Setting Up the Classroom

A frequent concern from educators about Active Learning is how to set up a classroom to accommodate the equipment and learning environments utilized in this approach. Our best advice is to get creative. Few classrooms serving children who need this approach have ONLY children who need Active Learning equipment and materials. Most have a wide variety of students with very different needs because of their varied developmental levels. Here are a few suggestions and ideas:

Share Space

In most schools there are gyms or therapy rooms where specific pieces of Active Learning equipment can be set up and also stored. Talk to your building administrator to see if this can happen. Items such as the HOPSA dress and track, Support Bench, and Essef Board can be placed in these areas for multiple children to use. Many gyms already have hooks for swings and ropes that can allow for specialty equipment to be set up. 

At Penrickton multiple lids for the Little Room are available to be changed out to fit each child's needs.
At Penrickton multiple lids for the Little Room are available to be changed out to fit each child’s needs.

Sharing spaces can save money if multiple students from different classrooms could use the equipment. At Penrickton, for example, instead of purchasing a Little Room for each child, they have 3-4 Little Rooms configured at various heights and sizes with a lid for each child. This allows them to quickly reset the space after each child completes time playing in the Little Room.

 

Steal a Corner

A child and adult play together on a Resonance Board.
A child and adult play together on a Resonance Board.

In some classrooms a specific corner of the room can be set up with a space for a Resonance Board with Position Boards or Activity Wall surrounding it. Using a set of shelves as a room divider also provides a place to store materials in bins. It is good for the child to have independent time to play on the Resonance Board with a variety of objects. This space could be consider a “desk” just for her.

You may also want to use suit cases on wheels to store materials in that can be moved out of the way easily. This also allows you to keep one child’s objects separate from another’s until they can be cleaned at the end of the day. Suit cases such as these also allow you to store objects in a nearby closet and retrieve them before using. That way you don’t have to deal with them being in the way throughout the day.

Centers

A music center contains various instruments that can be banged, plucked, strummed, or shaken.
A music center contains various instruments that can be banged, plucked, strummed, or shaken.

If space allows and if you have multiple children using an Active Learning approach in a classroom, consider creating centers that the children can rotate through. These might include a kitchen center, hygiene center, music or sensory center, water or sand play, gross motor center, and/or dining center. It all depends on the amount of space available to you and your imagination.

This also allows therapists and paraprofessionals to have designated places to work with the child on a specific activity when they are present. 

Panorama shot of an Active Learning classroom space at Narbethong State Special School in Woolloongabba, Australia.
Panorama shot of an Active Learning classroom space at Narbethong State Special School in Woolloongabba, Australia.
Panorama shot of an Active Learning classroom space at Narbethong State Special School in Woolloongabba, Australia.
Panorama shot of an Active Learning classroom space at Narbethong State Special School in Woolloongabba, Australia.

Active Learning Classroom Tour

At one point at TSBVI, there was an Active Learning room where multiple teachers shared the space. It was set up in centers. This video provides a brief tour of this space.

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By Suzanne Becker, TSBVI

A TVI and classroom teacher describes how she serves her secondary-level students who are visually and multiply impaired using Lilli Nielsen’s Active Learning approach along with other strategies. 

See Classroom Centers and Activities for Older Students for examples for teenage learners (13-22 years of age).