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This arrangement packs in many students in large classes efficiently, yet it sup- ports discussion, partner work, and proximity to the teacher. Teachers have a harder time getting close to students in the back row, but this is a good compro- mise for large class sizes.


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This arrangement is intended for academic periods when students are expected to move around to different stations or centers. Each center has a display or a task with materials the students are supposed to engage in. Traffic aisles between centers have to be clear and wide enough to facilitate easy student movement. This arrangement requires clear and accessible directions at each station and feedback mechanisms so students get information on how well they have done with the task.



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A key consideration in examining use of space is to note whether it is a rational use. That is, are things arranged deliberately to best support the kind of in- struction under way? If so, a second consideration is whether the arrangement varies when the instructional format or objectives change. Hence, use of class- room space can be classified according to one of the following levels:

Level 1: The teacher takes the space the way it comes (from the custo- dian, the previous period’s teacher, tradition, or something else).

Level 2: Space is arranged according to a conventional design and used conventionally and consistently, without variation.

Level 3: The space is rearranged periodically but experimentally, with- out a clear rationale, mostly just for change itself.

Level 4: The space arrangement is constant but appropriate for in- struction.

Level 5: The space is used flexibly for different instructional purposes at different times, matched to curricular goals.

Within a given arrangement of space, the placement of materials can further support instructional goals. Primary-grade teachers are often particularly thoughtful about the placement of various items in relation to each other. For example, art materials may be placed near a creative writing area to encourage painting as a follow-up to creative writing. This kind of attention to location and activity flow, though, applies equally well to high school. A display of nine- teenth century American art may be placed over the supply table where stu- dents periodically go for assignment sheets and to turn in papers in an English class. The display might serve as a stimulus for a unit on American authors of the period. References and connections to the pictures can be made when the instruction starts.


Getzels (as cited in Lewis, 1979) raises the issue of what spaces belong to the students in a classroom or a school. She provides the following list:

p Desk: This is probably the most valued and protected space. In tradi- tional classrooms, it may be the child’s only source of personal space.



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In more open classes, it may be shared with others or no longer be a part of the school furniture.

p Locker: This is considered a convenience space, and also private if solely for the student’s use.

p Special class seat: In music, art, and library, if seats are assigned, a certain degree of ownership will be attached to them.

p Chair: Often individuals and the group recognize individual owner- ship of chairs. Robert Sommer (1969) notes, “People who remain in public areas for long periods—whether at a habitual chair at a weekly conference or on a commuter train—can establish a form of tenure. Their rights to this space will be supported by their neighbors even when they are not physically present.”

p Boys’ or girls’ room: This is definitely a child’s space. The bathroom can be a private retreat for tears, anger, fights, secrets, mischief, and daydreams. In some schools, it becomes the communal news center for the underground student communication network. In some secondary schools, it may become the property of a group of students, or it may be locked by the administration.

p Playground: This space is child-owned and shared with other chil- dren. It is powerfully real and memorable, considering the relatively limited time spent in recess.

p Hall: These are no-man’s-land in most schools, a public avenue. No- body owns them, but they’re very familiar territory. Perhaps the sense of ownership would be similar to that felt for one’s lane or street at home. In secondary school, it is the hub of socializing.

p Classroom: In some rooms, children feel a sense of ownership for the whole room or sections of it. In other rooms, the desk may be the only owned space.

p School building: Feelings of ownership increase with the years spent in the building. Variations in intensity also depend on school philoso- phies, building dimensions, and the degree to which children partici- pate in school activities.

(Getzels as cited in Lewis, 1979, p. 130)



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Many students have a strongly felt need for a place of their own—not just a cubby or a mailbox—but a workplace to occupy that is regularly theirs. Adult readers may identify with this need. One of the authors consulted on a weekly basis with a school for several years without such a space, and it drove him crazy!

Left on their own, middle and high school students regularly take the same desk in a class. It becomes “their” seat. College students and adults do the same thing. As teachers plan classroom space, they should consider whether they have adequately met students’ needs for ownership of space. That need varies considerably with individuals, as does their need for privacy.

