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Classroom Management for an Effective Learning Environment

Janelle Cox

Classroom setup is an important component in a learning environment because it is an essential piece of classroom management to support both teaching and learning. The physical atmosphere of the classroom can help prevent behavior issues as well as promote and improve learning. The structuring of the learning environment is essential for teachers and students. In fact, studies show that the physical arrangement of the classroom can affect both student and teacher behavior, and that a well-structured classroom management plan of design has the ability to improve learning and behavior. In order to create an inviting and safe, supportive learning environment, using classroom management for the way you arrange your desks matters. A supportive learning environment can mean the difference between having a good day and a bad day.

Your classroom arrangement is the physical foundation of where your students will learn. This means that every square foot of it needs to be used for activities that support learning. The spatial structure of the classroom; where students will be seated, how the students will move about the classroom, and the whole classroom atmosphere needs to be considered, as well as how the classroom will be structured to address the academic, social, and emotional needs of the students. The physical arrangement of the classroom should also be reflective of the student body and must be consistent with the needs of all learners.

In addition to the way your classroom is physically arranged, the classroom environment as a whole needs to be considered. What you put on your walls, the classroom materials you will use, and where, and how you will set up your activities. All attributes of a structured learning environment need to be considered when setting up your classroom.

Classroom Management: Benefits of a Well-Designed Classroom

According to a recent study at the University of Salford, a well-designed classroom can boost student performance by 25 percent. That means that your classroom design can have a significant impact on your students’ performance. So, it is essential to thoughtfully and clearly consider all facets of your classroom design. A well-thought out physical arrangement of your classroom is also important for these reasons:

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  • Students will learn which behaviors are acceptable and expected in each specific location in the classroom. For example, when in the classroom library, students need to be quiet, but while in the classroom play area, students are allowed to talk.
  • Students will learn to anticipate which activities will occur in specific areas of the classroom. This helps students be mindful of how they need to behave for each specific area they are in.
  • Students learn to respect boundaries. For example, there are “Teacher only” areas as well as the boundaries of space a student has around his/her personal desk.
  • The organization of classroom materials allows students to retrieve them quickly, which helps to decrease unwanted behavior.
  • Proper room arrangement provides predictably, which is essential for students, because students thrive when they are in a comfortable learning environment.

Arranging Your Classroom

Before you set out to arrange your classroom, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What information do my students need to know? They need to know the date, assignment, classroom procedures, etc.
  • What will inspire my students every day? Quotes, posters, classroom awards, everyday heroes, etc.
  • What education artifacts do they need? Word walls, literacy resources, purposeful posters and bulletin boards, etc.
  • How do I need to structure the desks? Teacher-focused activities means desks will be in rows or small clusters facing the front of the classroom, while student-focused activities means desks will be put into groups or semicircles so students can easily collaborate with one another.
  • Do any of my students have specific medical needs? A food allergy, wheelchair, etc.
  • What furniture is available? Desks, tables, bookcases, shelves, etc.

The answers to these questions will help guide you to structure an effective learning environment for your students. Depending upon what furniture is readily available, you will also need to structure your classroom so that every student has a home base (or an individual learning area like their own desk), a whole group instruction area, a dedicated teacher area, as well as a transition area where students can wait for the next activity or lesson to begin, or at least have your space arranged so students can move about easily and comfortably without bumping into one another.

Essential Areas

As mentioned above, there are a few required areas that you must have in your classroom: A Home base, group instruction area, teacher workstation, and transition space. Here we will take a closer look at how you can arrange each of these specific areas.

Home Base

Each student needs a space to call her own. Have it be an individual desk or her own space at the table, they need something to call their home base. This space is a place where students can do their independent work or go to when you are transitioning in between lessons.

Two factors need to be considered when deciding where students home base where be; if the student has any behavior issues, and the size of your classroom. Once you factor in these issues, then you are ready to clearly assign each student a home base.

Group Instruction

The next essential area that you need to set up is where your group learning will take place. Will students sit at their desks in rows or a circle, or will they sit on the carpet? You may need to consider finding two spaces for group instruction. One space where students are able to work within a small group independently, and one space where students can get messy and work with different art materials which would likely be by the sink. Within each area, you will need to figure out where you will put your learning materials so that they can be easily accessed by the students. The back table near the sink would be ideal for small group work, and the front carpet would be ideal for large group work where all students can find a seat.

Dedicated Teacher Area

Teachers need a place to call their own too. This space should be near an outlet where you can have access to a computer, as well as it should be out of the way but also easily accessible for students to get to you. Ideally, your space should be near the widow with your desk or small table situated sideways, in the corner of the classroom. This way you will get the light from the window to help you see, you are out of the way but also easily accessible to students, and are able to scan the whole classroom right from your seat.

Transition Area

The transition area can be a specific location like the carpet that students go to while waiting for the next activity, or to go home or to a special like gym or art. Or it can be the student’s home base or a specific location in the classroom. What this space looks like and where it is located will depend upon your students’ needs as well as their ages. No matter where the space is, it is important that your students know where to go during transition periods.

In short, specific classroom features are relevant to what students are learning. Research shows that students benefit from a well-designed, well-structured classroom. Most importantly, if you find that your students are struggling with the design of your classroom then you must consider rearranging it.

How do you structure your classroom? Do you have tips that work well for you and your students? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.