Classroom Design (page 5)
When you create a classroom environment that is functional and organized, yet comfortable for you and your students to inhabit day in and day out, you lay the groundwork for a good school year. The physical appearance of your classroom is also the first impression people will have of it.
- Develop a clear vision of what you want as the physical setup of your classroom this year, so that you can arrange that first.
- Walk yourself through a typical day. Decide where to place the student desks and where to have the common area (for example, placement of a rug) to best facilitate your plans. The placement of these items will affect everything that happens in your classroom.
- Visit other classrooms, and ask for advice from experienced teachers.
- Establish a classroom environment that promotes student involvement, encourages self-control, and minimizes disruptions that are caused by disorganization.
- Make sure that your classroom reflects care and respect for you and your students.
Physical Setup of the Classroom
Setting up your classroom in a systematic way can reduce confusion and make the instructional process easier.
- Set up the furniture and rug.
- Student desks and chairs
- Teacher’s desk and chair
- File cabinet
- Small group workstation
- Learning center desks and chairs
- Organize all supplies, having requested them from the office.
- Teacher supplies at the teacher’s desk
- Student supplies at the student desks or in closets
- Room supplies in closets
- Organize books and consumables (to be distributed).
- Set up the classroom library.
- Two or three bookcases or plastic tubs
- Small rug
- Beanbag chair
- Set up classroom equipment.
- CD player
- Overhead projector
- Document reader
- Smart Board
- Set up computers.
- Power outlet
- Internet connection
- Mount bulletin boards.
- Background paper and borders
- School news and information board
- Set up the teacher station near the front of the room.
- Set up workspace for the aide or volunteer.
- Learning tools
- Supplies for students
- Set up learning centers.
Purposeful Classroom Arrangement
A room arrangement that lends itself to your teaching style, student movement around the classroom, and facilitation of instruction is of the utmost importance. After all, this is where you and your students spend most of your waking hours.
- Organize your classroom so that movement can take place easily and in an orderly fashion.
- Take into account the needs of all persons involved.
- The arrangement of the classroom must meet many needs, including the following:
- Students working individually
- Students working in pairs
- Small group work
- Students working in centers
- Multiple types of instruction
- Equal access to instruction
- Equipment usage
There are several areas of the classroom that students move through or use frequently. Special consideration must be given to these high-traffic areas.
- Keep high-traffic areas free of clutter.
- Make these areas accessible, planned, and well organized.
- Remember that high-traffic areas become easy targets for misbehavior if they are not carefully monitored.
- Keep high-traffic areas clearly separated to avoid any confusion about where students should be at any given time.
- Set up the desks so that the teacher can reach students easily and move around the room without obstruction.
- Have more than one pencil sharpener and trash can to avoid clustering of students.
- High-traffic areas could include the following:
- Common area
- Learning centers
- Small group instruction area
- Teacher’s workstation
- Classroom library
- Pencil sharpener
- Trash can
- Recycling bin
- Coat racks
The floor space in your classroom is limited, and each piece of furniture takes up some of that floor space. You must take into account the footprint of each piece as you decide which arrangement of the several pieces of furniture works best for you and your students.
- Walk around your classroom. Note the sizes of the student desks, teacher’s desk, tables, carts, bookcases, computer stations, and other large furniture and equipment.
- Draw a few possible arrangements of the furniture. Viewing options on paper helps avoid moving heavy furniture more than is necessary.
- Decide which of these possible arrangements works best for your classroom this year.
- Take care not to block electrical outlets. You may need them in your final classroom design.
- Allow plenty of room for maneuverability for yourself and your students.
- Do not block emergency exits.
Student Desk Arrangement
The need to position students’ desks so that all students have equal access to instruction is a primary factor in the physical arrangement of your classroom. Three instructional formats—whole class, small groups, and individuals—are discussed below.
- Consider the different kinds of activities your class will be engaged in.
- Visit other classrooms at your grade level, and consider the classroom arrangements there.
- Assign seating, rather than allowing free choice, in order to keep students from sitting next to their friends.
