Big Learning in Small Spaces
When it comes to learning spaces, there is no one size fits all. From cozy apartments to expansive compounds, living spaces come in as many sizes and shapes as the humans who occupy them. While creating a dedicated learning space in a large home certainly allows for many options, it is also quite easy to establish a functional learning zone in even the smallest of spaces by keeping these three essential “S’s” in mind: site, storage, and students.
When a home’s space is limited, the natural inclination is to allow a student to work in his or her bedroom. However, the importance of removing the learning zone from the bedroom cannot be underestimated. Asking a student to remain focused in the same room that houses toys, games, clothes, and any number of entertainment options (not to mention a cozy bed and pillows) is like trying to fit ten pounds of rice into a five pound bag. This is especially true for middle and high school students.
Whether it be the kitchen table, a small desk in the hallway, or a functional closet outfitted with a desk-height shelf, a quiet learning site separate from the distractions of the bedroom will lead to greater concentration and dedication to the task of learning. Take a few moments to look around your home. Is there an empty corner somewhere that could fit a small corner table? Can your living room be rearranged so that a desk can be added behind the sofa? Does your hallway seem just wide enough to add a narrow work table of sorts? Is that linen closet only half full? While the kitchen is always an option, any space can become a learning space with a bit of creativity and a trip to the local thrift store!
Make no doubt about it, storage is vital to the home learning space. Having the necessary supplies and manipulatives on hand and easily accessible is essential to independent learning. There is nothing worse than preparing to begin a science experiment with your student and realizing that you have no idea where you’ve placed the magnifying glass that was shipped to you! Storing materials and supplies in a centralized, organized space will go a long way toward ensuring that daily lessons are completed in a timely manner.
In a small space with limited storage, take a few moments to look up - and then look down. Look up. Do you have wall space available? An empty wall with a shelf installed strategically at the Learning Coach’s height is perfect for hands-on manipulatives that are strictly reserved for lesson time. Do you have an entertainment center in your living room? Baskets placed on top become storage areas by subject. Now look down - can you slide a storage container under the couch? If so, label it “science supplies” and never again wonder where you’ve stored the magnet you’ll need two months from now. Is your learning space in the kitchen? That low cabinet that you have to strain your back to access is the perfect storage space for little ones who are independent and eager enough to access their own supplies.
The ideas and options for storage are so extensive that an entire article in the “Plan Your Space” summer series will be devoted to this very topic. When it comes to storage in small spaces, keep it simple but functional. Aim for organization over beauty. The more organized and accessible your manipulatives and supplies, the smoother your independent learning days will be.
Here is the good news - if you are the Learning Coach of a school-aged student, you already have this “S” covered. A ready and willing student is all the better! Did you know that there is a strong correlation between student engagement and student achievement? This correlation remains strong for all grade levels and across all subject areas. Engaging students in the process of planning the learning space can help students take greater ownership of the learning process, experience greater success, and build excitement for the year to come.
Spend time with your student planning the site and storage for the year ahead. Make it an event to look forward to by scheduling a family night to plan your space, complete with special snacks and treats! This time spent preparing for the school year ahead will go a long way toward your student enjoying big learning in small spaces for months to come.
We, at HTA, value our Learning Coaches as vital partners in the education of children. We are committed to providing ongoing support as you plan and create your student’s learning zone. Small, medium, or large - the learning space is vital to a student’s success in a blended learning environment. Thank you for letting HTA partner with you as you continue the important task of of creating a functional learning place in your own unique space.
We would love to see photos of your family’s planning night on social media! Share them by using the hashtag #hta_PlanYourSpace and tag HTA on Instagram (@htacharter), Facebook (@HawaiiTechnologyAcademyHTA), or Twitter (@htacharter).
HTA has a new online place to help you “Plan Your Space!” Follow HTA’s new Home Learning Spaces Pinterest Board for ideas for creating functional learning spaces. Be sure to check back weekly as we update the board to coordinate ideas with our “Plan Your Space” articles. https://www.pinterest.com/htacharter/home-learning-spaces/
1 Dyer, Kathy. "Research Proof Points – Better Student Engagement Improves Student Learning #Edchat". Teach. Learn. Grow.. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 June 2017.
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