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Central students in Kelly Erickson’s Spanish class have quickly adapted to the room’s non-traditional arrangement.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


The most notable thing about Kelly Erickson’s classroom is not what’s in it but what’s not in it: desks. Before the school year started, Erickson removed the desks from her foreign language classroom at Central. She’s filled the space with other, more comfortable furniture including a sofa, loveseat, chairs and pillows.

“My goal was to create flexible seating areas,” Erickson said. “Students are able to sit wherever they feel comfortable. When I want everyone’s attention, we sit on chairs, usually in a semi-circle. When it’s time to work with partners or do small-group or individual work, students can sit wherever they want.”

The switch to a non-traditional classroom arrangement has enhanced Erickson’s teaching method, which involves increasing student engagement through storytelling with students acting out various parts. Students also regularly read from Spanish-language books; the new arrangement makes that activity more enjoyable, as well.

“Language acquisition occurs within a community that is created in the classroom and my goal is to foster that community for my students,” Erickson continued. Since desks can provided barriers, Erickson removed them. She’s also done away with other things that can distract students.

“All ‘stuff’ is put on the side counter (when the students enter the classroom),” she explained. “This means no iPad, other homework or books that might keep them from focusing on Spanish.”

Students were unaware of Erickson’s plan until the first day of school. She admits that many were surprised to walk into the room and find it arranged in such a non-traditional way. But they’ve quickly adjusted.

“The feeling from students is that they love to be able to have the freedom to sit where they want, in a more comfortable setting,” Erickson said. “Student focus is much better because they have fewer distractions. And, overall, students have been paying more attention and participating more.” 

Erickson, who would like to expand her seating options, is looking for donations of pillows, large area rugs, bean bag chairs and other seating options. She’d also like to acquire another love seat. Anyone interested in donating to her classroom can reach Erickson through the school.

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