How does classroom design affect student behavior and their learning environment? A search for classroom design might yield expensive or time-consuming decorated set-ups on Pinterest or Instagram. However, true classroom design takes into account maximizing student learning, interaction, and freedom. What does that approach look like in today’s classroom?Join us for a discussion on approaching classroom design even in classrooms that may not seem like they can be redesigned.

Episode Transcript
Ixchell Reyes
The DIESOL podcast,

Brent Warner
Developing Innovation in English as a second or other language,

Ixchell Reyes
Episode 63: classroom design for language learning

Brent Warner
Welcome to DIESOL, this is episode 63. We are your hosts. I’m Brent Warner.

Ixchell Reyes
And I’m Ixchell Reyes and man, Brent, you’re finishing the semester? You just finished the semester finishing?

Brent Warner
Yeah. Just finished. Yeah. It’s been a long one

Ixchell Reyes
Did you get your grading done?

Brent Warner
Yeah. Just Just finishing that, too. It’s, this is my first summer that I am not teaching in. As long as I can remember. I don’t know. So, yeah, so I’m taking the summer off from teaching, and I’m looking forward to it will be nice.

Ixchell Reyes
Very, very cool. Are you doing that? Well, I’m, I don’t get summers off. I don’t take summers off either. For now, I’m going to be starting. I think by the time Yeah, I think on the day, this episode drops, it will be my first day of supervising. So I’m sort of taking a break from teaching.

Brent Warner
Yeah, so that’s cool. What does it mean to be a supervisor?

Ixchell Reyes
So I’ll be management for a while I’ll be working basically, with our teachers, our actual teachers, not our pre service or language learning teachers. And yeah, I don’t know yet what it means. That’s all I know, is it doesn’t. It’s not teaching so I’m more in the background.

Brent Warner
“I got promoted to this job and I’ve got no idea what I’m gonna do” (laughter)

Ixchell Reyes
No, I, I’ve never really wanted to be admin. But this is sort of a temporary. Try it out. See if you like it, see if it’s an area that you want to grow in longer than a few months and or rule it out. And go back. So yeah, we shall see. Talk to me at the end of summer.

Brent Warner
Okay. So you’re going to be assistant manager in so to speak?

Ixchell Reyes
Yeah, kind of something like that.

Brent Warner
You know, what, I just saw online? I can’t believe this. I’ve never seen this before. I’m sure it’s very old. But it cracked me up as some-somewhat abbreviated “Assistant Manager” to “Ass man”. (laughter)

Ixchell Reyes
No, not gonna be that.

Brent Warner
We’ll see. No, you said to wait until the summer to find out. So we’ll be we’ll be checking back. All right. All right. So today, we’re gonna be talking a little bit about classroom design. Let’s jump in.

Ixchell Reyes
Okay. So since you’re not in the classroom right now, we wanted to talk about how classroom design affects student behavior and their learning environment. And we were talking Brett, you and I were talking about how in my experience, back in my K through 12, teaching credential days, which is about a year now, a decade and a half a decade and a half ago, what I remember is, and this is what I still implement now, but I remember it. So clearly, you as a teacher, you take note of any negative space and negative space is space that doesn’t have its blank space basically. And so you want to fill that out intentionally with things that or items that will trigger a student to talk or to reinforce something you’re learning. Look for colors that will stand out and help memory so orange greens, and yellows, which are your basic highlighter colors. You use those for posters, and those are for concepts you want students to notice, you might want to have passive activities or, or logic puzzles here. And there, we could do those with posts, anything, including items that serve as a conversation pieces related to some kind of theme or topic or something you want to reinforce. So those are the strategies that I remember that I now of course, with everything in anytime I’m teaching a new concept that that’s what I first envision in my classroom. But and many of these strategies were predicated upon brain based learning, which was really huge at the time. I’m not I haven’t really kept up with any updates, but I still I’m still a big fan of brain based learning. But we’re wondering and of course, what does that approach look like now in today’s classroom and I know you’ve done a ton of work at your in your on your campus to for more In a classroom that benefits or maximize the student learning environment, especially in a language learning. School, so yeah, tell us more.

Brent Warner
So, this is tricky, because part of the conversation is challenging some of that, right. I think what we see a lot, you know, I mean, we see these like Pinterest or Instagram accounts or whatever, we’re like, teachers are decorating their rooms and doing all these like, super fancy decorations, right?

Ixchell Reyes
Yeah. But see, when I see those things, I am actually turned off to it, because then it becomes like a competition of like Martha Stewart classroom. That’s not what that’s I don’t think that classroom design is meant to be that. Yeah, yeah. Right. So visually, aesthetically pleasing, is one thing for your Instagram or Pinterest shot. But that’s not what a what a language learning classroom. I don’t think that that’s that that’s maybe a misconception,

Brent Warner
right? Yeah, I think that like some of those people have, whatever their intentions are, right? Like, they could be really good. And like, hey, I want to make this an inviting place for my students. Or it could be like, hey, I want to get those likes, you know, smash that like button, whatever type of thing. But, but

Ixchell Reyes
no offense to that crowd. I mean, no, there are some very skilled decorators out there. But is that, you know, Is that does that approach actually maximize student learning, student engagement. So,

