Thursday, June 2, 2011

Classroom Design

A very few people know that the only job I considered other than teaching, EVER, was interior design. No not an interior decorator, although that was a passing thought. You read it right the first time, an interior designer. What is the difference? An interior decorator, decorates the space while an interior designer plans how that space is laid out. At least that is how my brain processed it.

I love thinking about spaces and how to arrange those spaces, especially my classroom. I think almost every teacher has some of this because we obsess about our classrooms or "space". Where will our teacher desk go, what is the best place for our large group time, what will my centers/ work stations look like? That is why when Debbie Diller's book Spaces & Places came out I was in heaven. Now I know most of you are reading Debbie Diller's new book, but if you have not read Spaces & Places please put it on your "To Be Read" pile.
 This whole book is fabulous, and I review it every summer to refresh myself. However, my favorite section is Chapter 1 - Planning Your Space.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. When I first started teaching, every August I'd arrange my class, then I'd step back and look at what I did and I'd rearrange my class again. Then I'd step back look at what I did and I rearrange my class yet again. This went on and on until I got it right. Alright, this got old FAST. I got tired moving all that furniture around. Then I got little smarter and would make sketches of what I wanted my class to look like. This was MUCH better but not perfect because I used to go through A LOT of paper.
This is where the interior designer in me came out. :) I used to use graph paper and measure everything, then make my sketches scaled to size. I was a bit obsessive, but looking at them now, wow they are impressive. Well, to me they are.

Then came Debbie Diller's book Spaces & Places. As I read Chapter 1, I had a stoke of genius! Debbie Diller taught me to use one of my favorite office supply ever, POST-IT-NOTES! With Post-It-Notes you can move the furniture around over and over and over around and you wont hurt your back, you wont waste paper, and you can get the design you want before you even step foot into your classroom. Here is an example from Spaces & Places. It is actually page 19.
Now Debbie Diller's sells a fabulous product through Really Good Stuff that helps you do this exact same thing. It is called the Classroom Mapping Kit. Here is an image:

 However, I being the thrifty person I am decided that I could use a file folder and different color Post-It-Notes. Here is a shot of what mine looked like:
 Here is the one I made the year after.
As you can see I use several colors of Post-Its. I do this to distinguish between teacher spaces, students spaces, common spaces, independent spaces, and whole group spaces. Here was the Key I made one year: Blue: student desks and students storage, Purple: teacher area and teacher storage, Pink: stationary student centers, Yellow: traveling student center.

Here are some things to consider. I write the name of the object on it because I have forgotten what that Post-It was supposed to be. Furniture that is odd shapes. For example, normally I cut the Post-Its to resemble the size of the furniture. However, there are a few exceptions, like kidney tables. Another thing I do is write in structural objects that don't move, ie: bulletin boards right on to the file folder. Just some things to keep in mind.

Here area a few reasons I used a file folder.
1. I can fold it closed and don't have to worry about the sticky notes falling off.
2. I can write notes for myself on the opposite side.
3. I write a color key for my Post-It's right on the folder and wont confuse myself when I forget what I used the pink notes for.
4. I keep several extra post it notes on the opposite page.
5. You can keep it and reuse it next year.

This year I will be making a new one because my school will be relocated while our building is under renovation. I got excited just thinking about it the other day. I hope you consider doing this, it really is a time saver, and so much fun. It is almost like paper dolls. :)

How do you plan the layout of your room?


  1. I LOVE this book too!!!

    I saw her speak on this. I remember her talking about "visual noise". What we think is really cute, can be visually overwhelming to our fragile learners. Something I go back to each year too!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

  2. Thanks for sharing these ideas. I really like the post-it idea! I'm so glad I stayed up (even though my eyelids are starting to droop) and read this. :) I was just thinking I wanted to sketch out a floor plan. Now, these post-its will save me lots of time and eliminate eraser marks (and wasted paper). :)

  3. So having been in 7 classrooms over the past 9 years I feel like an expert on this topic. A few years ago I got smart and was tired of hand making my grid for my rooms shape and size. So now before I leave I take dimensions (just counting the 1foot square floor tiles) and I made myself a classroom grid on excel. I marked the location of doors, outlets, windows, hooks, etc. with text or colors. Then I use the shapes in excel to move my furniture. With every new room I just add cells or delete them to help with the size. My room is always a work in progress but thankfully I don't have to move this year so I can improve upon my current room!

  4. I love this post! Thank you for making me feel like I'm not as TypeA as people were saying when they saw my classroom design document. I'm changing positions in August (moving to 2nd from K) and with the new position comes a bigger classroom. After four and a half years in my classroom, I had the layout down to an art form and knew exactly where to put everything in July. I did my layout in a Microsoft Word document with the shapes. I'm going to read the book before I start actually setting up my furniture. Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. I too love this book. Lakeshore Learning has a free classroom designer that I use each year, considering I've moved my classroom every year for the past 6 six years.

    The program has many pre-designed furniture to match standard furniture sizes. I went into the classroom and measure a piece of each furniture and the room to know the dimensions. Then I input the measurements to the designer.

    Link here for the Classroom Designer

    Primary Graffiti

  6. I love this book! In fact I read the part on packing up your classroom at the end of each year...hoping to be as organized as she is!

  7. Ugh...classroom design makes me cringe in my school. Our classrooms are oddly shaped (think 5-sided with three long sides and two short sides...it's hard to describe!) Plus, with 25 third graders, the room fills up very fast. Also, I learned that when our school was built, they shirked on the square footage, and in order for it to pass fire code, they consider the space in our POD additional classroom space, which is ridiculous since we don't teach in that small space with our entire group (small groups, yes, with a para or SPED teacher).

    So anyway, I would be thrilled if someone would come into my room and figure out a way to make it more efficient. Cram in 25 desks, my desk, a guided reading table, a few bookshelves, and two computer tables, and it's like walking through a maze! I still haven't found a fabulous solution yet!

    Okay, so I guess the moral of this pity party is I hope that those of you with generous classrooms enjoy them and are grateful!


  8. Thank you so much for this post!! I usually go to my room during the summer and literally sit in the middle of the floor to try to see how my vision works! Well it doesn't work all the time but sometimes it does! I am goin to try the post its and check out that book! Thanks!


  9. I love how God directs me right to the EXACT blog I need to read, when I need to read it! I am literally about to head to school to reorganize my closet (I, too am a little OCD when it comes to all that), but have been already stressing over how I will set my room up next year. I like to be overly prepared!

    I need this book in my life! Thank you for sharing your ideas on designing! Love them.

    And thanks to Cheryl from Primary Graffiti for the tip on Lakeshore! I'm posting about this now I'm so excited!! :)

  10. I've really wanted to get her book on this. I am moving classrooms this year and have already visualize how I want to set things up BUT of course, I always do the same thing as you used...put it one way, look at it, then move things around again. I do this a lot. And then once the kids get in there, I realize something doesn't work and have to move some more. I think I'm going to try the post it notes for my new room, before I move all my stuff in! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Lakeshore learning has an online version of this...it is under the free resources tab on their website. I was able to put in the dimensions of my room and manipulate the objects within. Since I don't live in a perfect world and all my classroom furniture came from thrift stores and craigslist, I did have to pick Lakeshore items that were similar to my stuff.

  12. I have been teaching for 23 years. I move stuff around all the time. I have never mapped it out, I just start moving things around. I also have a couple of other teachers come in and get their opinions, too!! Post it note sound perfect!!

  13. Thanks for sharing impressive tips about classroom design. It's much important that classroom should be designed according to the modern needs. check spelling online

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