The method that you use to arrange your classroom can actually have a large effect on how able you are to manage your class. The purpose of this article is to briefly touch on five ideas that you need to keep in mind when you are setting up your classroom for the easiest manageability. Arranging your classroom has to deal with effectively dealing with the classroom space aspect, and how well you can use the space that is allocated to you for teaching. There are actually a large number of different variables that need to be considered:
- Many newer teachers are forced to share space with others because there are not enough classrooms to accommodate everyone.
- Elementary school teachers generally have different table types and activity centers than secondary teachers will.
- Class subject matter also determines what types of tables or desks are required for a classroom, and different desk and table styles have widely different space requirements.
For most teachers, the way that the classroom should be arranged for maximum teaching efficiency is simply a learned skill. This is not something that is traditionally discussed in college, and there is little research on the subject as well.
Unfortunately, teachers do not really have the time to waste figuring these things out for themselves, which is the reason that these ideas are being assembled. Consider this a crash course in the art of effective teaching through effective space management in the classroom.
1 - At least in part, the way that you decide to arrange your classroom is going to depend on what supplies and furniture you already have at your disposal. Do you have individual desks for students, or long tables for groups? Do you have a chalkboard, or are you working only with an overhead projector? Do you have surface spaces set aside for books, or a place to put your things or a computer? If you do not already have what you want or need, is it possible to acquire it?
Some schools offer funding for these items, but you may need to purchase some of the supplies yourself. Do not be afraid to experiment by moving things about, or plan ahead using graph paper to "chart" different arrangements.
2 - Once you have figured out an arrangement that may be viable for you, an extremely important part of determining its validity and value is to take a seat in every single chair and at every single desk to see exactly what your students are going to see. After arranging your classroom, get a real feel for your student's-eye view.
What is distracting from where you are sitting? Is anything inaccessible to certain students, but not to others? Personal effects like refrigerators, microwaves, coffee supplies and snack boxes may be creature comforts for you, but are they distracting your students? What message are these things sending to your class? Anything that might be a distraction should be removed from the classroom so that your students can focus on what you are teaching.
3 - The physical setting in a classroom sends strong messages regarding ownership and authority, and dictates the way that interactions are conducted. You need to make sure that you are arranging your classroom in a way that is accurately and effectively portraying your own personal educational philosophy while simultaneously allowing your students to interact and move about in the ways that you want or need them to. You should never be afraid to change the layout of your room based on your own instructional objectives. Your goal here is to reach the students as effectively as you can, so do what you need to do to accomplish this.
Where do you want to put your desk? Do you need a desk? If you know why you need a desk, you should be able to figure out where it should be placed. If you are still not sure, try putting your desk in the back of the classroom. This promotes an atmosphere that is much more student-centered, and allows you to have space to work while still keeping an eye on your students at all times. The room should be arranged in such a way that allows you to quickly and easily monitor everything, which means that there should be no blind spots.
4- The overall message when it comes to classroom arrangement essentially seems to be that you should make well thought out and deliberate changes only. Reflect long and hard on what exactly you are trying to accomplish, and allow your space to work for rather than against you. What do you prefer, group tables or individual student desks? If you have a choice, make it rather than allowing it to be made for you. What activity centers matter to you? Do you need information stations, computer areas, supply areas? What storage is needed? Do you need drawers, open bookcases, storage cabinets? Will you have space on the walls to display student work, or will you resort to using every inch of furniture and wall surfaces to get the job done?
You should also keep in mind that materials should always be accessible but stored, and vertical space should be used for displaying. Activity areas should always be kept separated from quiet spaces so that distraction and interference can be avoided.
5 - Consider these points as well: There should be no large areas of dead space where illegitimate or random activities can be promoted. But no matter how you arrange your room, you should always ensure that there are safe and clear traffic paths. Make sure that you have an understanding on any safety or fire codes, because blocking doors and windows can be a serious hazard. Make sure that in a pinch, your students can get out of the room in a safe manner, without crashing into sharp corners, desks and other students. Above all else, safety is an important consideration to make when arranging your classroom.