Private spaces like carrels or individual practice rooms restrict visual distrac- tion and noise. There are students who benefit greatly from having such places created for them or put at their disposal. Skillful teachers respond to these stu- dents and match them with spatial arrangements that suit their needs. As they look at their classrooms and other school facilities (libraries, media centers), they ask themselves if enough private spaces have been provided to accommo- date such students, because there are always a few of them.


The literature on the use of school space is sparse, and the research is even thin- ner. A series of interviews we conducted with teachers showed support for the following ten recommendations:

1. Materials students use should be visibly stored and accessible to facili- tate efficient getting out and putting away.

2. Avoid dead space—open, purposeless space which lends itself to ran- dom or unproductive student activity.

3. In some settings, for reasons of safety or control, it may be appropriate for space to be arranged so the teacher can see all of it, with no blind spots. In other settings, this guideline may be inconsistent with goals relating to trust, privacy, and independence.

4. Vertical space (walls, dividers, closets, and movable cabinet doors) should be employed productively—for example, for display, learning stations, or storage of materials—effectively increasing usable space in the classroom. Hanging artifacts or displays from the ceiling or mul-



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tilevel use of space in addition to the floor (lofts, for example, or other erected structures) can increase effective usable space within a room.

5. Dividers placed on a diagonal with respect to the ninety-degree orien- tation of the walls can channel student movement and visual fields in interesting and deliberate directions.

6. Have a display area where students’ work, art, and other kinds of prod- ucts can easily be seen and examined.

7. Keep active areas distant from quiet areas in a room to minimize dis- traction and interference.

8. Keep adjacent activity areas far enough apart, or clearly bounded from their immediate neighbor, so as to prevent distraction and interference.

9. Have clear traffic paths connecting functional areas of the room that do not necessitate students’ walking through one area (and disturbing things there) to get to another.

10. Empty furniture absorbs energy. Therefore, if you have fewer students than chairs in a secondary class, don’t let the students spread out around the periphery of the room with empty chairs between them and you. Either eliminate the empty chairs, or move the students forward where they can be in contact with you and with each other.

Overall, the message we get from reviewing the literature on space and class- rooms is to be deliberate about its use. Teachers can make instructional spaces more attractive, efficient, and flexible; in short, they can control and change these spaces to best support instruction in moving from lesson to lesson.

Video: Choreograph the Flow



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Seven Classroom Configuration Options:

(1) Twos, (2) Circle, (3) Clusters, (4) Rows, (5) Perimeter, (6) “U”s, and (7) Center.

Ten Classroom Space Recommendations:

1. Materials students use should be visibly stored and accessible.

2. Avoid dead space.

3. If needed, for reasons of safety or control, arrange space so the teacher can see all of it.

4. Vertical space (walls, dividers, closets, and movable cabinet doors) should be employed productively.

5. Use dividers placed on a diagonal to channel student movement and visual fields.

6. Have a display area for students’ work and other kinds of products.

7. Keep active areas distant from quiet areas.

8. Keep adjacent activity areas apart, or clearly bounded to prevent distraction.

9. Have clear traffic paths connecting functional areas of the room.

10. Either eliminate empty chairs, or move the students forward where they can be in contact with you and with each other.

To check your knowledge about Space, see the exercises on The Skillful Teacher website at www.RBTeach.com/TST7.



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T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R 81

Management Time



Time is the currency of life, and teachers run the bank for their students about six hours a day, an enormously powerful position. They run the bank even for “free choice” times, where the options available are those offered or allowed by the teacher. When students do what, in what order, and for how long is largely under the teacher’s control, and we know from recent research that controlling how time is used has a big impact on student learning. This includes time spent in places other than the classroom, like the cafeteria. How long students spend in each of the environments the school offers and the quality of that time is something faculty members control.

This chapter is about being as deliberate as possible in managing student time use for maximum learning. It draws on the growing knowledge base of the field to help us be better time managers for our students. The issues of time man- agement for students center on allocation, efficiency, and pacing. Investigating how we and our students are spending class time, and getting concrete and accurate data about that, is likely to yield some surprises and some interesting and useful insights.


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