Purposeful Learning Spaces

Over the next two weeks, teachers in New Jersey and several other states will return to their classrooms and begin to prepare for a new school year. This is a scene that has been repeated in many school districts across the country over the past month. As teachers return, they will give careful consideration to the design and setup of their classrooms. Important decisions will be made about the placement of chairs, desks, and tables to create a workflow in the classroom for students.

When thinking about how to set up a classroom, teachers must pay special attention to designing the space to be purposeful. Many teachers often consider the how and why of designing daily lessons, but don’t pay enough consideration to how the classroom environment can impact daily instruction in the classroom. Classroom design, when done right, can have a strong influence on student behavior and learning. Even small things like sticky notes, or just rearranging everything to give them a change of scenario could create a positive impact on the children. Things that you haven’t given a second thought about could be beneficial, like the space and lighting.

Anyway, despite all the above things that need to be considered, it seems that the most important aspect is to create a classroom environment that feels welcoming. That is why we asked several teachers to share their decision making behind some of their innovative classroom designs. Try some of these strategies in your own classroom this year to ensure that the environment supports the purpose of what you are trying to accomplish with your students.

1. Create spaces that promote collaboration.

I want the students to have more opportunities to collaborate, communicate, critically think, and create. Opening up the classroom will provide more space to do this. I also want to give the students a choice and voice in the learning space. If a student works best at a traditional desk, that great! If a student works best sitting on a pillow on the floor, that’s great too! @mrvesco

2. Consider removing student desks if you think students will be more comfortable.


My third grade classroom is designed for collaboration, constant movement, and choice. I want my students to gain the self-awareness of how they learn best, whether it be sitting, standing, or laying down. @MsCutshall

3. Give students a variety of places where they feel comfortable working.

Students enjoy the comfort of the couch and carpet as an alternative to traditional desks.
There is plenty of collaborative space for innovation in my high school English classes. 3 desks remain for students who prefer to work independently or for a quiet, traditional option. @RESP3CTtheGAME

4. Consider lighting as an important part of the classroom. Lighting can impact student mood, as well as your own mood as the teacher.

This space is meant to provide a welcoming, peaceful place for my middle school students. They use it when they are listening to music for daily journaling and weekly reflection/planning for the upcoming week. @MindyEssex

5. Add small details that welcome students to the classroom.

Real plants brighten the space and show students I’m committed to creating a welcoming learning environment. They also foster community building and responsibility. @MelMollick

6. Make materials accessible and available to students so that they can pursue their own interests.

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Genius Bar provides computer and all other materials for all stakeholders.
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Students designed room for flow; Student choice and voice very important for student engagement and growth mindset. @JamieArmin

How have you designed your classroom to be purposeful? Share your best classroom design ideas in the comments section below.

Check out the remainder of our #BackToSchool Resources.

Special thanks to @TimVesco, @MsCutshall, @RESP3CTtheGAME, @MindyEssex, @MelMollick, and @JamieArmin for sharing their classroom photos with Four O’Clock Faculty.

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