Planning your Learning Room – a Blank Canvas

by dontregartha May 3, 2017

Have you ever wondered what your classroom would look like empty? Well, if you stripped back the clutter, the tables and chairs, display boards and shelves, you’ll probably discover you have more space than you thought! That’s the next step. Before even thinking about how to reconfigure your classroom, you’ll need to step back and really look at the space you have – forget the contents, and look at the structure of the room itself.

So what if you could start with an entirely blank canvas? Clear floors, empty shelves and stark walls. There’s never an ideal time to do it, but you’ll need to arrange for everything to be cleared from your classroom. We would also advise taking down all the notice boards and display posters if you can.

Emptying a classroom can be a truly liberating experience. You’ll discover items you’d forgotten about, and they might not even be relevant for your current teaching style. Tables, once a valuable space to carry out science experiments are now just a home for unused books, random mismatched chairs remain when they were initially only borrowed, storage cupboards of varying sizes take up major floor space, and your own desk just houses stacks of old paperwork and useless items collected over time. Sound familiar?

Looking at the contents of your classroom, you’ll need to consider which of these items are your ‘must haves’. You must be ruthless, and ask yourself ‘how will I integrate this into my strategy, and into truly relevant learning activities that foster the optimum skills and behaviours for my pupils?’

You may discover that you’re missing important items that would help you achieve your learning outcomes. Discuss with other teachers and your leadership team how you can get hold of these. They might even be going spare elsewhere in the building. Starting to redesign your learning space does not have to involve large costs, if any at all.

A blank canvas – key steps

Take stock of what furniture and resources you have to work with. What can be discarded? Be honest about how often you genuinely use certain resources, and discard those that you haven’t used in the last 12 months.

Create partnerships with adjacent classrooms. What can be shared between you? You can create even more space in your classroom if you share one set of resources between two or even three rooms.

Identify which resources and furniture are realistically required for a 21st Century approach to learning; helping to develop optimum skills and behaviours in your pupils for their future success in learning and life.

Pinpoint whether you already have access to required furniture and resources; or need to find them elsewhere. If they aren’t available, get creative with alternatives or interim solutions. This can often provide a chance to ‘test’ a practical strategy in action before investing in permanent items.

Clear the room. Once clear, use masking tape on the floor to ‘rezone’ and reallocate the space you have. Try and get all staff involved if you can, as it can prove a great learning exercise. Work together to clear and rezone one room, and then the thinking can be applied to all other

classrooms. If shifting the contents of your room is not possible, draw your

empty room on paper or PowerPoint, and use coloured blocks to rezone it.