Brent Warner
right, so that’s where this is where a little bit of that challenge comes in is because a while ago, I posted some of the redesigns that I’ve done online, and a lot of people really liked it. But I got some people saying who have feels like static, it feels like a hospital kind of. And I’ll explain all of this, as we kind of get into into the weeds a little bit. But But yes, I think that there’s room and places to have prepared ideas and prepared structures for the design of the room. I also think that there’s a really, really big value that kind of got lost in all of this design stuff, which is just the idea of a blank canvas, right? Like, like a blank canvas gives you endless possibility and endless potential to do whatever you want to customize it however you like, right? You can, you could paint anything from, you know, you know, whales in the ocean to super abstract Picasso style to to, you know, formulas, formulas, whatever. So, so a blank canvas really gives students a lot of opportunity to turn the room into their room. And we’ll talk about parts of this and what that might look like, but, but yeah, it kind of flies in the face of a lot of time that people have spent in like, okay, how am I going to make this chart that’s going to be beautiful, and it’s gonna take up this whole wall, and then I’m gonna have this thing over there. And it’s like, all of those things can absolutely be great ideas, and they can work really well. I think what we’re going to talk about today a little bit is different ways of considering room design. I’m sure I’ve said it on the show several times before, and I will say it more and more is that classroom design really is a is pedagogy. Right? Like it is a part of how students learn and a part of how they get into things. And so we kind of wanted to share some of that, as I’ve been going through the last few years kind of learning for myself and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. And so, I’ve been redesigning several of the rooms on our campus, and I actually talked about this quite a bit on on my other podcast on the higher ed tech podcast. And but I’m really happy to be able to talk about it here because I want to focus it, you know, for our language learners and for language learning teachers as well. So a lot of this came out of a book. It’s a really great book called Building thinking classrooms by Peter legit all li l JEDHL. And it’s actually called Building thinking classrooms in mathematics. But I, I really think it’s that it’s called that because, because I feel like so many people are going to miss out on the opportunities because they’re like, I’m not a math teacher. And so therefore, I shouldn’t be looking at this. But I learned about this through, you know, different people at cue, who are doing room redesigns, all sorts of things like that. And I started, started kind of doing some research and looking at how rooms are built and how students are interacting with things. And so just briefly want to just look at the surface of what little devil talks about. And so he’s got a These 11 elements of teaching, and he goes all into it in his book. And so I’m not going to read all of them. But I’ll read a few of them and then kind of see where we’re focusing in. So he says, you know, the 11 elements that he’s looking at in his book and in his classroom designs is the type of tasks used and when they’re when and how they’re used, the way in which tasks are given to students how groups are formed. And then these are the two that I want to kind of focus in on. So student workspace while they work on tasks and room organization, both in general and when students work on tasks, so and then it goes on, he’s got it. He’s got quite a few more ideas inside of there, but really want to get into those number four, and five, which is like what did workspaces look like for students? And what does room organization look like for students?

Ixchell Reyes
And Brent, you said this was building classroom, building thinking classroom thinking classrooms and mathematics? Yeah, that would have not appealed to me because of in mathematics. And I would have just imagined numbers, right. Yeah, exactly.

Brent Warner
Yeah, I think that’s a big concern. So that’s why I always tell people is like, go check out people who are teaching different things, right? Because that’s where you might get some really interesting ideas. I, I went to some presentations by Ed Campos, who’s a math teacher and I went by presentations by Bill Selleck. So like just different people doing different things out there. But it’s like, okay, I have a cool chance to learn and see what they’re doing. And then, you know, good pedagogy. Doesn’t matter what the subject is, right? It’s like, okay, how am I engaging students? How are we getting stuff going. And so, so a lot of this kind of comes through those ideas. And I’m going to share a few of these ways that we’ve done things. And I will also put up a little presentation on

Ixchell Reyes
The photos, oh, my gosh, that’s an amazing photo. So

Brent Warner
I’ve got a little photos and videos, I’ve actually just got a presentation, I’ll put the presentation and embed, embed the slides right into show notes into the show notes. So everybody can go and look at them and take a look through some of these what the settings are. You can see some of these also on my Instagram from a few months ago when when I first posted it. But anyways, in the show notes, you can go figure it out and take a look. But I just want to talk through some of these. So the different setups that we’re really talking about here, for our classroom and kind of have to, you know, set your site your mind into imagination zone here. So we can kind of look at this, but you kind of imagined stripping out the entire classroom. So there’s nothing in that all the walls are empty, it’s just a totally nothing, right. And then one of the big things is these 360, floor to ceiling, whiteboards. And so you can actually get whiteboards just like your normal whiteboards that you have, but they get flipped vertical. And so they go from the ground all the way up to the ceiling, or you know, as high as you can, right and high as you can reach your arm. And then you line the entire classroom with these all four walls or as much as you can get going. And what we were able to get on our campus through some funding was these really high quality ones that are like magnetic, right, so they’re, they’re actually just the exact same things as the whiteboards that we have. But there’s a lot more of them because they’re stacked vertically, vertically, and then wrapped all the way around. And so the whole room when you walk into it is just a shiny, a shiny white room, right, and there’s nothing else going on in there. So that’s part one, and we’ll get to the different parts. Part two, we have node chairs, so node chairs, chairs, yeah, so I don’t know if you’ve seen these, they’re like, they’re like little chairs on a basket, right? Like there. That’s not a good explanation. They’re their chairs, but they have the basket underneath them, right. And so they’re on on rollers. And so the students can sit down on them, they have the little rotating arm that comes in and out from the side, right. So like kind of, you can kind of push it out of the way or you can pull it in front of you. And then your whole desk is self contained but on a roller so everything is right there with you instead of like having a separate desk and a separate chair. Or whatever else it is. So you you kind of hold the desk with you as you sit in this rolling chair. And then the third part to it is like just you know, having Chromebooks and in the classroom hopefully depending on what’s going on or or, you know, laptops available, so not having we’re trying to get rid of our more static, you know, big computers that kind of take up a ton of space. And then finally, we haven’t gotten to this on our campus yet. But one of my final goals is to have instead of a big projector to have TV monitors large TV monitors in at least two corners of the room. And so, so this is kind of the setup that you’re going to imagine. And I’ll explain why why the value of For each of these goes on but but let’s start with the whiteboards for so you Ixchell, you know, we’ve grown up with whiteboards and chalkboards, whiteboards, and that transition everything but what do you think of when you think of a whiteboard? Or like, what’s the interaction going on there?

