Learning Environment

Functional Room Arrangements to Facilitate Learning

Looking to inspire learning? Start by focusing on where the learning occurs.

When it comes to room arrangements at any grade level, functionally comfortable and adaptable designs are key. An often overlooked aspect of meeting the needs of a variety of learning levels and styles is as simple as how we arrange classroom spaces. Whether your classroom has been “gifted” with desks, tables, desk/chair combos, or you have the luxury of starting from scratch, these room configurations will give you a range of possibilities for designing a functional and inviting learning space.

Learning Zones

The creation of learning zones in the classroom is the epitome of form meets function. When zones have been created that are functionally diverse, students are more likely to find the proper niche for their learning style. Zones can be based on different seating options or learning stations. Zones could be comprised of standing desks, soft seating (e.g., beanbags, cushions), ball or kore chairs, technology carrels, small group tables, etc. When students are presented with a variety of zones that best fit different activities and styles, they can find a new excitement in the functionality of their learning spaces. A zone-centered classroom is perfect for flipped models, learning stations PBL, etc.

The “U”

The U is a great way to start breaking from the traditional row concept while still creating a common focal point for the entire group. With a single row of desks along the back that is flanked by two perpendicular rows on each end, all eyes can still find their way front and center without any major contortions necessary. A double U or even a triple can be achieved depending on space. Having desks and/or tables positioned in this style also allows for an easy turn of the head for partner (think/pair/share) activities and/or inner U students can turn around their chairs to create larger groups.

Dynamic Duos

This room arrangement puts two desks together in either side-to-side or nose-to-nose couplings. For attached desk and chair furnishings, nose-to-nose works. The duos require some socializing ground rules and/or a wisely crafted seating assignment. Student pairings can fluctuate based on the subject being covered and/or differentiation. Desks or tables can be easily moved in or out of this design.

Learning Clusters

By adding one or more desks/tables to a duo, the seating configuration can be transformed into multiple learning clusters. For attached desk/chair combos, a 3-sided cluster works best with a little empty space in the middle. Clusters are a great design for cooperative learning, station activities, small groups, etc. Always a favorite that can be easily transformed into other layouts.

The Circle of Learning

The Circle of Learning is a great choice for discussion-rich classrooms. Circles lend themselves to Socratic seminars and an even playing field when it comes to a student’s ability to be seen and heard. A circle design is also an excellent base formation for creating the fishbowl effect with a small center group modeling a learning strategy for the rest of the class.

When it comes to finding the best arrangement for the classroom, form and function drive the decisions. Classroom designs will differ greatly depending on the grade level and subject taught, but learning spaces can certainly break from the traditional row template of yore. Helping students fluidly transform from one configuration to the next can be easily achieved with a few rolls of colored duct tape and some strategic pieces placed on the floor to mark where a desk or table leg should fall. It’s time to sit back and take a look at learning spaces from some unique room arrangement angles.