the students. They understand the expectations and I can easily refer to them with a student who is struggling to help the class with their creations.
Designs and creative inspirations: I learned something this year when I put up the remnants of my Ikea curtains over the brown bulletin boards that existed at the front of the room for the first two months of school. Almost every single one of my 300 students commented on the new coverings when they entered the room. There were lively discussions about the interpretation of the design and repeated comments about how much the students liked them. It reminded me that creation is a very sensory experience. I usually spend a lot of time on the aural and oral senses in music but this experience reminded me that utilizing all of the senses heightens the ability to tap into the potential that every child has to create.
My professional library: Since many of my cupboards, shelves and tables are full of instruments or other materials for student use, I have very little space for my professional resources. However, my librarian came to the rescue this year when she was throwing out some furniture from the library. I scooped up these shelving units and they have come in very handy.
Meeting diverse learning needs: I have a student this year who is unable to physically play the recorder with the rest of class but can easily play the piano. The piano is easily accessible to her, as is the computer for some of the other students that I teach. There are very few materials that are for my use only and the layout of my classroom reflects that.