Ixchell Reyes
I think front of the classroom, you’re right, your rectangular average board a couple of students at a time. And then you’ve got it erased to make room for someone else.

Brent Warner
Yeah, so pretty common, right? That’s, that’s not a good setup there. So maybe you get five or six students up there, if you’re depending on how big your wall up up front is. They usually kind of try to stand like side by side. And they’re kind of like, hey, maybe Arm’s length apart from each other so that they can have enough room to write what they’re going to write. And then while they’re doing that, what’s the rest of the class doing?

Ixchell Reyes
Watching? Yeah, maybe

Brent Warner
sitting in watching writing lucky waiting, kind of guessing what’s going on? Maybe whatever else it is, right. And so here with the vertical whiteboards what happens is, you now have unlimited Well, I mean, only the limitation of the size of the room becomes the space that people can work on. So when you’re vertical floor to ceiling, what happens is that students then kind of see those lines split on the vertical wall. So let’s say it’s for a four foot panel by eight foot, right, and it’s eight feet high, four feet wide. And then you’ve still got the splitters like the the line between each board. But what happens is the students kind of cluster around that four foot section, right, and so then you get students in groups of three or four people around the forefoot section, but that’s all the way up and all the way down. So taller student can write up higher, a shorter student might squat down and write real, we’ve actually seen students really like sitting down on the ground and writing really low. And so they’re taking advantage of this entire space. And it’s for people getting in that forefoot space. So you can really get a lot of work done inside of there. But then you’re looking at the whole room. And it only takes, you know, a few of those sections, six of those sections to fill up a 25 class of 25 student class, right? So you’re like, hey, you’ve got three or forced groups on one wall, and three or four groups on the other wall and one or two on one another wall, right? So it’s easily taken care of. It’s totally like the students have tons of room now to write and to interact on these walls. And so this is a big part of it, right? It’s like, hey, we want everybody working on everything all at once, rather than like coming up for a few people at a time. And then waiting, waiting right? Now, there’s lots and lots and lots of interesting research on like the value of all of this. And so just very briefly, this comes out of the book, but like he talks about these ideas, some of the benefits of doing it is it reduces stalling and faking behaviors. Because when you have students like, Hey, I’m working on a piece of paper at my desk, and the teacher can’t really see whether or not I’m doing anything, they might just call it working. Yeah, they’re kind of holding off or like, Okay, well, let’s get started when other people get started, or whatever else it is right. And then by default, that switches right into increased time on task, improving student communication, allowing teachers to see all the work at once. And this is a huge one, right? Because you have been in plenty of classrooms where you’re looking out across across the classroom, and students are supposedly working on something with their heads down, right, or even as a group, they’re working on something. But you, your vert your, your horizontal view across and down the classroom isn’t really letting you see what they’re doing. And so if they move that vertically, right to the walls around the room, you can stand in the middle of the room, and you can just look around and see what’s going on in any spot when these students are working together on the walls. Right?

Ixchell Reyes
Right. And you don’t need to be moving exam desk to desk to check.

Brent Warner
Yeah, and so so one, they know that you can see them from farther away, right. But to you also can, you don’t have to kind of hover over the students to see the work that they’re doing right. So it kind of goes both ways, where it’s a benefit to everyone here. It also encourages students to look and kind of feel more comfortable to see what their classmates are doing like on the group next to them or on the other side of the room. They’re like, are we on track? Right? Can we are we doing the right type of thing? Are we not doing the right type of things so they can look at that. More equal participation. And then also, here’s a big one, which is with the whiteboards super important compared to paper is that they can be a little bit messier and it’s a lot more closer to their real learning, right because when you give a pen and a paper to a student They feel like whatever they write is going to be permanent. And they’re going to get that down. Yeah, but that feels,

Ixchell Reyes
yeah, how many times you give them a poster board with markers, and they’re just sort of debating on who’s going to be the one to write because we don’t want to be the messy one who has the messy writing, and then they just, they’re just sort of afraid of us, you know, getting started, which is like, this is not about how neat it looks. Get your ideas flowing. Get those brains thinking, get those conversations going.

