Sunday, August 21, 2016

Flexible Learning Environments on a Budget

Flexible learning environments (FLE) are fairly popular right now. Classrooms around the country are utilizing tables, standing work stations, coffee tables, couches and more to create more of a Starbucks learning environment. Search for flexible learning environments on Pinterest and you will find a variety of ideas for creating and managing them in an elementary classroom.

For as long as I can remember I have wished to create more of a Starbucks learning environment and pined for couches, hokki stools, and coffee tables for my classroom. After listening to Dr. Will's podcast interview of Kayla Delzer, I realized that I've got it all wrong. I made the mistake of believing that furniture is what creates the FLE.

So what does make a FLE? Choice. Giving out students choice in where they work and helping them understand how those choices impact their learning is the true power of FLE. It's not the soft lighting, bean bags, yoga chairs that make it flexible (although those really create an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere). It's our thinking about what helps our students learn.

After listening to Kayla I realized something. Although I may not have the furniture that if really like for my ideal FLE, I still have a FLE. How's that?

My students can choose where they engage in learning. When you walk into my classroom you may see students at or under a table, on the rug, standing by a tall shelf or countertop, or sitting or laying on the countertop. You may even see these same students engaged in learning in one space during readers' workshop and a completely different one during math workshop and maybe still a different one during science or social studies. It all depends on what they are doing and what best helps them learn.

Here I was fretting over the fact that I don't have some really cool (and physically beneficial) pieces of furniture to create an ideal FLE and lost sight of the fact that I already had one. I am willing to bet that you may already have a FLE, too! What is your FLE like?