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Two boys writing at a desk

There are many elements to consider as you plan for the next school year. You always review critical pieces like standards, curriculum, instructional activities, and testing, but you also think about the classroom space and how to arrange desks, set up bulletin boards, and organize materials. You can bring these seemingly disconnected components together in a system of seven learning zones. The discovery, news, supplies, community, quiet, teacher, and subject area zones will help you establish routines, save time, and maintain your sanity from the first through the last days of school.

1. Discovery Zone

The discovery zone houses all those items that spark imagination. These include arts and crafts materials, manipulatives, recorders, cameras, music makers, games, puzzles, and fun books and magazines. Share samples of different projects so that students have a jumping off point. You can harness all of this creativity by giving the students a central concept to explore. Have them draw what they see, list observations, and write down their questions. Use this data to inform your instructional strategies and design your lesson plans.

2. News Zone

The news zone will help you manage your classroom calendar, assignments and projects, school-wide events, holidays, upcoming celebrations, weather, temperature, and community and world news. You can also use this space to list your daily learning target, classwork, writing and discussion prompts, and homework. Designate a section for students to share either personal or classroom-related updates.

3. Supplies Zone

The supplies zone is sure to save your sanity. Here is where you provide pencils, pens, highlighters, sharpeners, staplers, scissors, hole punchers, rulers, paper, glue, tape, paperclips, tissue, paper towels, hand sanitizer, a trash can, and general tools. Use this space for reference materials like formula and vocabulary charts, cheat sheets, study guides, manuals, textbooks, clipboards, and spirals or journals. This can also be the hub for turning in classwork or homework, and for storing graded work or portfolios. Provide a lost and found box to help with cleanup and reinforce good citizenship.

4. Community Zone

A community zone serves multiple purposes. Students are reminded that we are all working toward common goals. It provides time to discuss what was learned, make connections, pose questions, present other perspectives, and engage in reflection. These discussions are an opportunity for you to evaluate progress, clarify information, address misconceptions, and take notes to plan ahead. At the start of the year you will lead the discussions, but students should be guided until they can open, facilitate, and close the meetings. It is helpful to define the zone and include the meeting time in your schedule. You can use an area rug to anchor the space and give several students a place to sit. Other students can remain standing or bring in their chairs.

5. Quiet Zone

Sharing the classroom space with 20 or more other kids isn't always easy. Some students naturally prefer to work alone, while others simply need a quiet zone to catch up on work, study, read, write, take a test, or reflect. A spare table and chairs in a corner of your room can be used to define the zone. If possible, provide some earphones to help filter out classroom noise. Use study carrels to block visual distractions.

6. Teacher Zone

The teacher zone serves as your little oasis away from home, but it also helps you manage all of your professional responsibilities. Use the space to nurture your spirit by displaying photos of family, friends, pets, and vacations. Frame or pin up a few precious notes and small gifts from your past and present students. If you don't have a desk, then make sure you have a secure cabinet to store your handbag, keys, valuables, medication, and other personal items. This zone is also your professional space where you plan, prepare, grade, analyze data, and complete your reports. It houses your teacher's manuals, references, and charts. You will also use this area to work on confidential records like grades, test data, student modifications, and cumulative files. You can use it as a private space to host one-to-one conferences with your students. Be sure to display your credentials like degrees, teaching certification, and key professional development certificates. These credentials and a pair of adult-sized chairs will set the business tone when parents, colleagues, or administrators visit your room.

7. Subject Area Zone

The subject area zone houses the worksheets, resources, manipulatives, games, and tech tools for the subjects you teach. It's important to also display how subjects interconnect, because too many students have a difficult time relating subject matter to other disciplines. Tools and manipulatives should be moved from closets, storage bins, or cabinets and placed in this zone. Provide anchor charts with key ideas and strategies, flashcards, study notes, key people in the field, timelines, and a variety of print materials. Upgrade your word wall by adding visuals and real objects. Organize vocabulary alphabetically or by concept or story -- the key is to provide context for each term. Define the zone with a header, comfortable seating, and even stuffed study buddies.

 

Don't let a small classroom be your kryptonite. You can set up a learning zone in a bookcase, on a shelf, on one bulletin board, or on a small desk or table. You don't have to create all seven learning zones. Start with whichever zones will help you the most, or start at the beginning and see where it takes you.