Brent Warner
Yeah. And yeah, Inc is a big deal for that ink to paper is like a like, you’ll see people freeze up and they’re like, Well, can we get some pencils? We can? Or can we get another piece of paper and extra one? Yeah, yeah, all these types of things. Because they just feel like that’s so permanent. And it doesn’t even come out verbally like that, right? They’re not like, oh, you know, like, sometimes they might say, well, what if I make a mistake, but most of the time, it’s just kind of in the back of their head that they’re holding off on on starting to do that with the whiteboards they will not they’ll just okay, whatever I want to play first, right? They want to, because they know they can erase that free range too. And then finally, the last part here is that it gets them moving. So they get like this physiology connected to their learning, right? So that goes back to the good old TPR, and all of those fun things. But what you can kind of start to imagine is like, Okay, well, there’s a lot of value in having these whiteboards going on. There’s a lot of opportunity for interaction for building for, for making your work, and then your language grow, but also working together with everybody else. So that’s just the whiteboards here. So then we’re going to switch to the chairs, right? We talked about this, this phrase comes up the cemetery seating, right? So morbid. Yeah, it’s very morbid, but like, I mean, you’re front to back, right? You’re sitting behind somebody else, and you’re looking at them, and you’re going well, okay, what are you doing? Like, what’s the back of your head look like, I’m going to drill, I’m gonna bore a sterile, sterile, boring hole right into the back of your head, right? And so, but it really is just like being in a cemetery, right? And so it can be fine. Like that type of setup can be fine, right? But you really want to think about what a room looks like, and what it conveys to people when they walk in. So, Ixchell, for you, you’ve been in plenty of classes, you’ve been in conferences, you’ve been in, you know, different types of places. So, you know,

Ixchell Reyes
when, why. I know when I want to hide, and I don’t want to be called on by the speaker, or the instructor or whomever, I’ll sit in the back to the side, if I want to escape quickly, I’ll sit in the back to the side, if I want to be acknowledged, if I want to receive the most direct information and make sure I don’t miss anything. I will sit in the front and to the middle, you know, when the teachers T zone, right? Because that’s where the speaker is going to be walking. So I or, you know, I’ll sit where? I mean, it’s usually in those areas, but yeah, sure, sure. Do you know where I want to be sitting? Especially in a room that is linear, very much like that your cemetery? Speaker focused, right? Yeah,

Brent Warner
well, and you’ve got your escape plan all worked out. Like, you might not be consciously thinking about that. But depending on your personality, or how comfortable you are, or whatever else, you might be planning that already, right. And it’s pretty easy. So like, you walk into that room. So one, let’s imagine you just see rows of chairs with no desks, right? All rolled up, all the way down the line pointing towards the front, what do you imagine is going to happen in that classroom?

Ixchell Reyes
It was just gonna listen, and yeah, listen, right?

Brent Warner
It’s gonna be a lecture, you’re gonna listen, probably not really doing much writing. Because unless you take notes on your knees, right, something like that. It’s not great. I mean, it’s fine. Again, it could be it could be for that purpose. Like that could be what the intention of the of the lesson is in a straight lecture, and like, hey, let’s just listen and talk here. That could be fine. But imagine that compared to stepping into a room that has, you know, 10, big round tables in it, right? What do you imagine is gonna happen there?

Ixchell Reyes
Well, you’re, you know, automatically there will be other people there. But it’ll be small groupings. Where, for me the and I was just thinking, man, as an introvert, the room with the linear rows would give me anxiety. If it’s really crowded. I would definitely sit in the back. And on the side areas, the side, you know, the corners because I don’t want to be that close to someone that I don’t know. However, it would be safer to be in smaller groups.

Brent Warner
Yeah, exactly. So you’re like, okay, hey, there’s tables, I’ll probably only have to interact with three or four people maybe like, hopefully these people are kind of cool, but I don’t have to I don’t have to get that overwhelm of everybody. Right? Right. And also with those just rows of chairs, like you end up super close to the person next to you, and

Ixchell Reyes
you only have a choice of two, to the left and to the right. Yeah. And I guess you’re not going to be talking to the person in front of you, since they’re also limited. But at a round table, you could be talking to the person across from you, or next to you. So the chances of finding someone that you connect with are a little bit bigger, but also in a safe environment, a safe group, I suppose. Yeah,

Brent Warner
yeah. And then just the last potential scenario is like, what if you come into a room that has kind of like a big conference table in the middle, right? It’s like, hey, long table, you got some spots next to each other, maybe bigger, more comfortable chairs, but you have other people next to you. Right? So what’s your thing there? I’m not going to make you answer this one. But like, but the idea is, imagine all these different types of scenarios. Subconsciously, we already have a setting when we walk into that room, right? That means Does that make sense? Right?

Ixchell Reyes
Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes you dread knowing, oh, we’re having the faculty meeting or whatever meeting in such a such room and you’re thinking, oh, man, or why can’t we have it over there? Right, like you already know.

Brent Warner
Yeah, for sure. So all of these different types of settings right there. They just bring up different emotions, they bring up different expectations, they bring up different

Ixchell Reyes
different behavior patterns, even?

