Over the summer I like to reflect on what worked well and what could be improved next year. One thing I have been thinking about a lot lately is my classroom layout. This is such a crucial aspect of the classroom and has such a big impact on the students’ experience and learning in the classroom. I thought I would share some thoughts on planning your classroom and the different set up arrangements and their pros and cons.
Firstly, you must also consider what the activities will be that the students will be undertaking. This may be group work, independent work, drama/role play activities. Will you need different areas in your classroom for whole class teaching, guided reading, center work etc? All of these factors must be considered when planning your layout.
The next step is to plan your layout. You must consider a number of factors – will you use desks or tables? How many students will you have? What is the size of your classroom? Next think about how the students will be grouped. Will they be grouped by ability? Will they have free choice? Will you have different groupings for different lessons and therefore will the size of the groups change throughout the day?
When I began to plan my classroom layout, I cut out small shapes of card to represent the number of desks, chairs and my interactive whiteboard. I have tables in my classroom and 30 students, so I used the card pieces to experiment with different arrangements that would be best suited to the needs of my class. It is much easier to manipulate pieces of card that drag desks around a classroom to design your layout!
Here are some of the different arrangements and their advantage and disadvantages:
These are great to group students by ability. All students of a particular ability sit around one table. it makes distribution of resources and worksheets etc very simple if each table has a different task to complete. Resources such as pencils and rulers can be stored in the center of each table. It is okay for group work, but slightly too large to have all children on one table group working together. It can encourage talking and students can become distracted as they are facing each other. Not all students are facing the board which is not the best for whole class teaching and instruction when you want everyone looking at the front.
Similar points to the large grouped tables, but these are great for group work and collaborative learning as the students can easily interact with each other as the number of students around each table is much smaller and they are closer to each other. Resources can be stored in the center of each group of tables and it is easier for the students to reach the resources as the tables are smaller than the large grouped tables. It can encourage chatter as students face each other and it is not so good for independent working. This arrangement can also take up a lot of classroom space if your room is on the small side. Some students also have their back to the front of the classroom.
All students are facing the front which is great for whole class teaching and seeing the board. Students do not face each other so they are less likely to become distracted with chatty behavior. The teacher can easily access each student’s work, which is slightly more difficult in a grouped table set up. This makes it easier for the teacher to provide support if required. Ideal for independent work. It is more difficult to store resources on tables as they are likely to fall off. It is not good for group work as the students do not face each other. Teacher led group activities such as guided reading are difficult to run on in this arrangement as it is difficult to interact with one another along a row.
Like the traditional rows, all students can easily see the board and teacher during whole class instruction. Students are not as close to each other as they would be on grouped tables so unwanted chatter will be discouraged. The teacher can easily access the students’ work and give guidance and advice. All students are facing each other (apart from the small desk in the center)so it is ideal for whole class discussions and debates. The small desk in the center can be used for small group activities such as guided reading.However, as children are further away from each other, this set up is not the best for group work. Resources will also fall of the tables easily.
L- and U- Shaped Arrangements
After much experimenting, I settled on this set up this past year. The students face each other so group work can be undertaken easily. However, they are also far enough apart so that unwanted chatter is discouraged. It is easy for the teacher to access all students’ work and give support where needed, by positioning yourself on the other side of the table to the student. Some students have their back to the board and this layout takes up a lot of space, so if your classroom is small it may not be the best set up for you. I also kept walking into the corners of the desks as there were so many sticking out! So take care if you use this set up!
What classroom set up do you use? What are its pros and cons? I’d love to hear about your ideas!