My Unusual Elementary Classroom

By Tim Bedley


In 2007, I set out to transform my classroom into something special.

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Tim Bedley teaches 4th/5th GATE students in Southern California.

No more butcher paper covering the walls.

No more cold hard desks and plastic chairs.

I wanted my classroom to be more like Starbucks than a hospital;

more like a model home than a waiting room.

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So first I painted the walls dark blue and red.

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I painted white ceiling tiles all black.

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At Back-to-School Night I asked if any parents could paint murals.

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One parent was a high school art teacher.

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The finished mural is stunning!

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Another parent was just plain artistic. [White House]

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A third parent was an art major in college. [Capitol Building]

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Capitol almost finished. The detail is amazing.

The artists worked for many hours after school to complete the murals.

The artists worked for many hours after school to complete the murals.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

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Mt. Rushmore

The parents stayed after I left one evening and I returned to a mural of me on the wall. Ugh! I painted over it, but it was a funny stunt.

The parents stayed after I left one evening and I returned to a mural of me on the wall. Ugh! I painted over it, but it was a funny stunt.

The crown of the room contains the words to the Preamble to the Constitution.

The crown of the room contains the words to the Preamble to the Constitution. Framed student artwork adorns the room.

The results: A warm, professional, friendly environment with very few distractions.

The results: A warm, professional, welcoming environment with very few distractions.

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Slowly but surely, I received couch donations to replace the desks.

Students work on their binders while sitting on the comfy couches. Student personal items are stored in plastic drawers purchased from Wal-mart.
Students work on their binders while sitting on the comfy couches. Student personal items are stored in plastic drawers purchased from Wal-mart.

 

A short video walking through my classroom.

I welcome your questions and comments.

11 thoughts on “My Unusual Elementary Classroom

  1. I would have loved to have a classroom of this nature when I was in the classroom! Its not always about pleasing the students’ learning styles but also the teacher’s teaching style!

  2. Wow! Wow! Wow! What an incredible learning environment for your students — so inviting! Love the walls. One question…what would you say is the biggest challenge of having your classroom set up this way, and how do you manage that challenge (Sorry, I guess that’s two questions)?

    Your students are obviously blessed to have a teacher like you. Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas and resources!

    • Hi Brent. Thanks for taking the time to comment and to support my efforts. I really appreciate it.
      One challenge I initially faced was something most would never consider. The noise in my room was deafening. Butcher paper all over the walls deadens the sound. Also, when you paint the walls and the ceiling, you create a bounce back for all the sound in the room. Unpainted walls and ceiling tiles absorb the sound. These factors combined with all the social learning I do in class made multiple simultaneous discussions almost impossible. I considered a couple of solutions (a large curtain along one wall, curtains on the windows, etc.) but it was solved once I traded in all of my desks for couches. The sound is still a bit of a challenge, but nothing like it was initially.
      Another challenge was the lack of student work displayed and other educational reminders that most teachers post. In my opinion, this boils down to a “six of one, half dozen of another” issue. I thrive in a non-cluttered environment, so I just “feel” better in my classroom now. I believe many of my kids feel the same. My students are constantly given the opportunity to share their work with their peers and the world, so the lack of student work on the walls doesn’t seem to be an issue. Lastly, if you post all the educational reminders on the walls, the kids don’t have to rack their brains trying to remember something, they don’t learn to use resources (reference books, Internet, etc.) and they are presented with an overstimulating learning environment that can be a huge distraction during independent work time, instruction and discussion.

      • Thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions, Tim! I know exactly what you mean about the increased sound when there is nothing on the walls. I remember each year on the last day when I’d take down all the butcher paper from the classroom walls — the loud, echoing sound was crazy! And I agree with you about posting student work. You are giving your students the opportunity to share their work, both with each other and online. It’s just not in the traditional way. :-)

        Thanks again, and keep up the great work!

  3. Besides the fact that it looks cool and you like it, was there any research that supports the way you decorated and arranged your room? Do you have any data for improved learning since you made the change? I like your ideas… Just curious about the affect on learning. Thx.

    • I have no research supporting it, other than the personal experience with my students that tells me it has a positive effect. Thanks for commenting Roberta!

  4. Tim – I have a similar learning space in my classroom. Couches, big chairs, coffee tables, etc. I also have some desks for students that prefer a more traditional seat. I love the arrangement. I’m wondering if you are still happy with the colors. I’ve been contemplating something other than beige walls (I, too, hate butcher paper on the walls), but am reluctant to paint. The black on the ceiling interests me too. Thanks for posting.

  5. Hi Kevin. You know, I have had the room painted this way for about 7 years and I’m still happy with it. I love the black ceiling. When I walk into the traditional white ceiling classroom, it just looks dirty for some reason. Thanks for commenting.

  6. I love this! I just got moved to a 3rd grade TAG classroom against my liking. My principal said she wanted change and thought I was the person to do it. I saw your classroom that night, showed it to my principal the next day and she purchased couches and chairs yesterday!! We are a “Priority” school (which means we have not passed our state testing). I can’t wait to get started i n August with my painting!

  7. I too had a room very similar to this and then the Fire Dept. came in and said that because the couches were not up to fire code they all had to be taken out. I am back to round tables, which is better than desks, but I would have preferred to keep my couches.

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