Bright ideas for tech-savvy educators, right to your inbox

What to Think About when Setting Up Your Classroom

Monday, August 12, 2013 -- Scott Sterling

The first week of school for teachers is often a week spent discussing changes in the curriculum, gathering supplies, and setting up your classroom. It is an exercise in guessing the future of the school year and nowhere is that more apparent than how you set up your room. You’re making choices that could affect how learning takes place for 180 days.

There are as many ways to set up a classroom as there are classrooms themselves. Some teachers are uber-traditional with their equally spaced rows. Others do tables for small group work. Some have found a completely new approach. Whatever your style, there are some general rules:

  • Entrance and exit has to be clear.
  • The fire marshal might have some rules about posters on the wall. Check with a veteran if you haven’t worked at this school before.
  • Think about a safe place for the kids to hide in the event of a lock down.
  • Generally, having your desk near the door is an invitation for things to “walk off” once the bell rings.

Secondly, what’s the furniture situation like? For newer schools, each classroom might have roughly the same number of desks, all in decent condition. In older schools, the classrooms might be an amalgamation of desks, tables, and chairs. If you want something in particular, roam around. You might find one in a closet or a colleague might be willing to trade.

Newer classrooms were also built with computers in mind, whereas older schools might not have been. Electrical outlets would be at a premium in that case and unless you want many extension cords running along your floor, the computers need to go near the outlets.

How flexible do you want the kids to be? Will active learning be a daily event, where kids will have to move their desks and chairs around to work? Then they need a “buffer zone” around each seat.

Would you rather not have the students be able to move anything (see “uber-traditional” above)? The best trick is to invest in some of those metal rings used to fit pipes together (available at the hardware store) and tie the desks together. Zip ties don’t work. You’ll simply become more frustrated by having to pick up broken zip ties every day after school.

Above all, don’t be afraid to try new things. The best teachers are always exploring new ideas, and that is even true when it comes to classrooms. Many of my colleagues and I would change our rooms around almost monthly, simply to figure out a way for us and the students to work better.