Deciphering Classroom Setup and Classroom Theme Ideas

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Whether it’s your first year teaching or retirement is on the horizon, picking a classroom layout is always one of the first things to consider when designing a classroom setup. There are so many variables to consider when developing classroom theme ideas as well:

  • Age of students
  • Size of classroom
  • Number of desks
  • How much flexible seating
  • The layout of the projector, class phone, etc.

The list goes on and on. It may be a bit of trial and error to get it right, but the perfect classroom layout is everything when it comes to efficiency in the classroom and those perfect classroom theme ideas.

Do you share a classroom with another teacher? Is it a blank canvas for your own design? Are your hands tied (some classrooms, the desks are literally screwed to the floor)?

All of these factors need to be taken into consideration in your overall vision of how your room will look upon completion and which classroom theme ideas will work.

Group of Young Students Studying together, High View

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What do you want to achieve with your classroom layout?

When someone walks into your classroom, the first thing they notice is how things are laid out and the executed vision of your classroom theme ideas. It says a lot about your teaching style, expectations on student participation, and your teaching philosophy.

You may not get to choose your actual classroom, but you do have the option of optimizing it as much as possible for what you want to achieve within those walls.

If you plan to embrace student-centered learning, as you should if you want your students to achieve at the highest possible level, then there needs to be flexibility in the arrangement of the seating.

students huddled around one another, working on a project

If students are working on an assignment where they need to collaborate, there has to be an option to do so efficiently. If they need to work on something independently, is there a way for them to do that in a physical position that is optimal for him or her? What about if you need to work with a small group on a topic while the other students are working…is there space for that?

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These are questions to ask for any grade level, not just elementary. I would go as far as to argue that it is even more important to have concrete answers to these questions at the high school level than any other one.

In “A Passion for Progress: Becoming a 100% Student-Centered Educator”, there is actually an extensive discussion of a way to take the dimensions, furniture, etc. in your classroom and working them digitally on a computer until you have something that seems like it will work.

This takes away the labor-intensive option of just moving items around your room until you find something that fits. You’re exhausted as it is trying to prepare for your students. Don’t expel more energy than you have to!

The Research Behind Classroom Seating

Believe it or not, a lot of extensive research has been done over the past several decades to determine if the layout of a classroom truly makes a difference in student learning.

When the concept of the traditional classroom was created, with rows of seating where everything was done as if in an assembly line, we were an industrial society, preparing our students for the assembly line.

FACTORY WORKERS

We aren’t doing that anymore. We are putting Generation Z at such a disservice if we do (and here’s why).

In 2011, Amanda Careena Fernandes, M.ed., Jinyan Huang, Ph.D., and Vince Rinaldo, Ph.D. of Niagra University studied seating arrangements and their effect on student achievement. You can read the results of the study here. After their study they concluded:

The classroom environment is a very diverse and highly dynamic setting. Teacher perceptions about students are
often influenced by the conditions which are presented to them. One of the most obvious and constant factors is that of
seating location. In turn, students’ seating locations are greatly affected by the seating arrangements provided to them.

Fernandes, A. C., Huang, J., & Rinaldo, V. (2011). Does where a student sits really matter? The impact of seating locations on student classroom learning. International Journal of Applied Educational Studies, 10(1), 66-77.

They legitimately proved that student achievement is directly affected by an efficient, well-thought-out classroom layout.

Even more recently in 2016, Mariola C. Gremmen, Yvonne H. M. van den Berg, Eliane Segers, and Antonius H. N. Cillessen completed a study titled, “Considerations for classroom seating arrangements and the role of teacher characteristics and beliefs“.

This article focused heavily on classroom management and the effect a seating arrangement has on student achievement.

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This article is amazing because it takes into account all the different factors and variables in play for our classrooms on a daily basis…factors that weren’t issues when our predecessors were in the classroom.

