TCHERS' VOICE / Class Culture

#5: Thinking About Physical Space (Back-to-School Countdown)


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Editor's Note: Find the full 10-Day Back-to-School Countdown here.

In This Vlog with Sarah Brown Wessling:

How do I create a learning space that becomes another home for my students? What do I want the classroom to look like? Why? How will the physical layout support the learning purpose and classroom culture goals?

Here are some of the ways I'm thinking about our space and how it will affect our classroom culture:

  • I organize my students' desks in my classroom in either a circle, half circle or in pods so they can talk to each other.
  • I'm starting the year with blank walls. As students create new work, it will be put up on the walls and serve as a record of our year.

Your Turn:

1. Think about a poignant experience you've had and how the role of physical environment contributed to your entire experience. Please share your story in the comments section below.

2. Read our most recent #TchLIVE chat archive. It was all about building classroom culture.

Sarah Brown Wessling is a high school English teacher in Johnston, Iowa. She is the 2010 National Teacher of the Year and is the Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel. Connect with Sarah on Twitter – @SarahWessling.


  • Private message to Sarah Minnick
Bill you made me think about how to incorporate your tree trimming and bring that organic, natural feel into the classroom. Have your tree live in your classroom by taking those pruned branches and designing the tree on a wall of your classroom.
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  • Private message to Bill Anciaux
This summer I pruned the large, solitary elm that has stood, neglected, in our back acreage for years. After removing the low branches and thinning out the suckers and dead limbs in the canopy above, I stood back and admired the beautiful tree that remained. Since then, my children have enjoyed climbing it and, together, we have shared a picnic lunch in its shade. That is one poignant moment I take with me from this summer -- sitting in the cool shade beneath the elm, eating sandwiches and chatting with my daughters about nothing in particular. I snapped a pic of them and posted it to Facebook with the caption, "Almost heaven".
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