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How to Maximize Your Classroom Space for Student Engagement

The new school year will be here before we know it! Teachers are heading back into school to ready their classrooms for the new crop of students who will be walking through their door. There are so many considerations when it comes to classroom arrangement: available furniture, class size, room size and shape, and more. Ultimately, however, teachers must consider how to arrange their rooms in order to maximize student engagement.

Student engagement can be defined in many ways, including attention, sustained connection to content, and interest. What does all this mean when it comes to classroom arrangement? Consider student work space, access to materials, and possible distractions in the room, in order to arrange your classroom in a manner that maximizes student engagement.

Questions to Consider:
  1. Are the most important teaching spaces visible from each seat in the room? This may include an interactive white board, relevant anchor charts, or a classroom word wall. If a student has to turn 180 degrees in his chair in order to see these teaching spaces, the student might have trouble engaging. If students are placed in groups, consider placing groups at angles to the front of the room to ensure each student can see the most important teaching spaces. Don’t forget to consider other possible work spaces like small group tables or carpet space.
  2. Is the teacher able to maintain proximity to each student without squeezing through narrow spaces or tripping over items on the floor? No matter what the arrangement in the room, the students who are farthest from the teacher or out of the direct sight line of the teacher are the ones who are least likely to be engaged. This means that the teacher must be on the move in the classroom, so that students are kept on their toes. Each desk or table space must be accessible. Consider desk chair pockets to move students’ items off the floor, and consider arranging desks in a way that you create an inner circle to walk around.
  3. Which desks are likely to provide the most distractions? There are so many possible distractions in a classroom: a seat that is closest to the hallway (and the noise and visuals that accompany it), or provides an outside view of the playground, or is closest to a printer used by multiple classrooms. There is no way to eliminate these distractions, but it is important to identify these spaces and be mindful of placing students who won’t be easily distracted in these seats.
  4. Is my seating flexible? Sometimes you want students to work independently, sometimes in pairs, sometimes in different size groups. Do you have the ability to move your seating area to accommodate these different work conditions? If you have tables or pods, the answer the probably no. In that case, privacy dividers or alternate working space in the room may be desired. If you have desks, it is easier to rearrange the room depending on the needs of the lesson or activity.
  5. Are students able to access materials easily and independently? Nothing creates a bigger distraction in the room than students who don’t have what they need to complete a lesson or activity. Whether students are moving throughout the room to get art supplies, paper, a folder, or reading material, an organized, easily accessible space will minimize distractions. Ideally, all these materials should be in the same space in the room, and there should be a practiced procedure in place for accessing them.

By carefully considering the impact classroom arrangement can have on student engagement, teachers can begin the year with a classroom that is set up for success. Then the focus can be on what’s most important: lessons and experiences that continue to engage students in the rigorous work of the classroom.