Before you move a chair or table, dig into those IEPs. Consider the spacial needs of your students. Some things to think about:
- Do you need to plan for students who utilize equipment within the classroom? Wheelchairs, walkers, standers, etc?
- Do you have students who elope?
- Where are the exits?
- Where will students put their things?
- Do you need a charging station for AACs? (We always ask that they come fully charged, but sometimes accidents happen and we need to charge mid-day).
Consider how you can arrange furniture and staff between the exit door and students if you have students who elope. Try putting a work station or table near the door with a staff member. This blocks the direct route to the door and puts a staff member near the exit ready to ‘catch’.
Your students need a place to hang jackets, lunches, and backpacks. If this isn’t predetermined in layout for you, take a minute to think about where students could get their things and line up without being on top of each other.
Consider Staff Needs
This seems silly, but it’s often overlooked. Think about all of the things you do in your classroom to make yourself at home. Now do the exact same for your staff! At the minimum, give them a dedicated space to put their purse, keys, phone, coat, and lunch. Not only will this help your staff feel welcome, it will help your staff feel valued and appreciated. This is huge those first few weeks when everything is hard and new. Short on space? Try a filing cabinet and give each staff member a drawer! Don’t forget about related service providers! They are important and utilize your space, too! Remember – behavior is communication. What you do here will set the tone for the start of the year and the rapport you have with your staff.
Consider Your Schedule & Learning Needs
Are all of your students learning 1:1? Is there a mix of 1:1 and small group? Do you need a large group space? Will you have centers? If so, what will they be? Do you have students who need help reducing distractions to focus? Once you’ve thought these through, start thinking about the main areas of your classroom. Think flexibly! Spaces can and should be flexible. For example, my students do morning work, independent work and centers at the same tables. Visuals and routines help them determine the expectations for the time of day and activity we are in.