- Implement a seating arrangement that contributes to a heterogeneous classroom.
- Determine what works best for your class this year, given your teaching style.
When you are teaching the entire class at once, the seating arrangement must allow all of the students full access to instruction from a single focal point in the classroom.
- Arrange student desks so that all students face the focal point of the classroom where you will be teaching.
- Typical desk arrangements for the whole class include the following:
- Rows of small tables or desks
- Desks arranged in a U shape so that all eyes are directed toward the board
When groups of four or more students work together, the students must be able to interact with each other without being distracted by other activities in the classroom.
- Arrange student desks in clusters so that the students in each cluster are facing one another.
- Typical desk arrangements for small groups include the following:
- Four students—two desks facing each other
- Six students—two desks facing each other with an additional desk at each end
When students are working individually, each student should have personal workspace that minimizes distractions from other students.
- Typical desk arrangements that allow for individual workspace are the following:
- Rows of individual desks
- Tables placed side by side so that all students are facing the front of the room
Teacher’s Desk Area
The placement of the teacher’s furniture and equipment affects not only your efficiency during the day, but also the effectiveness of your instructional delivery.
- Realize that you will rarely sit at your desk during the school day.
- Store frequently used teaching materials at the teacher’s desk.
- Consider placing the teacher’s desk nearest the space where whole class instruction takes place so that materials are readily available
File Cabinets and Personal Storage Cabinets
- Consider placing file cabinets and storage cabinets adjacent to the teacher’s desk for ready access to supplies, materials, and paperwork.
- Lock cabinets that contain student information in order to maintain confidentiality.
- Position each bookcase so that it can be accessed easily by those who will be using it, whether it is the teacher, groups of students, or individual students.
- Bookcases and other shelving units can be used for many different purposes in a classroom, including the following:
- Teacher resource books
- Classroom library
- Student books
Small Group lnstruction Area
It is advantageous to have a designated area, often with a kidney-shaped table, where the teacher, an aide, or a volunteer can work with a small group of students.
- Equip the small group instruction area with supplies and materials to facilitate the activities of the groups that work there.
- Position the table and adult’s chair where the whole class can be seen and monitored.
- The adult’s chair faces the class, and the student chairs face the adult.
- The small group instruction area can be used for many different activities, including the following:
- Small group discussion
- Specific skill work
- Project assistance
- Writing assistance
- Writing conferences
- Portfolio review
Designated areas for students to explore activities across the curriculum—beyond whole class instruction—greatly enrich the learning experience.
- Consider how many learning centers you would like to have in your classroom.
- Start with one learning center, and add more as you feel comfortable.
- Position a learning center so that it is easy to monitor.
- Make sure that any computer monitors are clearly visible so that you can monitor student activity.
- Have all necessary supplies and materials easily accessible.
- Learning centers can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Writing Center
- Publishing Center
- Math Center
- Science Center
- Social Studies Center
- Computer Center
- Listening Center
- Art Center
- Painting Center
- Clay Table
- Rug Games and Activities
Storage Space and Supplies
Keep your closets and cabinets well stocked and well organized.
- Request supplies for the beginning of the year from the school office. Find or purchase supplies elsewhere that are not available through the school office. Frequently used supplies should be easily accessible. Supplies used only occasionally can be stored out of the way. Consider labeling the shelves or drawers where supplies are kept, so that it is easier to put everything in the right place. Consider using plastic containers with lids for storage. These are often available at dollar stores or local supermarkets.
Textbooks and Supplemental Curricular Materials
Textbooks and supplemental instructional kits and supplies for the adopted curriculum must be kept where they are easily available to you, but do not clutter the student space in the classroom.
- Inventory all curricular materials.
- Keep all curricular materials readily accessible.
- Consider organizing textbooks and supplemental curricular materials by curricular area.
- Designate a bookcase (or an individual bookshelf or closet shelf) for each curricular area.
- Inventory all equipment.
- Store equipment in a secure location when it’s not in use, such as in designated space in a closet.
- Establish a place for equipment use near power outlets, an Internet connection, Smart Boards, or screens, depending on the specific equipment.
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