Using Your Space

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
If you are fortunate to have your own teaching or tutoring room think very carefully as to how you are going to set it up.

Where you put your desk has a significant influence over how you will interact with a class, and how you will teach.

Try to avoid creating a "teacher zone" by putting your desk next to your board and filing cabinets. This will send out big territorial signals to the pupils, who will soon set up zones of their own.

Putting all your stuff in one place will anchor you to that area, so interaction with pupils will become you talking from your zone at them in theirs.

It is best to put your desk on the opposite wall to your board to avoid creating a front and back to the room. Likewise, put cabinets or audio-visual equipment on another wall too, so that pupils have at least three different focuses to the room. Ideally, the pupil noticeboard should be on the fourth wall to complete full use of your classroom.

Setting up a room like this will help you make best use of the space as you move around to teach. This means the pupils have no 'hiding place' as you will be near them at any given time in the lesson.

Set up pupil desks into groups rather than rows, as it enables you to stand out of sight and behind any pupils if you want to. This encourages discipline as pupils don't like not being able to see the teacher.

However you set up your room, be aware of your own right or left-handed bias. You will tend to ask questions and move around the room in one direction more than another.

Generally, if you are right-handed and footed you tend to favour that side of the room when you ask questions or move - and vice versa for left handedness.

It can potentially alienate pupils on the "wrong" side of the room if you are not careful to monitor how you divide your attention and interaction.

Pupils will soon notice this bias and you will end up with the room divided into pupil zones.

So, if you are right-handed, you will get the attention seekers to your right, bad or lazy behaviour at back left, and the "forgotten pupils" - those whose names and faces you cannot quite remember at parents' evenings - to the front left in your real blind spot. The opposite applies if you are left-handed.

Don't believe me? Then think back to lessons you have taught from predominantly one part of the room.

Roy Watson-Davies is an advanced skillss teacher at Blackfen school for girls, in Sidcup, Kent. His books Creative Teaching and Form Tutors Guide are available from

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