Designing Your Classroom

Research says that the single most important facet in a child’s education is the quality of the teacher. Due to this fact, most professional development posts on this blog have focused on what teachers personally do to enhance child development. This post is a little different. It will examine how teachers can manipulate their classroom environment to provide the best possible education possible to society’s most valuable resource: children.

Why does classroom design matter?

  • The classroom is where a child spends the majority of their school day.
  • It can help to engage “multiple senses” resulting in “increased cognition and recall.”
  • Learning outcomes are better when children feel comfortable in their classroom and it is well-lit.
  • The classroom can spark a child’s interest in different topics.

What are the classroom design requirements?

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families provides the following checklist for educators and parents:

Physical environment

The physical environment checklist deals mostly with safety rather than design.  Here are some additional requirements:

  • Centers: 5 need to be open to the children (examples: sensory, dramatic play, kitchen, art, book corner, etc.)
  • Centers must incorporate one of the following child development domains (WMELS):
    • Health and Physical
    • Social and Emotional
    • Language and Communication
    • Approaches to Learning
    • Cognition and General Knowledge

Innovative Ways to Improve Your Centers:

  • Use shelves, tables, etc. to separate centers. Separating centers limits children wandering from one center to the next. Sectioning-off each area will limit running, thereby creating a safer environment.
  • Put the “art center” and “sensory center” on non-carpeted flooring. These centers tend to be messy, and non-carpeted flooring will aid in the clean-up process.
  • Put the “blocks center” on carpet. It will result in quieter play.
  • Make the library space a desirable place to read by incorporating comfy chairs, pillows, etc.
  • Don’t place the “dramatic play center” next to the “library center.” Children tend to be louder in the “dramatic play center” and the “library center” should be kept a quiet space.

Other Design Tips:

  • Label centers and toy containers to make it clear to the children where things go come clean-up time.
  • Develop a toy sanitation schedule to ensure regular cleanings.
  • Ditch the clutter. Not only can it be a tripping hazard, it isn’t very appealing to the eye.
  • Don’t hesitate to re-design your classroom every few months. Some change will help to keep the children’s interest.
  • Reflect: Every few months reflect on whether or not the classroom design has been enhancing child development or become debilitating to it.

What separates “mediocre” classroom environments and “learning enhancing” classroom environments:

  • Mediocre classrooms have mostly bare walls. Learning enhancing classrooms have decorative walls, educational posters, and bright and inviting colors.
  • Learning enhancing classrooms encourage child engagement, mediocre classrooms do not.
  • Learning enhancing classrooms encourage child ownership of classrooms via classroom jobs (light flicker, counter, calendar helper, etc.) Mediocre classrooms are viewed by children as just a place they spend their days, but not “their own.”
  • Learning enhancing rooms have clean, safe, and developmentally appropriate toys.
  • Learning enhancing classrooms bring nature into the classroom.
  • Learning enhancing classrooms encourage technology usage, but don’t rely solely on it.

Additional resources for classroom design:

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