If you were a school kid in the ‘90s like me, chances are you encountered plenty of classrooms with cramped desks and fluoro lighting.
But hopefully, you also encountered one of those special classrooms; the ones that were lovingly created with personality, warmth and a sense of calm. The ones with drawings on the chalkboard, bean bags, reading corners filled with Paul Jennings and space for the odd Mariah Carey dance-break.
So, why is classroom layout important? Well, it can help create peak coziness like @ms.strous.inthehouse!
If we compare those spaces (cramped and flouro vs character filled and warm), 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. And a bad one? It can inspire seat-squirming, rattiness and disengagement!
As you know BFF, I’m here to help make your dream classroom decor come to life. But today I want to take it one step further! I want to help you create the best possible classroom layout. And we don't have to look too far to see studies that confirm what we know already - our classroom layout matters.
But why does it matter? And what should we do about it?
Well, BFFs, I’m going to share with you the top four reasons why classroom layout is important and share some tips to make your own layout incredible.
Reason 1: Active Learning Requires Space
As teachers, we're all about active learning, where our kids aren't just listening but they're 'doing' as well. Whether they're solving problems, performing simulations or doing group work, we know that active learning helps students engage, especially when there’s movement involved.
But of course, for these kinds of activities, we need space!
Never underestimate the importance of clear space throughout your classroom!
So, BFF - does your classroom design make active learning easy? Because if there’s one thing I want to do, it’s make your life easier!
It might sound simple, but my first real tip is to make space for active learning. Make space for your kids to be physically active while they collaborate and while they burn some of that limitless energy. Have a look around your classroom and consider if any space is underused or congested. Some questions you can consider include: Can I move my tables easily? What barriers can I clear to make it a flexible classroom? Can I condense my storage? A truly flexible space means you can really adapt to your preferred teaching style to fit the moment. In short, it helps you do what you do best!
And next, BFF, I want you to think about writing surfaces. A good mixture of writing surfaces makes all the difference for active learning. It means your students can quickly grab the tools they need to work in different ways. 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, mini whiteboards, portable whiteboards and blank walls (yes, really!) for sticking post-its. (I mean, what teacher doesn’t love *all* the stationery?!)
The portable whiteboard in @teachingwithmissamanda’s dreamy classroom would be fantastic for flexible writing surfaces and active learning.
And finally, my favourite way to set up my classroom for active learning is simple but oh-so effective.
First, designate a zone for group work. Give it a fun name like The Planning Place, The Discussion Den, or The Collaboration Corner. Then, label the space with a big gorgeous banner using the Bulletin Board Lettering Pack. That way, your kiddos have a beautiful space to jump into any time active learning is on the cards.
You know I love a good zone! How gorgeous is @pocketfulofpre.k’s little quiet area?
Reason 2: One Size Won't Fit All
When it comes to classroom layout - much like the bathers we see advertised on Instagram - one size never fits all!
Our students are no different. With the beautiful neurodiversity we see among our kids, we know they all need something a little different when it comes to an ideal learning space. Every child (ever!) struggles to focus at times. As teachers, we know this so well! But for autistic kids or kids with ADHD, it can be particularly challenging.
There are the usual 'pokes and jokes' distractions that get us all off track, but did you know that even visual 'clutter' can make it hard? And as someone with 200-300 tabs open in my mind at all times, I sooo relate!
So, why is classroom layout important for neurodiversity? And how do we set up a classroom to support neurodiversity? Well, here are a few of my favourite tips.
Visual noise Much like we create quiet zones, creating a space free of visual noise or clutter can really help students focus.
Consistency Creating learning areas in the classroom where everything has a predictable 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 tables, 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!)
When we create classroom layouts with neurodiversity in mind, we’re telling all students and teachers that they’re welcome and seen. So important!
Love @missplumly’s classroom displays for managing noise.
Reason 3: The Right Layout can Improve Performance
BFFs, 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!
I love how Chrisa from @pocketfulofpre.k has approached colour, lighting and comfort here. Just gorgeous!
They found that comfort levels, environmental factors, colours, lighting, natural light, sound, technology and even air quality all make a difference to students’ learning.
So I have a simple tip that I’d love you to try. If you can, raid your home for lamps and fairy lights. If that’s not possible, pop over to Kmart and pick up a cheapie. (I mean, who needs an excuse to go to Kmart amiright?!) Bring a few lamps and lights into your classroom (tagged and tested, of course!). Turn your overhead lights off and your lamps on, and see what a difference it makes. I reckon you’ll be surprised! I always found that lighting makes such a difference to the mood and calmness of a classroom.
But don’t stop there, my loves!
Over time, make small changes to all of those factors, think - comfort, lighting, sound, tech and air quality. And when you do, make sure you share what you find in the Miss Jacobs Little Learners Facebook Group!
(Btw - on that air quality point - did you know, US students miss 13.8 million days of school every year due to asthma!??)
Overhead lights off, fairy lights ON! So cosy! Image via @marcellatayler.
Reason 4: A Great Layout Fosters Community
So, BFF, have you been to a wedding recently? Did you find that who you sat with determined the quality of your whole night?!
Hear me out on this - I firmly believe the shape of the tables can make a difference too. The big round ones mean you have to shout small talk. No thanks! But the smaller ones mean you can chat freely and pass potatoes like old pals!
Our classrooms are no different. How many of us met our primary school bestie after being sat next to each other? And how many of us had a miserable time because the nose-picker next to us was a total troll?
In a nutshell- our classroom’s layout can provide the conditions for relationships to flourish. And I'm not just talking about who sits next to who, or table sizes. I'm talking about layouts that promote conversation and those beautiful little bonding moments.
For example, let’s say you’ve got students who’ve had a little friction. Maybe they’ve felt left out, maybe they’re a bit tired, or maybe it’s just Tuesday (we all know it doesn’t take much!). If you sent those students to the front of the classroom and told them to resolve their issue, I think we all know how it’d go. Not well! But if you popped those kids in front of an Affirmation Station and asked them to affirm each other? Major bonding moment. Instant reset!
I simply adore seeing your Affirmation Stations! Loving this one from @niki.ella.smith.
Similarly, setting up a Growth Mindset display and picking an unlikely pair to share their stories can make trust skyrocket.
Clever layouts don’t just help your children to learn, they can help them to form friendships. I really think that clever layouts and displays > bonding moments > stronger relationships. I know that so many of you feel the same as me on this; you want everyone who enters your classroom to feel like they’re entering a home away from home. Every time they’re walking into a classroom, you want them to feel welcome, seen and loved!
So BFF, take a look around at some of the resources you can use to create a space that just makes sense. If you have killer ideas or can think of anything I’ve missed, come and join my Facebook group and let me know!
And I’d LOVE to see your classroom layouts, so don’t forget to tag me and tell me all about it!
Can’t wait to see your classroom layout, BFF!