It’s impossible to have one perfect template for set up, since we all teach different subjects and grades, and have different personal styles. But there are some things to remember when organizing the physical classroom. Spatial design can have a huge impact on how well a classroom runs.
One thing I have learned is that students love an organized teacher but balk at over regimentation. Keep the classroom seamless in function. You don’t need to draw arrows on the floor or number desks to get results.
Other aspects of classroom organization are saved for other posts.
Classroom on a Grid
Stand in the center of your room and survey the whole classroom. Think of your space as a grid in your mind’s eye. Notice your critical work areas (art station, books, student computers…). Identify defined storage spaces for tools, supplies and filing. Are your spaces orderly and neat, and do all tools (computers, staplers…) function? Can human traffic flow in and out smoothly? It can be fun to work with graph paper to organize your set up. If you’re a real geek you can cut out models for desks and shelves (cut at the correct ratio) and put them on graph paper to play with the placement.
Be your own efficiency expert. Consider how you move around the room to do your job and how the students need to move. Arrange to accommodate traffic flow and efficiency of movement. Keep the student computers, out of room tasks such as copying, and even discipline steps in mind. You don’t have to be a traffic engineer to get it right for your room.
Last year I tried the reverse fan, forum, groups of two, four and six, inner and outer circles and traditional rows, just to name a few. I surveyed the students to discover their preferences (groups, of course). Mike the custodian quickly answered, “rows” when I asked him what was easiest to clean. The fact is there is no perfect seating arrangement. Age, class size and goals all dictate which way to seat your students. I personally ended up going back to traditional rows (because of easy student access) and occasionally forming temporary groups as needed.
Are you a hoarder, a spreader or a minimalist? Be honest and create space to accommodate your style. I can’t work unless I have a large flat surface to organize my class paperwork and teacher manuals. I HATE looking for stuff I’ve misplaced. This area is my go-to space for everything important for the class lesson of the day. If you need to create a secret area for hoarding, do it. Just make sure you contain it somehow, in a file cabinet, or small cupboard.
Filing and Storage
There are heaps of manuals on filing systems and storage organization, but where these work points are located in the classroom is important. Again, we all have different spaces given to us, but my point is that you want to know where stuff is and not travel or hunt to get at it. Obviously, supplies should be secure and important files such as your personnel documents and confidential student information should be close to your desk and locked up.
On a final note, your keys should be around your neck and your personal items (cell phones, purses…) locked up the minute you arrive. This seems so simple, but we get so distracted! I can’t tell you how many excellent, super organized teachers lose keys or become a victim of theft.