Classroom Design - NextGen Spaces

Explore Classroom Design Strategies that Promote Student Engagement

Written by Alicia Springer, M.Ed.

As an educator, you may have heard of the theory of the Living Classroom, which is based on the idea that a classroom has multiple functions and should be set up to evolve as activities, learners, and teaching styles cha

In this blog, we’ll dive into the six learning zones every Living Classroom needs (Springer, 2015), and explore design strategies that facilitate better learning for your students. 

Related Content: The Living Classroom: Elements of a Flexible Learning Environment


Six Strategic Learning Zones to Promote Student Engagement

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Instruct Zone: Diversify Your Teacher Perch, aka Re-Think Your Teacher Desk

Every classroom design needs an instruction zone, which serves as an active teaching and active learning space for both the teacher and the learner. This space is flexible enough to accommodate the needs for whole group instruction, small group guided instruction, and one-to-one conferences. Using this strategy, teachers have the autonomy to create the learning environment that supports the instructional strategy for the lesson of the day.

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design-strategies design strategies

Learn Zone: Challenge Students to Investigate, Research, & Discover  

Also key to your classroom design is creating a project-based, self-directed learning zone, which will house resources, games, manipulatives, and technology tools.

To ensure your students have easy access to essential classroom resources, store these types of supplies and tools in mobile storage bins, or cabinets.

For students to work on self-directed project-based activities, provide them with a variety of print materials, like anchor charts with key ideas and strategies, flashcards, study notes, key people in the field, and timelines.

Lastly, upgrade your word wall by adding visuals and real objects. This classroom strategy is just another way to promote student engagement. 



Collaborate Zone: Encourage Learners to Create, Explore, & Design

A collaborative zone serves multiple purposes:

  • It reminds students that everyone is working toward common goals.
  • It also provides them with time to discuss what they learned and make deeper connections, pose questions, present other perspectives, and reflect on the material. These discussions are an opportunity for you to evaluate student progress, clarify information, address misconceptions, and plan for future lessons. 

At the start of the year, it’s important you teach, model, and practice the skills needed for effective collaboration. Eventually, this will promote enough student engagement that you can release this responsibility to the students and they will step up to lead the discussions.

Your classroom environment plays a major role in this. Ensure your classroom design is strategically set up to encourage students to open, facilitate, and close their self-directed meetings.

Related Content: Discover more tips for promoting your student’s social and interpersonal skills.




Gather Zone: Helping Students Exchange Ideas, Support, & Encourage Peers

Another key promoting student engagement through the use of a successful classroom design is creating a gather zone, which allows for small groups of students to gather to exchange, support and encourage one another.

Gather zones create a “cafe” effect to your classroom environment, which encourages students to take a brain break and recharge. When students feel safe to gather socially, they’re better equipped to engage with their peers, which supports their developmental, social, and emotional needs.

Learn more about the need for incorporating Social Emotional Learning into your classroom design and strategy when you take advantage of our SEL series


Reflect Zone: Taking Time to Develop & Examine

Sharing the classroom space with 20 or more kids isn't always easy. Some students naturally prefer to work alone, while others only need a quiet zone to catch up on work, study, read, write, take a test, or reflect. Some lounge seating or a table and chairs in the corner of your room can be used to define this strategic learning zone.

If possible, provide students with earphones to help filter out classroom noise. Mobile cabinets are great space dividers to provide those reflection zones in the classroom. Check out these three tips for creating safe learning environments using classroom furniture. 


Share Zone: Create Opportunities for Students to Present & Listen

Every successful classroom design needs the flexibility to create sharing zones. These areas help students connect the dots from one lesson to the next and gives them a space to share what they heard, experienced, or learned, which might differ from their peers. 

These discussion presentations are an opportunity for you to evaluate progress, clarify information, address misconceptions, and plan for the future. Sharing zones help students to enhance their communication skills, like speaking and listening. It also creates a space for them to practice and improve on their interpersonal skills. 


Take the Next Step Towards Promoting Student Engagement

These six learning zones are crucial to the success of your classroom design strategy. However, getting started with a Living Classroom can feel like a daunting task. How do you even begin? That’s where the experts at Artcobell are most helpful. We can quickly link you in with one of our local partners in your area to walk you through the entire process. Additionally, we have a large library of  resources to help make the switch into the modern classroom easy and practical. For example, you can see the Living Classroom modeled out using our free IDEAS eBook!


rethinking learning environments for the future workbook download




Springer, A. R. (2015). Today's Classroom is Changing, The Living Classroom Concept [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Bowling Green State University.

Sep 29, 2020

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