Last November, I showed you an incredible classroom that blew me away to such a degree that it caused me to launch the Classroom Eye Candy series. Since then, I have heard from dozens of other teachers who wanted to share their classrooms as well. To keep the site from being overrun by classroom photos, and to keep the series special and exciting, I have decided to only feature classrooms when they completely blow me away.
So the time has come for the next room, and it’s a rock star! Although this 5th grade classroom also emphasizes flexible seating (which is NOT a requirement for this series, by the way), it has a very different vibe from the first one.
To start with, it has a name.
Without further ado, I bring you The Learning Lounge.
Name: Sherah Cash
Job Title: 5th Grade Science and Social Studies Teacher
School Location: Columbus, Georgia
Q: Tell me about the evolution of this classroom. What was your thinking when you put it together this way?
A: The creation of this space developed as I began my second year of teaching. During this time, I had from 25-30 students in each class period, so space was a valuable asset. Seeing that desks took up a majority of the space, I decided to eliminate them. The students welcomed the space and really enjoyed the different areas within the space. It gave them more freedom of choice and provided more of a home-like atmosphere in which they felt comfortable to relax.
All photos of students are used with parent permission.
In turn, this relaxed atmosphere produced more conversation, which in turn produced additional learning at a deeper level. After seeing all the benefits of this space, I’ve continued to use this layout concept throughout my career. The students came up with an awesome name for this space; they call it “The Learning Lounge.”
Q: Describe some of the most important spaces in your classroom and how they work. What are your favorite parts of the room? What are your students’ favorite parts?
A: Some of the most important spaces in my classroom are the gathering area up front and the free spaces throughout the room. The gathering area, also referred to as “The Learning Lounge,” is where new concepts are introduced by the teacher and the students feel free to have open conversations, which promotes connections with the content.
The free spaces include all areas of the classroom. During center time, the students are allowed freedom of choice. They select the concepts in which they need additional exposure, whether it be by reading a book or playing a learning game. During this time, students use teacher-made task cards that include previously taught concepts and upcoming content. They use the task cards in conjunction with the materials in the Dr. Who Tardis, such as cool game boards and a variety of game pieces. They can use their creativity by choosing what they want to use and making their own game rules.
Another favorite space in the room would be the Facebook bulletin board which consists of the key people we study throughout social studies. Students often just hang out in that area and discuss their favorite people and the accomplishments they made in history.
Q: Has your classroom always been like this? If not, how is the mood of the room different now that you’ve made this change?
A: My classroom has not always been like this. It became a reality after my first year of teaching. Basically, the change was promoted by needed space and became much more. It has evolved over time, and it changes yearly in its appearance. But, the major change within the space has been the change in the students I teach. The space has promoted the students in being responsible for their own learning. Ultimately, they play a major role in their own learning process and are able to self monitor their progression.
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Q: Where did you get the materials for the room?
A: Most of my furniture came from yard sales and local thrift shops. Recently, I’ve acquired some Hokki Stools from a program called Donors Choose, in which prominent people and businesses can donate to schools of their choice. The Hokki Stools are perfect because they are sturdy and have rounded bases that allow students to move while they learn. They are also portable and can move easily with the students from one location to the other. I also use pop-up tables that can be folded down after usage to allow for that constant freedom of movable space.
Students use clipboards for writing. To make it fun, I splattered paint on them. Most of the games and game boards I created myself using themes that the students would be most interested in.
Q: What else should we know when studying your room?
A: When conducting science experiments, many times I use outdoor space. I also use the hallway for additional space. Students are allowed the freedom of moving the portable furniture to all areas. I create many interactive PowerPoint games to be used on the Smartboard and computer center.
I use The Big Bang Theory to promote science and Dr. Who to promote social studies time travel. Many times the characters are incorporated into the games and content presentations. In addition, I use themed music for transitions. A variety of music is used daily, especially in my lessons. It helps the students remember the concepts taught and serves as a way to retrieve previously learned material.
Here’s a closer look at how Sherah created some of the unique pieces in her room:
Do you have an eye-candy worthy classroom? I have already received dozens of submissions, but I am only choosing classrooms that truly stop me in my tracks. If you would like to submit a classroom for consideration, send me an email through the contact form!
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WOW! I would love to try something like this! Great post!
Wow! Gorgeous room; would love to be in that classroom. It must have been expensive, though, to create all those pieces? Do you have parents contribute to costs, or do you have some fund-raisers?
Most of the furniture pieces came from junk stores. I actually purchased the cube that I transformed for $4 from Habitat for Humanity. The antique cabinet that became “The Tardis” was donated by another teacher. The tires for the cozy tire seats were donated by a friend that owns a tire shop. Basically, my room continues to be a work in progress, but overall it hasn’t been costly.
I love the idea of pop up tables! So simple yet so effective. Personally I find tables to be the greatest space thief. Love all of it!
I love the fact that she taped down her IKEA rugs. Mine are always curling up, but I never would have thought of that. Plus, I am absolutely going to make the cube chairs and TARDIS. She has great vision!
One note (that only nerdy Whovian would notice) is that Doctor Who shouldn’t be abbreviated to Dr. since it’s a name, not a title. ? Yes, I realize I have a problem with grammar!
I read the post, but I did not see anything about her taping down the rugs. I wonder if I am not seeing all of the post.
I don’t think the article mentioned it, but I use the colorful, decorative duck tape that you can find most anywhere. It works great!!
