students sitting in rows listening to the geography lesson

Just like how every teacher is different and unique, every classroom is set up differently for a number of reasons. Classroom setup depends on lots of important factors such as the grade level being taught, how large or small the classroom is, what the teacher has available in terms of school supplies and furniture, and so on.

The way a classroom is set up has a large impact on students learning, and even the environment of the classroom as well. So, if you are a new teacher struggling with how to set up a classroom or are even a seasoned educator wanting to switch up the layout of your classroom, we’re here to help you discover some new ways to setup your classroom for the school year.

The Importance of Classroom Setup

How a classroom is set up is strategic to the learning that is being done in the classroom and isn’t always just for looks. Desks and tables are set up differently in an elementary or kindergarten classroom compared to a high school classroom because of the developmental difference in the students’ learning abilities.

A typical high school classroom set up might be:

  • Desks in rows facing the front of the classroom.
  • The teacher’s desk in the back of the room.

A typical elementary classroom setup might be:

  • Desk clusters for group work.
  • An enclosed square so all the students can see one another.
  • The teacher’s desk in an easily accessible location.

Depending on the size of the space, the way a classroom is setup is also for safety reasons. Keeping students safe is very important, so the classroom furniture needs to be set up with safety in mind that in case of an emergency, the furniture is not a hazard in exiting the room. Furniture includes but is not limited to desks, tables, chairs, the teacher’s desk, bookshelves, closets, and more. Set up ideas can be infinite when you use the furniture you have and your imagination to your advantage.

The Best Way to Set Up a Classroom. Hint: There Isn’t One

Setting up a classroom can take some time, planning, and strategy, but it can be very beneficial to both teachers and students if you do it in a way that maximizes those benefits. Both you and your students spend a lot of time in your classroom, so you want to make it feel positive, warm and a place where students feel free to learn and explore their interests. While there is no ‘best’ way to set up a classroom strategically, it’s important to make students feel safe, loved, and ready to learn. Here are some tips to arrange your classroom that’s best for you and your students:

  • Make it feel warm and inviting: Classroom decorations and additions that show your personality while being welcoming and warm to your students can make them feel at home. If you have a passion or a theme, make it known through your decorations. This creates an environment that is more inviting and fun for your students to learn.
  • Classroom layout: Having a classroom layout or arranging the desks and other furniture in a strategic way can improve your classroom setup. Rearranging the furniture seasonally or by lessons you are teaching can help students branch out more with peers and can teach them about routine and change. However the furniture is set up, it’s important to make sure that your students can all see the board or whatever it is you are teaching from as well.
  • Classroom library: Finding a good place to put your library for students to access easily can help make your classroom setup ideas come to life. Having a big enough bookshelf for all your books, as well as tools to organize them can help make your classroom feel complete.
  • Supplies are placed for easy access: Make sure that when you are getting your classroom ready for the new year that supplies and materials for students to use are put in places around the classroom that are easily accessible to students. Labeling bins of supplies can help make organizing more convenient and is great for teaching students’ independence as well as responsibility. Having these supplies organized around the room can help make clean up easier and helps familiarize younger students with putting things back where they belong.

Incorporating Functionality Into Your Classroom Setup

In order to set up a classroom, having a tentative plan on what each part of your classroom will be used for is key. Weaving in functionality is important for a classroom setup for a number of reasons, because it keeps you organized as an educator, and teaches your students about routine.

Functional classrooms can help improve the way a classroom is run and learning how to keep your classroom tidy is part of the classroom set up process. You want to make sure that everything has its own place, and each aspect of your classroom has a purpose. For instance, if the dry-erase board at the front of the classroom is where most of the learning is done, then the desks should face the board as much as possible. For an elementary classroom setup, that might be the place where you would find the daily schedule, the lunch choices, the morning message, and other things of that nature. For a middle school or high school classroom setup, that would be the place where students would see what the class schedule would be that day, the activities they will be doing, and what their homework would be.

You want to make sure the classroom furniture layout matches with both your teaching style and the ways in which you want your students to interact. Having desks in rows might be more traditional but it shows students that the teacher is most important when they are in class. Having the desks in clusters encourages them to work together on assignments and talk to one another when their teacher isn’t talking. Having the desks in a circle or square shows that everyone is included in the discussion and can be seen by everyone equally. For a special education classroom set up, you might think about things such as the disabilities your students have and the ways in which your classroom set up could benefit them.

How Classroom Layouts Impact Can Student Learning

Students and children of all ages are like sponges. They soak in everything that they observe through all five senses and act based on what they take in. Did you know that even the way your classroom is set up can impact their learning? Here are some ways on how their learning environment can affect the way they learn:

  • Rearranging the furniture: Depending on the subject, teachers can rearrange their classrooms based on what they are teaching. This may be easier for teachers who only teach one or two subjects but having the classroom furniture arranged based on the material will help students become more engaged. For math class, try arranging the desks in rows to help students focus on the teacher and the board. For English class, a big circle can help with discussions and engage everyone in the class. For science or social studies, clusters of desks can encourage students to work together to solve problems and complete classwork together.
  • Keeping everyone comfortable: Students spend so much time in their classrooms, so making sure they feel comfortable, safe, and happy will help them focus on their learning. Keeping an open conversation with students about how they are feeling can help them tremendously. Opening a window when it’s hot or turning on the heat when it’s cold can make students feel heard and appreciated, which might lead them to engage more.
  • Ask your students for their opinions: If your students are old enough to have a preference on where they sit or what activities they do while in school, ask them for their thoughts on classroom set up ideas. This gives them some autonomy and a sense of importance because they are being asked to share their thoughts. They might value their learning more if they are asked to give opinions on the way the classroom is set up.

Reflecting Upon Classroom Setup

The way in which your classroom is set up can positively affect the learning of your students. Depending on the type of classroom you are in, the organization of materials, the configuration of the desks and furniture, as well as the level of accessibility students have is important to consider. W.B. Mason offers interior design services for classrooms and are able to help with furniture layout if you are still unsure how to best set your classroom up.

Being critical and thoughtful about the space you are given before setting up your classroom can help tremendously with the way your classroom is run all year round. There are so many different ways to set up your classroom to prepare for a great school year, so remember to have fun with it and be mindful with the space that you have.

Teacher Starter. 7 Classroom Setup Ideas Veteran Elementary Teachers Swear By. (www.teachstarter.com/us/blog/effective-classroom-setup-us) July 18, 2022

Teaching on Purpose. The Importance of Classroom Design. (http://teachingonpurpose.org/journal/the-importance-of-classroom-design) July 18, 2022

ThoughtCo. How to Set Up Your Classroom for the First Day of School. (https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-set-up-your-classroom-for-the-first-day-of-school) July 18, 2022

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