The Classroom Gathering Space is a Kid-Centered Basic
At the heart of a kid-centered classroom is a gathering space. Here students listen, talk, share, and learn from one another, much like we do when gathered around a campfire or a kitchen table.
When we create and invite students into a classroom gathering space, our actions say, ‘We’re we’re in this together. Let’s connect and collaborate. Let’s decide how we want things to be here. We need everyone’s voice in this conversation. Let’s learn together.”
Why a Gathering Space Matters.
A gathering space is a simple, but powerful kid-centered structure that sets the stage for a caring and connected community of learners to be nurtured during whole group instruction.
Stories are shared, connections are made, and interaction are encouraged.
Here there is easy access to a conversational partner.
Here kids can easily participate in co-creating anchor charts or other artifacts of learning.
Here there is a close up view of shared texts, read aloud texts and other teaching materials.
And here there is a sense of belonging and togetherness.
A Gathering Space Invites More Equity Into Our Classrooms
The gathering space softly invites more equity into our classrooms.
Gone are the days of teacher in the front of the room standing at a blackboard or podium – holding all the power and control- while students quietly wither in isolated rows and columns of desks, many of them stretching an entire classroom’s length and countless distractions away.
Thank goodness we know better now, so we can do better now.
The gathering space gives students up close access to us and each other and us up close access to them and their conversations. Our proximity to each other is a proactive engagement and classroom culture strategy.
To gather means to bring together.
In the gathering space we bring students together with each other, with content, and with ideas.
When we invite children to gather on the floor and we come decide to sit with them, we choose equity over power. We choose proximity over distance. We choose community over isolation. We choose the messiness of children’s voices over the predictability of our own.
Sometimes intermediate level teachers worry that their students have outgrown the idea of a gathering space, both physically and developmentally. I suspect they have not.
Do we ever outgrow the need for connection and feeling part of something greater than ourselves? Do we ever outgrow needing belonging and connection?
Of course in many classrooms if space is tight and creating an inviting and functional gathering space, especially for older learners, can be a real challenge. But this kid-centered structure is possible in any classroom where a teacher believes in its benefits.
Support for Getting Started With a Gathering Space
In Let’s Come Together! The Start Up Guide to Creating A Classroom Gathering Space That Really Works I share ideas about how to make a gathering space work, even if your classroom is tiny, your roster is long . . . or both!
You’ll want to grab a copy of this free download if:
- You’re wondering how to get started creating a gathering space in your classroom.
- You’re wondering how to make functional refinements to your current gathering space.
- You provide mentoring or coaching to other teachers who may be designing or remodeling their classroom meeting space.
The download includes:
- Collecting materials and supplies for the gathering space
- Considerations for choosing your just-right gathering space location
- Suggestions for helping students manage boundaries
- Tips for creating gathering spot agreements with students
- Problem-solving ideas for crowded classrooms
- Classroom Gathering Space Reflection Tool
Let’s come together! Let’s build kid-centered classrooms with a dedicated space for gathering, connection, and interaction at the core.
I’d love to hear your gathering space ideas, successes and challenges.