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Understanding the Importance of Different Classroom Layouts

Over the years, researchers have been investigating the relationship between academic engagement, student behavior, and the classroom environment. In fact, many believe changing the physical environment in the classroom can lead to a shift in the overall atmosphere of the room.

Over time, you could experience an increase in academic engagement, a decrease in disruptive behavior, and of course, students with a more profound knowledge of the subject you’re teaching them.

But, while environmental modifications are essential to classroom management, implementation is key. Without setting up the right layout for your class and the type of lesson you’re teaching, you may do more harm than good.

Benefits of a Well-Designed Classroom

Research tells us that a well-designed classroom and learning space allows students to:

  • Learn physical boundaries

  • Establish which behaviors are acceptable

  • Anticipate what type of activities will occur

By laying out your classroom in a specific way, you can clarify student expectations. This, in turn, helps students participate more fully in the activity you have planned. Aside from preparing them for the lesson, this can ward off disruptive behavior that often occurs when students are caught off guard.


The key with this layout is to mix and match it to suit your student’s abilities and needs. You can use a combination of the various layouts below to reach your goals. For example, you may have a lesson that requires students to do individual work while others undertake discussion-based activities.

Some Different Classroom Layouts

Combination

The Combination layout is a great alternative in classrooms with students who have different learning levels. It’s also a great option if you’re asking students to complete different tasks within one lesson or if there are behavioral issues in your classroom.

The key with this layout is to mix and match it to suit your student’s abilities and needs. You can use a combination of the various layouts below to reach your goals. For example, you may have a lesson that requires students to do individual work while others undertake discussion-based activities.

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Runway

With the runway layout, the classroom is divided into two rows of chairs and tables facing each other with space for the educator to stand in between. This type of layout turns the classroom into a stage for the educator.

The runway layout is perfect for days with heavy narrative, anecdote, and note-taking. This type of layout isn’t good for work in groups but does have the advantage of allowing students to debate topics.

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Clusters

As the name suggests, the clusters layout is when you group students into small clusters, normally of four. This is the perfect layout for small group work as it promotes a predominantly learner-centered instruction. Better yet, this type of layout is perfect for all class sizes.

Clusters encourage teamwork and interaction between students while also creating a more personal environment for students to voice and explore their ideas. Despite the many benefits, clusters can also lead to increased noise levels and distractions. It’s also harder to assess individual students’ level of understanding.

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Rows and Columns

The rows and columns layout is another teacher-centered instruction that encourages an independent learning format and is suitable for all class sizes. This type of layout is good for minimizing disruptions as students are easier to supervise.

However, rows and columns aren’t for every lesson. This layout doesn’t encourage group work and it also makes it very difficult for the educator to move from student to student. Aside from raising their hand, students don’t have much opportunity to seek guidance from their teacher.  

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Stadium

Stadium layout is a combination of rows, clusters, and runway. It’s perfect for individual learning while also opening up the room for short group work. Students can turn to discuss topics with their peers while also having their own space for individual productivity.

While it does allow for more interactive instruction it has similar downfalls to those of the rows layout above.

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Horseshoe or U-Shape

Horseshoe or U-shaped layout is another style of teacher-based instruction that is perfect for large groups to work together but better for small to medium-sized classrooms to avoid distractions. This layout makes it easier for the instructor to interact with the entire classroom while also encouraging discussion. It’s a great layout for presentations and demonstrations.


While this layout is extremely inclusive, it’s not good for educators who want their students to work in small groups. It’s also quite an overwhelming setting for students who are shy or less confident.

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Implementing the Right Layout in Your Classroom

The driving force behind the layout of your classroom should be your students. Before you choose the layout for your lesson, you need to consider the number of students in your class as well as their individual needs.

Additionally, don’t forget about essential areas like the teacher work area and materials you may need to access. In short, you must always consider the different lessons, how your students learn best, and their material needs.

Choosing the right classroom layout can be challenging, especially if you work with different groups of students throughout the day. Remember, change takes time and the impact of the modifications may not be seen immediately but that doesn’t mean it’s not working. But, by working with a group of trained professionals with experience choosing the right layouts according to student needs, you can better engage your students in the future.