Congratulations….you have won the opportunity to redesign your classroom! It is the beginning of a new school year, a fresh start, it is time to set the stage for the wonderful possibilities ahead.

Does it really matter how your classroom is set up? Maybe you will just leave it the same as you had it last year, it worked out okay and you already have all your classroom procedures in place then. Why spend time rearranging and move things around? Is it really worth the time and effort?

“A poor classroom design can stifle student creativity and promote negative learning habits, negating the teacher’s impact”. (eSchool News, Dr. Marshall, 7-20-17)

“Classroom design could be attributed to a 25 percent impact, positive or negative, on a student’s progress over the course of an academic year. The difference between the best- and worst-designed classrooms covered? A full year’s worth of academic progress.” (Co. Design, Kyle Vanhemert, 2013).

Oh…okay…maybe it is worth a second look. But where to start? Don’t worry you don’t need to walk around aimlessly for hours brainstorming, I’ve done the research for you! I found several websites, publications, podcasts, etc. all stating best practices for creating learner centered spaces; and while each had a different number of “key elements” they all shared common themes which I felt was best summarised through a blog post through Envision on 7-21-17 who suggested the following 6 elements of creating a new classroom design as outlined below. I have also includes several quick, inexpensive, and compliant 🙂  ideas to start transforming your classroom today!

  1. Flexibility of furniture and space
    • Ask students how they would like the room arranged
      1. What type of learning environment do they work most comfortably in? (Going hand-in-hand with personalized learning!) Student voice matters, allow their interests and needs to transform the environment.
    • Get rid of your teacher desk! Move away from teacher-centric and into a student-centric mindframe!

      Creative Stall // Noun Project
  2. Areas for collaborative learning and independent study
    Alberto Gongora // Noun Project
    • Create zones or nooks in your classroom
      1. Tech nook, quiet zone, collaboration corner, etc.
    • Create a brain-break area within your classroom
      1. Have sensory items for students to utilize within the area (playdough, fidget spinners [Yes, I said fidget spinners, embrace “their” culture], or my favorite, Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, etc.). Something to keep the brain going, research shows that your brain subconsciously continues to problem solve when on a “break”.
  3. Facilitation of movement
    • Ask a custodian to raise your tables creating an area for students to stand and work.
    • Borrow a few exercise balls for students to have the option of using throughout the day. (I have used these as a teacher and administrator, here is my favorite because the “udders” prevent them from rolling all over your room!)
  4. Fostering of inspiration and creativity
    Chameleon Design // Noun Project

    • Provide students the opportunity to explore with microscopes, building materials, plants, even an old overhead projector could be “fun” for students to utilize. (Project it on the wall and it becomes a quick way for you to “check-in” on student progress without them knowing it)
    • Play soft music in the background – my absolute favorite Pandora station – “The Vitamin String Quartet Radio” it plays today’s hit music but it is 100% instrumental!
  5. Technology
    • Integrate technology in meaningful, engaging, and transforming ways (I am EXTREMELY passionate about this so I will not go off on my soap box here…but look for upcoming blog posts about why this is important and how to do so effectively). However, here is one quick idea so you don’t feel I have given a suggestion without following through with a way to implement the idea: Create a digital exit slip.
  6. Light and bright colors

Remember, “Other industries have evolved far more than the classroom. We would struggle to identify an 18th-century doctor’s office, a 19th-century newsroom and even a 20th– century farm. Each has gone through radical overhauls in equipment, technology, and design. But the classroom remains unchanged, holding back our 21st-century students.”(eSchool News, Dr. Marshall, 7-20-17) As I said, you have won the ability to transform your classroom this year, let’s make a difference!

I would like to share and celebrate all of the “innovative” classroom designs taking place within our county. If you could take pictures, videos, etc. of your classroom (or a creative colleagues’) and send them to me to share out with others I would greatly appreciate it, or if you would like, I would love to come and visit your classroom and see your space first-hand!
Please shoot me an email or text to arrange a visit and/or share your photos with me so that we can continue the dialogue and use each other as resources.

In the spirit of “sharing” and learning from one-another here are a few pictures of my very first classroom arrangement many years ago (a “what-not-to-do” if you will)!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning


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