How do you organize your classroom space? Please tell us about it in the comments.

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Comments (26) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Monique's picture
Monique
Educator

Great inspirational ideas for the classroom, Veronica!

(1)
Mr.Perez's picture

Ms.Veronica,Having a 7 Learning Zones Every Classroom will help not only the Students but also the Teachers.They have a lot of things that can do every zone,for example the Discovery Zone and the News Zone.The students will learn a lot from it.

(1)
ccannon14's picture

I think this is a great idea! I struggle each year on how to set up my classroom and then end up changing it around multiple times throughout the year (which throws students off their routine). In a class I'm taking we were supposed to pick out a struggle we have in the classroom and my biggest struggle is classroom management. Reading this made me realize that a well set up classroom will help with classroom management because it will let students know exactly what each zone is for. Great way to enforce routines in the classroom!!

(1)
Tish P's picture

I am in the process of setting up my classroom right now! School starts in 3 days! I am definitely going to be using some of your ideas...thanks!

(1)
Veronica Lopez's picture
Veronica Lopez
Here to help you save time, gain praise, and reduce stress.

Monique, thank you! I think the Zones put the FUN in functional. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Veronica

Veronica Lopez's picture
Veronica Lopez
Here to help you save time, gain praise, and reduce stress.

Mr. Perez, you are absolutely right! Once the zones become a part of the classroom procedures they are easy and fun to maintain and update. The students can take turns updating what's featured in most of the zones.

Thank you for your support and for taking the time to comment,
Veronica

Veronica Lopez's picture
Veronica Lopez
Here to help you save time, gain praise, and reduce stress.

Hi, ccannon14, you've stated the most important idea about the 7 Zones... they work as a system which taken together "helps with classroom management."

As for struggling with classroom setup, if you feel like you must be doing something wrong because you find yourself changing the room around from time to time or often... let me tell you that you're not. When I first started teaching I had that feeling too, especially since I was often told rows worked best. What REALLY works best is changing the room to fit your lessons and your students - this is part of having a responsive classroom. It shouldn't be static because your learning objectives are changing regularly.

Sometimes you need rows, sometimes you need to group desks for station-work or cooperative learning, sometimes you need 2 desks together for partnered word, sometimes you need to push all the desks against the wall because an open space hits the mark, and SOMETIMES you've gotta take all the desks out and bring in tents (I'm not kidding on this one - I actually did this a few years - with principal's permission of course).

Don't worry too much about how the kids handle these room changes - they learn that part of the routine is changing the room to fit their needs.

I wish you the best of luck on your teaching journey. If you have any questions you can find me at my website www.treetopsecret.com and my email is vlopez@treetopsecret.com

Veronica Lopez's picture
Veronica Lopez
Here to help you save time, gain praise, and reduce stress.

Hi, Tish P., I wish you a wonderful start to your year. I'm so glad you're going to be adding some of the zones into your routine this year - you'll find they save you loads of time.

Wishing you your best year ever,

Veronica

Mary Jones's picture
Mary Jones
second grade teacher from michigan

Confused. You state: "You can set up a learning zone in a bookcase, on a shelf, on one bulletin board, or on a small desk or table." You describe the Subject learning zone as containing " worksheets, resources, manipulatives, games, and tech tools for the subjects you teach...Tools and manipulatives should be moved from closets, storage bins, or cabinets and placed in this zone. Provide anchor charts with key ideas and strategies, flashcards, study notes, key people in the field, timelines, and a variety of print materials." That's a lot to have on a bookcase or small table. The Supplies Zone also seems as though it has way more stuff than would fit on a desk. Since there isn't a Work Zone, do the children do their activities on the floor around the room? If so does that interfere with the Quiet Z one? Is all instruction given in the Community Zone? I'm having a hard time picturing this.

B.T. Jensen's picture

Thank you for sharing, Veronica! Learning zones are critical, especially in a gamified classroom. Sitting in one spot all class hour leads to disengagement. Make sure to establish zones where the students get to move a little bit. Also, be strategic about the set up to get certain output from your students. Check out how to align learning zones with the workshop model.
http://bit.ly/marsclassroom-2

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