Not only does behavior communicate, so does physical structure. I often ask my training participants what they thought was going to happen during my workshop when they first walked into the training room. I wanted to know what they could surmise about the training just by looking at the physical structure of the room.
Without saying a single word, the following is what they could assume:
1. A presentation was going to take place at the front of the room.
2. There would be several people in the room taking notes.
3. Attention would be drawn to charts on the wall and sample materials on
tables around the room.
4. There would be no extensive physical activity based on the placement of the
tables and chairs.
5. They would be allowed to have snacks and drinks during the session.
6. They would be taking materials and handouts with them.
7. They were supposed to sign in.
When students walk into your classroom, what do they assume just by looking
around? Are there wide-open spaces? Wide-open spaces communicate that they
are allowed to run, yell, throw things, and socialize. Undefined spaces communicate
that the student is not expected to remain in an area for any given amount time. I
recently walked into a classroom for students with emotional disorders in a middle
school setting. The room had no defined spaces and was wide open. I was called
in to consult with this teacher because she was having problems with her students
being out of control. The decibel level in the room was quite high and no one was
on task. The students were verbally taunting each other and constantly moving
about the room when they were supposed to be seating and on task. The room
communicated to these students that this behavior was acceptable even though the
teacher was trying to tell them differently.
Below are some before and after pictures to give you an idea of how I use the
concept of Rooms within a Room classroom design.