Classroom Setup: Arranging the Physical Space
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5
It won’t be long until summer is behind us and we are back at school. I’ve spent hours imagining the perfect classroom setup, and in about three weeks, it will be time to transform my thoughts into reality. Experience has taught me that details matter. How quickly I am reminded of the sheer exhaustion of classroom setup when I see furniture piled high, boxes stacked one on top of another, and closets packed full of materials. The classroom space is clean, fresh, and anything but organized! I begin my classroom setup wisely by reflecting on student learning and my teaching practices.
I believe that the classroom should be an organized, colorful, print-rich environment where students feel safe, happy, and inspired to learn. The classroom should contain defined working spaces, quiet areas, and a large meeting area where the class can gather throughout the day. I want the students and myself to move easily in the space and know where and how to access the different areas and materials. The placement of the furniture will affect my classroom management, my students’ sense of community, and our use of wall space. With these thoughts in mind, I find a willing friend to help me move the furniture into place and within a few hours, I design the space for form and function.
Below are five ways I stay on top of my classroom setup.
1. Define a Whole Group Area
A common meeting place is a must in the primary classroom. My whole group gathering area is along a wall. I want the students and myself to have easy access to the SMART Board and the easel since those teaching tools anchor my focus lessons and shared reading and writing experiences. Since the SMART Board is already on the wall, my decision is quick and easy. A large rug defines this area and makes the space more comfortable. Stored materials such as chart paper, easel clips, markers, crayons, a pair of adult scissors, highlighters, sticky notes, bookmarks, and pointers are under the easel. I display read-aloud books on the easel and in baskets around the easel during units of study.
2. Create Small Group Areas Using Tables, Desks, and Shelves
I arrange student desks into groups to form tables. If possible, I arrange the desks to face the same direction in order to leave more space and to create aisles. I put them into four sets of six to facilitate the rotations of literacy and math stations. Extra desks can be placed on the ends of three of the table groups. Due to the laptop and projector, I am not able to add additional desks to the fourth table group without compromising traffic flow.
I strategically place tables around the edges of the room. These purposeful spaces are used for small group work, teacher guided instruction, partner work, and quiet work. I define the literacy and math stations with shelves and storage units for the materials. In this classroom, I have chosen not to create a specific library area. Books organized throughout the room surround the children for use throughout the day. A future post will highlight our classroom library and take-home reading program.
3. Decide on a Teacher Space
I have a small teacher desk where I arrange my plan book, materials for each day’s instruction, and professional resources. I keep this space organized and clutter free, but I do not sit there. At the end of a busy day, I can return to this space and review my materials. A teacher desk is not necessary, but a personal space or shelf for planning materials in the classroom is helpful.
4. Establish Classroom Walking Paths for Smooth Traffic Flow
The placement of furniture affects traffic flow. I establish aisles where students line up and walking paths by which students obtain materials and move to different parts of the classroom. I explicitly teach the students how to move along these walking paths on the first day of school. Time spent modeling and practicing these transitions will prevent classroom congestion and wasted minutes.
5. Envision Purposeful and Relevant Wall Space
Bulletin boards and walls can be used as display areas for student work, learning centers for anchor charts, and instructional backdrops for word walls and calendar time. The walls will illustrate the students’ learning. Simple suggestions for display spaces include cabinet doors, windows and blinds, and the wall outside the classroom door. Hanging pocket charts make great interactive displays, and don't forget to utilize both sides of the furniture when possible. Be familiar with any fire safety rules regarding the displays in the classroom, on the doors, and in the hallways of the school.
For more Scholastic resources to inspire and enhance your classroom setup, see the Class Set-Up Tool, "Our Easy Guide to Setting Up Your Grade K–5 Classroom," and The Great Eight: Management Strategies for the Reading and Writing Classroom.
Have fun and be creative with how you use your space. Leave a comment and share your story (the highs or lows) of classroom setup. Do you use a teacher desk or have you gotten rid of it? I would love to hear from you!
Wishing You a Great Start to the School Year,