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    open classrooms
    By Julianne

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    I taught (briefly) in an open space school, and my children attended one. In each case the teachers had done as you note - made "walls" from whatever was available. A couple of ideas that seemed to work for them and for me:

    Keep your loudest activities next to the permanent wall if you have one. Try to block that area off on two or three sides with sound absorbing things like file cabinets or bookshelves.

    Place your desk in the most secure location you have in your room. Since you don't use it much during the day its location isn't an issue when you're teaching. But you don't want students and others to have easy access to it when you leave your space. Always angle the desk so that children would have to go all the way around it to open the drawers. Beware of what you keep on top of your desk and of all the items you keep on display in your room. They are much less secure in an open setting.

    Try to create some quiet work spaces for student centers. It's very hard to concentrate on silent reading or on journal writing if you can see and hear everything happening in an open classroom. Use lower student seating (the floor, beanbags, low benches) and taller divider pieces such as student bookshelves and chart stands to create these areas.

    Finally, you might want to talk to your school board about the whole concept of open space schools. Several years ago a fire started in one such school very near my home. The entire school was ablaze in minutes. The fire department said the fire spread so quickly because there were few interior walls to slow it and all the "walls" the teachers had created were of highly flamable materials (books, paper, cork, etc.) The fire started in a faulty light fixture on a Saturday. If it had occurred on a school day the fire department said lives would have been lost because it spread too fast for people to evacuate the building! Our district immediately began renovating their remaining open space schools, adding walls and ensuring that each school had adequate fire sprinklers. I add this last because I think you should be aware - the chances of a fire are slim, but it did happen here.



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