George Lucas Educational Foundation
5-Minute Film Festival

5-Minute Film Festival: Classroom Makeovers to Engage Learners

Empty colorful classroom
Empty colorful classroom

Most educators have little choice about the (usually) over-crowded, (often) unappealing rooms they teach in -- but they intuitively know that the spaces children spend their time in can have an effect on how they learn. I've gathered a collection of videos to explore the questions: How important is environment to learning? And what small changes can you make in seating, organization, lighting, and decor to build your own space into a better place to teach and learn?

Video Playlist: Innovative Learning Spaces

Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.

  1. Flexible Learning Environments (04:02) - Students and teachers at Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas, talk about the district's experiment with creating classrooms of the future to foster 21st-century skills at all grade levels.
  2. Building a Positive School Climate (02:28) - This excellent video infographic from EdWeek describes a variety of ways that the physical school environment can affect the school climate, and visits a number of innovative learning spaces along the way.
  3. How to Organize Your Classroom, from Instructor Magazine (03:29) - Scholastic offers several videos on elementary classroom layouts. This one shows how highly organized first grade teacher Lindsay Brooks sets her class up. See a video about traffic flow in another classroom here.
  4. Wooranna Park -- The Third Teacher (06:13) - I've heard wonderful things about the integrated experiential learning at Wooranna Park Primary School in Victoria, Australia, and this video about the thinking behind their beautiful learning facility does not disappoint.
  5. Classroom Seating Arrangements (02:39) - Seating plans are one way of quickly transforming your space. Check out these tips on the pros and cons of three ways to arrange student desks. You can find a post from producer Tesol Class with more info here.
  6. Reimagining Learning Spaces: Admin Perspectives (05:22) - Which comes first, the flexible classroom environment or the 21st-century learning? In this video, admins from a school in California talk about how updating their spaces encouraged a new way of teaching.
  7. Classroom Cribs: Sprinkle Teaching Magic Classroom Tour (14:50) - Search "classroom tour" to find any number of teacher-made videos on YouTube to steal new ideas from. Though it's 15 minutes long (!), I like this one in particular for teacher Sheila Jane's infectious enthusiasm.
  8. How to Make an Ugly Classroom Beautiful (06:54) - This adorable time-lapse video shows an English teacher in Korea getting very crafty with a whole lot of construction paper, while making a drab beige room into a colorful movie-themed learning space.
  9. Space to Learn by Bobbi Macdonald (05:42) - Although a bit hurried, as Ignite talks can be, it's inspirational to hear this educator describe how when her team founded Baltimore's first public charter school, they re-imagined what the physical space could be.

More Resources on Learning Spaces

Ready to roll up your sleeves and re-think your classroom space before the school year starts? Here are a few organizations and resources to help you as you imagine what your ideal learning space would be. And be sure to check out the Remake Your Class video and tips series that we published last summer for more inspiration. I hope that no matter whether you're in an award-winning eco-friendly school building or a boxy portable, you can find some inspiration about how to customize your space!


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Scott Bedley @scotteach's picture
Scott Bedley @scotteach
Teacher, Creator, Un-Maker, Foodie, Global School Play Day

Hey H.Wilson,
Could you explain a bit more of the type of lesson structure you see happening? Mainly lecture? Project Based? Constructavist? How do you envision learning happening in your classroom? Starting the process with exploring how you see learning happening helps lead me to how to establish and use the different spaces as well as how I want to create those spaces. I'd be stoked to hear more about that learning piece. Just the fact that you're putting thought into this will be a huge benefit to you and your students. Major props to you!

H.Wilson14's picture

Hi Scott Bedley,
Thank-you for your complimentary response. After re-reading my post, I realized that I forgot to mention that I am an elementary Interrelated Resource teacher. I will be co-teaching with a 3rd grade teacher this year. We are hoping to facilitate most of our instructional time in small group rotations using the workshop model which is a requirement for math, reading, and writing at our school. The idea is that we will team teach a mini lesson, and then each of us will work with a small group while 1 to 2 groups (depending on class size) will be doing some sort of collaborative or independent work. I hope this makes sense!

Kanwal's picture

great article, I will be working with second-grade in September, do you have an ideas how I can incorporate this into my classroom?

Arun's picture

This is definitely a great information. Thank you for sharing. I also want to know that from where can we purchase products that are used in the videos?

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Hi Arun - Scroll up in the comments and you'll see a long comment from Elana Leoni about where to buy the furniture.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Hi Kanwal - what do you hope to do with your 2nd grade classroom? How can we help you incorporate these ideas?

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Hi czechjane! I piloted a variety of new furniture types this year, which meant my students weren't all using the same types of chairs/desks/tables. I had to have a seating chart (how else to take attendance with 160 students over 5 periods?), but I told the kids they could move during class to try the different furniture. That way they had opportunities to decide what works best for them. I think the old model of sit-in-this-seat-all-class-period is being replaced by a more flexible, go-where-you-work-best model -- but for me, I need that seating chart at the start of class before they start moving around.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.


I use tables, which has it's advantages and disadvantages. However, one of the big advantages to classroom management is that I can move kids around with relative ease. They use seat sacs on the back of the chair, so I only have to move the chair.---no clunky desk to move around the room.

Mr. Gonzalez's picture

Thanks for sharing these videos. I think these ideas will greatly benefit and fit the inclusion model. I can envision myself and my coworker flipping our classroom to make it a positive environment to learn and grow in for the new school year. Last year I rarely sat in my desk and if anything our students sat in it for Reader's Workshop. They enjoyed sitting in the desk for Reader's Workshop.

davidoff's picture
Graphic Design Teacher

Get new decoration in classroom to engage learners is very significant. So, this video is fantastic!!!!! I am truly interested in getting these kinds of desks for my classroom. Thanks!

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