Classroom arrangement is always an ongoing process depending on so many variables- physical size of the classroom, number of students, needs of students, grade levels, location of outlets (just to name a few). I am constantly rearranging based on one or more of these factors. I’ve been in the same classroom for 9 years now and through different groups of students and a pandemic, I have found that the arrangement of my classroom is dynamic. Here is how my classroom looks this school year…
Upon arrival of our classroom, you will see my schedule and lesson plan QR code outside the door. On the inside of the door, you will see our specialty class schedule, all for easy access for staff, teachers, RSPs and administration. I have a curtain in my window on my door for lockdown drills and to limit distraction for students. When students come into the room, they keep their items in cubbies. I used to have students use our closet area to keep their items, but since it is separate from the rest of the room, it was difficult to supervise. Having the cubbies in two different locations (one in the front of the room and one in the back of the room) is great for reducing student traffic to the cubbies. Near the front, there is a desk with all of our sanitizing products. I also have a large static core board so it is accessible to students and close to the teacher’s small group area.
2. Students’ Desks
This year, my students’ desks are in rows. My students really don’t spend the majority of the day at their desks- they really just serve as a “home base” for my students. Students eat breakfast or snacks at their desk, wait for transitions and their desk or complete individual work at their desks. Tables and other alternative seating is usually an option for students at any point of the day. Students will also keep individualized items in their desk including their points and points “wallet”, their “break bag” (bag with small toys and other break activities students can do at their desks), headphones and their crayon box. Depending on a student’s level of independence and needs, the opening of their desks may be turned away from them to ensure easier access for teachers or staff and students with more independent skills may have the opening of their desks turned towards them.
3. Front/Promethean Board
This year, we got a Promethean board installed in the front of our classroom, therefore this front area is largely kept clear. I sometimes arrange tables and desks or have students move their chairs closer to the board to engage in activities with the Promethean board. We also do yoga as part of our morning meeting. While there is not much to say about this area, sometimes where you keep areas clear is just as thoughtful of a decision as where to put other stations or classroom furniture.
In the past, I have had my tables/stations in my classroom have been pretty specific- math, content, fluency. For the last couple of years, I have made the stations in my room more neutral and adaptable, so we are able to have the flexibility to do a variety of activities. All of my tables are on wheels, which is a great way to easily move for a variety of activities. I named the tables after food items to be identifiable, able to use for a variety of subjects and activities and because my students love talking about food. Here is what I am currently using each station/table for:
- Ice Cream Table-This is my front table that I use for my small group if I am using the Promethean board. If I need to test individual students, I will use it as a hands-on activity, such as seasonal activities from The Autism Helper, at the table and pull students individually to another table.
- Cheeseburger Table– The cheeseburger table is located by the task boxes and tall drawers. This is meant to be an individual work station, but can also serve as alternative seating when students need extra help or are participating in a group activity.
- Tater Tot Table– My teacher/ small group area is the tater tot table. It may not always be the most attractive area of the room, but it is meant to be adaptable for whatever tests or lessons that students are working on. I have drawers and supply bins that are meant to be interchangeable based on lessons or activities.
- Pizza Table– This table is located in the back of the room and is closest to the (color coded by level) game shelf. If I do rotations at the pizza table, the activity is usually a game, but like the other tables, it can be used for other activities, small group work or another location to complete individual work.
- Classroom Library– One of our stations during our reading rotations is independent reading in our classroom library. For more about classroom libraries, check out Setting Up a Classroom Library.
5. Break Area
The closet in my classroom is so large that it is basically like another room. It has high ceilings and there are open doorways. I divided up the part of the closet for storage and a secure area for staff to keep their items and the other part as the break area. The break area is designed to be a more calming or sensory break area. Since there is a window on the inside of the break area, students can look out the window or the blinds can be closed, so the area is darker than the classroom (there is a separate lightswitch for the closet). One student I have tosses a weighted ball as part of their sensory diet. What is effective about having the break area more separate is that it feels like another location for meeting this sensory need and it detours throwing items in the classroom space. It is also just a great place to relax- lying on pillows, sitting on the floor or playing with stuffed animals.