Amy Skillicorn: Latin Classroom Transformation

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This post is part of our summer 2019 series showcasing unique classrooms. Be sure to check out all our teachers who have been selected to see what they’ve done in their rooms.

Classroom with 4 desks creating a table, photo of the Colosseum being projected, and several lights that look like candles

Amy Skillicorn is no stranger when it comes to a good classroom transformation. As a matter of fact, on her website, she has an entire section devoted to the topic and what she’s done in her classroom!
Make sure you check it out here.

1. Describe your classroom set up:

When I prepare a classroom transformation, my favorite desk setup is with 2-3 desks lined up together pushed against the wall. This way, the students can work effectively in groups without becoming distracted. 

desks against the wall with Latin blue and gold backdrop on wall

2. Why did you choose this particular layout?

I did not like what I had originally planned for my January Pirates Classroom Transformation, and so I asked a colleague his thoughts. He shared that during History DBQ Labs, he sets up his desks in this way, and so I tried it out. It was a complete success! I love that it creates so much free space!

Desks and chairs set up in table arrangements with large banner that reads "Pirates of the Mediterranean"
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3.  What is your favorite part of your design?

The atmosphere of the room is everything. When you walk into one of these setups, there is a peace afforded by the empty space and group work stations. While the students know they are about to use their brain and everything they have ever learned in my class for 50 minutes straight, the setup makes them excited to do it!

Desks and chairs set up as tables with pictures and symbols of Latin displayed

4.  Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

Classroom transformations are the most joyful days for both my students and for me as a teacher. I try to complete a new classroom transformation every month, and I always include several WOW factors. Latin can be so tedious as a subject; I love creating experiential learning whenever possible! I think what students love most about this particular design (What I call “grammar labs”, in which the desks are in lines 2-3 desks wide against the wall) is that there is a balance of excitement and productivity. In an everyday classroom, it’s hard to get students excited without them becoming distracted and it’s hard to get them productive in a way that makes them excited. What this classroom transformation setup allows is students to experience a new atmosphere that has a built-in wow factor (the decorations and prizes) while they are working productively with their peers. 

5.  What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design?

My biggest advice is to watch what other out-of-the-box teachers are doing. I watched 12 other teachers this year, in classrooms for students aged 5-15, and I walked out of every observation with new ideas!

Desks and chairs set up as tables with pictures and symbols of Latin displayed
Desks and chairs set up as tables with pictures and symbols of Latin displayed

For more inspiration, make sure you check out Amy’s Classroom Transformation Photo Gallery

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