Dr. Rich Allen Writes… The Room Set-up Matters

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Early in my career I have realized (and experienced) the power on managing environments.  Here is the short version of this understanding: Based on the environment in which you place the learner, you can either accelerate or decelerate learning.  

I loathe leaving performance on the table, so even when I present in conference halls, I do everything I can to tweak the environment in my favor.  Sadly, this is not the case with many educators.  The rooms that many teachers work in actually work against that teacher.  However, point this out at your own peril, because few teacher that are objective on the topic of how they have set up their room.   

One of my friends and mentors, Dr. Rich Allen (one of the really big brains in education) wrote the following for his monthly, Impact Teaching Tip.  For those who don’t receive it, here is the reprint. You can follow Dr. Rich Allen on Twitter (I do): @drrichallen

Room Set-up = Learning Success   The physical arrangement of the classroom can support – or undermine – the effectiveness of any lesson.  Make sure you proactively consider how to configure the desks, chairs, or tables in your learning environment to maximize student focus and engagement.

The biggest mistake is only using one room set-up in a classroom.  Students arrive and the furniture is always in the same position.  Instead, consider how to best organize the environment to enhance each element of your lesson, altering its set-up during the course of your teaching as needed.

Here are some possible “room sets” to consider:

Set A.  Single desks, facing the front – when presenting new material.

Set B.  Groups of 4-5 desks facing each other – when students will be interacting with a small group.

Set C.  Desks pushed back, students in chairs only – when facilitating large group discussions.

Set D.  U-shape – when you want students to observe small groups presenting content to the class.

When you want to change your classroom set-up, remember: Always ask your students to change the dynamics of the room!  This serves three purposes simultaneously, it:

1. Saves you time and energy.

2. Provides a state change, giving students an opportunity to move.

3. Gives students ownership of the classroom space.  They arrive, help arrange the room for the lesson, and suddenly – they’re ready to listen!

Again, you should follow Dr. Rich Allen on Twitter: @drrichallen

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