Classroom layout can affect learning

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Learning environment: Different classroom scenarios help students stay interested and engaged. | FILE PHOTO

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When school begins anew, students are often excited about seeing their friends again and spending time with classmates they will be learning alongside all year. Though who a student sits next to in class is important to students for one reason, teachers have different motives behind classroom seating arrangements.

Classroom layout plays a role in how students learn, concentrate and behave. Before the school year begins, teachers may establish a seating and learning environment unique from other classes. Throughout the school year, adjustments may be made in the best interest of the children.

According to Scholastic, elementary school-aged children learn best when they’re allowed to move throughout the classroom. Learning stations that allow such movement have become more popular. One station may cater to auditory learning, while another may feature manipulatives that is ideal for students who thrive by learning with tangible items. Computer stations are also common, and the variety breaks up the monotony of one type of learning by keeping students interested and engaged.

Some teachers prefer to arrange desks in different fashions depending on their teaching styles. The design of long rows of desks all facing the front of the classroom is not always practical for students or teachers. It can be difficult for teachers to see students in the middle or the back of the room, while students may find it difficult to concentrate on learning if they’re staring at the backs of other classmates’ heads.

Common desk layouts include grouping a few desks together to face one another for collaborative lessons. Some teachers prefer a “U” or circle layout to encourage discussions.

Students prefer different environments in which to learn, and teachers may be wise to create different scenarios inside of the classroom. An isolated cubicle or desk shielded by bookcases can be a good retreat spot for a child who likes quiet for personal study. Other students like to study and work together, so a round group table may be the ideal place for them to gather. The classroom need not always be brightly lit for learning either. Teachers can think about using different types of lights to set up nooks in the classroom to facilitate learning.

Hard seats, hard desks and the same location over and over can sometimes be uncomfortable. Teachers with novel educating styles may prefer to switch environments from time to time to keep students’ minds engaged. For example, they may take science lessons outside for children to learn first-hand about nature or animals. A trip to the school’s theater or all-purpose room may be better for a language arts assignment, such as acting out a play. Students from the same grade may swap classrooms with another class so they benefit from a different teaching style and environment. Sometimes teachers put all students together for a group lesson to exchange new viewpoints.

Some designers and architects also have views on how classrooms should be designed. In 2011, the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, with offices in Sydney, Stuttgart and Shanghai, designed a concept for the “classroom of the future.” It’s a prefabricated and portable classroom unit that integrates into the landscape while enhancing the learning environment. The materials are cost-effective and sustainable.

Classroom environments may once have been about rigid rows of desks where all eyes were focused on the blackboard. But today teachers and innovators have realized the benefits of switching things up to tap students’ learning potential. From the use of smartboards and computers to the rearrangement of seats, variety in the classroom is often advantageous to students.

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