Brent Warner
Absolutely, absolutely. So this is kind of the idea is like, Oh, these are the things that we start thinking about when we’re designing classrooms, because we’re saying, Well, what are the behavior patterns we want from our students? What are the expectations? How can we make them feel more welcomed? Or, or, you know, if you’re introverted, or if you’re extroverted? Like, how can you accommodate that both different types of students or the ambiverts, in the middle to right, like, what’s gonna be the setting for each of them. So so the setting that, you know, we kind of have been building at our campus in some of our classrooms is, these chairs, these no chairs, and they kind of cluster so you can roll them together into little groups of three or four people. And the students can sit together in small groups, but then they can also back out and back away from each other into, you know, larger, they can actually slide back into a full circle wrapping around the classroom. And so So, you know, I was in Susan, aka Vaughn, we talked about her some time she was I was in her classroom, she’s using one of these rooms. And it was so cool, because I went to observe. And she had all the students in clustered and little groups, and then she started talking to them. And she didn’t say anything, she just started talking to the class. And then they kind of recognize, oh, we’re done with our group work. And they all kind of magically, like a drop of oil and water, like they just spread out. And they formed a perfect circle around her. So she was in the middle. And then they were they were all around her kind of centering in on her and that just happened totally naturally. Which couldn’t happen in a traditional desks all facing the same direction setup, right? They would they kind of, okay, well, we have to kind of get uncomfortably move our stuff back around, or whatever else it is. And so all of this is kind of different ways. And then not to mention, if they’re in those little clusters, there’s no real front of the classroom, right, because now she can walk around to any wall. And she can start writing. And now the students can see what she’s doing. All they have to do is twist their, their moveable desks that they’re on, and point themselves to whatever area she’s at. But then, you know, the teacher can then move on to the other side of the room. And it’s like, wait a second, I thought I was in the back of the classroom. And now I’m in the front. Now I’m front row, right. And so students don’t really have that control anymore. But they also know that they’re going to be engaged and brought into the classroom rather than like someone that who can sneak away and hide in the back. You know, so, so there’s a lot of a lot of interesting potential there. So students, one can’t hide, but then everybody also is kind of equal in this whole setting. And then the final setup here that I kind of, I’m looking for my last setup here in these rooms is in two corners, opposite corners to have giant television monitors instead of maybe a projector pointing at one wall, because that projector still makes the front of the classroom by like, Okay, well, that’s where the front of the classroom is, doesn’t matter what else you say. But if you have two TVs in different corners, then the students might face one direction, depending on where they’re already sitting. They might just be able to point themselves quickly at one or the other or just twist their head a little bit without having to do massive movements to see what’s going on. But then they also are aware, hey, this isn’t the front this isn’t the back this is just where that information is being presented to me. And now I’m going to have this whole idea. So this is this concept that sportsbar. Yeah, so Exactly. It is like a sports, like little dog calls this D fronting the classroom, because you can see, where’s the front of the sports bar? Right? It doesn’t matter where I said,

Ixchell Reyes
I can see, you’re not missing out on anything. Yeah, so this

Brent Warner
is kind of the goal here with this type of setup. And we can go on and on and on about it. I think there’s a lot of interesting parts to this. And I think the biggest thing that I’m hoping that students or that teachers listening, we’ll kind of think about, it’s like, well, oh, yeah, I don’t just have to settle for the classroom that I have, right? I don’t just have to settle for this type of setup that’s Trubend, traditional, like, how, how can I engage students, because now, if I don’t have a front, if I have them clustering in little groups, or if I have them sharing, and coming out, you know, according out into a bigger group altogether, and then moving back into smaller groups, there’s all sorts of really, really fun and interesting potential, and ways to start thinking about how your students might change their learning styles or their, their approach to the class, because of the ways that they have to now interact in a different setting, if that all makes sense.

Ixchell Reyes
Great. So let’s switch over and talk about how to make this work in my classroom, which is not the large classroom that you have. Right, right. Thank you for supporting the show, you can leave us a review on iTunes, we have a Patreon and you could buy us a coffee if you want on our site, or you can share the show with a colleague.

Brent Warner
That would be nice, thank you. Okay, so Ixchell, here is the deal, right? It’s like, it’s real nice and easy. And you go, Oh, you know, Brent, Scott, what Brent was able to get these put into his classrooms, which I’m gonna point out, it was not easy to get done from the beginning. It took a lot of work convincing, some of my colleagues were on board early on, and some people were like, that’s not really what we’re gonna be spending money on here. And it took, you know, several years to kind of really get this, this going as a concept. But the one thing that I do get concerned about having these conversations is people are like, Oh, well, you, you know, your school has money, or you have a different type of setup than I do, what you did is could not possibly be done in my setting. Right. And I think your scenario is a good challenge to this, because you are definitely in a unique teaching setting. And so yeah,

Ixchell Reyes
so and I talk. Yeah, one of the things when we started this conversation is like, well, I don’t see that working in my classroom, which is probably what other and I’ve heard other people say that about other things, not not necessarily the classroom design, but just other things like technology, or certain approaches, strategies, etc. So sorry, I didn’t catch that. No,

Brent Warner
that’s the idea. Yeah, it worked for you. But it wouldn’t work for me because I got reason. 123

Ixchell Reyes
Yeah, so you’ve got a large classroom, it probably fits about 20 ish students. Right. And of course, I’m not complaining about the size of my class, which is at the largest is 10 Students maximum. However, the room is also our rooms are also pretty small. And I’m sure that there are going to be teachers out there who are moving from room to room all the time, or aren’t in the same room every semester. Or they’re placed in a room that is not really meant to be a classroom. But that was the room available, which happened to me one time, I had a storage closet at USC.

Brent Warner
Literally a storage closet storage. Yes. See, and I was like, Oh, my gosh, and then you open that little extra door? Yes, be looking. Yeah.

