Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Things to consider when planning your SPED classroom.
A well designed classroom has its benefits
A big part of a teacher's job is to teach physical boundaries when teaching special education students. We've all have come up or at least seen creative ways to differentiate between teacher areas and student areas in our classrooms. Whether it's tape on the floor, color coding systems on the tables, or turning bookshelves as dividers, there is something in all of our rooms that lets our students know where they can and cannot go and at what times. Now I'm going to ask you to take on a different point of view and ask yourself, "Was my class design based 100% on my students' needs?" Hmmmm... if you're like me when I started teaching the answer was heck no. But we all know we can do better if there was just a little guide to help us think about it from a fresh perspective.
The top five benefits to a well designed classroom
Teaching your students personal and physical boundaries is a skill applicable to all life settings
Students can learn expected behaviors based on the type of areas you create
Student engagement elevates when they understand the environment's expectations and have less apprehension or anxiety while engaging in those zones
Decreased student misbehavior because students can accurately anticipate activities associated with specific areas in the classroom
Classroom materials are already where you need them when you need them
Student expectations set with well-defined areas
Let's start talking about the definite must have areas in your classroom. There may be more, but lets at least hit the top ones.
Large group area - this is a large area of the classroom designated to whole group instruction, circle time, or a gather back place when individual activities are completed.
Small group area - a small round or crescent table is often used for short group remediation, promotion of higher-level skills, or IEP Goal related activities where smaller group observation is required.
Technology area - limited to an area in the room where electricity will be required. This would include charging stations for tablets and laptops as well as cabling of desktop computers.
Reading and Leisure activity area - a small sitting area with individual chairs, mats, pillows, and bookshelves are available. Sometimes this area can accommodate a small game table as well.
Personal hygiene area - even if you don't have a sinking your room, there should be a designated area for personal hygiene that would include hand sanitizer, tissue boxes, and paper towels at the very least.
Transition area - a designated area where students can line up for lunch, trips to the library, or other transitions throughout their day.
Teacher zone - there are two ways to do a teacher zone depending on your age group and teaching style. The teacher zone is often referred to as off-limits with no exceptions place. However, I like to include students in my teacher zone with a separate chair that is invitation-only. When they get an invitation to the teacher zone, they know that it is for a one-on-one conversation and is considered a special time with just me.
Classroom at a glance
If you were to have your evaluation tomorrow and your principal walked in... What would he notice first? What if a parent stops by? What is the first thing you want them to see in your room? What does your room say about your teaching? Take a step back right now if any part of your answer included "The cute bulletin boards." Remember everything in room planning is student needs driven. Save cute, matching, and fun for after you have the furniture in place.
Here is a good guideline for what should be noticed first. What is going to tell someone about your teaching before they notice your decorating skills?
Have clearly marked or defined academic learning areas. Math, reading, and other academics have signs, posters, or marking of some kind to indicate WHAT IS TAUGHT HERE!
Have a large group instruction area defined and student areas within it marked to guide them.
Individual work areas have a distraction free space and materials ready for student retrieval
Small group instruction is given its own dedicated area with teaching materials and IEP goal tracking books at the ready.
Depending on the type of classroom you have, here are a few more you might incorporate in your planning.
Task box storage
Storage area for special equipment (wheelchairs, walkers)
Privacy area for tube feeding
Are there any safety issues that you need to consider? Do you have any runners you climbers?
Once you've answered all these questions you are ready to start planning out the first draft of your room plan. There are a few websites that can help with that task but none that I thought were better than good old fashion paper and pencil. Cut out a few basic shapes from a post-it pad and get to work. If you must use technology to make it fancy here is a website to help. However, just because I'm posing it does not mean it is my favorite thing in the world. If I don't post on you will google it anyway so at least I can save you the time. Classroom Architect
Connect with Bran @TeachTasticIEP