The compiled all the data they found with these factors in mind and concluded that:

“Using more well-considered seating arrangements can improve students behavior and learning. It can thus be concluded that teachers need to become more conscious about seating arrangements as an important part of classroom management. Teachers need to be informed about the possibly preventive and intervening effects of a seating arrangement on students’ academic and social behaviors. It can be a helpful tool for teachers, who have the difficult task to place all students in the classroom. In addition, it can help teachers in achieving the goals they have to achieve within their education nowadays.”

Gremmen, M. C., van den Berg, Y. H., Segers, E., & Cillessen, A. H. (2016). Considerations for classroom seating arrangements and the role of teacher characteristics and beliefs. Social Psychology of Education, 19(4), 749-774.

Educational researchers are now taking note of what classroom teachers are saying (often exasperated) about the needs of our classrooms and what we have to work with.

And they’re agreeing with us through research and careful observation.

Designing Your Classroom Layout

As fantastic as it would be to have some type of formula to know exactly what your individual classroom needs, it’s just not plausible.

Every single class that walks into our rooms are unique. You know how different the dynamic of students can be from one class to the next. Our rooms need to reflect that.

On that note, here are some ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Students need to move. There is so much research about why our students today need more movement in the classroom than generations before them (and it’s a bit alarming, to be honest). We need to make sure we consider that when coming up with a classroom design (and yes, that includes every grade level).
  2. No two students learn the same way. Think of yourself. You may work well sitting at a desk…or you may work better sitting on your couch. Our students are no different. Consider looking into some inexpensive flexible seating options to help facilitate this (ad).
  3. You may not get it quite right the first time…and that’s okay! I can’t tell you how many times I think I’ve gotten my classroom layout perfect for the first day of school, and then I realize that it’s just not quite right for my students. Tweak as you go!
  4. If you’re still struggling to wrap your head around this, feel free to check out A Passion for Progress: Becoming a 100% Student-Centered Educator. It will guide you, step-by-step, through this entire process.

Actual Classroom Examples and Classroom Theme Ideas

Throughout the summer of 2019 and 2020, we showcased various teacher classrooms from all over the world. Each of them was unique in their own way, and yet all encompassed the same ideas behind doing what is best for their students. Below are each classroom and the rationale of each teacher behind why they chose to customize their classroom layout as they did.

Amy Skillicorn: Latin Classroom Transformation

Classroom with 4 desks creating a table, photo of the Colosseum being projected, and several lights that look like candles

Amy Skillicorn is no stranger when it comes to a good classroom transformation. As a matter of fact, on her website amyskillicorn.com, she has an entire section devoted to the topic and what she’s done in her classroom! Make sure you check it out here.

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

When I prepare a classroom transformation, my favorite desk setup is with 2-3 desks lined up together pushed against the wall. This way, the students can work effectively in groups without becoming distracted. 

desks against the wall with Latin blue and gold backdrop on wall

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup?

I did not like what I had originally planned for my January Pirates Classroom Transformation, and so I asked a colleague his thoughts. He shared that during History DBQ Labs, he sets up his desks in this way, and so I tried it out. It was a complete success! I love that it creates so much free space!

Desks and chairs set up in table arrangements with large banner that reads "Pirates of the Mediterranean"
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What is your favorite part of your design?

The atmosphere of the room is everything. When you walk into one of these setups, there is a peace afforded by the empty space and group work stations. While the students know they are about to use their brain and everything they have ever learned in my class for 50 minutes straight, the setup makes them excited to do it!

Desks and chairs set up as tables with pictures and symbols of Latin displayed

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

Classroom transformations are the most joyful days for both my students and for me as a teacher. I try to complete a new classroom transformation every month, and I always include several WOW factors. Latin can be so tedious as a subject; I love creating experiential learning whenever possible! I think what students love most about this particular design (What I call “grammar labs”, in which the desks are in lines 2-3 desks wide against the wall) is that there is a balance of excitement and productivity.

In an everyday classroom, it’s hard to get students excited without them becoming distracted and it’s hard to get them productive in a way that makes them excited. What this classroom transformation setup allows is students to experience a new atmosphere that has a built-in wow factor (the decorations and prizes) while they are working productively with their peers. 

