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The Teacher Tip

Establishing a Communal Learning Space

February 9, 2018

Adapted from Project-Based Writing by Liz Prather.

Making your room bear little resemblance to a classroom is a good start. In a project-based learning classroom, the information is being created, manipulated, researched, analyzed, and re-created by each individual student. The classroom arrangement should mirror and support those activities. Although I’m explicit about the respect each student should give to the classroom environment and its occupants, I equally want them to feel comfortable and productive. The best description of my room came from one of my students who wrote that room 303 had “that local corner coffee shop vibe going, where you feel comfy and at home, but there’s still the buzz of other working, living spirits in the room.”

In essence, I want my high school classroom to be a cross between a scientific laboratory and a studio at a writing retreat. We have desks and tables around the room, but also armchairs, beanbags, pillows, and ottomans. There’s a small library with rugs and couches for students who want to lounge as they write. Spaces for whole-group instruction, one-on-one conferencing, and small-group writing meetings are also present. I have an abundance of books and magazines on hand, a tech cart of laptops, and a giant tub of blank writing notebooks. I also have poster boards, index cards, and sticky notes for plotting. I keep a variety of art prints and photographs on hand if students need inspiration, and three giant boxes of writing prompts available to students who need a creative jumpstart. 

To learn more about Project-Based Writing and download a sample chapter, visit 

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