Five Elementary Classroom Design Tips for Engagement and Success

Five Elementary Classroom Design Tips for Engagement and Success

Author: Dr. Christina Counts

Gone are the elementary classrooms of the past––where students were confined to their desks for all day lectures––make your early childhood classrooms a welcoming space where students are engaged and excited to learn! The classroom environment is an essential part of learning for elementary students, as most of the school day is spent within the same learning space. With this in mind, it’s important to design elementary learning spaces that support student engagement, achievement, and wellbeing.Elementary Classroom Design

Here are five elementary classroom design tips to support student engagement and success:

Active Seating

Focusing on principles of active learning is an effective strategy for elementary classroom design, as active learning spaces promote engagement, improve student focus, and support student comfort. In the elementary classroom, a focus on active seating options encourages and supports students’ need to move around throughout the day, even when they’re learning.

A variety of innovative and comfortable seating options––including floor seating, standing desks, stools, and traditional tables and chairs––can help students focus on their learning rather than being uncomfortable or being distracted by their need to move their bodies. This is especially important for young learners, helping them learn how to meet their needs in the classroom and setting them up for future positive learning habits.

At West Rowan Elementary, MiEN designers created a space in which students can sit where they choose—be it on a soft couch, at a table, or even on the floor. This variety of seating options has transformed learning at the school, encouraging creativity and engagement for both students and teachers.

Adjustable Height Furniture

Adjustable height furniture supports an active learning space and provides students with flexible options for sitting and standing in the classroom. Adjustable furniture allows students to modify their space to meet their comfort needs without having to move to a different learning area.

Flexible height furniture options also easily adapt to changes in activity throughout the day. For example, an adjustable height table can support students when they are seated for individual work, then easily convert into a standing table for a hands-on learning activity or makerspace. Having the ability to adjust the height of seating and desks in the elementary classroom helps students stay engaged and supports their comfort needs.

Whiteboard Surfaces for Collaboration

Whiteboards have always been an integral part of elementary classroom design, but innovative new furniture options are making it easier than ever to use whiteboards for collaboration. Whiteboards on casters support active group work and allow students to present to small groups from anywhere in the classroom. If you have a smaller space, multifunctional storage solutions with integrated whiteboard surfaces still enable flexible presentation and group workspace in the classroom, while being easily tucked away when not in use. These whiteboard moveable surfaces enable students to work through learning activities together, promoting communication and teamwork––even for shy students––in a smaller, more relaxed group learning environment.

Practical and Effective Storage

In addition to multifunctional storage whiteboards, there are many other storage options that can be practical and effective in K-5 learning spaces. Tray storage, like our KIO Mobile Bin Cabinet, is a convenient way to stay organized, making it easy to tuck away student belongings and classroom supplies while keeping them accessible when needed. Storage bin cabinets are also effective for organizing makerspace supplies, since trays come in a variety of different sizes that can accommodate everything from tiny supplies to large tools.

At Slate Run Elementary, MiEN designers implemented KIO Mobile Bin Cabinets not only for the practical storage they offer, but also as low-profile room dividers to help guide the flow of the classroom spaces. Because these cabinets are mobile, teachers have the flexibility to creatively reconfigure their learning spaces when necessary.

A Variety of Learning Areas to Meet Different Needs

An important factor of elementary classroom design is ensuring there are spaces for a variety of different learning needs and approaches. Students benefit from switching between independent learning, one-on-one learning, small group activities, and whole-class lectures throughout the day. It’s crucial that your learning spaces are designed to support these different learning configurations.

Single desks with chairs give students their own space to work alone or engage with front-of-room lectures or activities. Large group tables or floor seating areas can support group work, presentations, and alternative learning activities, like STEM or makerspace lessons. Small group instruction areas allow students to collaborate with or present to their peers and enable teachers to engage with smaller groups of students with different learning needs.

At Robert D. Johnson Elementary, MiEN designers created small group instruction areas using curved tables and a variety of cushioned and balancing stools. They even created a micro-presentation area in the media center so students could practice their presentation skills with small audiences of peers. These areas allow for more focused instruction with small groups of students and collaborative activities between peers.

Elementary classroom design creates a foundation for students’ learning, so it’s critical that design choices are made with students’ needs in mind. Here at MiEN, we have an established background in elementary classroom design, and are ready to help you create K-5 learning spaces that support student engagement and success!

Dr. Christina Counts, VP of Education for MiEN Environments, is a proven leader with a successful background in transforming learning spaces into modern engaging learning environments. Dr. Counts has worked in education for over 17 years with experience as a classroom teacher, district instructional leader, school administrator, and digital and innovative learning designer. In her most recent position, Christina leads a team of professionals that support schools making the transition to a flexible, collaborative, & student-centered learning space.  She holds a doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership, National Board-certified, and Google & Apple certified. Dr. Counts envisions a learning space in which educators are empowered to transform education through design, technology and innovative instructional pedagogy to create learners ready for any future!