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

My biggest advice is to watch what other out-of-the-box teachers are doing. I watched 12 other teachers this year, in classrooms for students aged 5-15, and I walked out of every observation with new ideas!

Desks and chairs set up as tables with pictures and symbols of Latin displayed
Desks and chairs set up as tables with pictures and symbols of Latin displayed

For more inspiration, make sure you check out Amy’s Classroom Transformation Photo Gallery

Nicole Sendens: Camping Themed Classroom

Nicole Sendens wanted her students to enjoy the great outdoors while in school and she knocked it out of the park with her camping themed classroom! Check out her design below:

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

I had 33 students in the class which gave me two rooms. In one room I had all the desks and a meeting area near our Camper Cafe board for reading mini-lessons. In the second room, I had floor space, a tent, camping chairs, floor seats, pillows, a fake fireplace, a couch, a writing center and some tables that were set up at all different heights. Since I had two classrooms I could intermix desk time and flexible seating time with a lot of different options for my students.

camping set up with faux campfire, camping chair, and small tent with rope lighting

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup?

I love to camp and I wanted to provide my students with a unique classroom, one that they would love to come to school to. I also liked having desks in one room for testing purposes and independent work time. Also, I loved the different meeting areas I had within the room. I had small group meeting areas and whole group areas. My students also loved the classroom and they made it their own.

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What is your favorite part of your design?

I was able to incorporate things I love into my room. I love to camp, hike, and fish, so bringing a bit of my passion into the room and sharing it with my students made it that much more meaningful. The flexible seating, desk areas, and meeting areas all had a spot and a unique purpose. My students would move among these places each day and we knew exactly where they had to be at each part of the day. Plus it allowed all 34 of us to spread out which was needed.

Classroom boards in nature decor

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

My students loved the camping themed classroom because they have never seen anything like it. They would brag about it to other classes/grades. They took ownership of the room and invested themselves too. Since they enjoyed the environment and I was able to share my passions with them, they felt safe there. My students and I created a great relationship which helped them grow tremendously throughout the school year. They made amazing gains. I had to move away from those sweet students of mine but they enjoyed my class so much that quite a few still write to me.

Bulletin board for student names labeled "campers"

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

Before designing your classroom, ask yourself a series of questions.

1. How can I make this feel like a fun, inviting, and safe environment?

2. Does everything I want serve a purpose or is it all just fluff?

3. How can I maximize the space in my room to make it efficient? 

4. How can I make this room easy to manage and stay organized?

5. Where/How do I want small group meetings, large group meetings, independent time, and student-led group time to look like?

Krystal Nelson: Pizza Fractions

After learning about fractions, Krystal Nelson transformed her classroom into a pizza paradise! Her pizza fractions idea came to life when she changed her classroom into a pizza shop for her first graders. Check it out as one of our classroom design spotlights.

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

This classroom set up was a room transformation that I did in my first-grade class. My room still had a similar layout to what it usually did with flexible seating options, but I transformed it to look like a pizzeria! We called our classroom the First Grade Café. Students had checkered table cloths, aprons of their own, even pizzas hanging from the ceiling! It truly looked like an Italian pizzeria complete with Italian music playing in the background.

classroom designed to look like a pizzeria

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup

I  chose this room transformation because it was the end of the year and I love to switch up our room close to the end of the year to keep student engagement and to make the end of the year exciting! Plus, my students were practicing a lot with fractions and I wanted to incorporate the pizzas from our Italian pizzeria to help them practice fractions during this week. 

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What is your favorite part of your design?

I loved this entire design and room transformation. I think my favorite part was just seeing the students get so excited to learn during the week when my room was transformed. They were so engaged and excited. I also loved all of the activities we were able to do. We made pizza fractions, we made noodles to practice adjectives, we created our own restaurants, practiced with money and SO much more! 

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

When transforming your classroom you may think that students will be so excited that there may be behavior issues. The students were so engaged with the lessons and environment, that we had one of our BEST and easiest weeks as far as behavior goes. It surprised me that even though our room was different and their environment changed, the students were so engaged you wouldn’t even know! It was amazing! 

