The building I work in is a Pre-K-12 building. In observing the various room arrangements it was interesting to compare the preschool to the 5th grade to the 8th grade to the high school classrooms. There was not one common classroom arrangement throughout or even within the grade levels.
In the lower elementary classrooms, there are some rooms with very few desks, and just a few tables for stations around the room. Most of these classrooms have a reading corner with a cozy rug, pillows and a rocking chair for the teacher to read to the class. Many of these classrooms share a common hallway between them with a sink, a restroom and storage cabinets. The teachers’ desks were in various locations throughout the rooms. Most of these classrooms have a bank of laptops on a counter against one wall, a mounted projector and a document camera on a cart near the teacher’s desk. Some of these classrooms also have classroom audio systems to amplify the teachers voice through the sound system.
Some of these rooms were loaded with decorations, artwork, themed posters and animal cages. Although fun, these could be distracting for some students. These early elementary classrooms with the teacher’s desk near the front, would be challenging to supervise staff because there is not really in a unobtrusive place to watch and observe. The tables and chairs are all so tiny and adult workspace is limited.
The upper elementary classrooms were mostly organized in rows of desks or by tables with four students to a table and student cubbies in the back of the classroom. Although the tables would help foster collaborative group work, it might be distracting for students to get books and supplies from their cubby each time they need something. The teachers’ desks were mostly in the corners in the front of the classrooms. Most of these classrooms had their books and resources on one side of the classroom and their “turn-in” baskets near the teacher’s desk. One interesting thing in the upper elementary classrooms were that many of the student chairs were replaced with stability balls on bases. These teachers have used their “box-top” money to purchase these balls for the students. It is interesting to peek in a room and see 20 heads bobbing up and down while the teacher is teaching, but many of these teachers claim the students are able to focus better on the balls. These rooms share laptop carts on wheels and charging carts for student iPads. These carts are mostly located in the back of the room. Observation or professional development would be easier in these rooms as there are more workable adult spaces and mounted projectors in every room.
The middle and high school classrooms are a mix of desks, long tables and grouped tables. Some rooms have students in rows, others have students in groups, while others have students around the outer edge of the room. In one English room I visited the teacher had the desks arranged in two groups on each side of the room, facing each other, with her desk in the middle on one end. She said that this arrangement seems to foster more active, lively discussions as most students can see each other face-to-face. These teachers also share laptop computer carts, so some rooms need space for this in the back of the classroom. In most rooms that do not have students in rows, observations would be easier as the observer could more easily see student behavior, participation and reactions without having to sit at the front of the room. Overall most teachers seemed to be aware of traffic patterns and positioned high traffic areas (printers, teacher’s desk, work turn-in/return baskets, computer carts) near the back of the room to minimize distraction.