The elementary classroom sets the tone for many students' first experiences in an educational setting. From structured activities indoors to outdoor fun at recess, collaboration and exploration provide opportunities for students to gain valuable academic, social, and life skills that’ll enable them to reach their goals.
Most importantly, this space sparks curiosity and a love for lifelong learning. It also offers a safe setting for kids to develop healthy relationships with peers and teachers while journeying to the point where they start to explore and establish their identity. All in all, the elementary classroom facilitates lessons and builds positive memories.
Setting up your own elementary classroom requires some planning and creativity. Each set of cubbies, each seating area, and each bulletin plays a role in promoting safety while offering a variety of educational opportunities that engage students who have their unique learning styles. While this is no small task, you’ll find some strategies and tips in this guide that’ll help get you started.
Elementary Classroom Setup Tips
For the most part, your setup relates a great deal to your instructional style and your students’ learning style and abilities. So, as you go about planning the layout of your elementary classroom, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Gauge How the Space Will Suit Your Instructional Style
The dimension of the space directly affects your setup initially. However, you can still include learning stations for self-paced activities or tables and chairs for collaboration. You can also divide the room to include a reading and meeting area or class library. One way to start planning your elementary classroom in relation to the size of the space is to draw a rough sketch to show the location of storage, seating, presentation, and so forth.
Section Off the Room for Various Purposes
Once you have an idea of how your instruction will manifest, you can “separate out” areas of the room for specific purposes. One area, for instance, can be designated as your computer lab for technology-based or online work. Another area can be home to collaborative projects where various reachable cabinets or containers hold supplies. Yet, another area can serve as a classroom library with shelves labeled for fiction and nonfiction works and even a small rack for periodicals, like your local newspaper and some study-friendly magazines.
Provide Easy Access to Class Supplies
Giving the students ready access to supplies saves time and greatly decreases any potential class management issues. By providing easy-to-reach drawers, shelves, cabinets, and containers, your students will be able to start immediately on tasks rather than waiting for help from you or a taller student.
Moreover, this practice fosters independence among students when they can rely on themselves to get exactly what they need for an activity. Another tip to keep in mind is to give a “tour” of your student supply storage at the beginning and periodically review where everything is located and other related procedures.
Keep a Flexible Seating Arrangement
At times, you might have to move students when pivoting on a lesson plan where groups might work more effectively than independent work. While different arrangements of desks or tables are more conducive to “Think, Pair, Share” than others, you’ll still need to keep your seating as flexible as possible while providing some consistency. For instance, you can utilize tables instead of desks if your instruction is more project-based. Or you can try placing desks in an open square or a “U” arrangement if you’ll use a mix of independent and whole-class activities.
Elementary Classroom Teaching Strategies
Along with an ergonomically efficient setup, your elementary classroom will be tailored to the teaching strategies you plan to employ. The two factors go hand-in-hand. In fact, you can apply some of the following strategies according to your setup.
Promoting Positive Behavior in Each Activity
As mentioned, a detail as simple as the accessibility of supplies positively impacts time management and the overall flow of an activity. When students know and can follow the procedures for the learning stations, the reading center, or the computer area, they’ll engage more in the learning rather than worrying about the logistics. You can also build in other tasks pertaining to academic and social skills.
For instance, if you have seating arranged for small groups, then you start with that small audience to reinforce public speaking skills before moving on to a presentation in front of the class. Either way, active listening is being taught through this setting.
Plus, you can provide opportunities for independent reading or working, role-playing, or even innovation if you have different learning centers set up in your room. Each type of task has its own appropriate behavior that the setting and procedures can reinforce.
Incorporating Project-Based Learning
Another instructional strategy that includes multiple content areas is project-based learning. If you’re comfortable with the role of facilitator and want to include all aspects of STEAM, then this approach proves to be effective. The Sphero littleBits STEAM+ Coding Class Pack allows your students fun learning opportunities using skills from various facets of the curriculum while collaborating with their peers. Another great aspect of this strategy is that students also gain an understanding of how all content areas apply to real-world innovation.
Including Inquiry-Based Learning
Similar to project-based learning, its inquiry counterpart triggers a student’s curiosity about something they might be familiar with but not necessarily know a lot about. In other words, you’re dealing more with research, but when used effectively, students engage in a topic that holds their interest. These topics usually spring from material that’s already been presented in class, but students would have to search for a different angle or extension of that information. They then pitch their idea as a proposal and create research questions. In addition to presenting their findings, they also reflect on what worked and what they could change about their research process. Often, inquiry- and project-based learning can be used in conjunction with each other.
As you can see, planning an elementary classroom sparks many ideas for strategies and learning activities. All components in this setting work in tandem with each other to create a fun, memorable, and meaningful experience for your students. While some degree of rearrangement might be required, if you have a set purpose in mind for each area, you’ll be able to guide your students through each exciting thematic unit.