Little girl holding pizza box with apron and chef hat

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

I would say to enjoy it! This room transformation was so much fun for the students, but I also had a blast during this week. Embrace it, enjoy it, have fun! 

Stephanie Lazarevski

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

I teach in a brand new school that opened in September 2019. Our school is new and modern; therefore, we don’t have desks and can’t post things on the wall. We have tables that encourage collaboration and modern learning. My room is set up to do this, while also having space to work on the floor if needed.

My tables are also set up so that every student has access to all learning materials and can clearly view the whiteboard or bulletin boards. Since we weren’t allowed to post things on the wall I post only items that students need for their learning at the time. I view my classroom as the second teacher, so students can use materials, examples, and students’ work samples to learn from.

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup?

I wanted a welcoming space where students can work together or learn for themselves. I also wanted it to be a place where families can come in and interact with their child. See photo attached above.

What is your favorite part of your design?

It’s not the regular classroom with desks. It allows for me and my students to learn and teach in ways that can’t happen in a regular classroom with desks.

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

They loved always being able to sit in groups I was surprised that they struggled with not having a desk to put stuff into at the start. It really forced them to be more organized and bring only what they need to each class.

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

You and your students don’t need as much as you think they need. They need space to work with you, their peers, and their families. If my 6/7 can thrive with no desks and a couple of bulletin boards, you don’t need a space that is overstimulating.

Stephanie Lazarevski is a grade 6/7 art teacher in Ontario, Canada. You can follow her on Instagram @the.crafty.teacher.

Alexandra Brady

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

In my physical classroom, I have two long tables consisting of 12 to 13 desks. At the long table, students are broken up into smaller groups of 4-5 students. Each student has a letter that corresponds to the job that they have in their group for that day. Some jobs include rubric monitor, work recorder, fact-checker, and vocab checker.

On the walls you’ll see a word wall, concept board, shout out wall and a class charter. You’ll also see student work and the rubric my school follows for student work. There is a kidney table for small group work and conferences and a centers area with games and activities organized by standard domain.

There is an early finisher folder on the wall that contains math challenges for students to complete. Table rallies are posted on the board by class and table. Tickets are all over for students to earn for various reasons.

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup?

I like the community feel of it. Students can ask other tables if their table is struggling. I also like teaching my model with students in the middle of the room on the floor. I call it the “meeting area” and it has really eliminated distractions when I’m teaching!

What is your favorite part of your design?

My favorite part is the accessibility to manipulatives (In the middle of the room) and the community feel. Students have each other to work with and learn together.

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

They worked really well together and understood expectations which was nice. I like having them learn at the meeting area when it’s time for the model because they can engage more with me and have an assigned partner to talk to when it is time.

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

Definitely give students the change to collaborate if you can! Also kids are never too old for a meeting area in the middle of the room. My suggestion is to get as many cushions as you can!

Alexandra Brady is a grade 4/5 math teacher in New York. You can follow her on Instagram @techaboutmath.

Katie Fields

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

We are a 100% flexible seating classroom. Collaboration and movement are the foundation of our learning space for both teachers and students. Utilizing tables instead of traditional desks allowed for student interaction and discussion.

All unused materials were removed from the classroom so that we were able to have as much space as possible for learning. If we needed to drag out math manipulatives to work through problems, we did it. If we needed indoor yoga for PE, we did it. When we needed to get into book clubs, we spread out through the room.

Most of our tables were a dry erase top so students had the opportunity to work through their thinking right in front of them. Placing the tables around the edge of the room gave us an open space in the middle for small group work, floor seating when students felt comfortable and a spot for class meetings where all students could sit and see each other.

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup?

I believe that flexible seating leads to increased student work, engagement, and success. Flexible seating options allow students to make choices in the classroom to decide what type of learning environment fits them best.

Having a variety of seating options involves them in the classroom decision-making process, fostering skills of independence, and good choices regarding learning. They will feel safe to take risks and improve their skills in all subject areas, both academically and socially.

What is your favorite part of your design?

My favorite part of our classroom design is the open and uncluttered space created by the tables. I never imagined that removing the desks would free up so much space.

