Thursday, July 1, 2010

Setting up a New Classroom: Got Design Ideas?

So today I had a spontaneous idea, born out of my recently frequent dreams and mild panic attacks about teaching a new grade at a new school next year. Since I have connected with so many great educators and thinkers on Twitter, I thought, why not ask for a bit of help in designing the optimal classroom environment. I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say and contributing to a dialogue where other teachers can get ideas for their own classroom makeovers!
Thanks in advance for your great comments. This is a new adventure using voicethread, just click the individual pictures to hear what each person has to add! 


kelalford said...

Awesome room! I agree that the desks need to be in groups. You will find kids will be working on projects together and the group setting works well! Good luck!

Aviva said...

I love this VoiceThread idea! I've only taught Kindergarten and Grade 1, so I wouldn't even know how to go about setting up a Junior classroom, but I do like what you have going right now. The SMART Board set-up with the mounted projector looks great (my SMART Board and projector are mounted too, and I love that!), and the desks in groups also looks great. I like having the opportunity for collaboration, and you definitely have this. Hope you get lots of responses on your VoiceThread, and good luck with your new grade in September! You'll do great!


Unknown said...

Thanks for so much for sharing this. I haven't had the opportunity to set up my own classroom yet (fingers crossed that I'll have one by fall), but I'd always figured I'd set desks up in pods of 4-6 as many have suggested. I recently read something, however, suggesting setting them up in pairs, which enables you as a teacher to stand next to any desk in the room when necessary, and this has me re-thinking my preconceptions. In pods of 4 or more, at least some desks will not be facing the SMART Board, forcing kids to adjust their seating when instruction happens there. Maybe it would be easier to start in pairs, and then push desks into larger groups when the activity/task calls for it?

Anyway, thanks again for putting this up. I'm sure I'll be checking back to listen to others' ideas and see what you eventually settle on.

Pam said...

I'm moving into a new room, too - and gaining a class with a lot more students. Room is CRAMMED with desks with attached chairs. I would like to pair my desks, but I don't know if I can with the attached chair thing going on! I'm going to return to this blog to check on other ideas.

Alan Stange said...

I taught a four-five class this year. In the fall I shift to five-six. I see you are thinking centers for learning and that is great. This year I had traditional desks. Your tables are an improvement over that. In the fall I will have six round tables. The link below is my voicethread describing my classroom this past year. I think the furniture you have is not as important as your willingness to do a number of things:

Everything should be flexible and students should learn to make the transition from one configuration to another. Each learning space has its rules; they need to follow them as a habit.

Your classroom needs transparent walls. Learning happens in many spaces around the school and elsewhere.

The teacher needs to work to a small footprint in the classroom. we are not the center of learning even if there are times when we draw everyone, or groups together in one part of the room or another.

In my classroom, the teacher's desk is at the back in a corner. It is my work space, but it is also the shared space because the computer on it is the media center for the classroom. Since students produce and share media (including on the IWB), the students need permission and access to the computer. I have tables for groups, carols for privacy and centers for focus.

Enjoy it all. It won't always work, but you will find the best arrangement for your style and students.

Tom Fullerton said...

Great idea!

Glad I came across the link to your blog from the twitter stream.

I love that you are including many perspectives on your room layout.

I encourage you to watch Stephen Heppel's video on "agile learning spaces"

Welcome your learners into a social, dynamic, warm, comfortable space.

Make the classroom walls more permeable. Thin the barrier between home and school.



Joan Young (aka Mancini) said...

Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions, questions, prompts for me to think deeply about the decisions I make for my classroom! I will definitely do a follow-up post when I have some things in place. Thanks again.

Cheryl said...

Gosh, what gorgeous windows! I teach 4th grade also, and we have a tiny room with one small window up high on each side. Very isolating. Sigh.

I like to put the kids in "pods" also, but not at the beginning of the year. They usually need a bit of adjustment time to larger class size, etc., and classroom management is easier if they're in row-groups. I put them in two E-shapes with an aisle in the center. So, that would be one long row on each side facing center with three attached rows facing front. Usually 5 on the long side row, 3-4 in each forward facing, depending on how many kids.

