6 reasons why classroom layout matters

Thumbnail image with the text "6 reasons why the layout of your classroom matters" with a Daisy Gingham display image.

If you were a school kid in the ‘90s like me, chances are you spent your school years in a traditional classroom with cramped desks, plastic seats and fluro lighting. But maybe you also encountered one of those special classrooms: the ones that were lovingly created by a teacher's imagination with loads of personality, warmth and a sense of calm. The ones where you walked into the classroom and saw drawings on the chalkboard, bean bags, reading corners filled with Paul Jennings and space for the odd Mariah Carey dance-break, and just immediately felt at home.

If we compare these different classroom spaces, it’s not hard to guess which one inspired a better learning environment, right? A great classroom layout can inspire creativity, laughter and terrible choreography. 

I’m going to share with you six reasons why classroom layout is important, and give some tips to make your own layout incredible.

1. Active learning classrooms require space & a flexible seating arrangement

As teachers, we're all about creating an environment where our kids aren't just listening but they're doing as well. Whether they're solving problems, learning new concepts or doing group work, we know that active learning helps students learn and engage, especially when there’s movement involved. For all these activities, we need space.

First thing to do is to make sure you have empty space in your classroom seating arrangement. Make space for your kids to be physically active while they collaborate and burn some of that limitless energy. Have a look around your classroom and consider if any space is underused or congested, and if you can easily move desks and furniture around. A truly flexible classroom floor plan means you can really adapt to your preferred teaching style to fit the moment.

In active learning spaces your students can easily take their work with them. Have a think about what kind of writing surfaces your students use. Are they portable, easily accessible, and always available? My go-tos are flipcharts, portable whiteboards and blank walls for sticking post-its (I mean, what teacher doesn’t love stationery?)

Classroom decorated in my Spotty Boho theme.

Make sure you have empty space reserved in your classroom, like @latteloveforteaching here has done using my Spotty Boho theme.

2. A well planned classroom layout will help neurodivergent kids thrive

With the beautiful neurodiversity we see among our kids, we need to take special care to make sure our classroom layout works for everyone. Every child struggles to focus at times, but for autistic kids or kids with ADHD, it can be particularly challenging. 

When it comes to creating an inclusive and supportive environment for kids with special needs, I really do believe less is more. Focus on cutting down visual clutter, and make sure your classroom decor reflects this: calm and neutral tones are what I'm all about!

Here are some other ways to support everyone's learning in the classroom:

  • Consistency: Creating learning areas in the classroom where everything has a designated place can help students feel secure and confident.
  • Object permanence: Using visual charts and reminders can help kids who struggle with object permanence to stay on track and focused.
  • Sensory stations: Using desks, tents, weights and playdough can help regulate sensory needs, helping with over and under-stimulation. (Also check out this fabulous reel from @teachingopportunities where she shares her classroom hacks - so good!)
  • Predictability: Use visual timetables and calendars to display activities and events you have planned. Knowing what to expect can be so helpful for kids who struggle with focus and change.

Also on the blog: How to create an inclusive classroom

Classroom library and growth mindset display decorated by @em_grosse with my Boho Vibes theme.

@emgrosse_ has built a beautiful Boho Vibes classroom with calm and neutral tones, and used my bulletin board lettering to create learning areas, like a reading nook and a growth mindset display.

3. Functional classroom setup requires good organization

Besides visual clutter, actual clutter in a classroom is every teacher's worst nightmare. I know at least for me, it can be so hard to focus if my space is messy with things laying around. You might already know how much  I love my organizational tools, like teacher toolboxes, teacher trolleys and labeled trays and tubs that keep all resources, supplies and papers in order. 

This is where classroom decor can really make the whole organizing process so much more enjoyable! All my decor themes feature editable labels so that you can make sure everything in your classroom has its place. The added perk for good organization is all the saved time you won't have to use trying to find something you swore you saw just five minutes ago (I know I'm not alone in this). 

Organization also helps your students work independently and look after their own things. My top tip: If you're using a grouped seating arrangement, pop a teacher caddy with pencils and other supplies on each group's table to cut down all those "can I have a pen" interruptions and trips to your desk.

