Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Does Your Classroom Layout Affect Your Teaching or Does Your Teaching Affect Your Classroom layout?

Or does it even matter?

For 13 of the 15 years I have taught, I have had tables in my room instead of desks.  I much prefer the tables because I often do paired or group work and having desks just makes that difficult.  It takes more time to get with a partner when you're at desks, believe me.

Some would be shocked to learn that I like the mayhem that having tables creates.  I am very orderly and like things to be just so.  One would expect that would mean that I would have old fashioned desks, in old fashioned rows, with my teacher desk right in front.  Kind of like this one.
Today, I had to switch rooms with the Spanish teacher and it made me think about my classroom set up.  He is even more orderly than I am.  His desks are in rows, sideways from what you see, with his desk right in the middle and the chalkboard behind where I stood to take this picture.  This is very old fashioned.  He sometimes even sits at his desk to teach.

I have never set my classroom up this way.  Even when I had desks, they were usually grouped in 5s.  I guess it's how I was trained.  Here, you see my room.  A little less orderly.  I guess you could call where I was standing the front of the room.  But behind me, I have a smartboard, so a lot of the class takes place with them looking at that.  However, you see a chalkboard and white board.  Some of my class time takes place facing those.  And a lot takes place with me flitting around all over the place, so you never know where I'm going to pop up.  There isn't always a "front" of my room.  My desk is over to the right in this picture.  I don't like it there, but it's the only place it would fit.  I would never teach from my desk in this room because that would me I have my back to them while I teach.  The only time I am there is during a quiz.

Sitting at the Spanish teacher's desk, while my students took their quiz, I thought a lot about my classroom set up vs his.  I like the simplicity that his room has. I liked that his desk was clear and that the computer was right in front of me and it was comfortable to use it.

I went back and looked at my own room and thought about the mild chaos that was all over the room.  But kids like my room. Adults often come in and rave about the way my room feels.  I have an elementary background, so sometimes, I feel like it looks like Romper Room in there, with all of the colors and visuals.  Not in this picture, but other walls have more stuff on them.  Looking at my room through the lens of this camera, I realized how chaotic it can look to the newcomer.  But my students quickly learn where everything is.

In the long run, I think I will keep my disordered room.  I can't put the computer on my desk anyway, because the hookups won't reach, so I'll never be comfortable at my computer.  I can't sit still, so I could never have my desk in front of the class because I couldn't sit at it all day and teach.  Plus, there is a silent stigma that I associate with teachers who sit during their entire lesson.  I can't really put that into words, it's just not how I would be proud to teach.

Which do you prefer?  The classroom that has lots of visuals and may, at some times, appear to be overstimulating, but also makes you realize that everywhere you look, there's something to see?  Or the classroom where there is empty space so you can just stare off and zone out?  I think we know which one I choose!

PS stay tuned.  My 200 post anniversary is my next post and I've got a good one.  Another way to learn a little more about me!


  1. I prefer the Spanish teachers room. I have a hard enough time focusing without all the other stimulants around the room...

    Unless you teach art. Then the chaos makes sense - for me that inspires creativity.

  2. I like table groups. I don't think it creates too much chaos if you set high expectations and manage the classroom effectively...and the benefits outweigh the consequences. Sure, the kids may be quiet, but are they really engaged? Keep doing what you're doing! Looks great.


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