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

My students loved to come to class. As the days went by they truly saw our classroom as their own. Room 216 became more than a classroom, it became a home. Somewhere that risks were taken, encouragement flourished and students shined.

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

Make your classroom about your students. Give them a place to identify with, to feel comfortable in and feel that they have a voice. Try new things and know that they may work and they may not. The risk is worth taking for your students.

Katie Fields is a 5th-grade self-contained teacher in California. You can follow her on Instagram @lilbug13.

Jeysel Vento

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

In design, it is a modern farmhouse feel. There are desks that are grouped together to make the appearance of tables and gives the ability for each pod to collaborate. We can quickly move the desks around if the activity warrants it and it creates a flexible feel.

There are also elements of flexible seating in various places within the room.

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup?

I wanted my classroom to feel like home. With the decor, it naturally gives a home-like atmosphere and the way the students are located creates a sense of community within the classroom.

What is your favorite part of your design?

My reading nook. It was such an easy idea to come up with, but is definitely outside-of-the-box when it comes to classroom decor. It helps add to the ambiance of the home-like feel that I go for within my room.

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

My students couldn’t believe there was a ”bunk bed” in our classroom. They work extremely hard to earn a turn to visit the book nook. This helps so much with classroom management, student participation, and work ethic within the room.

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

Think big! Creativity has no limits. You’ll be surprised what you can create from nothing. Also, it takes time to build your dream classroom. You’ll collect things throughout the year.

Also, the Facebook market place and offer up are GREAT tools to find things for your classrooms. Many sellers are extra kind to teachers, after explaining what I’d be using the items for they’ll often lower the cost.

Jeysel Vento is a 3rd-grade ELA teacher in Florida. You can follow her on Instagram @teach_and_uplift.

Jaclyn Hariri

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

My classroom set-up is unique in the sense of my room’s layout. The room used to be the old computer lab back in the day. Next, it was split into two rooms and finally, it was turned one room when it was given to me. I coach speech and debate so the large room has been helpful for my performers. It’s longer than it is wide so I can only set-up the desks a number of ways, but the extra space has been great for collaboration, movement, and creativity. The student’s desk is set-up into groups of four and are closer to the front of the room. My back area is open with a couch area and additional space for working on projects.

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup?

I love it when students are able to work in groups. Collaboration is a huge component of my lessons and student class time. Groups also work best for the layout of the room. it allows me to move freely throughout the classroom when I’m speaking or reach a student more easily. This layout also works best for my AVID and Speech & Debate classes. These classes work together in groups a lot.

What is your favorite part of your design?

I love the little college corner that I have been working on the last year. It’s also a place students can use for collaboration assignments and projects. I use it for silent reading sessions or during literature circles as well. I also love this area because it’s such a safe place for my students to sit when they need to calm down or have a tough day at school.

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

I was surprised by how effective the couches and pillows were to help my students deal with anxiety and feel more secure. It’s been a great safe space for my students for the last two years. I was also surprised by how excited my students have been when they see me put up their work on the wall. They love pointing out work and when parents come to visit the classroom, that’s the first thing they want to point out to them.

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

First, always ask for help. Use your community of friends and family. I’m not a crafty person a lot, but I have family and close friends who are always willing to help me bring my visions to light or help me hang out stuff.

Second, gather information online to get inspire! Pinterest, Instagram, and teacher articles have helped me so much come up with fun ideas to add to my classroom design. Teacher pay teachers has been wonderful as well! There are some super creative and cute posters to check out!

Also, don’t be shy and visit your co-worker’s classrooms. Some of my favorite elements I have added to my classroom where from co-workers’ rooms! We are part of such a helpful, caring, and creative community of teachers! Use them! Lastly, trust your gut. Don’t try to become to next big “Intsa-Teacher.” “You do, you boo!” Trust yourself and create a classroom that makes you happy and comfortable because students feel that when they walk in.

