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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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.

 

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

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Redesign Your Classroom Space

Comments (13)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

ASC1975's picture

The school year has just begun. We are going through pre-planning so now is the time to adopt the Discovery Zone. I think this area will offer opportunities that will extend the learning process beyond the doors of the classroom. At the end of the day, I usually have my students recap on the events of the day. I am going to transition into the Community Zone and see how the students this year relate.

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

Hi, Ashley_jen, I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed the post. It sounds like you are maximizing your classroom space - Fantastic! Please let me know if any questions come up as you integrate the zones. I will say the #1 time-saving and stress reducing zone has to be the SUPPLIES Zone. It sure isn't easy managing those supplies, for 20+ little people, day in and day out. Here's to your #BestYearEver!

Veronica (author of the post)

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

Hi, Rosa Newlin, sounds like you have been in "the zone" mode all along and that's TERRIFIC! Oh yeah, that Discovery Zone gets rave reviews - the students appreciate the area and really do a great job of taking care of the materials. Featuring a new item in that zone, every time you start a new unit, will really add some excitement to the class. I'm so excited for you and your kiddos! You mentioned making signs so I want to let you know I've put up a free theme pack up on my website treetopsecret.com. Take a look and see if that theme will work for you - it might just save you some time.

Here's to your #BestYearEver.

Veronica (author of the post)

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

Hi, ASC1975, Welcome Back2School - I hope you had an amazing summer break. I'm excited to hear you are considering the Discovery Zone for your room. You are absolutely right about the potential this zone has to help students make real-world connections. They are able to put the content in context and that's what learning is all about.

Sounds like you are already hosting a community at the end of your school day and that's WONDERFUL! There is power in that Community Zone - students, like us, love to share their point of view.

I'm excited for you and your students! Here's to your #BestYearEver!

Veronica (author of the post)

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

Hi, Jackie B, you had me at "moved my furniture!" You may not realize this, but boy oh boy that means you have your finger on the pulse of what your students need. I think you are AMAZING! Your classroom setup should not be a static thing, it really has to accommodate your instructional approach and the content you are teaching. That's why the zones are important - they bring some stability to an ever-changing/dynamic classroom environment.

I'm excited that you are excited about the News Zone - it's another area which is always moving and changing - just like the news feed in Facebook on Twitter (just a little slower, thank goodness).

If you are still looking for a theme to set-up the zones be sure to look at my site treetopsecret.com. I put up a free download of the 7 Learning Zones theme and it might save you some time or may give you a few ideas of how to set-up.

I wish you an amazing year. Thank you for your post and Here's to Your #BestYearEver!

Veronica (author of the post)

areed10's picture

As a current substitute I am in many classrooms and see that many of them have an attempt at creating different areas for student learning. I have yet to see a classroom as organized as this with so many worthy features! This definitely gives me many ideas for my own classroom when the day comes. I will be sure to keep these ideas in mind. Has anyone had additional purposes for the "quiet zone"? Such as allowing students to go there just to take a break and recollect their thoughts, sort of like a cool down area?
It would be nice to hear some additional ideas for room set up and specific zones or centers that work best with elementary students!

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Inkyung's picture

It' wonderful idea of "Subject Area Zone" houses the worksheets, resources, tech tools for the subjects you teach. It could be possible for kids to remind what they learned and think again.

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

Hi, areed10, your day will come and I've no doubt your experience will make all the difference in the world. I appreciate your point about the "worthy features" - the whole idea with the 7 zones is to develop a system which eventually has the classroom running on its own. The teacher has more time to breathe and more time to facilitate as opposed to spending all that time having to manage the day to day stuff.

The quiet zone in this system was written with Social Emotional Learning in mind. It also supports those students who are introverts, because they rarely get the time they need in such a crowded classroom. I would recommend a different space in the classroom, with a different procedure, for a student who is having a discipline problem. These are two different needs to fill, and we should strive to help students understand the difference between a quiet reflective space that aids us in expanding the mind and one that serves as a place for reflecting on misbehavior.

I think the zones will work from K to 12, but we have to set-up the areas so the materials are age-appropriate and relevant. In upper grades we may not even use the term Learning Zone, but we can absolutely designate the areas and use them accordingly.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful post. I wish you all the best as you continue on your journey towards your own classroom. Please keep in touch and let me know when you get your first room - it's going to feel like nothing else!

Here's to you and your quest! Lets have the #BestYearEver!

Veronica (author of the post)

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

Hi, Inkyung, you are absolutely right. A well-designed subject area zone will house everything the student needs to refresh her or his mind about the content. This helps them and also helps the teacher from having to repeat some of the basic things/facts which students often forget. It's really all about giving them some ownership over their learning, kind of giving them some control so they are more motivated to review and learn.

Thank you so much for posting your thoughts. I hope you will be able to create the Subject Area Zone in your classroom. Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope you have an amazing school year! #BestYearEver

Veronica (author of the post)

macalukg196's picture

This is wonderful! Right now I'm studying to become a teacher and I would very much like to implement this in my future classroom.

Inkyung's picture

It' wonderful idea of "Subject Area Zone" houses the worksheets, resources, tech tools for the subjects you teach. It could be possible for kids to remind what they learned and think again.

(1)
areed10's picture

As a current substitute I am in many classrooms and see that many of them have an attempt at creating different areas for student learning. I have yet to see a classroom as organized as this with so many worthy features! This definitely gives me many ideas for my own classroom when the day comes. I will be sure to keep these ideas in mind. Has anyone had additional purposes for the "quiet zone"? Such as allowing students to go there just to take a break and recollect their thoughts, sort of like a cool down area?
It would be nice to hear some additional ideas for room set up and specific zones or centers that work best with elementary students!

(1)
ASC1975's picture

The school year has just begun. We are going through pre-planning so now is the time to adopt the Discovery Zone. I think this area will offer opportunities that will extend the learning process beyond the doors of the classroom. At the end of the day, I usually have my students recap on the events of the day. I am going to transition into the Community Zone and see how the students this year relate.

(1)
Jackie B's picture

I love the idea of having a News Zone and a Discovery Zone. I am going into my second year teaching and last year I had an extremely difficult time making my classroom organized. I moved my furniture around almost on a bi-weekly basis because it never seemed to "flow". I had a small corner of my chalkboard for the daily news of the classroom but I think making an entire bulletin board dedicated to the ongoing events in the classroom would work better! I especially love the idea of students having their own space to share their own news- it would make them feel more involved in our class! I agree with you Rosa that signs would work well on the designated areas, thats also something I did not have last year and I can not wait to set up my "Discovery Zone" as well. I think it will really engage the students. I really enjoyed reading this post and can not wait to get into my classroom to start setting it up!

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Rosa Newlin's picture

Thank you so much for your post. I am starting this school year in a new grade level and in a new room. Though I have always had most of these areas, they have never been designated as specific. Before school starts in a week I plan on making signs for many of the areas. One area I never gave thought to was the "Discovery Area." I can't wait to set that up for the students to use.

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Ashley_jen's picture

My classroom is currently divided into 4 small areas designed for collaborative learning. I have an area that is set-up for writing, another for small group reading and the other two are more like arts and craft stations. I enjoyed reading your post and I look forward to adding a news section to my classroom.

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