Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Rethinking Classroom Design

Rethinking Classroom Design

YouTube video

Last year my husbands classroom had desks… lots of them… with the chairs attached. The first time I saw this I immediately wanted to ditch the desks. It is very challenging for students to collaborate and group up with this format of seatings. The students were in rows facing forward. The furniture lent itself to being a teacher focused classroom.

While the furniture itself does not dictate what kind of learning goes on in a classroom, it can support and encourage certain types of behaviors. If you are wanting a more student centered classroom, you will want more flexible seating. I like to see students DOING, discussing, creating, playing, exploring, investigating, COLLABORATING and working on projects. For me, this means a more comfortable environment where students feel the learning is about them and not about the front of the room.

We literally chucked the desks outside. Kept a couple of them to place along the back wall just in case, but opted instead for couches, rolly chairs, bean bags and floor cushions. We then created collaboration spaces of different types.

One area is a couple of big comfy couches where students can talk, brainstorm and share. We got hard plastic lapdesks from IKEA instead of tables for the area.

Another area is a work station, individual table tops that are really flexible to move and group up. When students are writing or creating but still wanting them to communicate and collaborate. We have a couple of other work stations. One a rectangular table and the other a round table.

We do not just want student collaborating together, we also want to get them presenting. We purchased three 22″ HDTV’s for the presentation stations. Students can plug in their chromebook via HDMI and present to a small group. By creating these presentation stations we are trying to set the tone that this is what we do in this class.

We are also getting a large rug for carpet time story telling. Catlin Tucker reads books to her high school students. I also have found that high school students are not “too old” for things that were done in elementary school. Students still love stories, fun classroom walls and bulletin boards, making things with glue and playing games.

By changing the layout of the room we are signaling to students that something different is going on in this place. To change their mindset away from the teacher giving them information, to realizing their ideas and opinions and knowledge matter. By having couches that face each other, students are signalled that they should not sit quietly facing forward, but should value the ideas of their classmates and they should work together. The world has changed, so should our learning environments.









15 thoughts on “Rethinking Classroom Design

    1. You are welcome to use the photos, we will post more later. Working on parent permission to show it with kids. Please link back to this page.

  1. I think it looks great. The fifth grade at my school is doing the same thing. The kids brought in their own seating. I like how this has a little more thought though. Be brave, everyone! We can do this!

  2. This classroom looks awesome! What kind of financial investment could someone like me expect if I wanted to try this? I hate to focus on the monetary aspect of this design, but with a major change to the “traditional” classroom layout, it’s something hard to ignore. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Personally, I spent $5000. I threw out everything and started over. The short throw projector, apple tv, Chromebooks and cart were provided by the school.

  3. Alice
    That looks like such an inviting, creative space now with the colorful, movable furniture. I would love to hear how Barton’s students react when school starts. I bet they’re going to be shocked (in a good way!) It would be interesting to do a little “action research” to see if the students’ creativity is enhanced by the room configuration and furniture.

  4. Alice, thanks for sharing this re-design! My big question is..how can teachers/schools who are only able to spend $500…or $50 accomplish similar results for a comfortable and collaborative learning space?

  5. Love it, Alice – I would totally enjoy ditching my traditional desks in lieu of more spaces for collaboration. I live in an area w/ many office furniture companies….Hmm, maybe I need to hit the local resources and just do it!

  6. This looks great for students presenting and working together. Makes for a comfortable learning environment but I’d worry about the students who just want to get away from other students and get work done quietly. What do you do with those students?

  7. This is exactly what I was trying to explain to someone tonight. Thank you for writing it up, documenting your thinking, and sharing! Well done!

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