Redesigning the Classroom

By Paul Verstraete, August 29, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • School Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

One 90 Min Period


At the beginning of every year I have the students write classroom rules that they can all agree on, thus gaining a little more personal investment in the educational process from the students.  This lesson, asking the students to redesign the physical space of the classroom, is also meant to increase the students’ personal investment.  Students will be working in teams to make the classroom more their own.  As a class you and they will create a list of objectives that the student designs will have to meet.  For example, maybe you want to put your students in groups of four or six, or maybe you want to make sure that everyone is within a certain distance of the front of the class.

National Standards

Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group Standard 2. Uses conflict-resolution techniques Standard 3. Works well with diverse individuals and in diverse situations Standard 4. Displays effective interpersonal communication skills Standard 5. Demonstrates leadership skills  

Common Core Standards

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


Students will:
  • be able to work in cooperative groups
  • know and understand the different steps of the design process
  • apply the design process to the physical layout of the classroom


  • poster paper
  • post-it notes
  • markers
  • pens
  • pencils
  • paper
  • scissors
  • tape
  • colored pencils
  • construction paper
  • glue
  • other art supplies as available or needed
  • LCD Projector
  • design PowerPoint presentation
  • rubric
  • process worksheet


Prior to Lesson 1. Create a set of objectives that have to be met by the student designs.  For example: (a) Desks must be arranged in groups of five; (b) When at their desks, students cannot have their backs to the chalk board. 2. Put Objectives into Rubric (attached). 3. If possible, have the physical layout of the class arranged so it does not give the students a preconceived notion. 4. If possible have this lesson take place in a different room than the classroom the students are designing. 5. Spread brainstorming supplies out for the students to use: poster paper, post-it notes, markers, pens, paper, scissors, glue, tape, etc. Opening the Lesson 1. A brief lecture going over the design and brainstorming process.  Introduce the lesson and then go through a simple version of it together (lecture attached to final draft). 2.  Break the students up into groups to work on their designs. The Design Process: Use the PowerPoint (attached) to take the students through the steps below and have them fill out the design process worksheet (attached) as they do so. 1.  Introduce the Design Problem: A new arrangement for the physical space of the classroom. 2.  Review the challenge: Have the students jot down their initial thoughts and sketch them out (five to ten minutes). 3.  Investigate the Problem: Work with the students to come up with objectives that the students will have to meet. 4.  Frame/Reframe the Problem: Have them come up with a second drawing and compare it with their first and with each others’. 5.  Generate Possible Solutions: Assign students to groups of four to five and have them work together to come up with a group solution that all members will back up. 6.  Share and Evaluate Process/Ideas: The groups will present the process they went through and the ideas they came up with to the other groups. 7.  Finalize the Solution: Each group will create a final prototype that they will present to the class. 8.  Articulate the Solution/Process: The students will complete a process worksheet that helps them collect their thoughts on each stage of the Design Process.  Students will present their solutions to the class articulating what they did at each stage.  Students will evaluate each other’s designs based on the objectives from the beginning of the process. 9.  The students will then vote to choose the best design solution. 10.  Have the students help rearrange the classroom to reflect the winning solution.  The students will now feel that the classroom is more theirs, and will feel more invested in the learning process. Debriefing 1.  Review the Design Process. 2.  Get feedback from the students on the Design Process.


Rubric (attached)
  1. I have tried a design project similar to this in the past. It was more informal and as I think about implementing this again at the start of the new year, I will use this lesson plan. This may also work mid-year or after state-mandated testing when students need a change of pace in the learning environment. I would be curious to see if the lesson changed much if the teacher did not include any direction prior to the lesson. For example, would the students place chair with backs to the teacher or would they come to this design element on their own.

  2. I also tried a variation of this lesson with one of my classes a few years back and it is imperative that the students have a set of “must” or specifics that the teacher requires. To have the students accomplish knowing what the teacher wants, you can create a q & a session with the teacher and the class. The teacher can give the students a few minutes to come up with questions for the teacher that will help them understand the needs and preferences of the teacher, one of their users. I made the mistake of giving one of my periods free reign on the room, and the majority of the designs worked from a student’s perspective, not an educator’s.

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