2 years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to choose some Furnware for my classroom. I chose green and orange tables, a white board table, a ‘hairdresser’ chair and 6 red, yellow and green splats. I arranged the furniture to reflect Thornburg’s theory of watering holes, caves and campfires to investigate how this theory would work in my class.
The first time that I let a class into the room I was nervous that they would fight over the splats or the whiteboard table and considered implementing a seating plan. After discussion with colleagues I decided to just see what would happen and was pleasantly surprised. My students walked in and after a few “Wows!” and “This is cool”‘s, they found their preferred seating and sat.
I found that my year 10 classes couldn’t wait for the watering hole part of the lesson to finish so that they could work in groups or by themselves. I had a couple of students who regularly used the cave area to work quietly by themselves. Most of the class loved working in campfire groups and enjoyed all of the different types of furniture. Quite a few also lay on the carpeted floor and worked. The relaxed environment did not adversely affect their engagement but enhanced it.
The result of having new furniture has been happier students who sometimes rush into the class so that can get the seat that they want. The colours and styles of furniture have created a positive atmosphere which is a great platform for any lesson. I have found that colour and variety play a big part in encouraging motivation and creativity.
For students using pen and paper the splats, beanbags and couches were not so helpful. My year 13 class, who were not expected to have a device, chose to sit at the tables instead of on the couches and splats. I asked them why they did this and one student summed up most of their responses by saying that it was easier to use pen and paper, if they had devices they would probably sit in the more relaxed seating. With a smaller class this is not a problem as there is enough table space.
I also found that it was difficult to check the work of students in the cave area as they backed themselves into the corner of the room which made it a challenge to sit with them or behind them and comment on their work.
When I first got the furniture I had several incidents where students who were walking past my class poked their heads in and commented on how cool the furniture was and asked why other classes weren’t the same. It is clear to me that students love the colours and the variety of furniture. One student said that the colours made her feel happy! I found a great article about how colours can affect learning; orange helps stimulate critical thinking and memory, green is relaxing, yellow in small amounts can make us feel happy and red can improve performance and focus. Furnware have also conducted their own research which is well worth a read.
Having a class of Furnware means that the class can no longer be used for examinations or formal tests as the environment is too informal and cannot be arranged into exam formation. So if the whole school were to get Furnware there would be a few logistical problems but maybe exams will look different by that stage.