After they've adjusted for a few weeks and I figure out who my talkers are, I put them in square pods of 4, or sometimes 5. I used to put the desks together in larger groups, but found that classroom management just goes out the window in groups that large. Confirmed by Roger Taylor (excellent differentiation expert) that 4th graders just aren't quite ready to behave in larger groups yet.

Have a great time! 4th graders are fun. :)

Nicole Harrington said...

You're so amazing for posting this! Since I'm new to teaching, I'm not going to give any huge suggestions. After all, I'm just the budding version of you and I haven't quite developed my style yet! I just wanted to congratulate you on your beautiful room and, no matter how you arrange it, your students are going to love you because you'll make learning happen in ANY environment you're given. As someone who remembers what it's like to be a kid, sitting in groups of 4 was always nice for collaboration, but also quite distracting due to the excitement of sitting with 3 other friends. I agree that you might not want to do that right away, but seating them in pairs would be a good way to see the development of their personalities. I assume these students have been together for a long time since there is only one of each grade level at your school, right? You probably won't have to wait long before you meet your talkers, your class clowns, and your diligent workers! I'm SO not helpful, but I'm just really excited for you. Good luck, Mrs. Young! You'll be "gwate"! :-)

April Brown said...

Hi Joan,
I love this idea. I'm in the process of doing the same thing. I really liked what I did last year and I'm struggling with "Do I chance it all or leave it the same?"

Debbie Diller's book, Spaces & Places has some really good points about classroom arrangement. I agree with everyone about the light, Wow!.

I teach grade 2 and last summer I read The Daily 5 by Gail Boushey & Joan Moser, it completely changed my way of teaching and how I looked at my room arrangement. I checked out their webpage and looked at the section on Designing a Classroom. They talk about 7 Steps to Designing the Physical Space. It's very similar to Dillar's book. Here are the steps: Teacher Space, Class Library, Large Meeting Area, Technology, Student Work Space, Storage Area and then consider various group sizes.

I would, personally, take out some of the desks and look for tables, chairs, etc. By doing this it gives the kids more room to move, work on the floor, with pairs and allows them too sit in a different spot each time they work. I know this is a radical move and some would say that kids need their own space. I agree but they have it depending on where they want to work in my room. I've got areas where they can work individually or in a group.

I didn't have any issues with kids ripping up paper/erasers in desks, no time was taken to clean and organize desks. Kids didn't talk to their friend because we'd talked about how it should look and sound when we choice a spot for learning.

For some kids who needed to have a desk, I kept about 8 of them in my room in groups of 4. I started the year with this and it didn't seem to be an issue with the kids. I'm the only one in my school who's done this so next year the students will be going into desks:-), into rows. I'm not sure a desk for everyone is always the best approach for all children. Some children need and want to sit on the floor, at a table, or lean up against a wall.

Again, I love this approach with the voicethread. I know that upper elementary teachers have also arranged their desks in various places in their room, so that there were different areas for small groups, or individual working areas.

Good luck.

Joan Young (aka Mancini) said...

I am LOVING all of the great ideas collected here so far. Thank you all so much and I can't wait to show you the process when I get into my room and start taking your suggestions! Thank you :-)

Tracy Rosen said...

Great idea. I've added my comments to the voicethread.

I like what Ed said here:
Maybe it would be easier to start in pairs, and then push desks into larger groups when the activity/task calls for it?

I've elaborated on the whole desk thing in my voicethread comment. Wow people are hung up about that!


Kidlutions(tm): Solutions for Kids said...


Such a great classroom. I know you are getting lots of feedback on how to arrange, so I am just stopping in to say that any classroom that has you in it as a teacher is going to be THE classroom to be in!

The profession/art of teaching is so relationship based...and you have that in spades.

So proud of you for all of your accomplishments and wishing you a fabulous new year as you begin this new adventure!

Wendy @Kidlutions =)

PS...Loved the voicethread thing and tried it, but alas, it seems as if I have no microphone in my computer? Techno-challenged me could not figure it out!