Can how you set up your classroom impact how students think?
If you design learning with physical space and interaction in mind, it absolutely can.
Ways To Setup A Classroom To Help Your Students Think
- Maker Spaces
How this is structured depends on your space, content area, grade level, etc. But any content area can use “making” as a primary teaching and learning strategy, and to do so, you’ll need to create the spaces for that to happen. A mix of the “Learning Labs” approach and the “Google Room” may work well.
- Geometric Mix
This approach takes a mix of forms–rows, groups, semi-circled tables. While the furniture in the pic above may be beyond your reach, you can produce a similar effect with a combination of tables and desks.
- Differentiation Stations*
This is physical grouping, but based on areas of differentiation–background knowledge, reading level, an individual skill, etc. If instruction is tailored for a student in this way–with their Zone of Proximal development–there is more opportunity for thinking, teaching, and learning that “fits.”
Also a teaching strategy, Fishbowls sees a group of students in the middle, and a group on the outside in a circle facing the group in the middle. You can also arrange your classroom this way permanently–or at least for an extended period of time. The “fish” in the middle have one function (e.g., reading roles from a play, solving a problem, analyzing art, etc.) while the group on the outside participates in a #backchannel twitter chat with a love running log on a screen. Here, everyone can have a voice–and an opportunity for thought.
- One Group + 4 Rows
This one is what it sounds like it’d be–one group complemented by 4 rows. This setup could be useful if the majority of the class is often working on one activity–or part of an activity, while the bulk of the class works on something else. It obviously can be used collaboratively as well.
- 2 Groups + 2 Rows
Same as above, but more of the class is in a group this time, so the class is split more evenly.
- Function Pods*
This one is similar to Differentiation Stations, only the idea here is less about differentiation and more about a task. Think literature circles, for example, where everyone has a role. The difference here is that the whole classroom is set up that way.
- Two Sides*
You can also split the classroom into “two sides.” This may be comprised of rows, but the room is set up in halves oftentimes facing one another. This can be especially effective for Social Studies classes, or other content areas that use Accountable Talk as a teaching strategy.
You can also have the two sides comprised of angled rows. This isn’t a huge change from traditional rows, but it does offer a few advantages if you’ve got the room, namely that students are in the line of sight of one another more naturally.
- Giant Oval
Usually, this is used for team-building activities, but it’s possible to run a classroom this way for a full unit if you plan for it effectively. Maybe a steady diet of agree/disagree, debate, Socratic Seminars, and Accountable Talk, for example.
- Teacher In The Middle
Picture a “regular classroom,” but with the teacher (and their desk, if they have one) in the middle. Changes the dynamic of the classroom quite a bit. Whether that’s an effective teaching tool or not depends on how you use it (the same goes with all of these, I suppose).
- Standing Desks
They’re out there. Write a grant proposal, put your desk in the middle, and make it work.
An oval with one end missing. Kind of. Not sure this would be very effective long-term, but for a reading activity or a write-around (which are terribly underrated as teaching strategies), it’d work swimmingly.
- Two Circles
Circles allow students to face one another and encourage conversation. It’s not ideal for small group work, but fordirectn instruction and literacy activities, it has potential. One giant circle may not work well for a daily setup, but two circles might. With two circles, the size is obviously reduced compared to one, giving you a bit more flexibility for classroom management.
- Rotating Groups*
This is less about the shape of the desks, and more about the workflow and lesson design. The idea here is to plan lessons and units that require students to work together with different groups for different reasons, and to keep them moving, whether within one class, one week, or the unit overall.
- Middle Circle, Outer Square
Putting a square on the outside and circle on the inside–or even vice-versa–is really just a ‘geometric variation’ of the fishbowl, but the size of the circle can be adapted for daily use by a large cluster of students.
(This article/text/quote/image are shared in good spirit to strang then school education system.)