How to Create an Ideal Classroom Design for Elementary

In a perfect world, creating the ideal classroom design would mean sitting down with an architect and starting from scratch. Unfortunately that isn’t reality. Many of us have taught (or are currently teaching) in spaces that are not optimized the way we would like for them to be.

And while we’re all aware of the importance of classroom arrangement, sometimes creating a floor plan that is organized, welcoming, and inviting is tricky. So, I’m going to give you some tips that will absolutely revolutionize your thoughts on the ideal classroom design and help you decide on the best classroom arrangement for your space.

The Ideal Classroom Design

Two key components of a functional classroom design are determining what can and cannot move. Knowing this will help you make informed decisions about how your space will function. 

1. Determine What You Have to Work Around

The first thing you need to do is figure out what is immoveable in your classroom. All of the stationary objects like cubbies, sinks, counters/cabinets, shelves, closets, doors, and etc. are included in this group.

And even though it’s ridiculously frustrating to have a classroom full of imposing stationary objects, we just have to figure out what we can do to work around them. Unfortunately, our feelings are irrelevant because like or not, those things are staying.

Now just because you have a bunch of stationary items in your room doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative! In fact, you can actually use the stationary objects to increase the flow of the room. The key is to get creative in how you use those objects to design your ideal classroom. 

2. Decide What You Can Move

After you’ve figured out what you can’t move, take a few minutes and look at what furniture pieces are moveable, but essential. This would include things like your teacher desk, student desks, flexible seating, rug(s), centers/stations, tables, etc.

This will help you make decisions about what needs to be included in your ideal classroom design. If you know that you will have 30 student desks this year, your options are going to be more limited than someone who has to accommodate 15 student desks.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative.

  1. Consider taking out your teacher desk and using a table (with other storage solutions) instead. This will remove one HUGE piece of furniture, but still give you a space from which you can teach and work.
  2. Think about how you can make certain areas multipurpose. Place a shelf by the door to hold important forms, work for missing students, emergency information, etc. and student lunchboxes so that you can grab these things as you walk out the door.
  3. Cubbies in the middle of the room? Consider turning the backs into station areas (with folders mounted) or a word wall area to take advantage of the vertical space.

If you’re willing to think outside of the box, you’ll be amazed at how many options you have for creating an ideal classroom design.

The Importance of Classroom Arrangement

The arrangement of your classroom can either make or break the year! I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Research has shown that the way a space is arranged impacts learning and classroom management.

Therefore the importance of classroom arrangement cannot be dismissed.

So you’re going to want to give yourself an advantage from the start. Considering who will be using your room and how you want the space to function are the first steps.

Here are some specific questions to get you thinking about your ideal classroom design and to help you make informed decisions about the way your classroom will work.

  • What grade will you be teaching?
  • How many students will be in your class?
  • Do you plan to incorporate centers or stations into your layout?
  • Will any of the students be special needs?
    • Is any additional equipment needed for these students?
    • Will your student(s) have an assistant who will need a place to sit?
    • Do you need a separate area (for calming down) if your student(s) get over-stimulated?
  • Are you planning to use desks or tables?
    • Do you want students in rows, groups, or a combination?
    • Will students stay in their desks all day or have other locations to complete work?
  • Will there be space for flexible seating?
  • Are you going to have a rug for whole group interaction, class meetings, read alouds?

The purpose of these questions is to get your brain thinking about how your classroom needs to look to optimize the functionality for you and your students.

Ideal Classroom Design by Grade Level

While the needs of each grade level are unique, many of the most effective classrooms have consistent spaces. So, I’ve created a list to help you think about the different areas you might want to include in your classroom.

Preschool Classroom Arrangement

  • Room divided into centers or areas
  • Dramatic play
  • Writing
    • Reading
    • Movement
    • Art/Craft
    • Tech (iPads/computers)
    • Listening
    • Puzzles/Critical Thinking
  • Space to eat snacks
  • Rug
  • Teacher area

Kindergarten Classroom Arrangement

  • Tables for written work/test-taking
  • Flexible seating
  • Centers (like those mentioned in the preschool classroom arrangement)
  • Rug
  • Teacher area

1st Grade Classroom Arrangement

  • Tables, desks, or a combination
  • Center areas or stations
  • Rug
  • Flexible seating
  • Teacher area

2nd Grade Classroom Arrangement

  • Desks, tables, or a combination
  • Computers/iPads (Tech area)
  • Centers/stations
  • Flexible seating
  • Rug
  • Teacher area

One of the most important things to consider as you think about arrangement is open space. There should be enough room for everyone to move freely without running into one another, but not so much open space that your kids feel the need to run.

If you can eliminate the opportunity for them to run, you’ve already removed one potential classroom management issue. Becoming mindful of how everyone will move in the space will allow you to create a physical environment that feels comfortable and defined without being cluttered and stifling.

The key to having an ideal classroom design is creating a successful room arrangement. Start by figuring out what you can and cannot change. Then ask yourself the questions that will help you know what a functional classroom will look like for you and your students.

Remove any nonessential items to make room for meaningful things, and then give yourself permission to make changes as needed.

As your students begin to work and learn in the space, you may discover that changes are needed. Simply revisit this post and ask yourself those essential questions to determine what changes you need to make to create an ideal classroom design.