Turning old, dark classrooms into a light modern learning space has had a transformative effect on Stage 3 teachers and students at All Saints Catholic Primary School Liverpool.
The new Years 5 and 6 learning spaces are light, open, flexible, colourful, adaptable and well equipped with technology and resources and both teachers and students couldn’t imagine returning to a more conventional classroom.
Completed in 2015, the area includes six classrooms with glass walls that can be opened into larger spaces with a range of seating choices from booth-like lounges, to stools, chairs and desks that can be arranged into a multitude of different groupings.
Interactive software is projected onto each classroom’s whiteboard and there are two interactive televisions across the stage. Outside the classrooms are flexible learning areas with curved benches and bean bags where the students can work together or individually. The philosophy of the new space is on self organised learning with the students moving between the different classrooms for streamed Maths, Writing and Spelling and to the high school for extension classes. Each student files their work in a digital portfolio and they can access Apple Mac laptops, chrome books or bring in their own device.
Melissa Hall, one of the school’s three Year 6 teachers said they had three goals for the new space – that it fostered authentic learning, integrated technology and promoted student well being. From the reactions of the students and teachers it appears it has achieved all three goals with Year 6 students describing the space as modern, flexible, astonishing, magnificent and alive.
Melissa Hall said the students have taken more ownership of their learning and there is more sharing of expertise among the students and between the teachers and very few issues with behaviour.
“In the middle of a lesson if a student comes up with a great solution for understanding a topic we’ll open up the doors and share the strategy or other ways of tackling a problem. We also open up the doors to have debates between the classes.
“It also takes a lot of pressure off the teachers as we problem-solve on the spot, share resources, programming and jointly assess the students. The strengths of the teachers can be shared across the three classes and it has encouraged more discussion between teachers ensuring programs are constantly being modified to suit the students.
If a student comes up with a great solution for understanding a topic we’ll open up the doors and share the strategy.
Improved links with All Saints Catholic College which is on the same site as the primary school has also had a positive effect with challenge classes provided and access to the expertise of the high school teachers – and teachers from both schools learning from each and adapting lessons to help streamline and meet student needs.
“The new space and focus on authentic learning, integrated technology and student wellbeing has energised and motivated both the students and teachers’ passion for learning,” Melissa Hall said.
We asked All Saints’ students ‘What do you love about your learning space?’
Mia Nikolic: “The open spaces and streaming for Maths, Spelling and Writing is great. I get to learn new things from three different teachers not just one. I love sitting in the booth as I can get comfortable to do my work.”
Seth Argana: “I love being able to move from class to class and having so much variety in the way we learn. I like the bean bags because they are adjustable and fit your body.”
Riddhi Sarode: “It’s great having lots of places to interact with other students and I love the flexible space outside the classrooms. If we don’t like sitting in a chair we can come outside and do our work on a bean bag or sit on a high chair, which is my favourite as I feel like I’m on top of the world.”
Billy Rigava: “The space has a good vibe and I like being able to go into a class to share what I am doing and sit in a bean bag to do my work. The vibrant, open space and different teachers has helped improve our work.”
How All Saints’ learning space promotes authentic learning
- Peer modelling with students learning from each through groupings in different classes and in the shared area
- Student access to all teachers across the grade so they can learn in different ways and connect to teachers’ expertise
- Streaming of Maths, Writing and Spelling allows differentiation, challenge and opportunity for compacting and extending the curriculum
- Flexible environment provides more space for group work, varied learning spaces, different learning styles, and student comfort with a varied choice of seating
- ICT devices provide access to contemporary learning and contact with the world, up to date information and expertise and collaboration on documents across the grade
- Digital portfolios enable students to share knowledge and discuss with each other through the student website blog