When teachers walk into their classrooms for the first time, they have to decide on room arrangement to maximize the learning experience and access for students with IEPs and 504s. The organization of the classroom must include strategies to optimize student learning and classroom management.
A teacher's decision to organize the classroom for maximum learning is made before they ever see a single student. However, when students with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and 504s are integrated into mainstream classrooms, teachers must include additional consideration and oftentimes supplementary support in meeting the learning needs of students with special needs or those needing accommodation. In maximizing the classroom arrangement, a teacher must take into consideration the following questions regarding organizational strategies of room design:
- What type of grouping arrangements will occur in the classroom. Will students do group projects that require moving of the desks and chairs or will they remain in structured designs and work with peers in proximity of their seating? Are there students with special needs who need classroom arrangement accommodations, assistive technology or additional IA (Instructional Assistant) support?
- Is the room being organized to control movement in the room or to encourage active movement and participation in the learning activities? Can students with physical disabilities move freely about the classroom? Can students with visual and hearing impairments see the board clearly or hear the instructions being given?
- How are the supplemental materials organized in the classroom for student access? Can students obtain project materials or reading resources readily without furniture interference or classroom design obstructions?
- Can students see the overhead or the whiteboard without obstruction? Is the writing or paperwork being displayed visible from all areas of the classroom? Is assistive technology needed in the classroom?
- Is the classroom design consistent with the types of instruction and goals that are inherent in the teacher's lesson planning for the school year?
- Will the classroom organization minimize disruptions and maximize student learning? Are the desks or tables arranged in such a way that students can hear the teacher and see the visuals consistent with the lesson?
If a teacher can provide definitive responses to the following questions, then he or she can start to visualize the optimal learning environment for students with IEPs and 504s in designing an effective classroom design. An effective classroom design can maximize learning and minimize disruptions that interfere with the learning process and progress. Teachers must be able to see all students at any point in the classroom in order to provide effective instruction with directions that require active student attention and engagement in the learning outcomes. By creating an effective visual of the student seating arrangements, teachers can be attentive to student questions and inactivity in the classroom and maximize instruction of the learning process. Having visibility in the classroom organization could be a major plus for teachers serving the mainstream needs of students with IEPs and 504s in a traditionally oversized classroom.