The physical layout reflects your teaching style. If you want students to collaborate in small groups, for example, organize them around tables or clusters of desks. For frequent whole-group discussions, try a circle or U-shaped desk configuration. If you plan on an individualized, self-paced curriculum, you might set up learning stations.
The physical layout should also reflect you. Don't hesitate to give the room your personal touch with plants, art, rugs, posters, and maybe some cozy pillows for the reading corner.
"Creating a caring, child-centered environment takes lots of thought and planning," says fifth-grade teacher Frank Garcia. "Basic bulletin boards are not enough. I believe in a very colorful classroom with posters, functional bulletin boards, and other 'interesting' items to enhance the environment, such as a small refrigerator, TV, and a stereo system with a CD player."
In Reggio Emilia, a northern Italian town whose early childhood programs are internationally acclaimed, classrooms feature displays of children's work, collections of "found" objects, ample space for supplies (all aesthetically arranged), and clearly designated spaces for large- and small-group activities. Reggio Emilia educators stress the need for a classroom environment that informs and engages the child. They consider the physical environment to be "another teacher." And in the sense that it can motivate children, enhance learning, and reduce behavior problems, environment really is an extra teacher.