St Therese Catholic Primary Sadlier-Miller’s students bend their classroom spaces, not the rules, for a more flexible approach to learning.
The refurbished spaces include reading nooks, glass-walled quiet rooms, desks that can be arranged in small groups or long rows, computers and tablets, and verandah areas to bring learning outside.
“It’s a lot more inviting for the children,” said Kindergarten teacher Georgina Golding.
“If they feel like sitting on the stage with a pillow they can. There are different tables to incorporate different types of group work. The more popular space would be the dramatic play corner. At the moment we’ve got a kindy city which is exploring ‘push and pull’ – the concept of how things move.”
The section, piled with Lego blocks, toy cars and plastic road mats encourages co-operative play, where students work with others, brainstorm and explore through trial and error. Parents are invited to see what they’ve made at the end of the day.
Year 5 students have researched rainforests and written blogs on microbiology in groups. A student-nominated ‘Word of the week’ is written on the glass bi-fold doors, which are sometimes used to separate the two classes, in pink liquid chalk. Teacher Amanda Valastro said after 20 minutes of learning content the children get to enquire, and must work together to answer questions. They use a pod area for independent reading.
We use the classrooms in different ways for every single lesson, and the ease of transition means we can share resources across the grade easily.
“It’s a more flexible learning environment,” she said. “In this case they’re with their friends but for Mathematics we also group them according to their ability. When the bell does go they’re usually so engaged we have to tell them to stop and pack up.”
Year 2 students learn about place value in Mathematics by rotating through games and tasks that students like Brianna Munbler, 7, are quick to call fun. “We get three Uno cards and whoever makes the biggest number gets a point,” she said. “It’s fun, and when we work as groups we learn a lot of things.”
Year 2 teacher Kathryn Mason said lessons included a lot of hands-on activities and group work that was both ability-based and mixed. “We find it’s more meaningful for them, therefore they retain the information they’re learning,” she said. “The activities are to get them physically doing rather than just sitting at a desk with pen and paper.”
Year 3 student Jaden Le, 8, likes the improvements to his classroom.
“It looks neat and tidy and I’m glad we don’t need to walk very long to the other class,” he said. “My favourite part is when we get free time and we can play games on the iPad. I like being with both classrooms together because we can share stuff and help each other and we can make a lot of friends.” Brooke Shepherd, 8, said she liked to use the breakout room to read silently during literacy groups. Eswali Nadan, 8,agreed.
“It’s so quiet someone else has to come inside and tell you it’s time to pack up,” she said. “We swap around every day for reading groups. Our classroom didn’t have colour, or as many whiteboards or the room in the middle before.”
While some Year 6 students make synonym chains for English, thesaurus in hand, others complete Lexile reading ability tests on laptops. Teacher Kelly Littlewood said the test adjusts based on students’ answers to assess both comprehension and reading level.
“If they’re getting the questions correct it makes them more difficult so they are challenged,” she said. “We use the classrooms in different ways for every single lesson, and the ease of transition means we can share resources across the grade easily and the children can be grouped according to their needs.”