Your classroom desk layout.dcJohn (image modified). Creative Commons.
Learning Environment

The Best Layout for Your Classroom: It Might Be Your Own Design!

Make the most of the space and furniture you have for more effective learning.

We’ve all been there: the classroom with the teacher’s desk at the front of the room with rows of student desks stretching to the back of the room. While this design seems old fashioned, there are some advantages still: It’s great for large classes packed into small spaces, easier to manage, and perfect for students doing individual work.

But guess what? You have the freedom to break out of the traditional mold. There are a variety of layouts that could work with your class, and if one of these misses the mark, you can always design your own. Here’s how:

Factors to consider

Layout is dependent on your students and the purpose of the room. For example, a high school English class will need a completely different layout from an elementary class or a middle school science class.

Before determining your classroom layout, consider:

  • Traffic flow or the ease of movement around the room, which is important for both you and your students
  • Distractions such as doors, aquariums, caged class pets, and windows that overlook the playground
  • Line of sight: You should be able to see every student; plus students should be able to clearly see the board
  • Collaborative workspace needs
  • Ease of moving desks, chairs, and other furniture
  • Structural issues you have to work around such as poles, beams, heating/cooling registers, or walls
  • Accessibility to books, supplies, and other materials
  • Special areas that need to be figured into the layout such as a reading nook, computer center, tables for science experiments, standing desks, or a quiet area for students with behavior issues or special needs

Basic layouts

In addition to the traditional rows or columns of desks, there are other standard layouts to consider. These include:

  • Horseshoe or U-Shaped
    According to, this layout allows the teacher to interact with the entire class and works best for board work and speaking activities. But such a layout can make it difficult to control behavior, and it’s not suitable for work in small groups.
  • Clusters
    If you’re seeking student-to-student interaction, suggests placing four desks together in clusters or pods to enable problem solving and collaboration. The cons? This design can lead to off-task behavior and a noisy room.
  • Stadium Seating
    This configuration calls for angled rows of three to four desks that touch. This layout takes up less space than others, and makes it easy for students to work collaboratively, says Yet this layout with more than two rows of desks can lead to off task behavior and it’s unsuitable for larger classes.

Designing your room

There are several free programs online you can use to design your perfect classroom layout. All it takes is a realistic assessment of your students, their needs, and the space and furniture you have – along with a healthy dose of creativity. Check out these programs:


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