Do these students have to do end-of-year assessments? If so, is this environment allowed, or do the students have to move to a location with a more traditional setting?
They do have end of the year assessments. I’m fortunate that the students take those in the computer lab. Before that time, we’d borrow a classroom, such as the music or art room.
I love this! So many creative details. I love the idea of the pop up tables. I also love the little step stools (I think from Ikea) – I never would have thought of that.
Where did you get the colorful stools? Are they sturdy? I’ve gotten them from Ikea and School Outfitters (plastic/metal combo) and they break so easily.
Very creative. I am wondering if your school has to follow fire and insurance codes? We have very strict rules about materials, fireproofing, and so forth.
We do have fire codes. Sometimes it just depends on who’s monitoring your school. For now, I use the fire proff spray for my fabrics in use. I purchased this online.
I LOVE THIS! Very inspiring! Keep up the good work!
Jenn, you really should post these more often than every other month, especially in summer when we have the time to go poking through yard sales! C’mooonnnn…
Eh, I don’t want to overdo it. I think people will get sick of them if I start churning them out every month. By the summer there will be about five of them. There’s a bunch of other cool ideas on my Classroom Organization/Decor board on Pinterest.
Hi, where can I find your classroom decor on Pinterest? Thanks a mill
Here you go: https://www.pinterest.com/cultofpedagogy/classroom-design-organization/
Love your blog, podcast, Twitter, and Instagram. Very helpful and encouraging. I’d love a couple of posts on classrooms with well developed classroom libraries, like the ones described in Donalyn Miller’s work. I’m trying to find some great images for a presentation on literacy culture in the classroom, but most appear to be of primary classrooms, very few of the middle grades. Thanks!
Sherah, I was wondering if your school had a science lab. How do your science labs work with this wonderful set up? I teach 4th grade Science and Social Studies and would love to make this happen in my room.
Sorry for the late response. I was not aware of this comment. No, we don’t currently have a lab. I use my hallway space when buiding circuits & outdoor space when exploring earth science. Actually, we use the outdoor space most of the time, even for our chemical change experiments.
I love this! Please show a high school version. After seeing your first eye candy classroom blog, I’ve been stewing on it. I really want to make my room like that one, but I can’t work past the limits of my 2×1 tables. Please keep these ideas coming! I vote once a month!
Love! Love! Love!
What an awesome learning space! I am curious as to how the students did on their standardized testing when you had to borrow a classroom and have them sit at desks after having been used to the freedom of choice seating for the school year. I would love to have a flexible seating classroom, but that is one thing that is holding me back.
Sorry for the late response. I wasn’t aware of this message. My kiddos take their standardized tests in the computer lab. Typically their scores have been the highest in the school for both Science & Social Studies.
I love these seating options. I was wondering, where did you get the “enter” and “del” keyboard stools? They’re pretty cool, so I hope you don’t say they’re one of a kind!
Sorry for the late response. I wasn’t aware of this post. I purchased the Del & Alt keys several years ago at Hobby Lobby.
I love your classroom! Thank you for sharing because I got several cool ideas to transform my fifth grade classroom in the fall. I love your Social Studies Facebook idea…Is there a place that I can purchase that?
Yes I’d love to know too? Or is there a template to print off those sheets with the people on them? I’ll be doing projects next year (September) and that is a brilliant idea! Love the room by the way! Fair play, it’s fantastic! Thanks Ami
Sorry for the late response, I wasn’t aware of this post. I created the Facebook template and added the information needed for the key social studies people I teach. I’ll be glad to send you the template. Email me a reminder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Would like more info on how you made the Facebook folks.
I’m transforming library into flexible seating. Can you share where you found the “keyboard stools”?
Could you please send details on how you created your facebook wall.
I too would love to know more about that facebook wall!
Love seeing Sherah’s creativity and dedication to making her classroom the best place for her students to learn! Flexible seating is such an easy and important way to help students. Vidgets offer flexible seating and convert into a chair, desk, stool. You can check them out here http://www.viggicorp.com/
Keep featuring cool classroom lounges! It’s inspiring!
Yes I’d love to know about your FB wall too. Or is there a template to print off those sheets with the people on them? I’ll be doing projects next year (September) and that is a brilliant idea! Love the room by the way! Fair play, it’s fantastic! Thanks a mill, Ami
(Oooppppsss, I wrote this comment above in reply to someone else, didn’t realise, sorry)!
You’re classroom looks amazing. Where did you get the silver hand chairs? Any tips on making a flexible classroom manageable and not look cluttered?
Many of you guys are asking about the FB wall. It’s actually a template. I’d be glad to send it to anyone who’s interested. Just send me a reminder at email@example.com.
Can you send me the template for the FB wall. Your classroom looks great and you have inspired me.
when there is quiz time or exams, where do students take their tests ?
This is a question that comes up a lot! You might want to scroll through the comments at the end of the post. (Sherah would take her class to the computer lab or to classrooms that weren’t in use.) Also, be sure to check out the other Classroom Eye Candy posts to see how other teachers handle tests in a flexible environment.
I loved the ideas of turning old things into things we can use in the classroom. I had something like Dr Who, but I´ll change its name for yours sounds better and I know the students will feel identified with it.
Love your class decoration’s idea!!! Me encantan!
Felicitaciones, es un gran trabajo, laborioso pero que seguramente al final, al ver la alegría, comodidad de los niños, será de gran gratificación personal e institucional.
¡Gracias por leer!