Ixchell Reyes
Right. And so you’ve got the nice, you know, for bare walls. But what about classrooms that are oddly shaped, because perhaps there were rooms that were repurposed into a classroom and now you’ve got closet doors that maybe are not made of a material that can that you could, you know, tack things on to like paper, for example, or you’ve got four minute whiteboards that are taking up most of your main walls, right front or back of the room. Or you’ve got protrusions that you really don’t have a choice, you’re not going to, you know, build built the whole structure again. So what do you do with that? And so we were talking and we were brainstorming, what do you do in that situation? You know, just because your organization has the ability to have that. What did you call on the vertical whiteboards, a whole full thing. You and I were talking about how Okay, well, the door that I have that’s, you know, a closet door where I can’t hang really anything. We could put a whiteboard film on there. Right, right. Yeah. And then on top of that, if I needed to put up paper poster, I could always do that, like one of those giant sticky notes.

Brent Warner
So this is where you’re gonna start, right? Like, it doesn’t have to be the expensive solution, right? I can go on Amazon and I can buy tack paper that is, you know, whiteboard style tack paper, and I can that I can write on dry erase paper, I think, well, we’ll put some links in the show notes. But, but you can get these types of things, right. And you can just go put it up. Now, it might not be beautiful. It might be kind of a hack way into getting this going. But you can start getting more spaces where people can interact on some, on some bigger settings. have, you know, that section of the wall can be used right now? Yeah. To point out, the first thing I think you said is like, Hey, we’ve got these horizontal whiteboards, they start at the three and a half feet mark, and they finish at the seven and a half feet mark, and then guess what’s going on everything below your waist is waist, waist. And everything above your arm is our

Ixchell Reyes
also waist.

Brent Warner
There we go. Good. So, but like, hey, one, okay, for sure. Like, if you don’t have the funding for it, start looking into finding ways to get funding, right. You can do grants, you can do all these different things, you can reach out, but if not, you can start with just doing it yourself, right. So you can get this sticky paper, you can get the film or whatever and just pin it up and have it working. You saw you were saying before, like you’ve got TVs that can’t be yeah,

Ixchell Reyes
there’s just like, monitors that are functioning. There’s no service for them, but they take up the space. So it just looks odd in the room. And so many of us, many of my colleagues and myself, we’ve done all sorts of interesting things. I use it as a photo album. So I put all the photos of my students so it, you know, it actually creates a conversation, my students go and look at the photos from previous classes, some teachers drape blankets over them. I’ve seen people purge plants over though, because it really just I mean, it’s wasting space. And students constantly ask Why Why can’t we use it? And of course, for whatever reason, they’re not functional, but they’re also we don’t have the authority to remove them. Right. And so we haven’t been able to do that. And so now what do we do with that wasted space, because it’s also, you know, if you’ve got windows on that wall, now you’re you really are wasting the good space where those students who are not facing the boards could actually be using it. Or you could be you know, you could have passive displays or all sorts of things there and feel sick, you film on it and let the students go at it.

Brent Warner
So you’ve got a, let’s say, you’ve got a 55 inch monitor, right? I mean, that’s about the size, right? It is a big chunk of space, you can put that you can put that sticky film right on top of it. Here’s another thing is, windows are writing space, right? Like, depending on what you’re looking at out there. You can give people an expo dry erase marker, and they can write directly on a window. And you can just wipe it off later. Right? Like, like a window is the same thing. It’s the same glass. Yeah, as a whiteboard. And so you can like actually, when students have a chance to write on Windows, they get all excited about it, because they’ve never done it before.

Ixchell Reyes
Allowing them to do it sort of like writing on desks.

Brent Warner
And I do that too. With my with my desks. We’ve got these big bag around desks, and you’ve seen some of my Instagram like the students. Yeah, their ideas just write directly on the desk. All of these things, just one quick wet wipe away from being clean. So you have all of these different settings that like we might originally go, Hey, I can’t use that. That’s wasted space. But we go well, let’s just do a little tweak. And we can make this work. See, yeah,

Ixchell Reyes
I see that there’s nothing wrong with writing on a glass window. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s just another surface. So we cannot limit ourselves to, you know, if you’re in another country, for example, where you don’t have a legit board from the store, you’re gonna use any writing surface, you’re gonna use the ground, you’re gonna use a stump of wood. So what’s stopping you from using a piece of glass that can be wiped clean? Right? Absolutely. So I think that that’s worth thinking rethinking the way that our when we step into our classroom looking at all of that, again, with fresh eyes and not for that wall is just for this that bulletin board is just for that that actually really limits your creativity and The space that the students have. And I think you were talking about giving the students freedom to roam freedom to move around. And I see this in my classroom when I tried to, you know, I have a lot of displays here, I have things hidden for them to hide, because it creates a conversation spot. And so students will go to that conversation spot, and they’ll talk and it generates, generates conversation generates interaction, and it was sort of organic, but also intentional. And if you can do that, by removing those boundaries that we already kind of, you know, in a classroom, it’s four walls, and it contains you and your class. And if you remove those, I don’t know, what do I? What, yeah, they’re their limiting thoughts, right? And if we can get rid of those, and we can do so much with that, even a limited space, like what I have.