Decorations only do so much for the climate of a classroom. Teachers are what matters most when it comes to the design of the room. I remember I had a student tell me that they love my classroom, not because of the colorful posters or awesome couches but because of the light and energy I provided as a teacher. Decoration will all do so much, so trust your gut, and don’t forget you’re the key to how students feel in the room.

Jaclyn Hariri is an 8th Grade ELA, 6th Grade AVID and 6th-8th Speech & Debate Team in California. You can follow her on Instagram @jaclyn_hariri.

Matthew Kulasiewicz

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

My room has desks in rows that can easily be moved around for group work or station work.

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup?

I’ve been a middle school teacher for 21 years now and found that for me, starting out class with everyone facing the same direction alleviates the time lost getting students’ eyes to be focusing on what I want them to focus on. Plus, I’ve had many students in wheelchairs over the years and this made getting into class so much easier for them. Like I mentioned, we can get the room rearranged in a different configuration in two minutes for activities.

What is your favorite part of your design?

My favorite part of my design is the 12-foot long rustic standing workstation I built for our classroom a few years ago. Desks and chairs aren’t always the most forgiving for the growing bodies of my students and this has given them a way to work and stretch out a bit.

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

Last year I built a two-person tall table with wooden stools that is in the back of my classroom. I thought it would be fun to experiment and see if students would want to sign up for a day to sit at the table with a friend if their choice. Every single hour of every single day the first question I get it, “Mr. K, who had the table today?” 🙂

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

The best advice I can give about setting up your classroom is that what you have on your walls, the borders of your bulletin boards, or whatever Pinterest/Instagram deluxe room you see that you wish your had will not ever come close to meaning as much as the connection you make with the students you see.

That being said, make your room work for you. My desks start out in rows, which to some may seem old-fashioned, but it works for me and the way I do things with my students. As far as room decorations go… I only add something to my room decor if I can use it as a conversation starter with a student. Think about them first and the rest will fall into place and you’ll find what works for you.

Matthew Kulasiewicz is an 8th-grade US History teacher in Wisconson. You can follow him on Instagram @survivingsocialstudies.

Mikaelah Cash

Describe your classroom setup and classroom theme ideas:

I have a mat space with stars for students to sit on as last year I struggled to get students to sit in the right area, this removes the “option” for them to sit behind desks, etc. I have a bug double whiteboard with storage behind it and under it which is really handy.

Then there’s a little whiteboard in front of my mat space and a library are that has double sided storage so one side is books for the students and the other I keep things like resource books and coloured paper. All of our classrooms also come with a tv screen and Chromecast but I’m also lucky to be the only classroom with a projector screen as well which I prefer over the tv!

We have a collaborative learning furniture and I’m currently trialing letting students choose their seat each day. I have an area for students to hand in work or collect marked work as well as keep work that isn’t completed. Students use tote trays to keep their personal items in but their books go in subject boxes under the big whiteboard.

Why did you choose this particular classroom setup?

In New Zealand we don’t get a choice in classroom furniture it just comes with the room and stays with the room. When I arrived at my school to set up my room I had a lot of random bits of furniture that didn’t seem to go together.

I struggled all of my first year to figure out a good layout and then finally over the summer break I found a layout I love. I don’t think I’ll ever change it now! It flows well, I can see all the student easily enough from all areas of the room, and they’re split so student have the option of working in a smaller or bigger group.

What is your favorite part of your design?

I love all the bright colours, the fabric on the walls, the displays and carpet spots. It makes the room feel bright and welcoming. I also really like my projector and all the storage!

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom setup (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

My students from last year have come to visit and they were really amazed when they saw the different layout. My students have told me how much they love our classroom and the bright colours which makes me so happy!

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design and classroom theme ideas?

Sometimes it can be really hard to work with what you’ve got! And moving furniture can take a lot of time and energy. It’s a good idea to draw up your classroom to scale with pieces of paper that are your movable furniture so you can play around with different layouts before you actually move your furniture! It’ll save you a lot of time and effort. Also, teaching Instagram pages have some really valuable tips and ideas!

Mikaelah Cash is a year 5 teacher in New Zealand. You can follow her on Instagram @teachinginchaosandharmony.

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