Summer of Learning 2017  about classroom design thinking

Summer of Learning 2017  about classroom design thinking 

I always love seeing tweets about teachers setting up their “first classrooms” and those who are moving schools and those who are wanting to “rethink” their classroom setup…..maybe especially those who are rethinking how their classroom “looks and feels”.  

Early in my career I was teased by colleagues down the hall who spent hours putting up bright decorations and colourful distractions. My classroom was always organized, but I always liked “designing and decorating” with the class. I had/have some of my favourite decorations and posters to identify who I am and what I believe is important, but the bulk of the space I left to be “filled in” (by word walls, art, @adriennegear reading/thinking posters etc) to explain why it was being placed in the room. 

Over the years, I’ve had other experts reinforce what my “hunch” said as having benefits – in particular for anxious learners – that sometimes “less is more”. Because classrooms can become busy, but when it is done with the class (not ‘for’ the class) there is both a sense of understanding and ownership that the design is meant to benefit their learning – and if something isn’t working, it can change. 

I’ve given a lot of thought both to a few key design thinkings that I am mindful of in my office and my classroom/library/etc – and yes, I think this is appropriate for k-12+

– horizontal comfort is great, but don’t forget about vertical (ie standing spaces)

– negative space can help emphasize what it surrounds

– desks at same level look nice… long as the learners are all the same height…

– does everyone need a desk? does everyone benefit from a table? I now like having a mix (and realize that though I prefer tables to desks, not all learners are comfortable with this and benefit from having some “personal territory” and some teachers struggle with the way classroom dynamics change without desks)

– Sound. Sound matters. Sometimes silence can be deafening and sometimes music can be distracting to some, empowering to others. I like trying to create zones where volumes can be varied. And announcements can be some of the most stressful times for some kids – especially when the speakers are all treble and Mombasa and the announcements get choppy….

– Lighting. Daylight good. Darker rooms can be calming (especially in the morning) blinking fluorescent tubes can be very distracting. 


– is the seating plan for teacher or student convenience?

– am I wrong to dislike mounted projectors because it forces the class to be designed in a very static/forced way

– how can each wall be used as a “window to learning” rather than a barrier?

– is it okay to change your plan (ie go from tables to desks) a month in?

– what is your room has no windows? Is it worth looking at ways to create “fake windows”? Or does that erase valuable wall space?

– Storage. There is never enough “space” – have you thought of ways to stow things away to reduce distractions?

Ideas to reduce anxiousness

– curtain or tarp off distracting storage areas – or use identical bins or have them the same colour (even construction paper can help!)

– use portable “blinders” (room dividers) to “close” areas that need privacy (or tent?)

– remember that the student staring out a window may be paying more attention to you than the student staring at you (as a coping method to not be called on)

There may not be a “best classroom design” because each year dynamics change based on who makes up the class. Be okay with making adaptions and chances to benefit the learners. And be mindful of how your spaces are being used. 

And a share that got me thinking about classroom design:

About technolandy

Principaling on the Pacific in Powell River BC Pushing 'technologization' in education: blending technology and curriculum seamlessly. Advocate for better understanding of Anxiety in Education (and use of self-regulation) Utilizing ePortfolios & Descriptive Feedback to personalize learning!
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