By Teachers, For Teachers
September will soon roll around, with a new group of students eager to learn. Many of us will use the summer to reflect on the past year and plan changes we want to implement the following year. One of those areas for first day of school activities and reflection is the design and arrangement of the classroom.
Since this year was spent in long term substitution positions in various classrooms, I had the opportunity to experience various classroom designs. Some classrooms were extremely detailed and organized, while others were cluttered and overly engaging. By experiencing both ends of the spectrum, I was able to take note on what works and what doesn't work, for me.
Classroom designs are as unique as fingerprints; no two classrooms are the same. Sure, the basic layout of the classroom may be the same, but the arrangement of desks, tables, centers, decoration, personalization, group learning stations, and overall theme varies from teacher to teacher. Every teacher has his/her own style of teaching and often this is reflected through the design of the classroom.
To create a welcoming environment as part of my first day of school activities, I add a little personalization. I love frogs! In my classroom, you will find frogs spread out around the room. There are frog posters with educational quotes/saying, stickers, cut outs, coffee mugs, picture frames, and other little nick-knacks students have given as gifts over the years. I also add color in the room through various bulletin board backgrounds, and label pictures, desks, containers, etc with students' names or pictures (which I can get before school by requesting from parent in introduction letter).
I like my classroom to be neat and organized, not overly so to the point students do not feel free to be creative or make messes from time to time, but so that I am able to locate things when needed. I have many shelves and containers (labeled of course) in areas accessible to students to encourage exploring and learning.
I am also a big fan of pocket charts (you can never have too many pocket charts) and use them frequently. I display the charts at eye level of the students for interaction. Class manipulatives are clearly marked as are games, puzzles, reading library, centers, quiet areas, group areas, and teacher's personal space. Labeling and marking these areas help me to create structure in the room.
The opposite of my personal design is the cluttered classroom or as another blogger called it “the lively learning environment.” I have been in a few of those and found it to be very distracting. If I was distracted and disorganized, were the students?
Does clutter impact learning and cause greater distraction? I think so. I found the classroom a bit overwhelming. As a sub who wasn't familiar with the classroom or where things were located to begin with, this was even more concerning. It was hard to locate needed items, move about the classroom, interact with charts or bulletin boards as needed, and focus on the lesson.
The classroom is believed to belong to the teacher but it really belongs to the teacher AND the student. Creating an environment with students in mind can affect their attitudes toward learning. Students should feel they are part of the classroom. Allow students to help establish class rules with consequences and take turns caring for the classroom with various classroom jobs.
Your classroom should project a sense of calm, organization, and positive energy, as well as a seriousness about learning.
Before starting to set up the classroom as part of your first day of school activities, plan ahead. Think about the space and what you want to reflect. Make a checklist, check out other classrooms, and draw out a room plan. Taking the time to carefully plan the physical arrangement (desks, tables, centers, etc) of the classroom, can improve learning and prevent problem behaviors. Classrooms should be set up to accommodate various activities and meet teacher goals.
Once your school year gets underway, you may find that the original set up of your classroom isn't working quite the way you hoped. No problem! Just remove parts that seem unnecessary, add, or rearrange as needed. If needed introduce the changes to your students, but often they don't even notice!
Each year, reevaluate your classroom design. The best part, every year is a clean slate. You have the luxury to start all over and try new ideas. Plan a classroom that will become a vibrant, organized place for learning all year long.
How do you set up your classroom? Share in the comments section!