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3 Classroom Design Tips That Make a Big Impact

By Erin Klein on September 15, 2014
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

By now, everyone is pretty settled into their classrooms and the subject of classroom design may seem like a done deal. However, it's never too late to make tweaks here and there. And using your students' feedback to inform your design decisions can pay huge dividends. I spent the summer redesigning my classroom space for the new group of learners who would soon join me. Because I like to personalize the space to be a good fit for the group, it was a bit challenging thinking of a new theme. I knew I wanted to start with an idea that would appeal to students of both genders. I wanted to make sure the space would be a comfortable learning environment for everyone.  

When others visit my space or see photos, they sometimes ask if my room is "ready" for school to begin. I've come to learn they mean my space looks rather minimalist. There isn't much displayed on the walls. My bulletin boards are unfinished. My library baskets don't have genre or leveled labels. This is on purpose. I lean on my students to help shape a great deal of our learning space. After all, they are the primary users of the classroom. They should have a big voice in designing their space along with figuring out how to organize and set up their materials and supplies. An added benefit is that I find that when students have input, they truly take ownership of their classroom. They take pride in their space and they support each other's efforts to contribute ideas and maintain organization. It's a win-win!


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Minimize Patterns and Thoughtfully Select Classroom Colors

Last year my classroom theme was centered around a garden. Our space is adjacent to the children's garden outdoors. So, it was a natural decision to "bring the garden indoors." We had sunflowers and bees in our classroom as decorative accents. Our colors were brown, green, gold, and rust. They were muted and subtle.  

This year, I wanted to do something a bit different. After talking with many students throughout the summer, they all told me I should use blue. At first, I was unsure. Then I started to get ideas about how this could actually work. The color began to grow on me especially since it is gender neutral. After shopping around for ideas, I began to see a lot of gray colors paired with various hues of blue. This is when I decided to add it a bit of gray. My third color choice was easy, chocolate. I knew brown had to be in the design theme since most of my furniture was brown in color. At last, the color scheme was born.  

Keeping the patterns to a minimum was imperative. As I continued to shop around, I kept finding many busy patterns containing the colors I had selected. While I was drawn to these beautiful designs, I knew I had to scale back for classroom use. Keeping distractions to a minimum is key — especially when displaying content for bulletin boards.  


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Bring in Nature to Create a Comfortable Space

In every space I create, I love to bring in colors of green — especially through the use of plants. When I taught first grade, each collaborative table group had a potted plant. It was a student's class job to water the plants and take care of the nature within our room. However, the space I'm in now doesn't seem to support my green thumb. (Granted, mentioning that I have a green thumb is quite an overstatement.) However, the climate conditions in our room tend to make everything I bring in wilt within days. So, I've supplemented with artificial plants this year. We keep our windows open a lot so we can benefit from the beautiful nature beyond our walls, too.  


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Provide Flexible Seating Arrangements

I've spoken about ditching the desks in other articles and it is important to understand that incorporating alternative seating arrangements isn't just to "look cool." The idea came from my talking to my students. They were uncomfortable. They were rocking in their chairs, falling out of their seats, and becoming increasingly wiggly. When we had conversations, I quickly discovered that they were simply not comfortable. I got it. This was easy to understand. Sure, they could sustain sitting in these chairs for a short period of time, but all day? No thank you!

Therefore, I began to look at my space and see what types of seating could maximize the limited space my narrow room had to offer. I also had to be mindful of fire code regulations. I wanted to provide not one or two unique setups, but several. I wanted my seating arrangements to be different and varied in an effort to appeal to the many types of learners.  

For more design ideas, read "3 Quick Tips for a Beautiful, Brain-Friendly Classroom."

You can also check out a new site I launched with two of my dear friends, AJ and Ben, called ClassroomCribs where we share all about intentional classroom design that supports and enhances pedagogical practices.  

Be sure to look for my next post where I show you how to organize student materials and supplies! I'll show you where we neatly keep all of our consumable materials we use daily from tabletops to cubbies to journals and games. Subscribe here to see my posts each month!  



Comments (9)

Hi! I want to switch to round tables. I want to have 8 at a table. Can you tell me if these are 48 in or 60 in? Thanks so much!

Hi! Love your room. I am looking to get rid of my desks to create space however I can't decide what I want or the right size. What size are your round tables? 60"?


I absolutely love the layout, more children should be able to enjoy classrooms that contribute to such atmosphere. You truly are fortunate to have the space.


Thanks for your kind words. I actually don't have the space. That is why I went to tables. I have one of the smallest rooms in our building.



I absolutely love the layout, more children should be able to enjoy classrooms that contribute to such atmosphere. You truly are fortunate to have the space.

Lovely....but it looks more like a home than a classroom. I, also, have no room for anything like this.

Hi Nancy,

Thanks! The point is to make it look more comfortable, so I'm happy you noticed it looked more like a home. Having room and space is exactly why I redesigned my environment. I have a very small room. By removing the desks, I was able to open up the square footage. Hence, putting in two tables and a breakfast nook maximized my floor space. It's all a matter of how you use the space.

Best of luck,


Love the look but who has room for this? My room is soooo small! Lucky we can get 25 desks arranged!


I appreciate that you like the look. My room is sooooo small as well - that is exactly why I removed the bulky furniture. I (also) didn't have room for the desks. That was my motivation for the redesign. It's all about perspective and how you use the space.



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