As part of setting up a positive classroom climate and creating an environment where students are ready to learn, teachers face the question of how to arrange their students ’desks. This decision is a big one, because classroom desk arrangements basically determine:
- The way students communicate with each other throughout the day
- Who often communicate with each other
- How easily the teacher will be able to preach to each student
Here are some classroom setup ideas that will make students of all ages feel welcome and inspired.
4 classroom setup ideas to encourage a positive classroom environment
When deciding how to set up a desk in their classroom, you may have some goals in mind. Perhaps you are looking to encourage more student collaboration. Or maybe you’re hoping to support classroom management by reducing the chances of students getting confused. Maybe you want to be able to easily see all the students in front of the room or convert from block to block more easily. Keep reading for ideas on how you can set up your classroom layout to meet these goals.
The Horseshoe Formation: Class discussions, inclusions, and the front of the house for easy viewing.
In the formation of a horse trough, the desks are placed in a semicircle so that all the students face each other and the teacher can also easily move around the whole room. The idea of this type of classroom setup is to encourage discussion between students and teachers. This can be especially effective when the teacher is displaying content on a smartboard or projector in front of the room.
Hannah of The Classroom Key is a big fan of this classroom setup. She likes to have a few separate desks at the front, facing the front, so that each student can get involved with what’s happening in the front and center of the classroom. “If each student’s desk was already facing the front of the room, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time and energy trying to get my students’ attention,” she says. “No one has to turn the chair to look ahead. Keeping a few desks away from groups helps reduce confusion for students in need. ”
Chris of Pathway 2 success tends to sort out desks on a horse-drawn carriage – especially when it comes to group conversations. “It gives the whole group a sense of community, allows every voice to be heard and even encourages students to move outside their comfort zone,” he says. “My goal in placing students in a semicircle has always been to strengthen relationships, facilitate meaningful conversations, and remind students that every voice is important. The idea is that once students feel more comfortable and connected to the people around them, they will be more confident in sharing their ideas. ”
Group Pods: For small group collaborations.
Group Pod is a classroom setup that brings together three to five student desks to encourage small group collaboration. Of course, this can come with some side talk – so be sure to set the ground rules in the beginning. See the COVID-19 interval requirements in your district or state for instructions on how far to place the desk in group pods.
Chrissy Beltran Buzzing with Miss Bee Group Work and beyond is a great advocate of this setup. “I know it can stress some teachers, but there’s a lot of value in sitting with a group of kids,” she says. The reason for Chrissy setting up such a desk is to enable students to discuss frequently during lessons so as not to move or change direction. “When students are in groups, it’s easier for them to say ‘turn around and talk’, ‘think-pair-share’ or ‘turn-and-teach’,” he explains. “The level of engagement increases a lot when we give kids time to talk and process with members of a group.”
Funny shapes and designs: For a fun, celebratory switch-up.
When it comes to classroom setup, Caroline Kohler’s game name is Variety. She works with autistic students and students with specific learning and cognitive disabilities and likes to organize her student desks into smiling faces, basic shapes and even letters for creative classroom seating arrangements. “For Valentine’s Day, the desks can be arranged in the shape of hearts,” he explains. “It establishes a creative community who are able to see and process a larger picture that each person is important to the final product.”
But it’s not just fun that Caroline is going for. He believes that these unconventional desk arrangements encourage students to be more creative, think analytically and have more fun in school. And it’s also about classroom community building and inclusion.
Flexible seats: To suit students’ personal needs.
With flexible seats, traditional seating charts are replaced with seating arrangements that allow students to sit in the place of their choice. Sometimes, if the classroom space or budget allows, there are a variety of seating options such as couches, bin bag chairs, carpets and pods. And sometimes, “sitting down” isn’t even the best option for a student. The flexible seat acknowledges that different students may occasionally need something different, such as standing at a table or sitting in a chair with a bean bag on one side of the room.
Of course, flexible seats are not for every teacher – or for every student. “Every year, we have students in our class who feel very comfortable knowing they have a desk with their name on it: a place where they can sit regularly every day,” says Laura Santos’ Core Inspiration. Laura recommends providing a “home base” for each student and offering flexible seating options around the room that students can use at any time. He believes that this approach can increase students ’attention, comfort, cooperation and excitement for learning.
Ultimately, the power to set up your classroom is in your hands based on what works for you and your students. And you should feel empowered to change things as often as you need to.
Need more classroom setup ideas? Discover more teacher-tested concepts in TpT.
* This blog, originally published in 2019, has been updated for 2022.