Brent Warner
Yeah. I mean, we haven’t even started talking about like, desks, what are your what’s your desk,

Ixchell Reyes
I’m lucky enough that I have to I have wrote, we might know, my chairs are rolling. But But I have chairs chair to a desk, they’re not attached. And that’s because we can, it’s too small. And we’ve got to be able to put students into groups and have enough room, you know, in our rooms are small. So in case of a fire, or in case of anything like that, you’ve got to be able to move things, if we only have a class of five students, we can put away the desks in that little storage closet, we don’t have like a big one, you’re limited to very little storage space. So in that, in that way, I actually have felt like I can do a lot of with groupings. And I even had an instructor yesterday, stopped by my room as I was rearranging it for the week. And she said, Oh, I like to see what other teachers are doing with their rooms, because I feel like mine is too focused on the white on the smartboard. And my smartboard doesn’t work. So again. So she looked at me and she said, Oh, I thought I was gonna go crazy by having them in groups of three. And I thought, no, that’s perfect. And then you can walk around, you don’t need that there is no center and the students can get up and you’re not, you know, you’re not limited. So there’s space. And when you have space, you have freedom, right? And so that translated to freedom to move your body around freedom to to think beyond what you normally would instead of being cramped, you know, yeah, and that little chair next to somebody.

Brent Warner
So that’s perfect, because so you have a setup, where it’s like, hey, these chairs already serve good purpose, right? You’ve already thought them through, you’ve thought different ways to work with them, these, these desks can be moved, like, hey, I really like this setup, right? Other people are so like our previous desks were the ones that were like the chair or the desk that had the bar underneath that went to the chair. And so it was all one big piece, you might know what I’m talking about, like they, they’re like the desk is in front of you. And then there’s a little little board thing? Well, I mean, like on the on the ground, like the actual desk is is a bar and then that bar wraps up into the chair. And so it’s like everything is one big piece, it’s really hard to move around. And so it’s like, yeah, what do I do with those? And again, nothing is good or bad here. It’s like, what is it working or not working for your setting? Right? And so So how are you rearranging it? How are you making it? And and are you challenging yourself to go like when you step into a room to say, this needs to be changed? Or? Yes, this is exactly what I’m already looking for. This is the best setup that I can have out of this setting. Right? So

Ixchell Reyes
Brent, you’re reminding me of my days at USC where some of the larger rules made to accommodate obviously, larger groups. In our language program. There we had tables, moveable tables, and each table, I think fit maybe four students per side for the longer side. And I would go in and I would you know, I didn’t have my own classroom. So I’d be you know, taking over another classroom. And I’d go in there to start my class. And it would be row of tables, right. So the first row obviously, gets me it gets more of me. And my students knew from day one, we’re not having this, we’re arranging it into the square and inside of the square, there’s like a tea. So I would put tables inside. So we could, they could turn around and face someone close to them. So they didn’t have to go all the way across the room. And also I could walk freely around and they could walk freely around. And so that way, they’re not focusing on getting help from me all the time. Because also, the way that you set up your room will also tell you if they’re interacting more with you than with each other. And oftentimes that’s when you have to keep asking you for help. They’re not you No, they’re not, they’re not talking to the people around them. Right. So that creates a very limiting and almost like there’s too much control. But I remember thinking, You know what, these tables are movable, we can have all sorts of shapes within there. And then sure enough other teachers, I don’t know if they either really liked it, or if they didn’t, you know, then care to have the students move them, but they kept that setup. And that was just automatic, that default setup in any of my classes. And of course, that that meant, also, if I wanted to do sort of step back behind the tables to the back of the room and hide, so students could not really get help for me, then it would force them to talk to each other. And I could just simply observe, sort of, like from an outside point of view, and that I love that I remember thinking, this is the greatest thing, because I could just sit back here, relax for five minutes, and then go and explain APA.

Brent Warner
And I mean, that that’s all, you know, we’re what we’re trying to get to, in this whole conversation is understanding that, right? Because you’re saying, Hey, I do know that there’s just a lot of teachers that just walk into a room and they go, what do I have to work with? Okay, and now, like, I’m just gonna run from that, but it’s not, it’s not a matter of like, How can I change this? What’s What’s the conversion that I can make to better support the students to give them a better chance to understand or to work together or whatever else it is, and so it might already be close to in place, but with a with the turn off one desk, right? Like, yeah, that’s all it takes, or, you know, hey, all I’m going to do is go buy this 1010 or $20 thing on Amazon and I’ll be in a hang this up in another place, and people can now interact with the new surface. And then here’s the real thing is that after you start doing this, just like you’re saying, you show, hey, people start walking by and seeing it and liking that. And maybe the supervisor walks by and is like, Hey, what’s going on here? And you’re like, Oh, this is like, this is not really what I would want to be doing. Here’s the upgraded version that would actually make sense for the students and like, Hey, can can we get funding for that? Can we make that work, and I would also challenge if you’re, even if you’re a part time teacher, or whatever else it is, right show, these things can help like these things can make a difference, because people do notice those and they do pay attention. And if the right person sees it, then that can be the biggest shift, right? Like that can be all it takes.

Ixchell Reyes
Right. And I wanted to mention one more thing, when students feel that they can share and and have freedom, they’ll tell their classmates about it who are in a different class. And pretty soon those classmates go to that classroom to hang out because there’s freedom there often had, you know, colleagues, perhaps sometimes saying why? Why don’t you kick your students out break that you need a break? Well, I don’t talk to the students during my break, they just come in there. And but while I’m sitting there, I’m often listening to see what they’re talking about. And oftentimes, they go to spaces where I’ve posted something, and that sparks a conversation. And I’ve seen so many times a student who didn’t know someone else get introduced to someone, and then a friendship ignites or is the beginning of a friendship, just you know, a short friendship. But now there’s a connection to someone else, and they are having conversations. And I didn’t force them to have a conversation in English. They’re doing it on their own. And then of course, that transfers to outside of the classroom, which I think is one of my, my happiest moments when I overhear that. And I’m not even I didn’t even do anything. Yeah. But I’m just an observer. And it’s like, this is why this is why it’s worth it. putting the effort into it.

