Layout and seating

1st October 2004 at 01:00
Sue Cowley offers practical tips on managing your class and delivering your lessons

The organisation of your teaching space will have a powerful impact on learning and behaviour, so find ways early on in the term to make your mark.

* Claim your teaching space as your own. Show the pupils that this is "your" room now. Put your personal stamp on it, perhaps by sticking up some fresh posters or a list of class rules. If you have to teach in a number of different rooms, request a display area and storage space in each one.

* Maximise the advantages, minimise the disadvantages. My first classroom was the classic "problem space" - tiny, an awkward shape, and used as a "corridor" between two areas (sometimes even during lessons). Make the best of what you've been given - for instance, by requesting shelves for storage to keep valuable floor space free.

* Consider rearranging the furniture.

Don't be afraid to adapt the classroom space - we too often stick with what we are given when another layout would work better. Making changes will help your pupils to have a fresh perspective and keep them on their toes.

Create a paper plan to test out the options and then enlist the help of a friendly caretaker in lugging tables and chairs around.

* Consider groups or rows. Think about what will work best for your children and your subject. With groups of tables it is easier to do speaking and listening work, but some pupils might find it hard to see the board. Rows suggest a more "traditional" style, but they can hinder discussion work.

* Use a seating plan. These offer a number of advantages in managing a class. For one thing, they help in the vital quest to memorise children's names. They also give an image of a teacher who "means business", and you can offer the pupils a free choice of seating as a potential reward.

* Move around the room. Like a cat patrolling its territory, a teacher should make regular tours. Aim to touch all four walls of your classroom during every lesson. Keep an eye on the rebels sitting at the back and "visit" every child to check on progress. Leave yourself enough space to wander around the room without bumping into desks.

* Consider the practicalities. Anticipate potential problems. Is it easy for pupils to gain access to equipment? Is there space for children to write without banging elbows (not forgetting any left-handers)? And how will you keep your personal belongings safe?

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