Classrooms never seem to be large enough, so wasted space should be at a minimum. There are lots of clever ideas from teachers on ways to arrange furniture and find multiple uses for fixtures that can help maximize learning areas.
Desk towers, for example, can keep supplies close at hand for students so they don’t have to get up to retrieve them (greatly minimizing classroom disruption). The above teacher found a way to include the plastic drawers inside each table group so they can access them quickly and also use them to store their cell phones when not in use.
This teacher pushed two mis-matched filing cabinets back to back and created a cute magnet board for her class. Look around at the furniture available to you in your classroom, and think about what could serve dual purposes, or even be used in a different way. You can add learning spaces to your room without increasing your furniture count.
If you have a closet in your classroom, take advantage of the door for extra storage using something like this shoe holder. (Also a wonderful way to keep markers sorted since the boxes always end up with the wrong colors anyway!)
And, don’t forget that you’ve got an extra large space above that can be utilized, too!
What can you add to your classroom to “wow” your students? How can you make them feel comfortable and inspired to learn at the same time?
When students get the opportunity to add their mark to the classroom environment, they are more likely to develop a sense of “ownership” that will transfer to their behavior and work. Brittney Briggs offers some pointers for using your whiteboard to encourage interest and create a community in your classroom here.
Inspirational wall messages are eye-catching and convey what’s important in your classroom. It doesn’t hurt to use bright colors, either!
Anything that invites interactivity will surely draw interest and give learning a sense of fun, like playing a vocabulary game with a basketball and hoop.
For those students who can’t resist looking at the clock, you can include a subtle reminder to pay attention.
Students can learn even from the room itself. What can you include throughout the room so that, even when you aren’t directly addressing them they can still learn?
Here’s a creative way to display the alphabet!
Sure, there are endless numbers of posters you can purchase to cover your walls, but static images lose their power over time. Bulletin boards that teach with input from students will retain interest. It also helps to capitalize on a social networking game that students enjoy while simultaneously practicing their vocabulary words.
Educational decor doesn’t have to be on the wall! Using vinyl removable stickers is another way to teach. You can write your own messages/reminders on them, or have students use them as personal dry-erase boards.
Make sure you have plenty of disinfectant at your disposal to clean all these surfaces. Even if your school or employer has a janitorial service, it’s up to you to make sure germs are killed regularly. But don’t use toxic chlorine bleach or ammonia; instead, use safer-for-your-home EcoSense cleaning products from Melaleuca.com. They don’t contain harmful chemicals that can put your students’ health at risk.
Let’s face it. Teachers don’t have a lot of money to spend on new furniture and gadgets. Here are some ways to repurpose dollar store items, or get funding for the purchases you are convinced will make a difference.
There are little things that you can do, like the straw pencil holders above, that can make a huge difference! (Ever had bored students do pencil rolling races on their desks? More than a little distracting!)
If you have some frames “hanging” around, take out the photos and put in colorful paper to make instant dry erase boards to place around your classroom.
Many teachers recommend going to garage sales or thrift shops to find old furniture or other items that can be repurposed for classroom designing. If you have a vision, though, that won’t be satisfied by using “found” objects, you can always use crowdfunding sites such as Donors Choose, Adopt a Classroom, or Class Wish.
Students will connect with you if they know more about you. Personalizing the room in small ways can communicate what’s important to you in a powerful way.
A few family photos and a carefully selected quote can convey to students how you spend your life outside of school and your own personal mantra. Literacy Loves Company offers “10 Steps to Creating a Zen Teacher Space,” here, with more ideas for setting up an attractive and organized work station.
Using memes in the classroom can help you to deliver expectations, while also telling your students that you have a sense of humor. In addition, they can deduce some of your favorite pop culture icons. Would a teacher who isn’t a Star Trek fan use this meme on his or her wall?
You can even use your classroom door to express your passions and welcome your students.
What you don’t do in your classroom can be just as expressive to students. If you leave a few faded posters up year after year, add nothing to make a room seem less generic, or make little or no attempt to keep the room organized, students perceive that you do not care about your job or about them.
One message that 21st century classroom design definitely sends is that educators have recognized that students don’t all learn the same way. With versatile seating options and mobile furniture, classroom environments can be differentiated for diverse needs. More and more teachers are experimenting with offering their students non-traditional choices for seating or options to change the actual blueprint of the room with mobile furniture that allows for independent, partner, group, and whole-class learning.
In the above classroom, the teacher allows students to sit at desks, on the floor, at tables, or even stand in the back where she has set up bookcases that can also be used as standing desks.
Furniture with wheels and even dry-erase topped tables give students flexibility to collaborate in groups or work independently.
For classes in secondary school, like Yearbook, collaboration spaces like the one above give students plenty of options for working together as they sort through photos and articles to include in their project. Yearbook teams planning writing, photography, design, and fundraising can take advantage of distinct groupings within the classroom as they work.