Struggling with designing your classroom? This quick guide will get you on your way to crafting a classroom your students will love and you will take pride in.
Everyone Can Have a Well-Designed Classroom
I remember the moment I walked into my first classroom. I came armed with all of these awesome ideas about how I was going to create the perfect learning environment for my students. In my vision, I had a classroom library and a reading nook, perfectly designed centers, and a lovely little teacher’s corner for planning and grading.
What I walked into, however, was a small and dark room with peeling linoleum floors and barely enough room for the student desks to be placed into rows. In that moment, my dreams were crushed. How could that little room ever be the classroom I had been dreaming of.
The truth? It couldn’t, because real life isn’t Pinterest. But, with a little creativity and a good deal of effort, I was able to transform my room by following five simple steps.
Step One: Select a Timeless Theme
It is easy to be tempted by whatever is popular, thinking that going for something of-the-moment will get the kids excited. But before you drop a ton of money on owl borders or Minion posters, consider that these fads will fade. The best way to go is something timeless.
For younger grades, simple characters or primary colors are great to base your theme on. For older grades, just pick a color scheme that you find attractive and feels calming. This makes it easy to offer students a welcoming environment and also makes it easier to add to the classroom as the years go by. My choice is blue and green since the colors are calming and well-liked by the majority of students.
Step Two: Map Desk Positions
Perhaps the most important element of classroom design is determining where the students will sit. There are a few things to consider here. First, you need to make sure that whatever formation you choose for your basic seating plan offers each student easy view of the board without needing to twist or contort themselves.
Next, you need to make sure that you leave room to move the desks for other purposes, such as centers and group work. To do this, I use different colors of duct tape on the floor showing where the desks go when in different positions: yellow for standard position, green for pairing, and blue for centers or grouping. This makes it easy for the kids to move them for me as we transition in class and also helped me place my other pieces of furniture without infringing on the space needed for the desks, no matter what formation they are in.
Step Three: Get Organized
When classrooms get cluttered, both teachers and students feel overwhelmed. But it is very easy for classrooms to become filled with projects, supplies, technology, and more. You need to be ready with a solid organizational system.
However, what works will vary. For me, the key was to be as minimalist as possible, especially since other teachers taught in my room. Each group I teach has their own in bin and their own out bin sitting on a bookshelf. These sit next to their portfolios, which are kept organized in a file box. The classroom library goes on the first two shelves of my bookshelf while my personal supplies go on the bottom shelf. Everything has a place while taking up minimal floor space.
Step Four: Focus on the Students
It is tempting to fill your classroom with the things you like. After all, this is the room you spend your day in. But as is the case with all things teaching, your focus needs to be on the students.
This may mean forgoing the corny character education posters that you simply adore. It might mean giving up your teacher corner to give them extra space to work. But no matter what it looks like in your case, always keep your focus on the students.
Step Five: Keep it Simple
Yes, those classrooms you see when browsing Pinterest look great in photos, with every inch of space utilized or decorated. In reality, those classrooms are sensory overload for students, especially for those with special needs. A simple classroom can be just as attractive as a busy one, but much more conducive to learning.
When decorating, white space and floor space are your friends. Keep your displays separate from each other by using borders and blank spaces. Rather than squeezing in a reading nook, keep some throw pillows on a shelf and let students find their own little spot. Simple isn’t boring—it is functional and calming.
By following these five steps, I was able to create the classroom that both my students and I needed. Keep them in mind as you design your classroom and you will too.