Setting up classroom spaces has always been one of my favorite things to do as a teacher. Now, as a consultant, I love helping other teachers think of fun and practical ideas for designing great learning spaces. Last year, a brave teacher and I completely reworked her entire classroom while her students were at lunch and music. We rearranged all of the furniture (and got rid of quite a bit), cleaned up the walls, and reorganized supplies. Once her third graders returned and got over the shock, they handled things quite well and helped us finish things off!
I thought you might enjoy taking a walk through one of my classrooms to get some ideas. This was a fifth grade classroom in Portsmouth, NH. I took a photo walk around my room on one of the last days of the summer, just before students returned. Because I’m often standing at a wall when taking a picture, this room looks larger than it actually was. In fact, it was one of the smallest in the school–about 850 square feet. (If you want a quick way to estimate your room size, look at your ceiling tiles. They’re usually either 2’x2′ or 2’x4′ and can help you calculate a rough size pretty quickly.)
Books are organized by genre, author, series, or topic and placed in bins for easy access. Each bin is labeled and each book has a corresponding sticky dot that helps it get back in the right bin. After this picture was taken, I covered most of these books with large pieces of paper labeled “Coming attractions!” and “Opening soon!” so our library wouldn’t be overwhelming during the first few weeks. Every few days, we would unveil another section of the library, slowly discovering the books together. This helped students learn how to choose “just right” books and practice using the organization of the library slowly, while also building excitement and anticipation. The table that you see in the middle of the library is a regular work space for students.
Loft and Cubbies
Classroom SuppliesLearning to Choose, Choosing to Learn, shared supplies can help support equity in a classroom. When all students have access to the same high-quality supplies, there’s a feeling of fairness in the room that help supports a positive community. In my classroom, students weren’t allowed to bring in special supplies that only they and their three best friends could use. Any supply or material in the room was available to all. This old card-catalogue file drawer set (that our school was about to throw away one year) houses pens, pencils, rulers, markers, colored pencils, glue sticks, and other daily supplies. Other supplies are kept in a few other locations around the room. Notice the white set of cubbies nearby; keeping student cubbies spread apart helps smooth transitions to get (or put away) materials.
Class Meeting Area
Other Student Work Spaces
My Teacher Space
A Few Other Resources
Here are links to some other resources that might inspire your classroom design thinking!
- If you’re on Pinterest, you might want to check out a board I’ve started working on: Classroom Design Ideas
- Classroom design is something that works it’s way into each of the books I’ve written: Books by Mike
- Here’s a great graphic with practical ideas for classroom organization: Organization Hacks that Triumph Over Classroom Clutter
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little photo walk. Feel free to reach to me with any questions and comments!
Mike Anderson is an education consultant, award-winning teacher, and author of many books including What We Say and How We Say It Matter, The Well-Balanced Teacher, The First Six Weeks of School, The Research-Ready Classroom, and Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn. Learn more about Mike and his work or invite him to work with your school or district through his website: www.leadinggreatlearning.com. Connect with Mike on Twitter: @balancedteacher.