Teacher caddy and teacher trolley in Spotty Brights theme.

Teacher caddies and a teacher trolley in Spotty Brights here are great tools to cut down loose items in your classroom. You can find both of these products available in my Amazon storefront. 

4. It can improve effective learning and concentration

If I told you that you could potentially increase your students’ performance by up to 16%, you’d want the details, right? Well, the University of Salford in England released a great study finding that an effective classroom environment and layout can do just that. They found that comfort levels, environmental factors, colors, lighting, natural light, sound, technology and even air quality all make a difference to learning.

Now I know that as teachers, we don't have a say in all of these factors – I mean I wish we could all custom design our classrooms! But focus on what you can control, for example, lighting. Being able to turn your main lights off and create an ambient lighting with a few different options can make such a difference to the mood and calmness of a classroom.

A way to cut down noise in your classroom is to work on non-verbal communication. My voice level displays and hand signals are great classroom management tools to encourage this. Voice level displays help students understand the voice level needed for each activity, while hand signal displays teach kids alternative silent ways to ask for things, like going to the restroom. Trust me when I say that cutting down interruptions is a win-win for everyone, you included!

Boho Rainbow decorated classroom with cute lights.

This Boho Rainbow classroom by @mycozyclassroom is made so much cozier with the addition of some cute lighting.

Hand signal display in Boho Rainbow.

Boho Rainbow hand signals teach your students silent ways of communication.

5. A good layout encourages teamwork and builds sense of community

We all know that who you sit next to in class makes up a big part of your learning experience. How many of us met our best friends by being seated next to them in class? Or on the flip side, how many of us had to endure the loudest kid in class causing a ruckus next to us?

All this is to say that seating arrangements and desk options can help lay the groundwork for important relationships and help team building. Have a think about a classroom seating chart that would work for your classroom: maybe pairs of desks facing each other, small groups of desks with empty space in between, or maybe a semi circle facing the front of the classroom, that can encourage conversation and make it easier for everyone to hear you. 

If you have a particularly loud class, it might be worth spacing your desks separately from each other to create a more quiet and stable learning environment, before moving onto more group work. 

No matter how you decide to arrange your seating chart, it is important that your students feel a sense of ownership when they walk into the classroom. Desk plates are a great way of giving all of your students their own reserved space to return to every day.

Desk plates in Botanical theme.

Botanical desk plates give every student their own place in the classroom.

6. A well designed learning space encourages initiative and independent thinking

When you think about the amount of time your students spend in the classroom, it really is their home away from home. Creating an environment where your students feel accepted and supported in their learning will have a lasting effect on them long after they leave your classroom.

Make sure you designate areas for affirmation stations and growth mindset displays – these tools are so important in teaching our students self-value, positive self-talk and potential. We all want our students to feel empowered, confident and heard, and a well planned classroom design is key in achieving that.

My ideal classroom design always includes different learning areas, like a library nook, group work zone, word wall, math and numeracy corner and a quiet work area. Different designated areas help your students have agency in their own learning process, and know where to go for different activities. They also give easy access to resources and information they'd otherwise have to ask you for, and encourage independent work and initiative. 

My bulletin board lettering packs are so handy when creating these areas: simply design your space, and then create beautiful banners that tell your kids what each area is for. I absolutely love seeing how the MJLL community uses my bulletin board lettering to create inspiring and engaging classrooms.

Affirmation station mirror display in Daisy Gingham theme.

Affirmation station in Daisy Gingham teaches students the power of positive self-talk.

@msfuenteshasclass standing in her Spotty Brights classroom.

Here @msfuenteshasclass has used my Spotty Brights bulletin board lettering theme to create a cute reading nook – those bean bags look so comfy!

Classroom decor is just a small piece in the puzzle of creating a classroom layout that works for you and your students' unique needs. Work with the resources and options you already have – little can really go a long way when making changes in the classroom. Remember that your effort in designing a space that works for your students is an investment in their future, and will help them learn, feel empowered and welcomed in their learning journey.


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