10 features of a flexible classroom

A flexible, empathetic environment can work wonders for learning. Ginny Bootman offers her tips on how to achieve it

Ginny Bootman

Girl doing the splits

My classroom practice was recently referred to as “flexible”, which got me thinking about what makes my classroom seem that way. 

I think it is concerned with children feeling safe and secure in their environment. 

Nothing here will come as a great surprise but I thought I’d share my classroom practice.

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 So here are my top 10 features of a flexible classroom:

  1. I have no defined teacher desk. This works so well for me as I have flexibility to move round the classroom as necessary. This allows me to work with children when I perceive that they need help.

    This can be emotional as well as academic. It also allows me to unpick the dynamics in the classroom and disperse any altercations that may be brewing. By being fluid it does ensure that every child knows that they are being valued equally in our setting.

  2. I refer to wherever I am sitting as the “help desk”; any child can pop over to see me. I don’t do queues so if I am busy they write their name on the whiteboard and I ask them to come over when I am free. This also encourages children to help one another, which is a great trait to encourage in children.

  3. I work in an upper key stage 2 classroom, but we make many of our resources (items such as pencil sharpeners, rubbers, counters, dice pencils and so on) accessible by storing them in clear plastic goldfish bowls. This means any child can access any equipment easily. The children love this.

  4. When reading books are not needed, for example during art lessons, they are placed in a shoe tidy that hooks over the door. They are out of the way but once again easily accessible. Every child knows where their reading book is, which is important.

  5. Children are actively encouraged to work with a variety of pairings and groups. When in these different states, they can decide who will record the work. This takes away the pressure of always having to record thoughts.

  6. Making your own whiteboard resources aids flexibility. Printing off a blank grid and putting it in a plastic wallet gives children a write-on wipe-off grid for co-ordinates, perimeter or area. The children love this because it is very low stress as their work can be wiped off.

  7. Move the tables. I know it can seem a bit crazy, but why not? Who decreed that tables have to remain in the same configuration for time immemorial? 

  8. Allow children to sit on the floor sometimes. This allows them to explore their environment and feel comfortable during their learning.

  9. Slipper Friday. Again, why not? My class love wearing slippers on a Friday and so do I. It is seen as such a treat to wear slippers or walk around in socks if we so wish. I love it when one child suddenly remembers and announces it to the rest of us. Sometimes there is a rush of excitement as my slippers are presented to me with great pomp and circumstance. 

  10. Write on the table with whiteboard pen. The sheer delight crossed with seeming sense of mischievousness at writing on their desks with a whiteboard pen is delightful to watch. It is a new dimension to learning which children thrive on.

A flexible classroom is a room of delights, of experiences alongside a safeness that children relish. None of these ideas are groundbreaking or new.

However, together for me they form a safe, calm environment for my children in which learning is happy, meaningful and safe.

Ginny Bootman is Sendco of two schools in Evolve Multi Academy Trust in Northamptonshire. She tweets @sencogirl

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