Classroom Zones

Use classroom zones to create a personalized classroom in which students can learn in an environment that best meets their learning needs
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About This Strategy

Classroom Zones focus on personalizing the learning environment to meet the diverse needs of the learners in the classroom. With the structure of the classroom in mind, this strategy can be used with all age levels. To begin the strategy, the teacher, possibly with students' help, determines zones of the classroom. For example, zones can be established based on a classroom theme, the needs of a blended classroom, students' levels, etc. With zones established, the teacher and students set norms for the each of the zones in the classroom and reinforce these norms consistently while students are in each of the classroom zones. This strategy can be used, especially at the beginning of the year, to set classroom expectations for the classroom while allowing for the personalization of the learning environment. Through this strategy, student agency and choice are encouraged while taking into account how a diverse set of learners uses a learning setting.

Implementation Steps

  1. Determine the purpose for making classroom zones in your classroom.

    • Are you interested in differentiating instruction for students and making leveled zones?

    • Does your classroom need different zones to give students choice on where they engage during learning?

    • Have you established a theme in your classroom in which students should sit in a certain area with a group of students you've strategically placed together?

  2. Set norms for the different zones in your classroom and share them with your students. You may consider having students help you come up with these norms, as this is a learner-centered practice.

    • Do the different zones have different types of furniture? If so, you may want to norm around how the furniture is used and where it can be moved to if it's flexible seating.

    • Is one zone a mastery zone (a zone where students take assessments)? If so, you may want to norm around how this zone is used, the sound level, and what can be brought into each of the zones.

    • Are students allowed to move from zone to zone during class, or are there designated zones for groups or different types of activities?

  3. Implement the classroom zones and reinforce the norms established. Remember, consistency with expectations is important for the success of this strategy.

Incorporating Student Voice into Classroom Zones

Classroom zones are all about meeting the needs of students in the classroom, so a great way to increase student ownership and voice is to solicit student feedback and input into your classroom design. 

  1. Decide on a way to gather student feedback. 
    • You could use student feedback surveys to ask for student input. 
    • You could run a class discussion circle or seminar to discuss the ideal classroom set-up. 
  2. Ask students about a variety of classroom elements. 
    • What kind of furniture do they prefer? 
    • Do they have opinions about the placement of furniture? 
    • Do they want to have a 'home base' in the room, or decide on their zone each day? 
  3. Once you have gathered student feedback, make changes to the classroom accordingly. Share back with students how you implemented their feedback, and also be honest if they had feedback that you were unable to implement - it still shows that you were listening!

Special Education Modification

When creating classroom zones, be sure to keep in mind any students with disabilities. Consider whether any students would benefit from certain types of classroom area. For example, a student who has difficulty sitting for long stretches of time might benefit from a “standing” work area. A student who is easily distracted may benefit from a “no distraction” zone that allows them to limit visual and auditory stimulation when they are working.

Coach Tips

Jessi Anderson
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

I found classroom zones to be particularly useful when attached to a theme or a purpose. For instance, in the resources provided in this strategy you can see that I used an island theme in my classroom and broke my zones up into different areas of the island. Each zone had its own purpose and type of seating. If you're interested in going the flexible seating route, I encourage you to find a sponsor or to use Donorschoose.org to crowdsource the purchase of different types of seating for your classroom. One of the most important things you can do to ensure this strategy is successful is to set clear norms for each zone and to reinforce those norms consistently. You may want to think about how your students can play a leadership role in helping you reinforce these norms.

Tech Tools

ClassDojo

  • ClassDojo is a multi-faceted classroom management tool focused on reinforcing classroom expectations and communicating those expectations out with the individual student, class, and families.

  • ClassDojo can be used to randomize groups and reward individuals for following classroom expectations. These two features can allow a teacher who is implementing Classroom Zones to assign zones in the classroom based on randomized groups, and to use students' points to allow individuals in certain point categories to choose where they'd like to sit first.