The Physical Classroom Environment

As a teacher “you have a responsibility for creating a space that reflects the learning goals of the work space,

the personality, interests, and age of the students who learn there, and to create a space

that is a comfortable and productive learning environment for all.”

(Why Didn’t I Learn This in College?, by Paula Rutherford)


A logical starting point for classroom management is planning and arranging the physical set-up of the classroom. You and your students will be engaging in a variety of activities in different areas of the room. You need to permit orderly movement, minimize distractions, and make efficient use of the available space. A well organized classroom will help students to be self-motivated, self-disciplined, and responsible.


“The organization of your classroom directly affects student behavior and learning.”

(First-Class Teacher: Success Strategies for New Teachers, Edited by staff of Canter & Associates)

Your classroom is like a “home away from home” for you and your students. Try to make it both attractive and functional. Some physical aspects to consider are room arrangement, seating, bulletin boards, white board displays, and lighting and temperature of the room. A clean, safe, attractive, and comfortable classroom will help build a classroom community and stimulate learning. Plants are a great way to make your room more welcoming and their care can be shared by the class as a learning experience. Have adequate and organized places for students to put their belongings (coats, lunches, book bags, etc.). Display class rules, student work, art work, calendars. You may need different room arrangements for whole group and small group activities. Try to incorporate some small group work/instruction areas in your classroom. Designate a “quiet zone” or independent working area for those who work better with fewer distractions or students who need to do make-up work. Store frequently used materials and equipment in close proximity to the students. Maximize your proximity to the students – it will minimize your classroom behavior issues.

Keys to Good Room Arrangement:

(According to Edmund T. Emmer, Carolyn M. Evertson, and Murray E. Worsham)
  • Use a room arrangement consistent with your instructional goals and activities.
    • If your main activities center around a main instructional area students need to be seated so they can easily see the main instructional area with supplies nearby. If you frequently use small work groups, your seating and access to supplies will be different.

  • Keep high traffic areas free of congestion.
    • These areas include group work areas, areas around teacher’s desk, doorway, trash cans, pencil sharpeners, etc. Allow plenty of space and separation in high traffic areas.

  • Be sure students are easily seen by the teacher.
    • The ability to monitor students in a major classroom management task. Keep clear lines of sight among different work areas in the room.

  • Keep frequently used teaching materials and student supplies readily accessible.
    • By minimizing time getting ready and cleaning up, you can begin and end activities promptly.
  • Be certain students can easily see instructional presentations and displays.

The 4 BE's of quality learning space

  • BE sensitive to the messages communicated to students by the classroom environment.
  • BE able to evaluate the effectiveness of the classroom setting.
  • BE alert to times when physical arrangement may be causing learning problems.
  • BE able and WILLING to modify the environment when necessary.

(From the MEA-MFT public school website. More information available in “Links and Resources.)

“Setting up Your Classroom" - Click on the link below to see this document.


Links & Resources: