Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Classroom Layout

The layout of your classroom can have a significant impact on the way you teach and hence, the way your students learn.

Seating Arrangements

There are a number of factors that need to be taken into careful account before you arrange the seating in your classroom (Arthur-Kelly, Lyons, Butterfield & Gordon 2007). For starters, the way you decide to seat out the desks in your classroom will no doubt reflect your personal philosophy of teaching and your preferred style of teaching (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007). Therefore it is crucial to ensure that the  way you arrange the furniture in your classroom lends itself to the range of instructional methods you plan on using, as well as enabling the elements of behaviour management as ‘identified by earlier research to be implemented, such as scanning, smooth transitions, organised deskwork and mobility’ (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007 p125).

When planning the seating arrangement in your classroom you need to consider where each child should sit and whether you will make this decision, or whether you will let your students decide. If your personal philosophy of teaching favours cooperative group your classroom seating arrangement may need to reflect your class’s social structure (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007). Some student input is advisable, particularly with older students, as they have to “cope with the consequences of seating choice” (Aurthur-Kelly 2007 p125). For mixed ability grouping however, free choice for students is unlikely to create the desired mix. ­­It is also important to note the research that suggests that students engage more in teaching-learning interaction if they are seated towards the centre front, rather than those seated on the periphery (Arthur-Kelly 2007).  You should also considering position students with learning difficulties or behavioural problems within the instructional focus. 

Ultimately, the seating arrangement in your classroom will only be limited by your imagination. The following information should not be viewed as the only options for seating arrangements, but rather Arthur-Kelly suggest that “the more creative the design, the better…as it communicates that ‘this classroom is different from others’ and therefore establishes different expectations from the outset”, (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007 p126).


The preferred teaching style in classrooms with rows is certainly teacher-centred, combined with deskwork designed to be completed individually (Arthur-Kelly 2007). Whilst rows facilitate teacher-student interactions, it restricts student-student interactions and subsequently inhibits group-work situations. Rows however, are effective for recapturing any classroom management that may have been lost as a result of alternative seating arrangements.

According to Arthur-Kelly et al., (2007) rows can promote positive behaviours by;
- creating the expectation of order
- allowing the teacher to scan and monitor students with ease
- assisting with non-verbal communication through eye contact (p127).

Picture sourced from:


Groups involve several desks being grouped together usually on a rectangle or L-shape and in many ways is the polar opposite of rows (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007). Unlike, rows where the instructional focus is teacher-centred, groups are very much conducive of student-centred instruction. Therefore, some social-interaction is encouraged and noise levels are not expected to be as low as classrooms that are arranged in rows (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007).

If you choose to set out seating arrangement in groups, it is vital that all the instructional focus of the classroom is visible to all students without them having to physically turn (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007). Furthermore, you should true to ensure that there is at least one point in the room where you can have eye contact with all students, as ‘redirection in the early stages of off-task behaviour is more easily achieved without disrupting the instructional flow’, (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007 p127).

According to Arthur-Kelly et al., (2007) groups can promote positive behaviours by;
- enabling more varied instruction strategies to be implemented
- meeting students’ basic need for social interaction (p127).


Single or double U-shape table formations are basically halfway between rows and groups and therefore, have some of the advantages and disadvantages of each (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007). While U-shapes are generally teacher-centred, they also allow for opportunities for student-student interaction (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2007). Desks in a U-shape position can be formed when need be by moving desks together.

The following questions will be helpful for you to consider when you plan on setting out your classroom.
Ask yourself:
Can I see the faces of every single student and can they see me?
Can everyone see the board (if you're planning on using it)?
Can the students see one another?
Can I move around the room so that I can monitor effectively? (Budden, J 2008).


Arthur-Kelly, M., Lyons, G., Butterfield, N., & Gordon, C., 2007, ‘Classroom Management: creating positive learning environments’, Cengage Learning, Victoria: Australia.

Budden, J., 2008, ‘Classroom Layout’, URL: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/classroom-layout (Accessed 20 October 2012). 

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