The classroom plays a pivotal role in students’ lives. It’s where most of their formal education is delivered, as well as the site of their socialization and primary “occupation” as young learners. But classrooms—and how they are structured—are also important to educators themselves. A disorganized classroom can leave inhabitants feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, and confused. A well-designed classroom is conducive to harmony, productivity, and progress.
In 2014, Edutopia.org identified seven distinct learning zones of the classroom environment. You might think of these as the “Seven Create-able Wonders of your classroom World.” In a nutshell, the zones are:
- Discovery Zones – This area contains all the items that spark young imaginations: arts and crafts, design materials, recorders, cameras, games, puzzles, fun books, and magazines.
- News Zone – This area keeps everybody on track with what’s going on: assignments and projects, school-wide events, holidays, upcoming celebrations, weather, temperature, community, and world news.
- Supplies Zone – This is where all the “stuff” is: pencils, pens, highlighters, sharpeners, staplers, scissors, hole-punches, rulers, paper, glue, tape, paper clips, tissue, paper towels, hand sanitizer, a trash can, and general tools.
- Community Zone – This is the big multi-purpose area. Here, collaboration should be encouraged and bonds are fostered. Students are reminded that we are all working toward common goals.
- Quiet Zone – This is the “retreat” center of the classroom. It can be a quiet place to catch up on work, study, read, write, take a test, or reflect. It may also appeal to those students who gravitate to working alone.
- Teacher Zone – This is your professional space: where you plan, prepare lessons, grade student work, and complete your reports. You can use it as a private space to host one-to-one conferences with your students or parents.
- Subject Area Zone – This area houses the resources, games, worksheets, and tech tools for the content you teach. All the materials that reinforce what you’re teaching them orally can be displayed here.
Dr. Fred Jones, founder of Tools for Teaching, concurs with the idea that classrooms are distinctly zoned, and defines the classroom zones in terms of proximity seating and behaviors. He encourages teachers to define the “zones of proximity” (to themselves) within their classrooms.
Of course, individual classrooms will vary as widely as the teachers and students who use them. But you can always use the separate spaces within your room as a way to emphasize different functions of each space; for example, you can use the Discovery Zone to display examples of rocks or building blocks, Legos or even boxes to “create and explore.” Daily News Zones can list your daily learning target, classwork, weather reports, pictures for discussion prompts, even birthdays.
While you’re at it, why not personalize the Teacher Zone by displaying your credentials—degrees, certifications, special photos, or even create your own “Pinterest board.”
Create some of the suggested zones or zones you identify when creating “wonder”-ous areas, make sure you identify your zones clearly, and define the seating to meet those needs. The key thing, as always: focus the learning spaces around your needs and the needs of your students.
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