Classroom design has remained largely the same for centuries – heavy metal desks and chairs lined up in columns and rows, while a teacher lectures at the front of the room.
Despite the stagnant classroom design, lesson plans have evolved to include technology, collaboration, innovation, creativity and flexibility. This leaves a major disconnect between today’s innovative curriculum and outdated classroom furniture.
This month’s #SquirrelsChat explored how teachers can transform their traditional classroom into a space where students feel welcome and want to learn. You’ll learn how the physical environment of a classroom impacts learning, what factors to consider when redesigning, how to involve students, design hacks and more!
Join #SquirrelsChat the third Thursday of every month for the best education tips, strategies and ideas at 8 p.m. ET. You can stay up to date on chat topics and moderators by following us on Twitter (@Squirrels).
How physical environment impacts learning + collaboration
A physical classroom environment can either foster collaboration and promote learning, or it can limit it. Every space has its own vibe – make yours positive!
A1: The physical environment is important. My former principal encouraged plants, lamps, rugs, & soft music. So many Ts are limited w/$, so just creating a welcome environment is the most important#SquirrelsChat— Pam Inabinett (@pNabbie) March 16, 2018
A1- I think a school/classroom has to have an inviting presence. I always had a colorful room with pretty much every wall covered. I am always put off by barren/stark classrooms. #squirrelschat— Janis Bork (@BorkJanis) March 16, 2018
A1: Students learn best in colorful, innovative environments! Fresh and airy spaces that get the creative juices flowing! When placed in dark noninspirational spaces, learning can't thrive! #SquirrelsChat https://t.co/OJeP5s5dyF— Natasha Rachell,EdS (@apsitnatasha) March 16, 2018
A1. Desks, especially with seating fixed to the desktop and piled in a classroom make logistics in the room somewhat limited. Need to maximize the space by scaling seating back...or get a larger room...or start holding class outside. #squirrelschat pic.twitter.com/FaeSsZS9tu— James McCrary, M.Ed (@jamesmccrary) March 16, 2018
A1 Physical environment is everything! Whether it's school or work, you spend 40+ hours a week in that space and you want to be inspired when you walk in, not tired. Every space has its own vibe -- make yours positive! #squirrelschat https://t.co/7RhaSJ7B8a— Emily Carle Hafer (@emilycarle) March 16, 2018
Sound is really important...too much music/noise can be distracting but not enough can also be distracting! I like to give Ss the option to use @noisli if they work better in an environment with ambient noise! #squirrelschat— Becky Shiring (@beckyshy) March 16, 2018
What factors to consider when designing a learning space
Start by looking at what your goals are for the class and students. Design your space around that. A learning space should be a combination of things that benefit students and make sense for you as the teacher.
A2: I would start with looking at what your goals are for the class and Ss and design your space around that #SquirrelsChat— Becky Shiring (@beckyshy) March 16, 2018
A2: Definitely classroom size, color, thinking about what you'll want the kids to do in the space, soft seating, hard seating, furniture that moves so the class can be set up multiple ways for different purposes. #SquirrelsChat https://t.co/eUWYywmUrE— Natasha Rachell,EdS (@apsitnatasha) March 16, 2018
A2: In my ms classroom, I used milk crates & rugs to allow Ss movement, chairs and lamps, curtains with bright colors and inspirational posters. Ss should want to to be in the room. #SquirrelsChat— Jennifer Hall, NBCT (@apsitjen) March 16, 2018
A2-I would consider what tasks I ask of my students most often. More collaborative spaces promotes collaboratation. I also know when I have to sit in a hard chair for 6 hours, I get crabby😬 #squirrelschat— Janis Bork (@BorkJanis) March 16, 2018
Being open to change is so important! We often think in terms of how we personally learn best, but we need to put ourselves in others shoes as well. Everyone has unique learning preferences! #squirrelschat https://t.co/r7tlaQD80f— Becky Shiring (@beckyshy) March 16, 2018
A2 I can't like everyone's tweets fast enough - you all have GREAT ideas. It's about Ss, what works for their needs, + providing space that hits your goals. Ottomans may not be the best place to take a test, but could be the perfect place for creative writing #squirrelschat— Emily Carle Hafer (@emilycarle) March 16, 2018
How to involve students
Simply put – go straight to the source! Ask students to describe their favorite place to hang out. Sometimes the best ideas come out of the most creative answers!
A3: Classroom design lends itself well to a ton of math concepts! Have a class competition for the best classroom redesign using an app like @roomstyler Check out the floor plan I made of our office Learning Lab currently under construction! https://t.co/TLwORZGZ2r #SquirrelsChat— Becky Shiring (@beckyshy) March 16, 2018
A3-Students show you what they want! When your 10’ x 12’ rug won’t hold all the kids who want to work there, you know you need new options. A fellow teacher got a grant and let the kids vote. Now has 4 new work spaces!#squirrelschat— Janis Bork (@BorkJanis) March 16, 2018
Design hacks for making a future-ready classroom on a budget
Dish racks, ironing boards, beach chairs and tennis balls are all options for redesigning on a budget. Take a look at how educators are using these easy-to-find items below.
I use to use old tennis balls on the feet of desks and chairs so Ss could move furniture w/o disturbing the class. #SquirrelsChat— Jennifer Hall, NBCT (@apsitjen) March 16, 2018
A4 I always want to find something that has dual purpose. Whether that means ottomans with storage or a whiteboard that's magnetic, I'm looking for anything that can fit multiple situations in the classroom -- it will be worth it! #squirrelschat— Emily Carle Hafer (@emilycarle) March 16, 2018
A4. Get lumber!!! Build fold up bar tables against walls. Build low rise tables for sitting on the floor. Use bed risers for existing modular desks. My wife, @SarahMcCraryLA, is the queen of flexible seating on a budget. #squirrelschat pic.twitter.com/fqqW8CWHkX— James McCrary, M.Ed (@jamesmccrary) March 16, 2018
A4-Short beach chairs were a hit in one class-she got them at a garage sale. Book fair money got bean bags for classes. #squirrelschat— Janis Bork (@BorkJanis) March 16, 2018
A4 dish racks from the dollar store can hold ipads, folders, lots of things, great at centers #squirrelschat— Mrs.Geeky (@Themrsgeeky) March 16, 2018
Advice to overcome redesign obstacles
We can’t stress this enough…start small! Something as small as changing sound and lighting in a room can bring positivity and inspiration to a space.
A5 Be patient and start small! Unfortunately we're not going to really get the all-expenses paid makeover we talked about at the beginning, but you can make changes along the way that add up #squirrelschat https://t.co/5D8r0tHBuy— Emily Carle Hafer (@emilycarle) March 16, 2018
A5: Help others understand the why! Share researched based articles & resources that support creative classroom redesign #SquirrelsChat— Becky Shiring (@beckyshy) March 16, 2018
A5- Try something new- if it doesn’t work-try again. Ask for donations from parents and PTO, most are very willing to give $ if kids benefit. Make friends with maintenance staff! #squirrelschat— Janis Bork (@BorkJanis) March 16, 2018
A5: Asking students how they want their space to look is always a great way to give them ownership of the space! #squirrelschat— iVelvet (@iVelvet) March 16, 2018
Don’t miss the next #SquirrelsChat on April 19 at 8 p.m. ET!