Functional Classroom Design

By Jeffrey Sadoff, January 25, 2010

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

250 minutes for classroom activities


The lesson will last about four or five 40-minute periods and will require students to work cooperatively in order to develop a plan and persuasively present findings to other members of the class.

The students need to design an effective and functional classroom arrangement that meets their needs (learning and sense of community) and the needs of three other classes that utilize the room.

The actual design of the classroom may be based on one specific design or aspects of many of the groups’ designs. This is when students can express what they observed during the gallery walk they will take, and whether the groups clearly expressed their goals and ideas about the classroom.

This lesson will help students throughout the year as they develop reflection writing skills across the curriculum.

National Standards

Language Arts

Standard 1. Level III. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

8. Writes compositions about autobiographical incidents (e.g., explores the significance and personal importance of the incident; uses details to provide a context for the incident; reveals personal attitude towards the incident; presents details in a logical manner)

Standard 4. Level III. Gathers and uses information for research purposes

1. Gathers data for research topics from interviews (e.g., prepares and asks relevant questions, makes notes of responses, compiles responses)

Standard 8. Level III. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

6. Makes oral presentations to the class (e.g., uses notes and outlines; uses organizational pattern that includes preview, introduction, body, transitions, conclusion; uses a clear point of view; uses evidence and arguments to support opinions; uses visual media)

Thinking and Reasoning

Standard 5. Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem solving techniques

Standard 6. Level III. Applies decision-making techniques

4. Makes decisions based on the data obtained and the criteria identified (e.g., selects appropriate locations for service industries in the community)

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards Writing 

Grade 6-8

Production and Distribution of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)
English Language Arts Standards: Science & Technical Subjects 

Grade 6-8    

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

Craft and Structure:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.8 Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.


Students will be able to:

  • define the context and the problem
  • plan and conduct research through observation, sketches, and measurement
  • articulate reasons and rationale through oral presentations, visual aids, and written expression
  • recognize that organization of a room affects communication, function and behavior


Design Process adapted from CHNDM

Online article – “Reflective Writing” (for reference and adaption by teacher)


  • poster board
  • construction paper
  • markers
  • crayons
  • colored pencils
  • pencils
  • paper
  • graph paper
  • erasers
  • Design Process brainstorm handout/transparency
  • grading rubrics/group assessment checklist
  • reflection idea/question handout
  • manila folder for each group
  • timer
  • digital video recorder
  • projector/screen/laptop




Day 1:

1. Teacher leads whole class discussion. Use following questions:

  • How do people use their neighborhood?
  • What types of spaces do we find in these communities?

(Note: Have questions on board or overhead.)

2. Have students brainstorm independently on paper for three to five minutes, and then discuss their ideas for five to seven minutes.

3. Ask students the following questions:

  • How is our class/classroom like a neighborhood or community?
  • How do we function in our class?
  • What does a perfect classroom look like to you?

4. Ask students to express their mental map  of their classroom in a brief written sketch.

5. Review the challenge: How do you design a classroom that works? Discuss the constraints of space, furniture size/number, and immovable structures.

6. Divide students (preselected by teacher)into groups and ask: How do we Investigate this challenge?

7. Have students do a quick brainstorming session in small groups – then with the whole class review the ideas the groups have come up with.  (This discussion will hopefully generate responses such as: interviewing class members, taking measurements, sketching possible arrangements.)

8. Show students the Design Process transparency.

9. Give students the Design Process handout and review it.  Identify the connections to student ideas and where their ideas fall into the steps of the design process.

10. Groups meet for fifteen minutes, during which time teacher will visit each group briefly to assess their understanding of the challenge and design process steps.

Exit question: What one space/item/component do I want in our design?

Day 2:

1. Teacher reviews previous day’s activites.

2. Use transparency of design process steps. >

3. Clarify any questions/concerns (this will vary).

4. Ask the following Thinking/Focus question to the whole class: How might room design impact commmunication, productivity, and behavior? Tell them they must consider this as they work on their designs.

5. Groups will actively engage in design process:

  • Begin to Frame/Reframe the problem
  • Generate possible solutions
  • Brainstorm ways to approach the problem and share their ideas within groups

(Note: teacher may conference with all groups for up to five minutes.)

6. Groups work through the design process steps at own pace.  Remind groups that each member will be expected to articulate their ideas in some form, i.e., diagram, bullet list, etc.

7. By end of Day 2 groups will Share & Evaluate.  Remind them to listen and give feedback within the context of the group’s goals.

8. Brief review on measurement and scale (if needed by groups).  Students may use graph paper. This allows students/groups to arrange classroom and help them visualize their design plans.

Exit question: What one thing surprised me about the challenge?

Day 3:

1. Groups have forty minutes to Finalize their solutions and practice their presentations.  Teacher should walk around answering questions/redirecting/encouraging groups.

2. At end of period groups will display their designs for presentations around classroom, and then the class should take a gallery walk (ten minutes).

3. Designs (visual displays)will stand on their own to Articulate the ideas of each group.

Exit question: How did I actively participate in the challenge?

Day 4:

1. Groups will Articulate their solutions.

2. Each group will prepare and give a presentation that highlights the most effective points of their design: functionality, adaptability, improvement of communication.  Each group has five minutes to present.

3. Students will jot down things (pros/cons) they observed as groups give presentations.

4. If you have access to a digital video recorder, record the student presentations.

5. View the recorded presentations using projector.

Exit question: What did you notice about other groups’ presentations?

Day 5:

1. Discuss Day 4’s exit question.

2. Review reflection guidelines.  Provide handout and rubric.

3. Allow students time to brainstorm/write/discuss.

4. Teacher should conference with small groups and encourage students to go deeper into their observations/reflections.

5. Student homework: Students will edit own work and turn in final reflection two days later.



Group Self Assessment (assessment handout)

Student Reflection (based on discussion and reflection handout)

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