Brent Warner
Absolutely. So. So again, it’s really start cheap, right? Start with the simple things you can do it don’t have to get super fancy. If you if you say hey, I think this can work i Hey, I see we have a funding mechanism in place to be able to get cool things, try it out in a room pilot it right. There’s all sorts of parts to this, but it is a huge and it makes a big difference to the students. As they’re engaging. Like you’re saying, hey, I want to spend more time in this place. It’s inviting. And then when they start working in writing on the walls, then it’s like it’s their work, right? It’s, it’s their classroom, by definition is theirs because it’s all filled with their own work and their own writing and whatever else it is so so again, I hope that this conversation just kind of opens up the potential for like, What can a classroom design do to change the dynamics right? I think that’s really the thing that we want

Ixchell Reyes
to see and avoid Pinterest. Because I don’t cost you so much money. You don’t need that.

Brent Warner
Goal learning was a Harry Potter themed classroom. I was like that is really cool.

Ixchell Reyes
It’s imagined when you have to take it down at the end of the summer. Oh my gosh,

Brent Warner
yeah. So Whether it’s empty room in empty room out for me. Yeah, lots to play with here. But I hope, I hope that sparked a few ideas.

Ixchell Reyes
All right, it is time for our fun finds. And of course, the Johnny Depp and cambered trial just wrapped up. And although I’m not a fan of either, I’m neutral. But a YouTube video popped up with this lawyer or attorney or former prosecutor, I think Emily D. Baker. And she just had such an interesting commentary. Very educational, I sat there and watched her and I learned so much about the court system. And that’s why she was my fun, fine, she does, she breaks down all sorts of pop culture type of cases, which I think is quite, you know, she’s a millennial, so she likes to break them down and see how the law now can or can’t protect or should change or hasn’t changed, especially when it comes to our tech world tech run world and pop culture. So it’s, it was so interesting, you could really learn a lot from her. But the fun find was her Ctrl F yourself shirt. Okay, so another geeky thing to add to my collection of geeky shirts.

Brent Warner
Nice Ctrl F yourself

I don’t know how to follow that. But so mine, you might be surprised by this. I’m going to pick a musician. And I have without my own knowledge or consent fallen in love with Harry Styles. What? So good, like Harry Styles? Yes. Very good. He has a new album out called Harry’s name.

Ixchell Reyes
I know, you know who Harry Styles is.

Brent Warner
I? Well, we can get into this I guess like, but like, I mean, he’s like the modern Bowie, right? Like he is he has like all this interesting, eclectic taste in music. And it goes all over the place from like, 80s synth pop to like, ZZ Top style rock to like. Andrew bird folk style, like, I mean, it’s just really, like, I just keep being like, blown away. I’m like, Well, this is really good. And I remember actually seeing him a couple of years ago, showed up on Saturday Night Live, I think and I was like, Oh, why? Why do I like this. He’s very intentional. He’s very, like, solid with his music. And it’s kind of like, am like, it’s got a an aura, an ambience to his music. So like, I don’t love all of the lyrics. It’s not like it’s the most amazing like, like insightful lyrics in that sense. But like, the musical style and the buildings and everything is so anyways, his new album is I mean, obviously Harry, Harry Styles needs me promoting his, his music and it’s called Harry’s house and like, if you like, different if you kind of came up in independent music and and, you know, exploring with different styles, I was really surprised. Hairstyles kind of rocks. And I think I’m gonna go see them in concert, me and a bunch of teenage girls, and it’ll be

Ixchell Reyes
there will be millennials there. Don’t

Brent Warner
worry. Yeah, there’ll be millennials there. So I’ll be good with that.

Ixchell Reyes
They’ll be the oldest one of them for sure. It’d be like, Wait, so how did you find out about hairstyles like this? I gotta know.

Brent Warner
Well, yeah. So like I said, a couple years ago, first time was on Saturday Night Live. Okay, so it was passively I was like, oh, that’s like, surprisingly good. And then I kind of forgot about it. And then an interview came up with him on NPR, and they were playing samples of the songs while I was talking through them. And I’m like, and I was like, actually listening to the songs at the same time. I’m like, it’s kind of RAD. So I downloaded it and I listened to it and and yeah, it’s it’s a very solid album. So

Ixchell Reyes
This is a judgment free zone. So I applaud your broad taste in music

Brent Warner
I’m growing.

Ixchell Reyes
So BTS next?

Brent Warner
Let’s wrap up the show.

Ixchell Reyes
All right, you could win a one of a kind DIESOL pin by leaving us a review on Apple podcasts. If you’re giving us a shout out any other way, which we also love. Please be sure to tag us on social media. We are on all the platforms.

Brent Warner
We do have a patreon if you want to support the show. It’s available on diesel.org somewhere you can find us and we also have show notes of course for this episode@diesol.org slash 63. That’s the number six three. And of course you can listen to us at voice at Canada as well. You can find us on Twitter. The show is at @DIESOLpod and I am @BrentGWarner.

Ixchell Reyes
I am Ixchell at @Ixy_pixy, that’s i x y underscore p i x y. In Malay thank you is terima kasih; terima kasih for tuning into the diesel podcast.

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