An for teaching, as well as several desktop

An important factor for teachers to consider when preparing for instruction is how to set up their classroom. This lesson describes factors to consider when planning the physical design for a classroom.

Exploring Classroom Design

Olivia landed her first job as a teacher and is excited about starting her new career in education.

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She knows that the physical design of her classroom contributes to the overall learning environment, and she wants to make sure she provides a warm, welcoming place for her students. Her students will need space for small and whole group learning, as well as partner and individual space. She’ll need to provide an age-appropriate space and make sure she pays attention to small details.

Like most schools, Olivia has a mentor teacher, Lucy, to help her along the way. They meet in Olivia’s new classroom to talk about classroom design and begin making a plan. Let’s see what things they consider as they make decisions.

Using Space in the Classroom

The first thing Lucy and Olivia discuss are the uses for space in the classroom. As an early elementary educator, Olivia will need to design her space with the needs of this specific age group in mind.

If she taught in a middle or high school classroom, the needs would be different and Olivia’s classroom design would reflect this.Olivia and Lucy decide she needs space for:

  • Collaboration – her students will need to work together often, in small groups and with partners
  • Independent work – students will need private space to work by themselves
  • Whole group work – Olivia will meet with her students as a whole group several times a day
  • Technology – the classroom has an interactive white board, a large screen connected to her laptop that she uses for teaching, as well as several desktop computers
  • Center work – Olivia wants to have a classroom library and space dedicated to subject studies like math or science

Lucy and Olivia sit down to figure out how to arrange bookshelves, desks, and other large furniture to create the spaces Olivia needs. Lucy reminds Olivia that she’ll need to keep more busy areas away from quieter ones – the library shouldn’t be close to the science area.

She also needs to make sure there are clear pathways for students to walk and enough space for any student who may have a special need, like a wheelchair. Good pathways and well-organized activity spaces can help with child behavior and allow Olivia to spend more time attending to individual needs instead of directing and managing the whole group.

Student Work Space

In Olivia’s classroom, she will need to allow a significant amount of space for student desks. When she was in school, the desks were arranged in neat, straight rows facing the board and teacher’s desk. Olivia wants to create an atmosphere where students are able to easily collaborate and share ideas.

She knows arranging her desks in rows won’t get that done.She and Lucy walk around the building to look at how other teachers have their student work space arranged. Some group their student desks in pods of four, some in a U shape, and still others in groups of two. Lucy knows that no matter which design she goes with, she’ll need to rearrange seating periodically to allow for students to work with new groups.

The Accessories of Classroom Design

Lucy tells Olivia that one of the most important aspects to effective classroom design are the small touches teachers put in to make the room a warm and welcoming work space students look forward to coming to every day. She should consider:

  • Lighting – floor and desk lamps lend a soft, homey lighting aspect to classrooms
  • Shelving – book shelves can be brightened up with a fresh coat of paint
  • Decorations – though student work will fill walls and bulletin boards in no time, teachers can decorate with curtains, table cloths, and pillows
  • Carpet – a large carpet for group meetings and smaller ones for student work time
  • Plants – live plants create a feeling of calm and add color to a classroom

Olivia wants to make sure she designs her room to give her students options about where they choose to work. If they prefer to work on a beanbag chair with a clipboard, or a small table with a lamp, she wants to have the supplies to support them.

Design Tips

Finally, Lucy gives Olivia a few tips about effective classroom design. One way to visualize the classroom layout without moving bulky furniture is to create a mockup of the classroom on a large piece of paper or poster board. She can use sticky notes to represent furniture and ‘rearrange’ easily.

She could also employ a computer program that allows her to design and rearrange a virtual classroom.Olivia will also need to consider some important things when planning her room design, such as placement of electrical outlets, heating and cooling vents, technology hook ups, and windows. She’ll need to make sure students are able to flow easily within the classroom, as well as evacuate safely.

Lesson Summary

Olivia is all set to get her room arranged and ready for her students. She knows she’ll need to provide space that is age appropriate.

In her case, she’ll need work space for whole and small groups, as well as partners and individuals. She can arrange student desks in several different configurations, but should make sure they are able to collaborate.Olivia can make her room warm and welcoming by adjusting lighting, sprucing up shelving, and decorating with personal touches. Finally, she should be aware of outlets, venting, technology hookups for things like interactive white boards, and other parts of her classroom that will impact her room design.


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