This past week, I visited Burley Elementary School located in Chicago, Illinois. It’s a PreK-8 public school that is well-known for its 1:1 iPad program
and its turn around in student achievement results
. I’ll write more about their 1:1 iPad program in another post, but for now, I’d like to share the aspect that immediately stands out when you enter their school.
Even though their building is over 125 years old, their classrooms are incredibly warm, inviting learning spaces. They are nothing like traditional classroom spaces.
Several years ago, as part of their buildings turn around plans, teacher study teams created a new teacher designed curriculum. They also created a list of things they wanted to see happen for every student, in every classroom, every day. This list included: read aloud, independent reading, small group work, and access to a classroom library. In order to accommodate these needs, they also changed their classroom layouts. No more rows of traditional student chairs – they were replaced by large meeting places, independent reading areas, and small group learning zones within each classroom.
If you’re interested in more about rethinking your classroom spaces, I would also encourage you to visit….
A first grade room that’s as warm and inviting as they come..
No standard student desks – just a variety of small furniture pieces.
Each classroom has a large meeting space, which commonly has a large rug/carpet as well as soft furniture.
Even in the hallways there are small nooks for small group or individual work.
Each classroom has a high quality classroom library to give student access to quality literature each day.
Each room has at least one couch and comfortable seating.
Another view of comfortable furnishing with their classroom library.
We joined a group of about 17 that toured Burley classrooms this past week.
Even when student desks were used, they were clustered for small group work and there was still a large group meeting area with carpet and a couch.
Another shot of anchor papers and lights used to divide the classroom into different learning zones.
Need headphones? Visit the headphone lending tree!
Notice how this table was taken down to approx 10 inches.
A variety of drapes and other materials were commonly used to divide the classrooms into sections that served different purposes.
Notice the soft pillow seats used with this shortened table.
Many classrooms do NOT use their district provided ceiling light fixtures – they reported that the lighting was too much. Instead, many classrooms used small lamps to provide more comfortable learning spaces.
A picture looking down on a small nook created for partner learning.
A comfortable reading nook.
A science inquiry station.
Another warm, inviting area within a 1st grade classroom.
As you can see through these decorated windows, Burley Elementary is a neighborhood school.
Door ways leading to the stairwell.
This year they received a small patch of turf – otherwise, they have no grass for their playground.
The hallways are wide and spacious at Burley, in fact, they are often used for pull groups and learning activities.
Our tour concluded with a debriefing session with their teachers.
A stitched panoramic photo of one of the 1st grade classrooms.
Another stitched photo showing the use of anchor papers to divide classroom into work zones.
During our visit, we ran into Amber Cordell, a Valley High Graduate, who now teaches at Burley Elementary. From left: Brian Abeling, Annie Orsini, Amber Cordell, Brooke Dey, and Adam Nidey.